The Dark Herald (Also) Does Not Recommend Pennyworth

The Dark Herald (Also) Does Not Recommend Pennyworth

In case it’s flown beneath your radar, DC’s Pennyworth is the halo property for the Epix premium channel/streaming service.  It is now wholly owned by MGM, so I expect that Epix is going to either get rolled into MGM’s streaming service or more likely vice/versa. The rumor is that they are getting ready to start a new Stargate series.  I can only hope that it’s better than the last one.

Pennyworth caught my attention in passing.  There was something else on Epix, I wanted to watch when I spotted its thumbnail.  I appear to have become something of a branch swinger so far as the streaming services go.  I enroll in one for a month, watch its halo properties, and then cancel and move on to the next service, leaving the last one sobbing in broken-hearted misery.

DC’s Pennyworth was clearly supposed to be about Bruce Wayne’s faithful and loyal butler, Alfred.  OK, I thought to myself, maybe there can be something to this. After all, who hasn’t wondered why Alfred puts up with all the crap from Bruce that he does? 

Let’s face it, Alfred doesn’t just go the extra mile for his employer, he goes the extra death-march. He is pretty freaking far from just being just a Butler, he appears to keep Wayne Manor shipshape and Bristol fashion all by himself, he is also a friend, confidante, surrogate father, and was the legal Guardian of Bruce Wayne during his minority. He acts as a steadfast moral anchor for a superhero that is very shaky on his ability to consistently choose the right path.

Where did such ferocious all-consuming loyalty come from? Why did he give his life up for his employer’s boy? Why did the Waynes entrust a servant with their son’s care and well-being in case of their deaths? They are known to have had other family members but they trusted Alfred before anyone else with their most cherished treasure, their only son.

When introduced in 1943 Alfred was little more of a bumbling comedic figure. Apparently inspired by Nigel Bruce from the Sherlock Holmes movies. 

But intriguingly Alfred became as prominent as Batman in his own right. It grew to be unthinkable to have Batman without his faithful and dryly sarcastic butler waiting for him in the Batcave.  Alfred’s public persona grew and gained a layered depth of character without any single, one writer being the one to reshape him.  It was in large measure, fan expectations that did this.  Past a certain point, Batman’s various writers could only portray Alfred in a certain way without breaking ‘head-canon.’

Alfred Pennyworth became that most unusual of creations, a character who was writing his own back story. 

So, I freely admit, I was intrigued by the concept of a story that showed where young Alfred’s relationship to the Wayne family came from. 

I ran through a few possible scenarios in my head.  Did they meet when they were both in the service? Were they comrades with shared joys and horrors? Perhaps the relationship between Thomas Wayne and Alfred was like the relationship between Galahad and Eggsy in the Kingsmen. A pseudo father relationship developed for whatever reason between Thomas Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth. One that would leave the young butler utterly heartbroken when Thomas and his wife’s murdered bodies were found in a Gotham City alley. Of course, someone with that kind of relationship with the Waynes would step in and do his best to raise the orphaned Bruce.

There’s no getting around this, a prologue to an established story can be pretty tricky. I felt that Pennyworth had the advantage of being a story that was largely devoid of fixed events. That can be extremely limiting for a story that has to end at the beginning of another story. The audience knows that events A, B, and C have to happen in that order, with C being the final triggering event for the next story to begin. 

Classic example; the Star Wars prequels.  You knew going in that Obi-Wan was going to have impenetrable plot armor from beginning to end, as would Anakin. You knew that Padme was likely going to die in the last movie. You knew that Palpatine would become the emperor and get deformed somewhere along the line.  The Jedi order would fall. And you also knew that Anakin was eventually going to take a quick dip in a volcano and pop out as Darth Vader. It was a narrative where you knew every single plot point. Had a pretty good idea where they all had to go and in what order.  It suffered from being completely predictable and that is death for any story.  

Pennyworth on the other hand didn’t appear to be under any such constraints. And the setting of a London that takes place in an alternative history was rather intriguing. It was Swinging London but it had a more oppressive political atmosphere.  There were people in stocks and televised executions where the condemned would be hung alive, then disemboweled. There is also a radio broadcast that mentions that the Netherlands had been granted home ruled by the German Reich. Indicating that either Hitler never fell or that Wilhelm the Second did a lot better in World War One. Regardless neither one’s been made clear yet.

