The No-Name Society
Out of all the shows released this year, Pennyworth has been the one that’s caught me off guard the most. Convinced this series would feel like a cheap nostalgic thriller playing on the Batman name, this prequel spin-off has subverted expectations and been a really thoroughly enjoyable thrill ride thus far. Episode 3 is no exception, with another strong dose of characterisation and a teasing glimpse at what’s to come for our future butler.
We begin with Alfred sitting down with Esme’s Father and asking for his permission to marry his daughter. He scoffs at the idea, telling Alfred that his daughter simply loves the animal in him given his 10 years serving in the army. The answer is a resounding no. As Alfred drowns his sorrows in alcohol at the bar, Esme asks him how it went. This leads to a heated conversation between the two, ending with Esme slamming down the engagement ring on the table and leaving, given Alfred tells her he refuses to marry without her Father’s permission.
After an awkward conversation with Sandra, a mysterious American lady named Martha arrives and offers him a job – a bodyguard gig that pays a very handsome sum of money. This inevitably makes Alfred a little suspicious but he agrees to help nonetheless. They head to the police station and free Ian Thurso, a man arrested earlier in the episode for homosexuality charges. Alfred drives them back to Thurso’s farmhouse where he sees his computer firsthand.
It turns out they work for the No-Name League and while waiting for a plane to land, the Raven Society ambush them and destroy the generator, stopping the plane from being able to hit the runway, intent on stealing Ian Thurso (and the computer) for themselves. Alfred decides to head outside and negotiate, even moreso given he manages to convince Martha to hand over £10,000 for the pleasure of doing so. Alfred holds Thurso up at gunpoint, spinning a story that he’s under instructions to kill the man and destroy the computer.
The plan works, for the most part, ending with a runaway ablaze with flames and the car exploding in a fireball as the Raven Society leave. He tells the others about the deal back at the bar who also arouse suspicions around the terms. However, the idea of £10,000 is enough to sway their opinion and work with them.
Before this meeting, we see Dave Boy fly off the handle, partly thanks to his haunting flashbacks from his time on the battlefield. While playing a game of poker, Bazza tries to stop him from drinking but unfortunately it has an adverse effect, prompting Dave Boy to shoot one of the players in the head.
Meanwhile, donning a new haircut and attitude, Bet Sykes has breakfast with her sister and tells her she had a connection with Esme, reason enough for her to return to London. Despite warning her sister against it, Bet seems determined to return and ruffle more feathers.
With the promised money behind him, Alfred buys a lavish apartment for Esme and tells her he got scared originally, apologising for what happened between them. With the threat of the Raven Society reduced to the shadows for now, we leave the episode with Esme and Alfred back in a relationship while the Raven Society leader is dumped on the ground; a bloody mess but alive nonetheless.
Given the work Pennyworth has put in to build up this ensuing relationship between Esme and Alfred, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see tragedy strike these two sooner rather than later. Given Alfred’s troubled past, this seems like a likely route although of course Alfred’s deals have left him between a rock and a hard place. In many ways, this episode feels like a transformative one, setting up events to come while laying the foundation for the growing threat with the Raven Society.
In the meantime though, Pennyworth delivers another good episode, with less establishing shots of London and far more character work in the process. The slick production design and decent script helps serve up some free-flowing dialogue between our characters, with the rich London accents feeling authentic and helping to build on the believability of this world.
Pennyworth has been a thoroughly enjoyable ride so far and could just prove to be 2019’s dark horse.