'Pennyworth' premiere establishes attention to detail and tightly-woven narrative in this pacy, gritty Batman prequel set in '60s London
For now, 'Pennyworth' has managed to glue audiences to their seats, but the challenge it must vault is successfully explaining how the man of many talents will end up being a butler at Wayne Manor eventually
'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 and time of Batman's butler, Alfred Pennyworth, played by a dapper Jack Bannon.
This show imagines him to be a former SAS soldier with some exceptional skills, all the while balking job offers from a young Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge). It is produced by Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon, the producers behind 'Gotham', another Batman prequel series that focussed on a young James Gordon, the police commissioner.
Together, they take Pennyworth's roots back to '60s London -- a gritty, post-war place where crime is an everyday affair. Watching the pilot gives the impression the producers have left no stone unturned in establishing the setting, the protagonist and the baddies in detail in the 70 minutes plus 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 off his own if it comes to trading a few blows.
Bannon shines as the young Pennyworth, while Emma Corrin who plays his love interest, Esme, is quite a charmer. But episode 1's show-stealers are the villains, Lord Harwood (Jason Flemyng) and Bet Sykes (Paloma Faith). Ben Aldridge's Thomas Wayne is a lot like Q, again probably an inspiration drawn from the '60s Bond novels.
'Pennyworth' starts off on a pacy note. It establishes the fact that Alfred was a former soldier and a bloody good one when he served. For reasons still not fully explained, he comes out after ten extensive years of service and plans to open his own business, has a love interest and works in a nightclub as a bouncer.
The villainous 'Raven's Society', a secret society with nefarious schemes up its sleeves, announces itself as Alfred's formidable foe. The opener comes off as must-watch for Batman fans as there are some references to those morals that a young Bruce Wayne will be subjected to in the near future.
The biggest challenge, however, is getting a brand new audience to watch the show. By no means is 'Pennyworth' an average or a terrible show, but the challenge it must vault is successfully explaining how the man of many talents will probably end up being a butler at Wayne Manor eventually.
'Gotham' worked well as it gave depth to Gordon's character. The police commissioner has proved to be Batman's ally time and again and his adventures before taking over Gotham's Police Department, established a loyal fanbase that saw him as a pivotal character. At the moment, it looks like 'Pennyworth' is preparing to take a similar route as well.
Heller and Cannon have struck the jackpot when it comes to dishing out the details. The first 20 minutes establish a decent bit of Alfred's past, his present-day problems and a side of him that you don't want to trifle with. There are moments of grim humor, nudity and visceral violence, but explained rather well in a tightly-woven narrative.
For now, 'Pennyworth' has managed to glue the audiences to their seats, but will have a task once it gets the wheels off the ground and delves into a more, darker series as it progresses. It may probably need to pick up the pace and that may serve well in the episodes to come.
'Pennyworth' airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on EPIX.