"With Lucius Fox, now the nursery is complete," says showrunner Bruno Heller. Watch EW's full panel interview with the 'Pennyworth' team about season 2 and civil war.

By Christian Holub
March 29, 2021 at 12:24 PM EDT
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Pennyworth may be set before the birth of Bruce Wayne, but Batman's presence can be felt everywhere on the EPIX series. Season 2 in particular has proved a fiery crucible for the characters, with its story of a fictionalized English civil war forcing everyone from Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge) to Alfred Pennyworth himself (Jack Bannon) to make hard choices about what kind of people they want to be — choices that will eventually have a major impact on the development of the Dark Knight.

This past weekend, EW moderated a virtual WonderCon panel with the people behind Pennyworth — Bannon, Aldridge, Emma Paetz (Martha Kane), Simon Manyonda (Lucius Fox), and creator/showrunner Bruno Heller — to discuss the show's explosive second season. Given the wartime setting, Alfie and other characters have had to wrestle with hard questions around violence. We all know that eventually "no killing" will be a core tenet of Batman's crime-fighting philosophy, and even now killing is taking a heavy toll on Alfie's psyche.

"There were some instances in first drafts of season 2 scripts where Alfred killed police officers and things like that, and we were like, 'Hmm, I don't think that would happen,'" Bannon said. "It's brilliant because we're working in a pre-comics world, it's a fantastic alternative DC London, so we can almost do what we like, but we're conscious that all of our choices as the characters we're creating will feed into the Batman thing. He will come much later, but the choices we make and the people we become will inform who he is. I do feel conscious of that."

Pennyworth
Credit: Epix

Lucius is the latest addition to Pennyworth's proto-Batman family, and his hands are dirty. While working undercover in the ranks of the fascist Raven Union, he helped develop a scientific super-weapon called Stormcloud that threatens to turn the tide of the war by unleashing horrific violence. Now that Lucius has been extracted by Alfie and co., he's determined to help stop Stormcloud — and has a newfound understanding of how dangerous his inventions can be.

"Casting forward to Batman and who Lucius Fox becomes, to me it becomes clear why Lucius invents non-lethal weapons," Manyonda said. "He knows he can invent such dangerous stuff, and he's been in a dangerous time around dangerous people. Where Alfie can teach the young Batman to fight and to become a lethal weapon in his body, Lucius can go 'okay, I can make you stuff to protect you and help you save the world, but I'm not gonna make stuff that allows you to kill people. Which I could do.' He's not gonna do that anymore."

Heller takes the point even further. Not only is Pennyworth an origin story for the whole Batman philosophy and mythology, it's also an origin story for the DC Universe over all — one that in some ways matches how dark and strange our own modern world has become.

"With the arrival of Lucius Fox, you now have the four people that create Batman," Heller said. "Their sensibilities and their mentalities and their talents, you put them together, and with all the conflicts that creates, you have the Batman character, which is precisely about law and order vs. revenge, humanity vs. science, doing wrong things in order to do the right things. With Lucius, now the nursery is complete."

Heller continued, "I'm really excited for season 3, because now we've got all the pillars in place. As you can see this season, the world is changing very rapidly, and it's sort of an acceleration of what all of us have been seeing over the last 50 years, which is this race towards a strange new world that no one is really gonna be familiar with or comfortable in. Batman is the modern mythical character that struggles with all of those contradictions."

Watch the full panel above. Pennyworth airs new episodes Sundays on EPIX, and there are still two episodes left of season 2.

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