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Shagadelic baby, yeah! HBO Max showed its groovier side at the first day of New York Comic Con with the Season 3 premiere of Pennyworth (now officially subtitled The Origin of Batman's Butler). Following England's bloody civil war with the Raven Society, the show jumps forward several years to the 1970s.
"The ‘60s were cool [and] the ‘70s are even cooler in a sense. I love all the all the fashion and the cars and the music," Jack Bannon — who plays the future butler of Gotham City's protector — remarked at a NYCC roundtable press conference attended by SYFY WIRE. "So just to be immersed in this kind of psychedelic, colorful world… And from a technical point-of-view, we started shooting in HDR, so the colors and everything pops much more."
For Ben Aldridge (who plays a young Thomas Wayne), it's a chance to see a new side of the characters that will one day raise the Caped Crusader. "It's a bit like looking at family photographs of your parents before you were born — and seeing them in the ‘70s or seeing them in the ‘60s," he explained. "As a child, you're like, ‘Oh, they existed before me and they were kind of cool’ or 'They were kind of weird.' So I think he's [co-creator and co-showrunner Bruno Heller] really interested in people who are super fans of it seeing that and glimpsing sides of Bruce's personality — of Batman's personality — that are very evident in Martha, Thomas, and Alfred."
Aside from the time jump — and all the cultural signifiers therein — Season 3 also begins to introduce the concept of superheroes and super-villains that make up the very backbone of the Dark Knight mythos. For example, the premiere opens with Alfred squaring off with a man rocking a bionic arm. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Per Bannon himself, audiences will get to meet a proto-Clayface in subsequent weeks.
"It's just before the dawn of that moment; this is kind of the beta testing of that world," co-creator, co-showrunner, and executive producer Bruno Heller said at the show's panel. "It's science gone a bit mad, freedom and liberty gone a bit mad, and how do these characters handle that in the moment? And how is it gonna grow towards the world in which a Batman could exist? We're not quite there yet, but the preconditions are there."
"Because we all know where the show is going to be going, we don't need to take a direct line there whatsoever," added executive producer John Stephens. "We can proceed there by these strange byways and so, the world that we start in can be a very grounded, realistic world, and we can just drop these odd Easter eggs here and there. But we know sooner or later, we're gonna arrive at a place with someone who is dressing up as a bat and jumping around buildings."
A great example of one of those unexpected detours on our way to the brooding vigilante was Martha and Thomas' Season 2 pregnancy storyline resulting not in Bruce, but in a baby girl named Samantha, which even threw the cast for a loop. "We were like, ‘It's a girl! Is Bruno flipping the gender of Batman? Is this gonna be Batgirl?'" Aldridge remembered of his confusion. "And he still hasn't told us, so we don't know. As far as I can tell, Samantha is a separate entity to Bruce and that Bruce is potentially on the way at some point. But yeah, we were probably just as shocked as [the audience was] …What happens to Sam? Because she's not in the future of it."
As for that head-scratching subtitle addition, there's actually a pretty solid explanation: many people had no clue what the show was actually about during its first two seasons on Epix. "It came from them [HBO Max] doing their proper research," Heller said. "What they discovered was there was lots of people who had watched two seasons of the show and had no idea that it was connected to the Batman universe. When you're in the DC universe, [with something] like Pennyworth, it feels like its own brand, but if you're not steeped in that, then you're not. So there was a lot of back and forth about exactly what that subtitle would be."
"I think it's a good thing," added Bannon. "I think clarity is a good thing in the world and it does what it says on the tin. We've got a new title, a new network, a new season, and renewed vigor."
The first three episodes of Pennyworth: The Origin of Batman's Butler Season 3 are now available to stream on HBO Max.
Click here for all of SYFY WIRE's continuing coverage of New York Comic Con 2022.
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