“The Lion and the Lamb” gets impressively bonkers to close out a second season that finally embraces the show’s comic book heritage.
This recap of Pennyworth season 2, episode 10, “The Lion and the Lamb”, contains spoilers, as well as a discussion of the Pennyworth Season 2 ending.
Pennyworth has always been weird, but never that weird. It’s unusual, really, since film and TV based on comic book properties usually tend to be one way or the other, either determinedly bonkers from the outset or relentlessly grim and dark and serious. Across two seasons, Epix’s Batman-adjacent cockney crime thriller has been funny, touching, grounded, daft, and a few other things besides, but it hasn’t ever really embraced its DC heritage in the way that “The Lion and the Lamb” does. The Pennyworth Season 2 finale will likely prove divisive for how much it has to hand-wave away things like basic storytelling logic and consistency just to excuse its big moments and reveals, but I’m pretty firmly in the “liked it” camp. We’ve had nineteen episodes of the show tugging at the leash of genre conformity — we might as well let it run free for a bit, just to see how mad it gets.
Anyway, “The Lion and the Lamb” continues from where we left off in the previous episode, with Alfie, Dave Boy, Thomas Wayne, and Lucius Fox having sprung Alfie’s father and the terrifying Stormcloud weapon from the Raven Union HQ. Arthur is being kept alive, barely, by a nest of pumps and tubes, but his staunch pro-Union views are still very much in full working order. Alfie’s not keen on that, but he’s willing to give his old dad a chance to say sorry to his mum for all the pain he caused her by keeping his survival a secret and the small matter of trying to facilitate England being brought under totalitarian rule. Most marriages end in divorce for flimsier reasons than that, of course, but the Pennyworth family bond is obviously a strong one, so forgiveness is very much on the table, provided London stays upright long enough for them to even have a conversation.
This, it turns out in Pennyworth season 2, episode 10, is far from a guarantee, since despite the English League’s celebrations over a job well done, a surprise arrival by Gully Troy, who storms the HQ looking for Alfie after being directed there by Mary, causes a bit of a kerfuffle that activates the Stormcloud device… and nothing happens. As we learn immediately afterward, Salt tricked them into stealing a dud — the working version isn’t just still in his possession but has already been placed in Central London, swerving the need for military deployment and thus the approval of General Thursday, who realizes a little too late that Salt is as mad as a box of frogs. This has several knock-on effects.
For one thing, we start to see some of that logical inconsistency. Troy, for instance, arrived at the English League HQ determined to seek revenge on Alfie right after Mary had told him — to his face, no less — that his missus was a bit of a floozy anyway. He wasn’t in the best of moods, in other words. Yet after the Stormcloud palaver, he just starts cracking jokes and hanging around the HQ, later bailing Alfie out of a spot of bother and going full face-turn with a heroic self-sacrifice. It’s a bit odd that he just seemingly forgets all about his insatiable lust for revenge, but as we’ll see, the Pennyworth Season 2 finale has bigger plans for him.
Aziz belling up Salt and offering to surrender, only to be rejected on the grounds that he dithered too long on the decision, also speeds up Thomas and Martha’s relationship. They not only agree to get married but get Aziz, who is presumably an ordained minister, to marry them there and then. This, oddly enough, is the healthiest relationship in the entirety of “The Lion and the Lamb”, since when Mary lays eyes on Arthur, despite Alfie giving her a warning first, she passes out.
By the time she wakes up, she’s ready for a chat, and the usual looseness of tone is particularly apparent here since the conversation veers from funny to tragic to quietly hopeful almost from one line to the next. Ian Puleston-Davies really sells the allure of martyrdom, rationalizing his decision in the first season as the first time he has ever really been useful and belonged to something greater than himself after spending his whole life as a lackey. Mary reminds him that he was loved and appreciated by his family, and that’s all that should have mattered, but Arthur only really thinks in macro terms and sees the Pennyworths as “nobodies” in comparison to the great whirring machinery of a history-shaping force like the Raven Union. This, of course, tees up the next revelation, which dawns on Alfie immediately after Aziz calls him to reveal that what they thought was Stormcloud was actually a decoy. Arthur helping Alfie escape was obviously part of the ruse, a way to convince the English League that they had won. Alfie, predictably, doesn’t take this well.
Thankfully, though, everyone’s impending doom brings matters into focus. Mary is able to forgive Arthur; she might not agree with what he did but she understands, at least, why he did it, and I think that’s probably all he was looking for. And Alfie’s anger at the whole situation, smashing a picture of him and his father that Arthur was cradling as they all sit around waiting to die, actually brings Arthur around to the realization that he was wrong. It’s a bit of a leap given the speech that he just made, and it means we have to do the whole “Arthur is redeemed! Oh no he isn’t! Oh yes he is!” routine, which is shoddy storytelling when you really think about it. But it moves the plot along since Arthur knows the location of Stormcloud, so Alfie and Dave Boy head there, giving Aziz a quick ring to fill him in on the way.
This is where Pennyworth season 2, episode 10 starts to get properly nuts. Stormcloud has been stashed in Lord Harwood’s coffin, one assumes for poetic purposes, but right after discovering it they come under fire from the priest and have to be saved by Troy and Lucius, the latter of whom has to try and defuse the device while Salt chills in his penthouse, fondling the detonator. It’s a literal ticking clock device, but it’s complicated a bit when Bet and Peggy ambush Salt and start to batter him. He almost cons Bet into pushing the button herself, but Peggy is wiser than that. Vikki, though, causes enough of a distraction that Salt is able to push the button before Thursday arrives to arrest him and Gaunt arrives to usurp him, giving our heroes very little time to save the day. The only option, for reasons entirely unclear to me, is for one of them to swallow Stormcloud, which Alfie is willing to do but Gully ultimately ends up doing, pulling rank for the glory. At first, it seems like the ploy works, but then he turns blue and seemingly dies. The weapon, though, seems contained to his body, which Lucius is thoroughly puzzled by, later theorizing that it might have been some kind of enzyme reaction. If you say so.
Stormcloud’s effects evidently don’t end there, though, as after Gully’s “corpse” is wheeled into a van, the windows glow bright blue and there’s a lot of noise from within. When Alfie opens the doors, he’s shocked — but we don’t see what by. Not yet, anyway.
Skipping forwards six months, the Pennyworth Season 2 finale gives us a coda that could conceivably extend the life of the show and send the Batman mythos a bit topsy-turvy. As we see in contrasting propaganda broadcasts, the fight between the English League and the Raven Union is still very much ongoing, and Martha, now heavily pregnant, still wants to grab a rifle and head out. She’s dissuaded, though, by the fact her waters break, and her labor is interspersed with scenes of Bet and Katie on the front lines, waiting for reinforcements which arrive in the form of “Colonel Pennyworth” and a bread van. In the van, though, is a newly superpowered Gully, who starts spraying Stormcloud everywhere in a very comic book-y suit.
As for Martha, well, she gives birth… to a girl.