Prequels are the in-thing right now, especially superhero ones. Following the success of DC's 'Gotham' - the gritty series that traced the story of police commissioner Jim Gordon - and 'Krypton' - a series that tells the tale of Superman's grandfather, Seg-El - DC has dished out another promising prequel in 'Pennyworth'.
When we saw the versatile Michael Caine play Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne aka Batman's butler in 'The Dark Knight' trilogy, we saw a man who was unnerved, witty, tech-savvy, and had an air of confidence around him. There was always the question about this man's mysterious past which 'Pennyworth' sets out to answer.
Starring Jack Bannon ('The Imitation Game' and 'Fury'), the series aims to tell the story of a former SAS soldier who eventually became a butler in the Wayne household and a father figure to Bruce Wayne. The first time we hear a bit about Alfred's past is in 'The Dark Knight' when he narrates a story about a mission in Burma to Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale).
Coming back to 'Pennyworth', the trailer shows Pennyworth in a James Bond-like avatar; a cockney-accented SAS soldier, suave, debonair-looking and who woos women with the utmost ease, not to forget, he's got some insane martial-art moves where he can toss a hulking baddie without breaking into a sweat. Before the Bat's time, Alfred was a fearless secret agent who hunted down criminals in England.
'Pennyworth' is set in the '60s where he is discharged from military service and then goes on to start his own security enterprise. He bumps into Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge), who has a job description fitting Alfred's skillset. But then, it does look like he does more than just protect Wayne and family. Just like a butler to juggle multiple chores, Alfred has to juggle between working for Thomas Wayne and taking on Bet Sykes (Paloma Faith), the sadistic competitor to Alfred’s security firm, who also seems to nurse some vendetta with the Waynes.
It's still unclear if Epix has stuck to Alfred's origin story from the comics. But it does seem so given that they titled the series 'Pennyworth.' A two-part Alfred story was narrated in Detective Comics #806 and 807 called 'Regnum Defende'. The events take place during the Cold War where Alfred is seen teaching rookie spies at MI5. He then goes by the name, Alfred Beagle. He is then recruited by MI7 to infiltrate a communist baddie conference and protect a former Nazi called Parsifal. The attempt sees Alfred blow his cover.
Soon after, when Alfred returns from the mission, he decides to lie low by taking up a profession as a butler, which was also his family tradition. That's when he's shown arriving at Wayne Manor in search of a job. The story also explains the origin of the name - Pennyworth. Prior to his mission to rescue Parsifal, Alfred is handed a coin (not from the Q-branch we're afraid) that contains a reel of razor wire that cuts through anything.
Alfred uses this to free himself when he's captured during the mission and is reminded of what was told to him - "This penny is worth your life". The inference being, when he has to adopt a new identity, he chooses something that references to the very thing that helped him escape. While none of these is covered in the trailer, it does seem likely that the ten-episode series will showcase the theory at some point. As of now, the trailer suggests some good old '60s action and espionage and that's what we'd love to see. A butler who is more of a Bond.
'Pennyworth' is executive produced by Bruno Heller ('The Mentalist' and 'Gotham') and Danny Cannon ('CSI: Miami' and 'I Still Know What You Did Last Summer'). The series is set to premiere July 28 on Epix.