NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Pennyworth”, including a major character death, are present in this review
Pennyworth finally brought its second season to more interesting territory last week, while also finally returning Alfred into the proper fold of events. Apparently though, we still have one more week left for Alfred to him and haw about fleeing to America, unfortunately representing a tedious bit of backsliding for Pennyworth’s eponymous lead. Still, “The Bloody Mary” nonetheless has some fairly interesting plot developments going on, continuing to amp up a more interesting state of affairs for the war-torn England, before eventually culminating in another shocking twist that’s bound to have massive consequences for every personality and faction on this show.
Before we can get to that final shocking stroke however, we have to wrap up the affair between Alfred and Melanie this week, which in turn sets up Gulliver Troy as a key antagonist to Alfred, as Alfred initially remains determined to remove himself entirely from the war between the Raven Union and the English League. Thankfully, that resistance by Alfred is finally put to bed here though, after Troy finally deduces that his wife is cheating on him with Alfred, leading to Troy violently beating Melanie, who barely manages to escape with her life. Receiving Melanie at his club soon afterward, Alfred then gets the idea to bring her to America with him, where she’ll be safe from Troy forever.
Now, in terms of this charitable act starting to cement Alfred as a hero and an altruist, this turn is a satisfying final result for Alfred effectively liberating Melanie from her abusive husband. Once again though, Alfred obviously can’t flee to America, because it would effectively mean the end of Pennyworth, and we still have three more episodes left to go in Season 2 at this point. So, as you can no doubt imagine, Alfred gets right up to the runway that promises to take him, his mother and Dave Boy to Gotham City at long last, only to decide at the absolute last second that he doesn’t want to get on the plane. Yeah, this is annoying, contrived and unsatisfying, and it stinks of Pennyworth effectively writing itself into a corner by excessively focusing on Alfred’s constant desire to detach from the war and flee to the U.S. While it’s great that Melanie can at least profit from Alfred’s illicit moneymaking activities by now being able to start a new life, it’s annoying that Alfred was always going to hit this wall, and ultimately meets it with barely an acknowledging shrug in the end.
Alfred finally resigning himself to staying in England will hopefully, mercifully, improve his rather disappointing narrative throughout much of Season 2 though. Fortunately, Alfred also happens to realize he can’t flee England at the same time that Thomas does as well, in turn building off of Thomas and Lucius trying and failing to convince the U.S. government to intervene before the Raven Union deploys Stormcloud on London. This leads to Alfred, Thomas, Lucius and Martha coming together as a unit at last, after Thomas contacts Martha to try and covertly warn Aziz about Stormcloud. This in turn sows the seeds for a rather cool prototype Batman Family for the Pennyworth universe, one that can hopefully bring the fight to the Raven Union during the final few episodes left in Pennyworth’s sophomore season.
Speaking of the Raven Union, they run into their own unexpected complications this week, after Harwood is confined to his estate, and Harwood’s former secretary tips off the Sykes sisters that Harwood has been imprisoned for his brutal murder of Lieutenant Greaves. This is great news, because it means that Bet and Peggy can return to the series after they sat out last week’s episode! Naturally, the Sykes sisters are disinclined to leave Harwood to his fate as well, so they team up (without Katie in this case) to break into Harwood’s manor by force, and try to smuggle him out. Harwood however sees no other option but to surrender to Salt, so after a night of being holed up with Bet and Peggy, he decides that he must create a distraction, and thus allow the Sykes sisters to flee.
Perhaps the scenes were deleted for want of pacing, but I was a bit disappointed that there was virtually no emphasis on the Harwood/Bet/Peggy subplot in this episode. That disappointment felt all the more palpable during the final moments of this episode as well, which see Harwood successfully convincing Colonel Salt, the acting leader of the Raven Union at this point, to come to his estate for a formal surrender. After sending Bet and Peggy to flee through the woods, Harwood then orders Salt’s soldiers to stand down and end their attack on England, subsequently pointing his gun at them, and counting to three. As Bet and Peggy escape, Harwood then charges forward, and is shot and killed by Salt’s army! This is another fantastically shocking character death for Pennyworth, a show that’s proven to be pretty good at them throughout this season in particular, and better still is the fact that Harwood’s sacrifice effectively pulls the rug out from Salt, giving Harwood the last laugh, now that Salt can’t rely on Harwood’s name to prop up his war machinations and political claim within the Raven Union.
This ends Pennyworth’s latest episode on an awesome note this week, with Harwood’s death leaving the Raven Union crippled, Bet and Peggy hurrying to make contact with the captured Mrs. Gaunt, and Alfred finally abandoning his increasingly immature quest to flee London, and turn his back on the war he was always inevitably going to be pulled into. “The Bloody Mary” still wastes too much time on a bellyaching Alfred trying to push along a quest that was never going to pan out, but it does at least provide a great payoff with Melanie fleeing to America in Alfred’s stead, which will no doubt cement Gulliver Troy as a major enemy to Alfred soon. At the same time, Alfred’s also finally stepping up against the threat of Project Stormcloud, alongside the other allies destined to one day sire Batman, despite even the U.S. government opting out of doing so.
Overall, it looks like Pennyworth is finally ready to stop wasting time and hopefully go all in on the battle for England over the next three weeks. That’s good, because London is definitely running out of time at this rate, and with no government intervention being offered from the U.S., it will be up to Alfred’s band of rogues to try and put things right.
- Alfred finally assembling a unit to save London
- Melanie fleeing to America in Alfred's place
- Harwood sacrificing his life to slow down Salt
- More time wasted on Alfred's pointless, doomed mission to flee
- Could have used more emphasis on the Sykes sisters visiting Harwood