EPIX’s ‘Pennyworth’ Review: A Worthy Origin Story For A Beloved Character

by Rachel Bellwoar

Warner Archive provided me with a free copy of the Blu-Ray I reviewed in this article. The opinions I share are my own.

Warner Archive’s Blu-Ray release of Pennyworth may be skint in the bonus feature department but that’s not the only reason to invest in physical media. There’s also the question of how many streaming networks and TV channels you can afford to pay for each month. Pennyworth and Perpetual Grace Ltd. were two of the best shows to come out last year, but if you didn’t have EPIX you didn’t see them (versus the Berlanti universe DC shows which air on network TV). Unfortunately, Perpetual Grace Ltd. doesn’t have the benefit of a DC Comics connection to ensure it gets a DVD release someday, but maybe more people will get to see Pennyworth now that it’s available on Blu-Ray and DVD.

Having written about Pennyworth once before, I don’t want to repeat myself too much, but the second half of the season is just as good as the first half, as Pennyworth (Jack Bannon) realizes he might have made an enemy in his past and that an old enemy he thought was dead is still alive.

One day, of course, Alfred Pennyworth will be Bruce Wayne’s butler but in Pennyworth he’s just gotten out of the army and is trying to start a security firm with his SAS friends, Bazza (Hainsley Lloyd Bennett) and Dave Boy (Ryan Fletcher). Business hasn’t exactly been booming but when a chance meeting with Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge) gets his girlfriend, Esme (Emma Corrin), kidnapped, Pennyworth finds himself mixed up in the growing political feud between the No Name League and the Raven Society. Both groups want to see the British government overthrown but whereas the No Name League want to see socialism ushered in, the Raven Society are trying to run a fascist regime.

Like Gotham, which was another outlier DC show on FOX, Pennyworth is executive produced by Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon but while “prequel” on Gotham meant most of the characters would live on to fight Batman, many of the characters on Pennyworth are new to the show and didn’t originate in the comics. Pennyworth and the Waynes have to survive, but everyone else is like Kim Wexler on Better Call Saul. There’s no safety net ensuring they live to see Pennyworth’s butler days.

What makes Pennyworth different from other comic shows is its innate Britishness. Whether it’s the stiff upper lip in the face of danger or the pearl clutching that comes before Pennyworth’s mother (an extremely game Dorothy Atkinson) kicks the living daylights out of a home invader, Pennyworth can switch from action movie to tea drinking in the blink of an eye and it’s never not seamless. All of the characters are extremely well cast (three of the highlights being Paloma Faith‘s villainous, Bet Sykes, Danny Webb‘s sinister, John Ripper, and Emma Paetz‘s wry, Marth Kane). Thanks to David Russo the show has one of the best soundtracks on TV, with one of the best theme songs. It might be a while before we get to see season two, since production had just started in January, before Covid-19 shut things down, but at least there’s time to catch up (and at 10 episodes it’s not a difficult binge).

Pennyworth: The Complete First Series is out now on Blu-Ray and DVD

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