NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Pennyworth” are present in this review
The truce between the Raven Society and the No Name League predictably falls apart in the lead-up to the climax for Pennyworth’s inaugural season, a natural result of the surprise revelation that Lord Harwood is still alive. “Sandie Shaw” lays the rest of the foundation for Pennyworth’s decisive season conflict in a pretty exciting fashion, as Alfred takes the final steps towards securing justice from Esme, while getting some unlikely help in the process. At the same time, the Raven Society steps up publicity efforts by organizing a rally, which creates a stir with the Queen and the Prime Minister, leading to them debating how to handle this potential threat to their authority in England.
Despite the big developments with the Raven Society throughout this episode, it was Alfred that effectively stole the show, starting with a rather comical interaction between himself and Bet Sykes in a diner. Having let Captain Curzon get away the previous night, the two wonder what to do next, with Alfred eventually getting Bet to spill some key clues about Esme’s murder, which Bet is actually a witness to. Alfred ends up ditching Bet after this however, and tries to rally Bazza and Dave Boy to seek out the previously unknown mystery woman that apparently accompanied Curzon when he killed Esme, at least, according to Bet’s testimony. This seems like it was supposed to be a subplot here, but I guess the episode was too busy, because the whole thing ended up being scrapped. Well, in that case, why keep the scenes where Alfred is sending Bazza and Dave Boy on an errand for him then? It just seems like he’s deliberately sending them on a wild goose chase now.
That said, the subsequent confrontation between Alfred and Inspector Aziz is pretty great, with Alfred taking the gloves off, even with someone who has a high-ranking place of authority in the London police. After some threats, Alfred learns some astonishing truths about Captain Curzon as well, namely that he’s the bastard son of an influential British lord, and the police intentionally scuppered the investigation into Esme’s death, to avoid embarrassing said lord. Apparently, Curzon is mentally ill, and that was his whole reason for killing Esme. This is certainly an unexpected turn, though considering Pennyworth’s panache for fantastical political conspiracies and high-powered secret societies, making Curzon a simple crazy man is a pretty big let-down. That’s the best motive that the show could come up with? I understand that Esme was dragging down Pennyworth’s lead ensemble with her ineffectual plotting, but surely, considering the show’s themes and fantastical London setting, Curzon’s reasons for murdering Esme could have been at least a little more in-depth than this?
Regardless, Curzon’s father eventually orders Aziz to dispose of Alfred, while in turn promising his vote to the Prime Minister, if Aziz manages to follow through on the job. This leads to a pretty awesome sequence as well, wherein Alfred is directed to an abandoned factory, and indeed finds Curzon and his female accomplice, a nanny, with him. Alfred naturally sniffs out that this is a trap though, holding Curzon at gunpoint, and planning to die in a hail of gunfire. Obviously, we know that Alfred survives this though, and said survival handily comes by way of Bet, who surprisingly shows up to hold Aziz at knifepoint, thus forcing Aziz’s men to put their guns down. Bet subsequently wanting to torture Curzon, to get revenge for her perceived loss of Esme, is a pretty awesome tease as well, though Alfred suddenly shooting Curzon and his accomplice dead, before Bet disfigures them and dumps them in tar, is actually an even better payoff. This is because we, the viewers know that Alfred is now going to be in a world of trouble, not to mention Aziz, who is now going to be left to deal with the huge mess that Alfred has just made for him! Better still is Curzon’s father also being revealed as the man that Arthur works for to boot, likely creating just as much personal trouble for Alfred as this does professional trouble!
Speaking of a world of trouble, the Raven Society rally also provides a pretty dramatic turn for at least one of the secret societies in London. The No Name League, by contrast, was largely pushed into the background in this episode, merely represented by Mrs. Thwaite and John Ripper talking about how the No Name League’s truce with the Raven Society is probably now over, but that’s fine, since the No Name League has been hogging a lot of Pennyworth’s spotlight lately anyway. Regardless, the rally presents some pretty great surprises, as Dr. Gaunt publicly announces her resignation from the Raven Society, and re-reveals Lord Harwood to the excited crowd, right before a terrified Prime Minister dispatches some heavy-handed cops to try and clean up the situation! When Harwood appears to command the cops to stand down with his mere voice however, the Prime Minister’s show of force completely backfires, creating some incredibly good press for the Raven Society. This was a fantastic way for Lord Harwood to make his big comeback, one that very effectively sets the stage for the final two episodes of Pennyworth’s debut season, particularly when the episode ends with Alfred suddenly being surrounded by Aziz’s cops while he visits Esme’s grave!
There’s still a bit of that tiresome occult storytelling that really doesn’t fit in this season, mostly with Thomas and Martha both trying to reconcile what they saw at the Crowley mansion, only to soon after get distracted by the televised Raven Society rally, but thankfully, it doesn’t take up much focus. Frankly, the prospect of Martha trying to talk her way into the CIA is a lot more exciting, but Thomas seeming to poo-poo it for now possibly suggests that this is something that will indeed be held for a potential second season of Pennyworth. Overall though, “Sandie Shaw” presents a thrilling and dramatic end to Alfred’s and Bet’s quest for revenge over Esme’s death, even if there were some questionable narrative choices here and there. Bazza and Dave Boy suddenly being shut out of the hunt for Curzon is annoying, and Curzon’s ultimate motive for killing Esme feels disappointingly lame. Still, Lord Harwood’s dramatic return doesn’t disappoint, not only shattering the Raven Society’s truce with the No Name League, but also restoring the Raven Society fully to its former glory, just in time for England to keep on questioning the current priorities of the Crown and Parliament.
Pennyworth provides a thrilling conclusion to Alfred's quest for revenge in, "Sandie Shaw", even if a few annoying narrative hiccups sometimes get in the way.
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THE GOOD STUFF
Thrilling conclusion to Alfred's hunt for Curzon
Lord Harwood's dramatic return to power
Aziz getting the drop on Alfred in the end
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
Bazza and Dave Boy weirdly being iced out of Alfred's mission