Blu-ray Review: ‘Pennyworth’ Season 2
by Rachel Bellwoar
Coming off of this weekend’s announcement at DC FanDome that Pennyworth will be returning for a third season, it seemed like a good time to look back at Season Two. Eventually, the first two seasons, which originally aired on EPIX, will be available to stream on HBO Max – the series’ new home – but for those impatient to catch up, Warner Archive has made Season Two available to own on Blu-ray and DVD.
While the Blu-ray doesn’t come with any additional bonus features (neither did Season One), you do get all ten episodes. Season Two begins with a short time jump, but while it’s only been a year since Alfred Pennyworth’s father (Ian Puleston-Davies) tried to kill the Queen (Jessica Ellerby) and managed to kill most of British Parliament, a lot has happened in England. Namely, London has become the last line of defense for keeping the Raven Society (now the Raven Union) from taking over the country.
As far as Alfie (Jack Bannon) is concerned, saving the Queen once was enough. He’s still got PTSD from siding against his father and, in order to raise money to move to America, he, Bazza (Hainsley Lloyd Bennett,) and Dave Boy (Ryan Fletcher) have started doing jobs for their old SAS captain, Gully (series newcomer James Purefoy), whose moral code is very different than theirs. That’s the whole dilemma, though – how far is Pennyworth willing to go to get paid – and if the show stuck to that instead of stirring up unnecessary love trouble, Season Two might not be a step down from season one.
Instead of focusing on the relationships that matter most in Alfie’s life, like his friendships with Bazza and Dave Boy (who both get sidelined this season), Pennyworth invests way too much time in Sandra (Harriet Slater), Alfie’s girlfriend who only seems to be in the picture still because he is too chicken to break-up with her. It’s never going to be serious, yet the show keeps dragging things out, with the result being some characters who are going to be sticking around (like Paloma Faith’s Bet) not getting the screentime they deserve.
The difference is clear every time Alfie’s mum, Mary (the wickedly funny Dorothy Atkinson), appears for a scene, because that’s a relationship which does matter and has taken a hit since Alfie’s father died. Mary doesn’t want to go to America, either, so there’s a lot of drama for the series to tap into there, with regards to whether or not he would leave without her.
As for Martha (Emma Paetz) and Thomas (Ben Aldridge), they get off on the wrong foot this season, too, as the series weakly attempts to insert drama into their lives by having Thomas start the season engaged to another woman. This goes nowhere and we don’t even meet the fiancée (if, indeed, she ever existed).
Pennyworth has never been afraid to shake things up before (and even this season, the strongest episodes were the ones that stepped on the gas), but too often storylines are allowed to stall and stagnate or fumble details (like Project Stormcloud getting built up as this big threat only to be sloppily dealt with by the League). It’s still one of DC’s best shows, especially when it comes to character development, but hopefully Season Three will see those characters not so hampered by the plot (or — even worse — ignored by it).
Pennyworth Season Two is available now from Warner Archive.
(Warner Archive provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this article. The opinions I share are my own.)