REVIEW: PENNYWORTH – SEASON 1

 

Pennyworth (2019)

Starring

Jack Bannon (Fury)
Ben Aldridge (The Railway Man)
Hainsley Lloyd Bennett (King of Crime)
Ryan Fletcher (Shetland)
Dorothy Atkinson (Harlots)
Ian Puleston-Davies (Vera)
Paloma Faith (St. Trinian’s)
Jason Flemyng (From Hell)
Polly Walker (Clash of The Titans)
Emma Paetz (Gentleman Jack)

Jack Bannon in Pennyworth (2019)
Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Emma Corrin (The Crown)
Jarren Dalmeda (The Outpost)
Salóme Gunnarsdóttir (Knightfall)
Richard Clothier (Above Suspicion)
Ramon Tikaram (Jupiter Ascending)
Ben Wiggins (Mary Queen of Scotts)
Jessica Ellerby (Lovesick)
Danny Webb (Alien 3)
Freddy Carter (Wonder Woman)
Harriet Slater (Faunutland and the Lost Magic)
Anna Chancellor (Trust)
Felicity Kendal (Rosemary & Thyne)
Peter Guinness (Sleepy Hollow)
Sarah Alexander (Stardust)
Peter Woodward (Crusade)
Charlie Woodward (Postman Pat)

Jack Bannon in Pennyworth (2019)Stories that have well-known, predetermined endings are tricky. Stories about peripheral characters before the main draw gets involved are tricky. Origin stories aren’t that tricky, but they become tricky when you’re telling one with the two previous requirements in place. In these ways (and few others), “Pennyworth” is a lot like “Better Call Saul” — the origin story of a supporting player in a larger story that hasn’t started yet, EPIX’s new series about Batman’s future butler doesn’t feature the Dark Knight or even the promise of getting to his story, eventually. Instead, it starts its own story of Alfred Pennyworth and finds compelling new life within — just like “Better Call Saul!”Emma Paetz and Ben Aldridge in Pennyworth (2019)OK, maybe not just like Vince Gilligan’s heralded spinoff, but it’s off to a great start through four episodes. The hour-long drama starts Alfred’s story shortly after his service in the war, as the 20-something Pennyworth (played by Jack Bannon) returns home to his mother and father, determined to run a security business and lead a more peaceful life. While that’s getting off the ground, he works as a bouncer and doorman at an underground London club, and it’s here he first runs into a young American by the name of Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge).Emma Corrin and Jack Bannon in Pennyworth (2019)It’s here that “Pennyworth” makes its first good impression, built on the back of many smart choices. For one, Wayne isn’t treated like royalty. He’s kind of a smarmy dick — like a lot of billionaires — and his introduction sees him as a bit of an overprotective, inept brother, relying on the good luck of Pennyworth’s talents and discretion to get out of an ugly situation. That the show doesn’t treat the Wayne name with an air of royalty, as if he’s the most important person in a show that’s not really his, is really encouraging, and it only bears out from there.Emma Corrin, Jack Bannon, and Ben Aldridge in Pennyworth (2019)Alfred himself is a well-rounded central figure, built from the heroic goods of more-than-capable soldier, but not such a smoothed-over goodie goodie to be made boring. He shows off his fighting abilities in the middle of a restaurant, careful not to bother the other patrons too much while tossing a hooligan over a table. There are shades of Future Alfred there, but not too many — he’s still got to become that wizened advisor to Master Wayne, so it’s nice to see he’s also got a few blindspots, too.Jack Bannon in Pennyworth (2019)Namely, women. One sucker punches him near the end of that early scene, foreshadowing many problems to come with his overconfident self-perception. Alfred doesn’t really know who he is yet, and that’s reflected as it so often is to men: through the (smarter) people they date. To get into much more might enter spoiler territory, but the women of “Pennyworth” are pretty well characterized on their own, outside of Alfred’s, too, even if there is a bit of a James Bond element to his lifestyle, as well as the show’s style. (The opening credits look like they’re ripped straight from Bond 20, while Alfred’s “for Queen and country” attitude compliments his 007-esque abilities.)Jack Bannon and Ben Aldridge in Pennyworth (2019)here’s where we talk about how damn good “Pennyworth” looks. Considering how gorgeous Bruno Heller (executive producer and writer) and Danny Cannon (executive producer and director) made “Gotham” — even with a broadcast budget — it should come as no surprise that London has rarely looked better than it does here. The lighting, both diegetic and non-diegetic, is stunning, making the crisp imagery pop when enemies are fighting and bringing beauty to a smoky side street when a noir-ish vibe is more appropriate. The costumes are pristine, sets expansive, and locations exciting in both their look and disparity. One episode is off to the countryside while another is buried in the bowels of a city. Along with sharp scripts, these touches help each hour stand out, and build on the overall enjoyment of spending time with “Pennyworth.”Jack Bannon in Pennyworth (2019)Though there are some structural issues (the premiere is nearly feature length, with wobbly beginning and ending notes) and the big-picture strife between warring political parties takes up a bit too much time, “Pennyworth” establishes an admirable long-game and introduces a number of characters you’ll grow attached to quite quickly. Bannon is a talented lead, flashing charm and strength as well as he balances immediate assuredness (for those hard-to-escape scenarios) and long-view obliviousness (toward his own path in life). The show mimics his versatility, coming across as an exciting new chapter in Bruce Wayne’s growing televised saga. “Pennyworth” sounds like a bad idea, but Batman die-hards and casual fans should both soon discover how very good it is.

