“Marianne Faithful” caps off one of the surprise hits of the year with style, leaving the door open for more — and who wouldn’t want that?
This recap of Pennyworth Season 1, Episode 10, “Marianne Faithful”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
These days, it’s always wise to be suspicious about a finale. Very few shows are content to end after a single season. And what that means is that endings often aren’t really endings. The Pennyworth finale, “Marianne Faithful”, was an ending. But it was also a new beginning for a character who is almost certainly going to be seen again — Epix’s surprise hit, low-key one of the best shows of the year, deserves a second outing. Thankfully, it had the proper British politeness to conclude its first.
That isn’t to say that absolutely everything was brought to a definitive conclusion — on the contrary, it ended on quite a cliffhanger. But the first season’s overarching plot — that of Lord Harwood’s (Jason Flemyng) return to the head of the Raven Society and that right-wing nationalist group’s attempt to overthrow the government — was quite neatly dealt with in Pennyworth Episode 10. The “right” side won. The enemies were beaten and locked away, though usefully left alive. And Alfred (Jack Bannon) was able to return home to his loving parents with a royal pardon. If only it ended there.
“Marianne Faithful” began with Alfie saying goodbye to his mother (Dorothy Atkinson) and father (Ian Puleston-Davies). He was a wanted man and had found a way to flee the country. But with Britain in the midst of a coup, the police arrived to shut down the ports. No ships in or out. Alfie, after a brief fistfight, was once again stranded in a country that had turned against him — and itself.
The architect of the uprising was Lord Harwood, safe in a well-appointed war room with the military in his pocket and the Queen (Jessica Ellerby) in the care of Bet (Paloma Faith) and Peggy Sykes (Polly Walker). He had enough bargaining power to demand the surrender of the current government, and to give the Prime Minister (Richard Clothier) a mere 24 hours to resign. If he doesn’t, there will be bloodshed, and a threat like that coming from a man with a golden nose is to be taken quite seriously.
Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge) certainly took it seriously in the Pennyworth finale, visiting Martha (Emma Paetz) and demanding that they get off, sharpish, since a civil war was coming and they were undoubtedly on the Raven Society’s hit list. But Martha, principled as ever, wanted to stay and help the No-Name League, even after Thomas revealed that Thwaite (Sarah Alexander) engineered her own husband’s execution to seize power for herself and that Alfie was the trigger-man. Speaking of Alfie, he arrived with Bazza (Hainsley Lloyd Bennett) and Dave Boy (Ryan Fletcher) in urgent need of a favor. Since he kindly employed his elite marksmanship in reverse to help Thomas and Martha escape from the ambush last week, it’s only fair play for Thomas to use his connections to escort him from England.
But there’s a better idea. If Alfie can rescue the Queen, he’s sorted. And since she’s in the care of Bet and Peggy, he knows just where to find her. As martial law is declared and people — including Thwaite — are hung in the street, the Prime Minister and Detective Inspector Aziz (Ramon Tikaram) prepare for battle, and an excited Mr. Pennyworth heads to his local Raven Society chapter to deliver a passionate no surrender speech, Alfie, Bazza, Dave Boy, Thomas and Martha all descend on the Sykes residence, where there’s a card game afoot and a gimp in a cupboard. What can I say — sometimes Pennyworth Episode 10 remembers that its comic-book-adjacent, at the very least.
Suddenly free, the Queen calls the military general in Harwood’s war room and gives him new orders, which he gleefully executes, first by slapping off Harwood’s gold nose — the disrespect! — and then by taking him and Frances Gaunt (Anna Chancellor) into custody. Crisis, at least temporarily, averted.
No such luck. After the Queen addresses the nation, including a fuming Mr. Pennyworth, and repays Alfred for his kindness — what, you thought they cast Jessica Ellerby in that role for no reason? — he goes home to his parents a free man. He even gets to enjoy a touching heart-to-heart with his dying father, who admits he doesn’t have long left. But he has a final request of his son: That he promises to always think well of him once he’s gone, whatever he might hear. Alarm bells should be ringing, especially once Harwood tells Bet and Peggy that he has one last battalion in reserve.
Two tragedies conclude “Marianne Faithful”. The first is the shooting of Thomas Wayne by an unidentified assassin, who is rude enough to gun down Tommy right before he sleeps with Martha — baby Batman will not be debuting in this season or the next, it seems. The second is Mr. Pennyworthy attempting to bomb the swanky dinner party where the Queen, the Prime Minister, and most of Parliament are celebrating their victory over the Raven Society. I say attempting — he actually succeeds in setting the bomb off, and presumably killing everyone present, with the notable exception of the Queen, whom Alfred is able to save at the last moment. As he exits the fiery inferno having just shot his father, the Pennyworth finale ends. See? An ending.
Of course, there’s more to come. Who shot Thomas Wayne? Is he alive? Did anyone else survive the explosion? And what will patricide do to our hero’s already fragile mental state? These are tantalizing questions for a second season, and one must hope that Pennyworth is granted one to answer them. But if for whatever reason this is the last we see of Batman’s butler on Epix, I think we can all agree that he went out with a bang.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.