Batman’s Butler’s Origin Story

Coming off Gotham, itself a television prequel to Bruce Wayne becoming Batman, Gotham’s producers Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon return to more grounded subject matter in Pennyworth. Most everyone has an idea of Alfred Pennyworth, the kindly English butler that served at Bruce Wayne’s side for most of his life. What was Alfred up to before he became the fiercely loyal butler for the Waynes and helped raise Batman?

In Pennyworth, the British showrunners explore a young Alfred Pennyworth’s adventures in London during the 1960s. Meeting Thomas Wayne and Martha Kane, Batman’s parents, the future butler gets caught up in a dangerous world of spies and radical subversives threatening the English government.

Jack Bannon stars as the young Alfred Pennyworth and Ben Aldridge stars as young billionaire Thomas Wayne from Gotham.

Pennyworth is a sleek, sexy and occasionally messy spy thriller set in a wide variety of British locales

A secret war has begun in England between mysterious underground groups that threaten all of English society. The Raven Society and the No-Name League are two such groups, embroiled in a sinister clash that goes all the way up to England’s elite. Nasty villains like Bet Sykes (Paloma Faith) pose a serious threat to Alfred and everyone he loves.

Pennyworth is a very British series, one that doesn’t pander to American sensibilities. There are no real ties to Batman’s mythos and it embraces London’s cultural vibe from the 1960s. Looking for a stylish and thoroughly British period spy adventure? This is it. Pennyworth is the story of a former SAS soldier becoming a spook for undercover CIA agent Thomas Wayne. Along the way he’ll encounter Martha Kane and a whole host of bizarre underground agents threatening his life.

Embracing the creative freedoms enabled by airing on EPIX, showrunner Bruno Heller makes Pennyworth a serious R-rated thriller with the occasional action set piece. The character-driven storytelling details Alfred coming back from his time in the military and falling in love with an actress named Esme. They are about to embark upon a life together when Alfred gets swept up in an underground war operating in secret, played out by double agents and undercover spies.

Pennyworth is a sleek, sexy and occasionally messy spy thriller set in a wide variety of British locales, from swinging London to a creepy English village straight out of the Prisoner. While it’s not a comic book adventure, it is gratifying to see how Thomas Wayne and Martha Kane began their life together as spies. The show is less for Batman’s fans and more a sinister twist on a young James Bond coming of age in the turbulent 1960s.

Video

Set in England during the 1960s, Pennyworth embraces a stylishly retro aesthetic for its cinematography. The EPIX doesn’t deliver the reference-quality video common on premier cable programs. This is a moodier, more cinematic approach with excellent clarity and darker black levels. The 2.00:1 presentation shows off satisfactory detail and definition. The color correction sets a retro vibe with sepia undertones and dreary hues for England.

Pennyworth’s first season mildly crushes shadow delineation in select scenes, especially exteriors. Flesh-tones have a mildly yellow bias. The ten episodes of season one are spread over three BD-50s. Encoded in fine AVC, the transparent presentation faithfully replicates the show’s intended tone without error. Warner Archive has good people handling their Blu-ray transfers and this show turns out fairly well on the format.

Audio

Pennyworth comes equipped with serviceable 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The spy adventure is mostly driven by dialogue, reserving surround activity for the louder aspects of action set pieces. Frequently employing classic Pop and Rock tunes, music is nicely spread out across the soundstage with nice dynamics. There is tight bass and clean separation in the discrete sound design. Nothing in the mix sticks out as underwhelming, but the show leans toward drama more than all-out action fare.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font. They play primarily inside the unusual 2.00:1 widescreen presentation.

Extras

Put out by Warner Archive, Pennyworth contains no special features on Blu-ray. This is a barebones television set made for fans that want the format’s superior A/V quality on physical media.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Pennyworth: Season One
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Season

A well-crafted spy thriller set in the turbulent world of 1960s London, Batman’s butler Alfred gets his own origin story.

Sending
User Review
3 (1 vote)

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 35 Pennyworth screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 120,000+ already in our library), 100 exclusive 4K UHD reviews, and more, subscribe on Patreon.