Television Reviews

REVIEW: Pennyworth: Season 1, Episode 6, “Cilla Black”

After last week’s time jump, I was curious to see what would come next for Pennyworth, particularly with regard to what antics Martha would get up to at the behest of the No Name League. “Cilla Black” opens with Lord Harwood, who is increasingly coming back to himself, seeing the prime minister on TV and realizes he’s the man who “hurt him.” We then see Alfred and Dave Boy at the pub as they are approached by Thomas, who demands to know where he’s been. He then insinuates that he knows Alfred was involved and that he is working with Ripper. After Thomas leaves, there is a moment of tension between Sandra and Alfred, which leaves Dave Boy a bit confused. Alfred goes to see Ripper, saying he promised him a name. Ripper advises against it, but Alfred insists, so Ripper tells him to see Baroness Ortsey, who Alfred takes to be a witch. Alfred almost gets turned away but drops Ripper’s name. He is taken to Ortesy, and she tells Alfred she’s a witch, something that Alfred doesn’t believe. She spooks our hero when she asks him who the other woman involved is. She then tells him that if he expects her help, he must give her the left hand of a killer and a red rose; he scoffs at this and storms out.

*SPOILERS*

Pennyworth, Cilla Black

Meanwhile, Thomas goes to meet his handler to explain why Gault wasn’t assassinated. He blames Dave Boy and wonders why only one of the Thwaites was killed. Thomas thinks that John Ripper is one of their assets, something his handler doesn’t confirm or deny. He is then told that Mrs. Thwaites will suggest another truce and that if Gault doesn’t agree, Thomas must assassinate her personally. Alfred goes to see Ripper, whom he accuses of tricking him. While sitting at dinner, the Pennyworths warn him about Ripper. He apologizes to them for being a burden after Esme’s death and promises he’s going to get his old job back. Thomas receives a visit from Pat as he’s about to leave for the meeting and takes her to Martha. He begs his future wife to look after her for a few hours, to which she agrees. After Thomas leaves, Patricia asks if Martha wants to go to a party. For some reason, she says yes, and they meet Aleister Crowley, who is supposedly a satanist. When Martha suggests they don’t stay too long, Patricia blows her off. After briefly looking in on Thomas, who is getting ready for the meeting, we see Aleister trying to seduce and intimidate Martha.

“Cilla Black” finally join Gault, Thwaites, and Thomas at the meeting. Gault apologizes for the death of her husband and talks dogs for a minute. Thwaites asks to make peace, and Gault, after realizing she is serious, insists the No Name League take their people off the streets. Thwaites agrees and awkwardly hugs her in celebration. Martha sees Patricia in the bathroom and insists that they leave. Martha almost loses her multiple times in the crowd and continually gets turned around in Crowley’s mansion, as it seems no matter what door she tries to open, there is no exit. Soon, all the partygoers, including Patricia, line the room, staring at her. She sees someone wearing a moose head at the other end of the room and freaks out. A couple of days later, as the truce between the No Name League and the Raven Society is public knowledge, Thomas goes to see Alfred and ask for his help in locating Martha and his sister. Alfred refuses, saying that he doesn’t trust Thomas. Thomas levels with him for once, telling him things he already knows, such as the fact that he’s CIA. He says Alfred can trust him and that he can be a good friend to him, something that seems at odds with how he viewed Alfred last week. Alfred tells Thomas that he’ll let him know if he hears anything. 

Eufrane, a patron at the club, becomes increasingly unruly. He tells Alfred that he buried better men than him. A fight ensues that leads to Eufrane losing his left hand, much to Baz’s chagrin. Alfred looks down at the hand and notices a red rose beside it. He goes to see the Baroness, who gives the hand to her cat. She assists Alfred in having a waking dream where he sees Baz, Dave Boy, and Sandra, subsequently discovering that the Captain Curzel who featured in some of Alfred’s flashbacks is the one behind Esme’s murder. Alfred goes home and allays his mother’s worries about him being out all night. “Cilla Black” then goes back to Sykes and Lord Harwood, the latter of whom is getting ready to return to London and asks Sykes and Peg to accompany him. Alfred tells Dave Boy and Baz about his discovery, something that Baz points out is crazy, seeing as he has no proof. As they approach Curzel’s home, Baz makes him promise there won’t be any bloodshed. Approaching the house, Alfred finds a note taunting him. The episode ends on a naked Martha lying on the ground, disorientated.

“Cilla Black” isn’t the best episode of Pennyworth. As usual, there are great performances from Jack Bannon and Emma Paetz, but it feels like little more than filler. Yes, Alfred learns who killed Esme, but the lead-up to that revelation is lackluster, to say the least. Writer Bruno Heller should be commended for writing all the episodes thus far, as this isn’t something that’s done enough in the current era of television (a prime example being season 1 of True Detective). That being said, episodes like this should be a cautionary tale against that. The plot should always be moving forward in big ways, especially when there are only ten hours to tell a story. Director Bill Eagles does what he can with this episode, particularly during Alfred’s dream state. 

Despite good performances from Paetz, Bannon, and Danny Webb, “Cilla Black” is a prime example of how important it is to keep the action moving. Hopefully, the next episode gets back on track as we find out just what Martha’s next steps will be after this ordeal.

Pennyworth - "Cilla Black"

Plot - 5
Acting - 6
Progression - 5
Production Design - 8
Mythology - 6

6

Lacking

Despite good performances from Paetz, Bannon, and Danny Webb, "Cilla Black" is a prime example of how important is to keep the action moving. Hopefully, the next episode gets back on track as we find out just what Martha’s next steps will be after this ordeal.

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