Pennyworth has never been a show to shy away from a time jump and with Season 3, not only has the show picked up a cumbersome subtitle — “The Origin of Batman’s Butler” — but it’s set five years after the events of the previous season. Thanks in large part to Captain Blighty, which is the new name Gully (James Purefoy) is sporting now that he has powers, the English Civil War is over, and Alfie (Jack Bannon) is back to working for whomever will pay him; though he does have an office now, and some new team members besides Daveboy (Ryan Fletcher). Bet (Paloma Faith) is an employee.
Bet doesn’t appear too much in these first three episodes. In fact, she’s only in the first one. Her girlfriend, Katie (Jessye Romeo), is completely absent, so it’s not clear yet whether they’re still together, but Bet does get to spend most of her scenes with a baby, so they’re far from unmemorable.
Martha and Thomas’ daughter, Samantha (Jayda Eyles), isn’t a baby anymore, which is causing some tension in the Waynes’ marriage. Both parents are still working, but while Thomas (Ben Aldridge) is no longer in the CIA, Martha (Emma Paetz) has joined MI5 and hasn’t been completely honest with her husband about the parameters of her job.
Some thoughts on that:
- Thomas being qualified to work as a doctor feels a bit out of left field, plus if the whole idea is to establish a good work-life balance, since when does being a doctor mean regular hours?
- Having Mrs. P (Dorothy Atkinson) be Sam’s nanny is a stroke of genius, as it naturally brings her into the story more and makes her a regular presence in Season 3, instead of a background character that the series has to produce reasons to visit, like Sandra (Harriet Slater)
- It’s easy to read into everything Sam does because she’s the character whose future is the biggest question mark (like Kim Wexler’s once was on Better Call Saul), but given that the series is painting her out to be a bit of a rascal (knocking down blocks; stealing Alfie’s teddy bear), could the show be implying that Bruce’s older sister might be a future villain (or is that a bit of a stretch)?
Back to Alfie, and what’s he’s been up to since we last saw him: for the most part it sounds like he’s been helping the government locate and bring in PWEs (people with enhancements) like Gully, who could be useful if recruited and dangerous if left to their own devices. What separates PWEs from The Flash’s metahumans or Smallville’s “meteor freaks,” is that they didn’t get their powers from freak accidents, but were operated on by Dr. Frankenstein-types who deliberately added enhancements to their bodies.
From the way episode one begins, it almost seems like the series is preparing for a PWE of the week situation, which in a way would be cool just to have an influx of new characters like Jez (Tachia Newall), who can’t control his robotic arm. From there, though, Season 3 feels like it’s torn between two directions. After the initial interest in PWEs, they mostly fall to the wayside until Episode 3, which looks at how stir-crazy Gully has become. In many ways, his storyline reminds me of the gunslingers in westerns who are brought in to clean up a town only to find themselves unwelcome after they’ve finished the job (see Warlock or Man from Del Rio). Instead, the focus turns to Jessica (Amanda Dahl), a young girl Alfie’s been hired to find who might be under the influence of drugs — an improvement over being under the influence of the devil, aka Crowley (Jonjo O’Neill), in past seasons. After three episodes, it’s unclear which storyline will win out, but they do both deal with consent and having bodily autonomy.
So does Season 3 warrant the new subtitle? “The Origin of Batman’s Butler” is a mouthful, no matter how you look at it, but it does feel like this season is pushing more towards the series’ end game, and I’d be shocked if the season finale didn’t include at least Alfie, Thomas, and Martha making the move to America. Not that Alfie has shown much interest in moving anymore (he’s more concerned about his mother), but Season 3 has America on the brain. Between the CIA agent getting killed and Thomas’ father (Richard Dillane) showing up to make clear how much Wayne Enterprises needs new leadership, it’s only a matter of time before the pieces fall into place.
It’s hard to judge these first three episodes without knowing what the big picture is for the season. Maybe that’s a flaw of these episodes – a ton of ideas are thrown on the table but it doesn’t feel like the show has picked which ones it wants to explore, which means a lot of them could go underserved, but it’s certainly not a bad start (and more Mrs. P is always a good thing).
New episodes of Pennyworth: The Origin of Batman’s Butler stream Thursdays on HBO Max.