Review: ‘Pennyworth’ Season 3, Episode 4 — “Silver Birch”

by Rachel Bellwoar

Sandra (Harriet Slater) is right about one thing. Alfie (Jack Bannon) gets away with everything and this week’s episode couldn’t have encapsulated that more.

Photograph by Colin Hutton/HBO Max

While Martha (Emma Paetz) is still unconsciousness, everything suggests that she will wake-up soon and that the drugged Thomas (Ben Aldridge) didn’t succeed at killing his wife. Thomas, however, is in prison – the Tower of London to be exact – and while that doesn’t faze Alfie at first, he’s willing to change his tune when Thomas’ father (Richard Dillane) offers him a million quid to break Thomas out.

Why the show even bothers with the whole song and dance of pretending Alfie might fail seems like a waste of time at this point. It’s the truth. All of the feigned disbelief that Alfie would consider taking on such a job. The hand wrenching that they might not succeed. It all feels a bit silly when it’s done and dusted in one episode.

Then there was the insulting doubt that Alfie wouldn’t give up the million when Thomas doesn’t want to go to America like his father insists. Mrs, P (Dorothy Atkinson) giving him a dirty look might have sped up the process but even if she hadn’t been there, Alfie has proven again and again that he will always side with his moral compass. He might do so begrudgingly. He might complain about it, but he doesn’t have to be guilted into doing the right thing. He does the right thing on his own.

Photograph by Colin Hutton/HBO Max

Some other thoughts on this week’s episode:

  • While it’s obvious that Daveboy (Ryan Fletcher) is walking into a trap with his new girlfriend, Sally (Claudia Joy), the kind of trap is pretty open-ended. Their visit to the art gallery certainly didn’t reveal any clues about what sort of bad news Sally will be.
  • Again, the series seems to be switching gears and instead of following through on the PWEs or letting the Operation Lullaby State storyline standalone, we now have a dude in a Guy Fawkes mask kidnapping Dr. Glubb (Paul Brightwell). Pennyworth has enough original characters. It doesn’t need V from V for Vendetta to join the cast, and if the man isn’t V — My guess? John Salt (Edward Hogg) — than using the Guy Fawkes mask is an unnecessary distraction.
  • From the way Mrs. P’s boyfriend (Oliver Ryan) ran after meeting Alfie and Mrs. P’s baretta, it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll be returning anytime soon, but why not? Mrs. P. deserves a long-term boyfriend, and the show needs to call a moratorium on new characters until it can provide enough screentime to its regulars. Lucius (Simon Manyonda) still feels thinly drawn and again, no Bets (Paloma Faith) or Gully (James Purefoy). Gully isn’t a personal fave, but he matters within the context of the show.
  • Technically should Mrs. P have even agreed to let the stranger inside? It’s not her house, she was supposed to be watching Samantha (Jayda Eyles), and after what just happened to Martha, why would she trust Mr. Lonelyheart?
  • How long until Thomas hears Sandra’s hit song again?

New episodes of Pennyworth: The Origin of Batman’s Butler stream Thursdays on HBO Max.

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