Pennyworth returns with another episode exploring our favorite butler’s beginnings. The episode title “Lady Penelope” seems to reference 60s British Spy/Puppet television series Thunderbirds. Coincidentally Lady Penelope also has a butler with the initials AP and a checkered backstory. Seems an appropriate reference as this show is both a little 60s spy and also kind of ridiculous.
Major spoilers follow.
1. Bruce’s Parents
The Episode begins with a nice homage to the caped crusader’s origins. Well-off family roaming through a tougher part of town. Luckily no gunshots and pearls this time. The show has so far kept it’s Batman references to a minimum so it was cool to see this more obvious nod.
The seedy streets of London also give us an opportunity to catch up with Lord Harwood. Once apparent leader of the Raven Society and member of the English aristocracy; he’s now living on the streets panhandling. The missing nose still gives him that comic book villain look, but he isn’t doing much menacing.
2. No Name League
Bruce’s parents, Martha and Thomas, are now explicitly working together and clearly for the No Name League. It’s unclear at this point if they are actually the good guys here despite being in opposition to the Raven Society who are clearly the villains. They don’t appear to be particularly fond of each other here. The show isn’t in any hurry to plant the seeds of their relationship.
There is a nice moment when Thomas says that Gotham is getting better all the time and in 20 years will be the new Zurich. Little does he know that in 20 years time he’ll be gunned down in a place called Crime Alley in front of his son.
Martha, wearing her famous pearls, is given a mission and instructions to hire Alfred for the job. Thomas and the unseen leadership of the No Name League seem to recognize Alfred’s unique talents—which they use as a good way to make Alfred seem essential to Thomas and Martha later in life. This sets up the A plot of the episode: find the new leader of the Raven Society.
3. Marmalade is Portuguese
While Alfred is off doing his dangerous mission, Esmé is hanging out at home with the family. You’d think it would be a relief to see Esmé getting along great with Alfred’s parents, but to me it makes it more obvious she will meet a tragic end. I’m still really enjoying Emma Corrin’s performance and if she is killed off soon I think I’ll be disappointed. The connection she makes with Alfred’s father over the marmalade and wedding planning feels so sweet and genuine. The show really shines with these character moments.
4. New Leader of the Raven Society
Alfred and Martha journey to the countryside on their mission and of course things go awry right from the start. Following the clues—while commenting on maypoles being used for orgies, blowing holes accidentally in old women, and getting in many fights—they finally find who they are looking for.
I absolutely love Frances, the new leader of the Raven Society. Anna Chancellor is great in these English period pieces. Her performance in the BBC series “The Hour” was amazing and she brings that same spirit here. There is a moment when she brings out the head of a woman named Tanya in a jar that is both hilarious and horrifying.
In this ongoing battle between the fascist Raven Society and the socialist No Name League I hope we see much more of Anna Chancellor.
5. Life is a comedy or a tragedy
Yes, I’m disappointed. Esmé is murdered in what seems like a random, senseless killing. Not before Alfred kisses Martha though! What would Bruce say if he knew that before his parents were together, his surrogate father had a thing for his mom? Despite the good chemistry between the actors and the obvious hinting throughout the episode, it still feels like a weird choice to make for this show. To follow it up with Esmé’s immediate murder really puts Alfred in a strange place by the end. Esmé’s death and the Martha kiss just serve to fill Alfred with guilt. I know this show is Alfred’s journey, but these moments make the women feel more like props in his story than characters themselves.
We see very little of Bet this episode beyond a pretty violent fight with her sister. Almost halfway through the season and she hasn’t played as big a part as I previously thought. She’s certainly going to be disappointed in Esmé’s death as she seriously thinks they had a connection.
The next episode is titled “Shirley Bassey.” Will we get some James Bond style action? Tune in next week, same bat time, same bat channel.