Following Esme’s death, Pennyworth takes on a somewhat subdued, poignant tone for large stretches of its 55 minute episode, slowing the pace down and allowing us to catch a breath from the action thus far. Toward the back-end of the episode things do speed up, with a climactic showdown leaving things wide open for the weeks to come.
We begin with Bet Sykes in a phone booth. Thick fog suffocates the air as she regrets Esme’s death and tells her sister she loved her. As Esme’s body is lowered into the grave, Alfred weeps before Bet finds Lord Harwood in the street with his nose missing and a collar round his neck. Saving him from his ill-fate, Bet takes him in, nurturing him back to health.
Meanwhile, Alfred wallows in self-pity and guilt until we cut forward an unspecified number of months to find gangs causing anarchy on the streets. The leader of the No Name League formulates a plot to kill the woman in charge of the Raven Society, following the tumultuous chaos gripping London’s underbelly. With a civil war imminent, Alfred is recruited again to work for the No Name League but is in no fit state to work, losing the swagger and confident self-assurance that’s made him so endearing in the past.
However, John Ripper shows up soon after he rejects Martha’s offer and reminds him he owes him a favour before taking him out running. There, he helps motivate Alfred to get back in the game, hinting that Esme’s death may not have been an accident after all.
Meanwhile, Thomas Wayne approaches Dave Boy and Bazza, offering them a chance to make a handsome sum of money in exchange for killing the Raven Society leader. Fueled by vengeance, Alfred goes searching for the ones responsible for killing Esme, while Dave Boy, having taken up Thomas’ offer, finds himself in over his head, working undercover as a chef until he blows his cover. As he comes out, all guns blazing, he’s shot by the Raven Society leader while Alfred shows up with a sawn-off shotgun. He kills the leader of the No-Name Society and leaves the scene a bloody mess with Dave Boy over his shoulder, nursing his injuries.
As the episode closes out, it’s revealed that John Ripper is having an affair with the wife of the No-Name leader, leaving things hanging on a tantalizing cliffhanger.
With plenty of drama and a tense showdown at the end, Pennyworth comes out swinging with one of its best episodes of the series. Whilst the opening half hour or so is deliberately slow, when the action picks back up it’s made all the more effective because of this.
Aesthetically, Pennyworth look great and everything from the scene composition to the authentic London accents combine to make this a really impressive crime thriller in its own right. Quite what the future holds for Alfred following his actions at the end of this episode remains to be seen, but for now Pennyworth bows out on a high for another week.