Sunday saw Season 1 of Epix’s “Pennyworth” come to an end, along with the civil war between the Raven Society and the No Name League… at least for now.
TheWrap spoke to the show’s creator, Bruno Heller (he’s also the mastermind behind Fox’s “Gotham”) ahead of the season finale, and asked him everything we’re dying to find out after those fire-blazing final moments.
In the season’s final moments, Alfred’s father, a butler serving dinner to the Queen of England and her parliament, sets off a bomb disguised as a cake in a last-ditch effort to restore his beloved Raven Society to power after the No Name League takes over. In a blur of flames, Alfred squeaks by with his life, emerging from the burning building carrying the Queen — and having just shot his own father. Heller unpacked the reason behind that very surprising decision.
“It’s a strange form of heroics where you have to kill your dad to save someone who you barely know,” Heller told TheWrap. “He’s saving himself and the country in some way. And that is going to turn out to be a double-edged sword.”
That is, if we’re graced with a second season — Heller said the decision hasn’t been made yet.
“He’s seen the cost of war and bloodshed and he’s seen how it’s a cycle, that the means don’t justify the ends,” Heller said, explaining why he thinks Alfred is a humanist, and what drives him to do what he does. “But he, ironically, is forced to defend that humanism and the right of people to live their lives peacefully. He has to shoot his dad. Whether he would do that given time to think about it, I don’t know. And would his dad do what he does if he had time? I don’t know. That’s the tragedy of it. They’re both forced into that very tough position.”
But if Alfred is a humanist, Heller said, then his father is an idealist.
“When push comes to shove, the larger principles he stands for are more important than his own life,” Heller said of Mr. Pennyworth. “It’s true of all extremists or fanatics. Those people precisely are willing to sacrifice their own personal happiness, and even those people around them, to do what they think is right.”
Oh, and let’s not forget that Alfred and the Queen are now… a thing?
“Once we cast our Alfred, and we saw what a charmer he was, it was just natural,” Heller laughed. “Who would not be seduced by Alfred as played by Jack Bannon? This particular Queen is a woman of appetites, and if the Queen asks you to do something, you’re obliged to say yes, aren’t you? I think he likes her a lot. It’s just funny that way, isn’t it? The Queen as a clingy girlfriend.”
So it sounds like Alfred is playing into the Queen’s whims, but she’s no Esme (may she rest in peace).
On to more pressing matters — is Thomas Wayne OK?! It’s fairly obvious that Wayne has to live in order for Batman to be born, but then again, he did get shot.
“He is OK,” Heller confirmed. “As much as this is a story about Alfred, it’s also about the courtship of Martha and Thomas Wayne. That’s a long, rocky road towards the eventual creation of the Batman. And in a way, Batman’s parents represent the two sides of his character. Thomas is very much the man of duty, the public citizen, the man of principle, but also a kind of rule-follower. He works for a large secret organization. He wants to succeed in the establishment. He’s an establishment figure, if you like. Whereas Martha is much more the loose cannon, the impulsive justice seeker, the vigilante, the idealist. It’s those two sides of Batman’s character.”
Heller also explained the ideology behind both sides of the civil war — The Raven Society and The No Name League.
“They’re the previously unwritten prequel to ‘V for Vendetta,’” he said. “If you’re looking at the DC mythology of England, that’s the one text we have, if you’re going to get canonical. England in 30 years from the story we’re telling is going be a dystopian world that this world we’re seeing now transforms into. So the two sides of the civil war are a way of explaining that.”
So what’s to become of Bet Sykes, Peggy’s sister, and the inexhaustible Lord Harwood?
Heller said, should there be a Season 2, there will be “a lot of changes with those guys as time goes on.”
“We’re trying to create love-able villains that you can understand they’re crazed motivations. They’ve created their own little dysfunctional family there, so whatever happens in terms of the larger politics of the thing, they will be loyal and true to each other,” he said.
“I think there’s something touching about damaged people finding each other, even when they’re doing nefarious things. Everyone has their reasons.”