'Pennyworth' redefines the Thomas Wayne-Martha Kane backstory and relationship arc in the best possible way
If you leave aside Bannon's Alfred and the talented Paloma Faith as the villainous Bet Sykes, the Wayne-Kane duo have stolen the limelight in the last two episodes and richly complement Bannon's Alfred
This article contains spoilers for 'Pennyworth' episode 4: 'Lady Penelope'
'Pennyworth' was one of the shows that had its pilot screened during the San Diego Comic-Con 2019 and received positive reviews. The EPIX show chronicles the life of Batman's butler, Alfred Pennyworth, played by a dapper Jack Bannon.
He was introduced as a former SAS soldier with exceptional skills, all the while balking job offers from a young Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge). Together, they take Pennyworth's roots back to the London of the '60s — a gritty, post-war place where crime is an everyday affair. Watching the pilot gives the impression that the producers have left no stone unturned in establishing the setting, the protagonist and the baddies in detail in the over 70-minute premiere.
The main focus is on a young Pennyworth who comes across as a James Bond from Anthony Horowitz's reimagined version of the suave superspy — dapper, suave and extremely intelligent, not to forget, a man who can hold his own when it comes to trading a few blows.
Episodes three, however, introduced us to a character who would be another key figure in the Wayne family — Martha Kane. Played by Emma Paetz, Martha was introduced as a member of the No-Name league, an organization similar to the Central Intelligence Agency. Her mission was to break out a scientist and his queer partner from prison and house them in a safe location before they were to be handed over to the nefarious Raven Society.
She enlists Alfred's services for the mission and the duo successfully manage to rescue the scientist. The episode 'Martha Kane' was all about Paetz. It showcased her rugged determination, while also offering glimpses of a vulnerable side that will be exposed in the episodes to come.
The next episode 'Lady Penelope' answered the question on everyone's mind regarding the relationship between Wayne and Kane. At the moment, it looks like Thomas and Martha are part of the No-Name League and she reports to him. Mind you, all this is before the two get married.
Their interactions were limited in 'Lady Penelope' with Thomas focussing on the next mission which required Alfred to step in and offer his services again. We're yet to see how Bruce Wayne's parents originally meet in the first place. The creators might have to give us some insight about their personal relationship at some point, but for now, it looks like Alfie and Martha have a thing for each other. The romantic kiss in the final few minutes of episode four says it all.
Barring Alfred and his Bond-like demeanor that sets the ball rolling, Thomas too has his share in the spotlight with the first couple of episodes where we see him at his witty, yet smart-ass best. In the comics, Thomas Wayne has multiple personas. There are storylines where it is seen that he studied to become a surgeon. He worked at Gotham General, and because of his wealth, he worked for free providing treatment to those who couldn't afford it.
However, we see a rather different Thomas in 'Pennyworth'. He's got an office and he's definitely not a surgeon. We had deduced earlier that his character might be more of a detective or a spy and he plays the part to perfection. With the prequel dishing out new origin stories, we have seen Thomas as a skilled operator, a smooth talker and a man who adds a dash of American flavor in what has been largely a Brit-based setting.
In Paetz, we see another dynamic character introduced and we're sure she'll have more screen presence. According to IMDb, she's got six more episodes to go in season one and we're sure there'll be more details added to explain her story arc better. For now, she may be a lassie (like the Brits put it) who isn't afraid to pull the trigger, wallop somebody with a truncheon and at the same time is not afraid to bare her emotions. It remains to be seen though where all this will lead to eventually.
'Pennyworth' may have the title of its leading character, but in the four episodes so far, Alfred's screen time is richly complemented by the presence of two characters who would go on to settle down and add Alfie with them as a lifelong friend and a mentor/father-figure to Bruce Wayne.
If you leave aside Bannon's Alfred and the talented Paloma Faith as the villainous Bet Sykes, the Wayne-Kane duo has stolen the limelight in the last two episodes and their introduction is the best part of the series so far.
'Pennyworth' airs Sundays at 9 pm on EPIX.