I’ve never seen Alfred Pennyworth in so much action before.
So recently, I’ve been binge watching Gotham. In brief, it’s the backstory of all the rogues in the Batman universe. The crime lords, the Dark Knight’s future foes, the rise and fall and endless espionage cycles of Detective Jim Gordon (Gotham shows his humble beginnings here before he went on to becoming the City’s Police Commissioner) and most especially, Bruce Wayne. It’s a really good show to watch if you want to understand Batman even more.
But there’s just one thing that left me in amazement until now that I’ve finished Season One and currently going through Season Two. What’s up with Alfred? As ya’ll know, Alfred Pennyworth is Bruce Wayne/Batman’s loyal and trustworthy butler. The one who took care of Bruce when his parents were killed. But in Gotham, he’s definitely more than that. I see a little unease at Sean Pertwee’s Alfred Pennyworth in the new show. The guy is, after all, pretty hardcore. Like really hardcore. It’s completely different from the calm and gentleman-like Alfred that we’ve all known him to be in the past Batman comics and movies.
In season one’s pilot episode, we see a very rough, gruff and brusque Alfred who actually has a caring father image beneath his grizzly exterior. Apart from this, he actually has more of a Cockney accent (which I mistakenly thought as Australian, driving me into furious research about Alfred’s origin) and uses slangs like “bloody” and “mate” (I’ve heard the former being used before by Michael Cane’s Alfred in Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy).
Straight off, Bruce comes running to Alfred, with him looking fiercely protective and on through the show we see him putting Bruce into place by shouting “Oi! Get your bloody arse down from there!” when he saw him balancing on the roof of Wayne Manor. To be honest, for me this is one of the most memorable lines from this season (or Gotham entirely). He is somewhat curt to Gordon later in the episode, even though originally amiable, but seems to respect Bruce’s opinion and judgement primarily, even at just ten years old.
Now this ain’t the Alfred that I grew up with. So I went online and researched about people’s reaction to Gotham’s Alfred, and the results were all in a positive nature, however shocked and puzzled the people are. Then this got me realizing that a lot of them didn’t grow up reading Batman comics. I did. And so I went back to my research; and this time it involved thumbing through my Batman comic books. There I found the answer to why Alfred was like this.
A vast majority of the fans of Gotham are not aware of the inspiration behind it. Its creators actually did a fairly inspired decision, and definitely a creative one which is quite refreshing.
In Batman: Earth One, a very similar Alfred is present.
With the first volume released in 2012, we see a different explanation of Batman’s origin which is the vibe that’s very similar to the show. The Alfred here is, as he is in Gotham, a militaristic rough and tough kind of guy. He is a former soldier of the Royal Marines, a friend of Thomas Wayne, and a skilled martial artist and sharpshooter. Now TALK about that. This explains how skilled Alfred was during the episode where Bruce and Selina Kyle were being chased and hunted down by assassins. Alfred teamed up with Gordon and Bollock, leading them slowly to where Bruce and Selina is, with Alfred shooting away with his Glock pistol.
Unlike in other versions where Alfred acts as Batman’s sole moral compass and his faithful companion (complete with the funny quips which I personally love), in Gotham he plays a crucial role in training and disciplining the young Bruce Wayne.
Pertwee’s version of Alfred surprisingly has a striking resemblance to Batman: Year One’s Alfred, so I guess the producers and casting director of the show noticed it in Pertwee and cast him off as the famed butler slash Trainor slash dad. The Alfred we see here is very different, but at the same time very similar to the Alfred we know. His exterior shocked many, but on the inside I think you’ll find Alfred is the same Alfred we always know, whose real one true focus is solely on keeping Bruce safe.
I personally applaud the creators of Gotham for daring to take a different flavor for the character we’ve rarely seen in live action. It’s a risk they’re taking, considering that the general premise of the show has always been a gambit, but I think it’s okay to say that they know what they’re doing and it will ultimately pay off.
On a side note, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fish Mooney one day having her own volume of origin comics (great job, Jada Smith!), given the reception to the character, just as Harley Quinn made her grand entrance from Batman: The Animated Series.
Now I’m very sure that Gotham is telling and shaping its own story, at the same time remaining true to its roots in the comics, and so far Gotham has done a very good job at it.