When you think about unsung heroes, often you are thinking about the people who are somewhat under-the-radar and unheralded. These are individuals worthy of immense respect, but often do not get it for one reason or another. Maybe they spend too much time hiding in the background, or maybe in some cases they just don’t go out and actively seek it.
In today’s edition of our CarterMatt Unsung Heroes article series, we are speaking about more of the latter in the form of Alfred Pennyworth, a character played by Sean Pertwee on Fox’s awesome Gotham. This is a man who could be more of an overt hero if he wanted to. We know that he is sharp as a tack, just as we also know thanks to his intensive military training that he knows how to take care of himself in a fight. He could be out there on the front lines, working to make Gotham a better place in whatever capacity he chose.
Yet, one of the great things about Alfred is that we are also looking at a man who sees and identifies that there is a bigger picture and something more that does need to be considered. In his case, a big part of that picture revolves around making sure that Bruce Wayne grows up to become a force who could change Gotham for many years to come. He sees the options, but also still understands his responsibility.
Alfred is a hero in how he serves as the best father figure that he can for Bruce, offering advice in as many different practical ways as possible. Yet, he also recognizes the specificity of their relationship due to his job title. Alfred is technically still his butler, so he often does need to find a way to mask some of his advice and fatherly ways through caring for Bruce using many day-to-day activities and chores. He can offer him moral support, for example, while putting together dinner.
Alfred is also a hero by nature of his sacrifice. It would be one thing if this character looked at being a butler as his day job and then went out on the town every single night. Yet, this is a man who is devoting almost every single chapter of his life to making sure that Bruce is okay. He’s risked his life numerous times for him already and often does not ask for much in return other than basic human respect. That is why he showed some initial hesitance to return to his employ following Bruce’s initial decision to fire him earlier this season. While Alfred may not demand much, he did need a little bit of something more as to reassurance to feel as though he could continue. Having a sense of self-worth, after all, is integral for any profession. That’s even more so when part of your job is caring for someone else. Alfred does know to put his feelings to the side when need be, but also that communication and respect are important to any relationship. Making sure that Bruce understood that is important to his development.
The best part about Alfred is simply how much perspective he seems to have on life. He understands where he is and his role in the world, and there’s something both unique and refreshing about that. Pertwee also plays this part with such brilliance, illustrating both Alfred’s paternal abilities and then also personal self-reliance. He can be caring one moment and then fearsome the next. He’s both a soldier and a sage.
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