The various Batman series, film or TV, have rarely given his butler, Alfred Pennyworth much to do. He occasionally has a fun presence, but rarely do you see him in any action role. The series Gotham changed that considerably, with the character helping teach Bruce to fight as well as getting in numerous scraps and fisticuffs himself, building up his backstory of being a former soldier, etc. So it was perhaps almost inevitable that someone would eventually want to build that story up even more.
And yet would anyone really care? The backstory for someone destined to be a secondary or tertiary character in a larger story arc? When I saw the premise for the show, my thought was “pffft” and I predicted cancellation. Now that I’ve seen the opening episode, I am not so sure.
The premise is that Alfred Pennyworth, former SAS officer who is newly released from service to the Queen, has started his own security company, wanting to be his own man. It’s “early days” in his business so far, so he’s working as a bouncer at a club that looks a lot like an old-fashioned speak-easy. He intervenes to help a patron one night, and it turns out the patron is one Thomas Wayne. Yep, Bruce’s father, long before Bruce is a gleam in the eye. Thomas is working as a supposed forensic accountant, but it’s more light cover than convincing. Apparently, something is happening in British politics, someone told Thomas, and the people involved want to stop Thomas from stopping them. They attempt to kill Wayne, and in the surviving wreckage, they find Pennyworth’s business card. One thing leads to another, and several kidnappings later, Pennyworth is set on a collision course with the Raven Society who are trying to overthrow the government in the name of the Queen, whether she agrees or not.
Jack Bannon plays Pennyworth, and while I haven’t seen him in anything before, he has really strong presence. Despite the fact that he looks like he should be in a boy band. There are two or three scenes where you see his body and face shift from normal mode to action, and it is fascinating to see it click in. One scene in particular, he’s talking to a couple of guys in a club, one is being a bit rude and insulting, and Pennyworth switches to action mode. His line is simple, “Don’t do that”, but it drops like ice. Awesome job, and gave me real love for the episode. I don’t know that the character has anything to do with Batman’s Alfred, but if you just took him as a soldier newly released, the story works fine.
Ben Aldridge plays Thomas Wayne, and I haven’t seen him in much before. He was in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man but not a role I particularly remember. But he has a lively spirit that is fun to see. Youthful, softer than Alfred, seems almost naive at times. Good balance between the two.
Pennyworth starts dating a woman named Esme from the club, and he’s definitely smitten. Esme is played by Emma Corrin, and while a relatively new face, she is going to break big this year. She has amazing presence in the pilot…she reminds me a bit of Jodie Foster in some ways, and even Franka Potente, which is a weird mix, I assure you. Definite presence, far more so in a couple of early scenes and then at the end. She’s also set to play Princess Diana in The Crown, and I think she’s going to rock it.
After those three, there are various sundry characters — two soldier mates of Alfred’s, his parents, miscellaneous bad guys, but it is those three that will make or break the series.
It has a bit of James Bond qualities in it, maybe a touch of Kingsman. But does it have enough to keep it alive? I’m going to keep the same prediction — cancellation. Which is unfortunate for me, as I really liked the premiere.