Pennyworth Recap: Keep Your Nose To The Ground

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: August 12, 2019 (Last updated: March 8, 2021)
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Pennyworth Season 1, Episode 3 recap: "Martha Kane"


“Martha Kane” marked something of a turning point for Alfred and Pennyworth itself in another fine episode.

This recap of Pennyworth Season 1, Episode 3, “Martha Kane”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.

Pennyworth Episode 3, like the two before it, was great — which isn’t surprising at this point. The Epix show has found a superb balance between on-going characterization and case-of-the-week plotting, while the nebulous affairs of the Raven Society remain a compelling background mystery. “Martha Kane” was more of the same, and that’s no bad thing.

The titular photojournalist enlists Alfred as a driver and bodyguard in a ploy to rescue a brilliant computer whizz from homosexuality charges. Martha is generous with her money but tight-lipped about her background; she might be a CIA spook, or a member of the liberal No-Name League, or neither, or both. Either way, the assignment is complicated by the arrival of the Raven Society, leading to a smart bit of improvisation from Alfred and a runway prettily ablaze.

It’s the stuff in the margins that elevates “Martha Kane”. In an early scene, Alfred sits down with Esme’s snooty clergyman father to ask for her hand in marriage but is insultingly turned away. The blow gets under Alfred’s skin and leads to the temporary breakdown of their relationship; is he really just an animal, too lower-class to ever be worthy of her?

Once Martha makes good on her promise of a small fortune in payment, it hardly matters. Alfie rents an apartment and proposes to Esme, secure in his animal side being able to pay the bills, whether Esme’s father disinherits her or not. It’s a turning point for the character and presumably the show; he’s comfortable with who he is, and also more willing to dabble in the dark side of international espionage now that he needn’t keep out of trouble.

Dave Boy, on the other hand, continues to be increasingly unable to deal with his own animal side. After getting blackout drunk at a poker game, his belligerence and instability create an incident in which a fellow player is accidentally shot and killed. He and Bazza cover it up, but if the two of them, along with Alfred, plan to run a security business, there’s no way his tendency to fly off the handle won’t result in major complications.

In perhaps the best scene of “Martha Kane”, Alfred visits his parents and has a testy exchange with his father. It’s a well-written insight into both how he grew up and how he intends to live now he’s his own man; his loyalty to his mother and his thinly-veiled resentment towards his father are central to that. It’ll be interesting to see how he transitions from the big-ballin’ extralegal fixer he is now to the loyal butler we know he becomes — and how many of his current acquaintances will survive to see the career change.

Footman’s Footnotes
  • Stropping a razor on the same leather strap used to bind your intended victim is majorly disrespectful, especially when that same razor is then used to slice the victim’s nose off.
  • Bet, with a new haircut, had breakfast with her sister while a submissive elderly couple waited on them. She had little to do in “Martha Kane”, but she hasn’t gone anywhere.

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