Pennyworth: S01.E01. “Pilot”

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Are you ready for another Batman prequel? While the Bruno Heller created Gotham revolved around Detective Jim Gordan (Ben McKenzie) before becoming the city’s police commissioner and Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) in his formative years, Pennyworth pertains to the Wayne family’s butler in his early days with Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge). Alfred Pennyworth (Jack Bannon), a former special-forces officer living in London, has significant skills which Bruce Wayne’s father finds useful.

SPOILER ALERT: If you have not seen the series premiere, do not read this article. There are spoilers ahead.

When is Pennyworth set?

The pilot episode opens with The Rolling Stones’ ‘Paint it Black.’ If the series is historically accurate, the playing of ‘Paint it Black’ indicates the setting of the pilot episode after May 1966.

Later, we hear a version of ‘Something’s Got a Hold of My Heart’ playing. While the song has strong ties to Gene Pitney, having performed it in 1967, a cover version by Vicky Leandros hit British charts a year later. Is the series set in the late 1960s? Evidence suggests it is. Should we pay any attention to the music? How historically accurate is the series? If Pennyworth is like most shows, producers are not looking for historical accuracy in the production. Consequently, it’s entertainment over historical accuracy.

Interestingly, when Alfred pays a visit to the owners of Batley’s Electrical, Mr Batley (Henry Miller) and his wife Janet (Pauline Whitaker) are seemingly watching a BBC production titled “One Man and His Dog.” The BBC series was first televised in the British Isles in February 1976.

Pennyworth
Image Credit: IMDb.com

The series delves deeply into Pennyworth’s backstory and provides answers to how the Alfred we see in the 1960s becomes the Wayne’s Butler. Alfred’s father, Mr Pennyworth (Ian Puleston-Davies), wants his son to go into service for an aristocratic family. Mr Pennyworth can see a potential butler position in his son’s future. Little does Mr Pennyworth know how prophetic his words are.

The Britishness of the Pennyworth family is apparent. The presence of a framed photograph of Queen Elizabeth II is a clear indication of their Britishness. Many Canadians have a portrait of the monarch in their homes too. It is just what people in the British Commonwealth did during this period.

Alfred Pennyworth at Your Service…

“You do seem like a gentle man,” Esmé Winikus (Emma Corrin) said to Alfred when seated in front of the bandstand in the park. “Seem,” is the operative word, because hidden beneath the surface is a very different person entirely. Alfred sets up his own security company.

Pennyworth

While Lord James Harwood (Jason Flemyng) correctly observes Alfred’s military records show that he is a quartermaster in the catering corps, but his skills betray that he has received extensive military training. From what Harwood has seen of Alfred’s skills, the aristocrat presumes he is former SAS.

In contrast to Bet Sykes (Paloma Faith), Alfred does not approve of gratuitous violence. He only resorts to such actions when it is necessary.

After saving Esmé from Harwood, when Alfred returns home, he finds Sykes and a few of her goons holding his parents at gunpoint. Sykes wants to know where Esmé has gone. Seconds later, Esmé arrives at the pennyworth residence.

What of Alfred’s Pals?

Pennyworth

While neither of Alfred’s friends, Wallace ‘Dave Boy’ MacDougal (Ryan Fletcher) and Deon ‘Bazza’ Bashford (Hainsley Lloyd Bennett), are afraid of danger, the Scotsman is more likely to rush into danger without giving it much thought.

Dave Boy hilariously calls Alfred a ‘sassenach.’ Unless you are either Scottish, a fan of the Diana Gabaldon written books or watch Outlander, ‘sassenach’ will not mean much to you.

Bazza, unlike Dave Boy, is not one to rush into a situation without giving it serious thought. He is careful, but he will back his mates up when they are in the s***.

Who is Thomas Wayne?

Pennyworth

Thomas Wayne, before marrying Martha Kane (Emma Paetz) and fathering the future Bruce Wayne / Batman, is a financial forensics analyst. Because he discovered something suspicious,

After Harwood discovers Lord Rupert Longbrass (Edward Bennett) has been speaking with Thomas, Bet Sykes (Paloma Faith) and her men pay the American a visit. She is a seriously nasty piece of work. Sykes does not shy away from violence when the fancy suits her.

After Thomas survives a hail of bullets shot through his office windows, on finding Pennyworth’s business card in his jacket pocket, Sykes and her people kidnap Pennyworth’s girlfriend. In exchange for Esmé, the kidnappers want the American delivered to them.

Along with Wallace ‘Dave Boy’ MacDougal (Ryan Fletcher) and Deon ‘Bazza’ Bashford (Hainsley Lloyd Bennett), Alfred takes out Sykes’ men after they double-cross the former SAS soldier at the exchange point.

Do the Queen and Alfred have a thing?

When Alfred visits Buckingham Palace to meet with Queen Elizabeth II (Jessica Ellerby), there is a brief moment where the monarch fingers the former SAS soldier’s lapel. From the camera angle, it looks as if British Prime Minister Aide (Richard Clothier) is aware of something between them. Does the British monarch have a thing for Alfred?

“My dear loyal friend,” the British monarch said. “I fear dark times lie ahead and loyalties will be tested.” A quick side glance at the PM immediately after saying “loyalties will be tested” indicates she is aware of Aide’s duplicitous nature. He’s a politician. What else would one expect?

Final Thoughts…

Jack Bannon’s interpretation of Alfred is reminiscent of Michael Caine’s Harry Palmer. In 1965, 1966, and 1967, respectively, Caine played Palmer in The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin, and Billion Dollar Brain. The actor reprised the role three decades later for the television films Bullet to Beijing and Midnight in Saint Petersburg.

Don’t forget, in 2005, Caine stepped into Alfred’s shoes for the Christopher Nolan directed big-screen production Batman Begins. In 2008 and 2012, respectively, the London born actor could be seen reprising the role for The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.

What do you think of the series? Is the world ready for another Batman-prequel series? Please share, like and comment. Your opinions matter.