‘Pennyworth’ Review: Season 2, Episode 1 – ‘The Heavy Crown’

by Rachel Bellwoar

It’s been over a year since we last saw Alfred Pennyworth. On the show, too. Season two is set a year after the events of the season one finale and if things were looking bad for England then, they’ve only gotten worse.

Paloma Faith and Jessye Romeo (Photo Credit: Alex Bailey/Epix)

Pennyworth doesn’t mess around, either. England was already on the brink of war in season one, so it’s not all that surprising that war has started in season two. Harwood escaping prison is another predictable turn of events. There was no way he and the Sykes sisters were going to rot in jail, so while the timing might be sooner than expected, it’s still expected.

No, the news that comes as an actual shock is that the fascists are winning and not by a small percentage. 90% of England is under fascist control and if the Raven Union (as the Raven Society are called now) take London, they’ll be in charge of the entire country.

How does Alfred fall into all this? He’s the manager of The Delaney, a club in the neutral zone of England that’s a lot like the Kit Kat Klub in Cabaret. On the side, though, he’s still doing jobs with Bazza and Dave Boy in hopes of raising enough money to move to America.

Emma Paetz and Ramon Tikaram (Photo Credit: Nick Wall/Epix)

In a lot of ways Alfred is doing the same thing he did before: playing both sides. In season one, though, Alfred always felt a duty towards the Queen. Now he’s dodging her phone calls.

It’s a funny scene and maybe that’s all it’s meant to be – comic relief – but it could also be a sign that Alfred’s more unsure than ever before. Did the Queen do something to make him turn against her or does it all go back to Alfred’s father and the fact that he died trying to kill her? Because that would be enough. Pennyworth may not care about politics, but his father did – so much so that he died (and killed) for his beliefs. If Pennyworth really is only in it for the money, the quickest way to get it would be to work for the Ravens. They already think his father’s a martyr and they have the most power, but is Pennyworth really willing to work for fascists or is he deluding himself, like Bogart in Casablanca? Whatever the answer may be, “The Heavy Crown” is a strong opener that proves Pennyworth still has a great handle on its characters and knows how to put them in challenging situations.

Other thoughts on ‘The Heavy Crown’:

  • Pennyworth has been paired up with Bets before, but in season two they seem to be on parallel journeys. Like Pennyworth, Bets doesn’t care about politics, yet she’s managed to rise to the rank of captain in the Raven Union. Whether she’s still close to her sister and Harwood remains to be seen but, likes Esme in season one, it looks like she might be going rogue after developing a soft spot for Katie (Jessye Romeo). Will their relationship be as one-sided?
  • Some other new guest stars this season: James Purefoy as Gully, who looks like he shares a military connection with Alfred; Edward Hogg as torturer, John Salt; and Ben Fox as writer, George Orwell.
  • Notably absent from this episode: John Ripper. We know the No Name League is part of the English League now, but does that make him a member of the high council or did he stay gone after Undine was killed?
  • It sounds like Thomas and Martha’s romance is over before it started. While Thomas survived getting shot in the season one finale, he’s engaged to someone else now, and while we’re probably supposed to be rooting for them to get back together (and destiny kind of dictates they will), I don’t think the show planned on how much chemistry Jack Bannon and Emma Paetz would have. Batman’s birth depends on a Thomas and Martha marriage but otherwise I don’t think their break-up would be upsetting.

Pennyworth airs Sundays at 9 PM EST on EPIX.

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