The series starts off with Alfred fighting in the jungle. possibly, the Malayan Emergency? Regardless that’s never been made too clear either.  Then it turns out that it was a flashback, and that Alfred has just been ‘demobbed.’ He is now starting up his own private security company. 

This show is very dark and gritty, of freaking course.  Honestly, they should change it from DC to DG it would fit better.  We run into Thomas Wayne in the first episode and it quickly becomes very apparent that there is no reason at all for Alfred to like this jerk. As the series progresses it becomes even more clear that this is not a front on Wayne’s part. He really is simply a rich and dislikable dickweed.  

I was interested in this series for a bit but the nihilism became oppressive and all-pervading. The only reason I was sticking around at all was that I was looking for the answer to my question of why would Alfred give up his life to raise the son of Thomas and Martha Wayne?

I have now figured out the answer and have canceled my subscription to Epix.   This isn’t in stone yet but it’s pretty obvious that Alfred has knocked up Martha. Or Satan has one of the two. Regardless I now have an answer to my question and I’m not particularly happy with it. 

The Dark Herald Does Not Recommend.  

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Comments (8)

  • John E. Boyle Reply

    I watched the first episode and a half but then drifted away. I was thinking of getting back to it, but will pass given your review. I can only take just so much nihilism.

    Thanks for taking one for the team.

    December 23, 2020 at 12:12 am
  • Brick Hardslab Reply

    So, to get this straight, Alfred pumped a cuckoo egg into the Wayne nest. And Thomas Wayne’s still married to Martha and even let’s Alfred live with them?

    Who thought even hinting that was ok?

    December 23, 2020 at 12:18 am
    • The Dark Herald Reply

      Thomas thinks it’s his.

      December 23, 2020 at 2:13 pm
  • furor kek tonicus Reply

    given how many Republicans are cucks who grovel before their Leftist masters, why wouldn’t they think it was practically a requirement?

    December 23, 2020 at 2:44 am
  • TroperA Reply

    Huh. I’d guessed that Alfred would be gay for Thomas Wayne and it would turn out that Martha was a beard all along. Or that Alfred was a werewolf from Twilight and had “imprinted” on the baby Bruce when he was born.

    December 23, 2020 at 2:47 am
  • Bonesaw Reply

    Why are all you bigots upset that Alfred, Martha, and Thomas are now in a polyamorous relationship together?

    You all need to stop thinking it’s appropriate to only depict monogamous, straight relationships.

    I for one look forward to when they decide to more overtly promote ‘Cuties’ and it’s ilk, and have Alfred enter into an incestious pedophile relationship with Bruce.
    I’m sure it’s what the original writers really, really wanted – but the bigots of the time wouldn’t allow this beautiful vision to exist.

    In all honesty though – this kind of dross needs to be purged.
    I have less and less of a tolerance for this kind of worthless crap. I tend to watch nothing made after about 2010, and even then I prefer movies and shows from the 60s – 90s.

    We need to (figuratively) burn this crap down and replace it with the beautiful, the inspirational, and the true.

    December 23, 2020 at 7:15 am
  • Codex Reply

    @Troper & Bonsaw

    I had not heard of this show, but one glance at the show’s poster’s depiction of Penny worth said: Gaymance and/or poly.

    Kudos to Dark Herald for keeping us apprised, especially when he finds treasures like Klaus.

    December 24, 2020 at 6:44 am
  • Patrick McNally Reply

    What makes this so awful is the usurping of a traditional character. If someone started a brand new comic or film series today with a gay character in it then 1 of 2 things would happen. Either it would just be obvious gay propaganda which hardly anyone would want to look at. Or else if they really did try to portray a character in a serious way then some things would start to show through that would a wrinkle on the story.

    Maybe we would learn that our gay character was sexually abused as a minor. Whatever the exact storyline, it would be very difficult to really get a comic or TV series going in which the gay character never gives away something disagreeable that would then piss of the gay lobby.

    This is what makes it so attractive to just hijack old established characters like Pennyworth, Bobby Drake or Star-Lord. You can then try to ride off of the old established reputation of the character while just adding on “Oh yeah, he turned out to be gay.” There’s less fear that the gay lobby will hold it against you for spoiling the image of a traditional character as opposed to creating a brand new gay character who turns to be less white than fresh snow.

    December 24, 2020 at 12:55 pm

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