“The Heavy Crown” catches up with Pennyworth a year later, as bitter civil war sweeps England and there’s money to be made playing both sides. But who’s right, and who’ll emerge victorious?
This recap of Pennyworth season 2, episode 1, “The Heavy Crown”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous season finale by clicking these words.
The first season of Pennyworth on Epix was a dark horse hit, so a second season shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. But at least the show seems to be making the most of it. Taking all the events of the first ten episodes and letting them percolate for a year in-universe and just over a year in reality, “The Heavy Crown” finds the show very much the same but also somewhat different, the tone darkened by the rise of fascism and the outbreak of civil war. The very first scene is of Martha Kane interrogating some Raven Society bod at gunpoint and making a daring escape. Things have changed, and her attitude is one of them.
The Raven Society is another. As explained to us in the style of a wartime propaganda film, it’s the Raven Union now, which under the stewardship of Lord Harwood has supposedly “liberated” England. In Langley, Virginia, Thomas Wayne briefs the CIA on the situation, and on the Raven’s opposition, the English League, a hodgepodge of anti-fascist groups ostensibly fronted by the Queen but really organized (apparently badly) by the Prime Minister. The Raven Union controls 90% of the country, but not yet London, though it’ll inevitably march on the capital sooner rather than later. When it does, “It’ll make Arkham Asylum look like a country club,” according to Thomas, who is to be sent back to England as a Station Chief to make obligatory Batman references in Blighty instead.
As for the titular Alfred Pennyworth, he, Bazza, and Dave Boy are running a no-questions-asked lounge bar in Soho’s neutral zone, where the rules are strict — no politics, no guns — and the money is decent, though is being supplemented by odd extracurricular jobs supplied by various people, among them Detective Inspector Aziz, now on the English League’s High Council. Martha disapproves, of course, thinking that Alfie is abandoning his principles, but he wants to accumulate enough scratch to relocate him and his mother to America before the Raven Union capture London, and abducting one Colonel Salt for a hefty fee seems a good way to expedite that plan.
“The Heavy Crown” finds Alfie doing okay romantically as well as professionally since the absurdly good-looking Jessica Ellerby keeps calling him at his mum’s house, though he doesn’t feel like chatting to the Queen. And, frankly, who can blame him? Ever since the events of the first season finale, which saw him kill his own father, the late Mr Pennyworth has become a martyr for the Raven Union cause, an inescapable reminder of all the awful things that have happened to the family in London. There’s no wonder Alfie wants to move.
Hence, kidnapping Salt, who seems to have George Orwell captive — though, apparently not a fan of his subversive writing, he shoves a chisel in his ear and incinerates the great secular saint of the liberal English intelligentsia. It’s just as well when the boys snatch him — there are only so many literary icons to go around. Salt recognizes Alfie from the papers and claims his dad was a hero to him, reiterating the point made earlier. Alfie seems glad to hand him over to Aziz, but he’s snatched right back only a couple of scenes later and resumes work for the Raven Union as though nothing even happened.
Aziz is quickly on Alfie’s doorstep complaining about this since it implies a leak that potentially came from Alfie himself, though he vehemently denies it. Salt, it turns out, was a bigger fish than first implied, and Aziz is curious if he mentioned anything about a “Stormcloud”, which certainly doesn’t sound good. Alfie later ponders these details with James Purefoy’s Gulliver “Gulli” Troy, who swiped Salt away from Aziz at Alfie’s request in exchange for another hefty chunk of change. Alfie seems to have a fair bit more moral flexibility these days. Perhaps Martha was right about his principles.
Also difficult to parse in “The Heavy Crown” is Bet Sykes, who is now a captain working at a Raven Union detention centre, and who spends most of the episode trying and failing to get information out of a supposed subversive. Bet’s superior reckons he can get her to open up by raping her, citing party protocol as justification for doing so, and telling Bet to put the kettle on while he goes about it. She doesn’t exactly take kindly to that and brutally beats him to death with the metal teapot, before making off with the girl. It’s difficult to know where to stand with that one.
At least “Stormcloud” seems less ambiguous. The episode ends by giving us a glimpse of it, a trial run that causes a great deal of blistering agony for the test subject. Apparently, the casualties must look as though they died peacefully for the obvious bioweapon of some kind to be considered a success. I think we know where this is going.
Thanks for reading our recap of Pennyworth season 2, episode 1, “The Heavy Crown”. For more recaps, reviews, and original features covering the world of entertainment, why not follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page?