REVIEW: THE IMITATION GAME

CAST

Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange)
Keira Knightley (Domino)
Matthew Goode (Watchmen)
Rory Kinnear (Man Up)
Allen Leech (The Sweeney)
Matthew Beard (Chatroom)
Charles Dance (Game of Thrones)
Mark Strong (Kick-Ass)
James Northcote (Belle)
Jack Bannon (Pennyworth)

Matthew Beard, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Allen Leech in The Imitation Game (2014)In 1952, two policemen, Nock and Staehl, investigate the mathematician Alan Turing after an apparent break-in at his home. During his interrogation by Nock, Turing tells of his time working at Bletchley Park during World War II. In 1927, the young Turing is unhappy and bullied at boarding school. He develops a friendship with Christopher Morcom, who sparks his interest in cryptography. Turing develops romantic feelings for him, but he dies from tuberculosis. When Britain declares war on Germany in 1939, Turing travels to Bletchley Park. Under the direction of Commander Alastair Denniston, he joins the cryptography team of Hugh Alexander, John Cairncross, Peter Hilton, Keith Furman and Charles Richards. The team are trying to decrypt the Enigma machine, which the Nazis use to send coded messages.Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game (2014)Turing is difficult to work with, and considers his colleagues inferior; he works alone to design a machine to decipher Enigma. After Denniston refuses to fund construction of the machine, Turing writes to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who puts Turing in charge of the team and funds the machine. Turing fires Furman and Richards and places a difficult crossword in newspapers to find replacements. Joan Clarke, a Cambridge graduate, passes Turing’s test but her parents will not allow her to work with the male cryptographers. Turing arranges for her to live and work with the female clerks who intercept the messages, and shares his plans with her. With Clarke’s help, Turing warms to the other colleagues, who begin to respect him.Charles Dance and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game (2014)Turing’s machine, which he names Christopher, is constructed, but cannot determine the Enigma settings before the Germans reset the Enigma encryption each day. Denniston orders it destroyed and Turing fired, but the other cryptographers threaten to leave if Turing goes. After Clarke plans to leave on the wishes of her parents, Turing proposes marriage, which she accepts. During their reception, Turing confirms his homosexuality to Cairncross, who warns him to keep it secret. After overhearing a conversation with a female clerk about messages she receives, Turing has an epiphany, realising he can program the machine to decode words he already knows exist in certain messages. After he recalibrates the machine, it quickly decodes a message and the cryptographers celebrate. Turing realises they cannot act on every decoded message or the Germans will realise Enigma has been broken.Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game (2014)Turing discovers that Cairncross is a Soviet spy. When Turing confronts him, Cairncross argues that the Soviets are allies working for the same goals, and threatens to retaliate by disclosing Turing’s sexuality. When the MI6 agent Stewart Menzies appears to threaten Clarke, Turing reveals that Cairncross is a spy. Menzies reveals he knew this already, and planted Cairncross to leak messages to the Soviets for British benefit. Fearing for her safety, Turing tells Clarke to leave Bletchley Park, revealing that he is gay. Heartbroken, Clarke states she always suspected but insists they would have been happy together anyway. After the war, Menzies tells the cryptographers to destroy their work and that they can never see one another again or share what they have done. In the 1950s Turing is convicted of gross indecency and, in lieu of a jail sentence, undergoes chemical castration so he can continue his work. Clarke visits him in his home and witnesses his physical and mental deterioration. She comforts him by saying that his work saved millions of lives.Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game (2014)Go see it! Because otherwise you would be missing the chance to see a most remarkable film, performed to perfection. A film about a story that matters, about events that changed history.