Caution: This review contains spoilers on the mid-season finale.
The precarious case against Dick Lovecraft (Al Sapienza) crumbles in the mid-season finale of “Gotham,” sending a mad scramble across the city by several of the characters. It also shows another side of Alfred Pennyworth, giving Sean Pertwee (“Elementary” and “The Musketeers”) an opportunity to shine. An ex-Marine, he has to put his fighting prowess to use if he wants to save Bruce (David Mazouz) from a group of assassins that are targeting Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova). We’ve seen the butler’s protective and dark nature in slivers throughout this series, everything from his raspy and sarcastic threats to his straight-bladed knife. Alfred is rather like a spring as he’s always poised to strike despite that cool, polished, and sleek exterior.
The episode opens with the attack on Wayne Manor by a few assassins, whose female ringleader gives everyone a hard time. Alfred orders the kids to run, with Selina leading Bruce into Gotham to hide. He takes a bullet to the arm but he makes such an impressive effort to stop the gang with his sword stick fighting and fisticuffs. Bullock (Donal Logue) is very upset to find that Jim continued with the Wayne investigation. What’s really interesting here is that Jim and Bullock go separate ways in the case: Jim and Harvey Dent to track Lovecraft, while Bullock and Alfred take on the search for Selina and Bruce. Briefly, it was Dent whispered a little too much. Jim uncovers that Lovecraft is also a target but he’s overpowered by the assassins, a misstep that leads to Lovecraft’s death and Jim’s subsequent transfer (a demotion) to the position of security guard at Arkham Asylum.
Detective Bullock doesn’t seem to happy about letting Alfred come along, (as a “partner” as Pennyworth insists) but he quickly realizes that he’s underestimated the ex-Marine. The detective is practically relegated to the role of “good cop,” as his usual tactics of intimidation and force are brushed aside by the ever serious Alfred. Alfred uses bribery ($200 without blinking) on a street kid and brute force against Butch (Drew Powell); yet he’s neither a policeman nor a mobster, sides of Gotham displayed so often to us. He proves to be quite effective in maneuvering both worlds when he feels like it, unsettling and charming people to get what he needs for his mission. It’s a characteristic that makes him remarkably and startlingly similar to Batman! He’s even able to appeal to the likes of Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith). One wonders what kind of favor Fish may ask of Alfred later on, because we know she always comes to collect.
Second to Alfred’s heroics is Bruce’s encounter with the harsh reality of Gotham’s dark, seamy side. The boy wants to get back to Alfred, but he also wants to make sure Selina will be all right. At first, Bruce doesn’t seem convinced that Selina is a genuinely nice person, that she is selfish, marking another area of discovery in their growing friendship. At the same time, Selina doesn’t take Bruce seriously and rushes off, thinking that he won’t dare to leap rooftops in his inexperience. It’s a fantastic leaping sequence for the future Dark Knight. Their progression rarely feels forced and develops almost as naturally as Bruce’s relationship with Alfred.
The reunion between Alfred and Bruce is an emotionally charged scene, pulling from everything that has happened since the first episode. Alfred has dealt with a lot so far this season: losing his employee, caring for Bruce, and now nearly losing the boy. One might imagine that the butler probably feels guilty and quite lonely. To top it off, Bruce is regularly preoccupied with himself as he devotes his energies to the finding the truth about the murder of his parents. It’s put up a barrier that blocks many of Alfred’s attempts to connect with him. Recall in “Spirit of the Goat,” when Bruce says, “Besides, why would the goat take me? There’s no one to take me from.”
Once he’s off in the city, Bruce backtracks on this reasoning. You probably want to shake your head at Bruce and Alfred as the two momentarily revert to their polite and carefully scripted language while they approach each other. Fortunately, Alfred breaks through that curtain when he remarks, “If you die, who employs butlers anymore?” Finally, we get a heartfelt embrace between the two. Back at the manor, the study feels more relaxed as they talk about Selina, bringing a little of the familiar rapport that generally characterizes the relationship between Alfred and Bruce. As much as “Gotham” is about the rise of Jim Gordon, one other major thread is the rise of Bruce Wayne, who (in spite of his independent spirit) was greatly influenced by Alfred.
What’s Next in January?
What’s coming up after the mid-season break? We’ll get to see Jim Gordon at his new gig, Arkham Asylum, where it seems anything can happen. This evening, Falcone was upset about the money getting blown up at the armory, so his increased tariffs will no doubt be hitting a sore spot among his “family” members. Don’t forget Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) lurking around in Machiavellian fashion, poised to expose Liza (Makenzie Leigh) and bring Fish to ruin. From these tidbits alone, it promises to be a fast-paced trek to the season finale when we pick up again on January 5th. Let’s hope that we’ll be able to get another glimpse of Alfred in action.
“Gotham” airs on Monday evenings at 8|7c on FOX.