During the Gotham episode "The Mask" (S01E08) Bruce returns to school and gets into some trouble with a bunch of bullies. When one of them, Tommy, mentions his mother, Bruce reacts expectedly violently but doesn't seem to hold up well in the ensuing fight, as becomes apparent from his dialogue with Alfred afterwards:

Alfred: What happened?
Bruce: Someone spoke disrespectfully about my mother.
Alfred: Oh, did they now? I hope you broke that bastard's teeth?
Bruce: No, he's much bigger than me and I'm not very good at fighting. Didn't hurt him at all.
Alfred: Not at all?

Now at first I really thought that Alfred was being completely sarcastic with this brutal "broke his teeth" line, since in all the preceding episodes he wasn't really amused by Bruce's escape into darkness, his engagement into serious matters and his tries to test his own strength. It seemed he always wanted Bruce to cope with his loss and live on. So that reaction seemed totally out of place to me. But this wasn't enough, what follows is a very awkward scene where Alfred actually drives Bruce to Tommy's house and encourages him to punch him bloody (with his father's watch), which he concludes with:

Alfred: The point's now made, I think. You're ok? Any broken bones?
Tommy: He tried to kill me.
Alfred: That's right, he did. He tried to kill you, just you remember that next time you see him. And you remember that I let him try.

And it continues in that vain when Bruce later says

Bruce: I enjoyed it, enjoyed hurting him.
Alfred: Now of course you did, he deserved it.

And then he asks Alfred to teach him to fight, to which Alfred seemingly elightedly agrees.

Now it makes sense that Alfred wants Bruce to be able to stand in for his ideals and be able to defend himself. But I think in this episode he went out of his way to encourage bloody revenge and a violent attitude (for just a few little words about his parents, probably not the last spoken in Bruce's direction), without a single word about responsibility and calmness. This seems to stand in a stark contrast to all his previous efforts of encouraging Bruce to live on and not indulge into all his rage and dark feelings. What is the reason for this seemingly 180 degrees change in Alfred's way of parenting? Did I just miss anything here that might be more in line with Alfred's motivation or did I even misinterpret his motivation from all the previous episodes?

(I should add that I haven't watched further than this episode. I usually try to at least watch the whole season for such questions, but it seemed a rather conclusive matter. If however this is really obviously answered in a following episode, then excuse me and don't be afraid of "spoiling" it.)

  • "And you remember that I let him try." Damn, that is so harsh! I like this Angry Alfred. His reaction almost suggests he had a soft spot for Mrs. Wayne...
    – Shiz Z.
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 18:29

2 Answers 2


If I can give you a slight spoiler, in a later episode, someone tells Bruce that his methods of fighting wouldn't really be effective in actually hurting someone, and that if he really wanted to hurt someone he should do such-and-such instead. But Alfred tells the individual to stop talking, because he wants to instill in Bruce lessons like "Becoming good at fighting requires hard work and discipline."; he doesn't actually want Bruce to immediately find out how to kick people's butts.

So that suggests that he's trying to use fighting lessons as a way to distract Bruce from his quest for justice, rather than give him the tools he needs to exact revenge/justice; if anything Alfred thinks Bruce's quest for justice will end badly. Now as far as the episode you're talking about goes, I think as you said Alfred is just trying to encourage Bruce to stand up for himself. So while Alfred might approve of petty revenge against schoolyard bullying, I don't think he'd approve of bigger plans by Bruce to avenge his parents' death.


First thing, In Gotham, they have made characters different from the other incarnations. Most of the characters look like in a gray era, they didn't choose any side yet. Like Nygma, Cat etc.

This Alfred also looks like in a grey era, he is a good guy with some darkness inside too, which might appear in future episodes.

We also got to know a glimpse of his past in S01E17 "Red Hood". And he clearly tells Payne to not teach his fighting technique to Bruce which is not disciplined.

Alfred's nature towards Bruce has been changing from day one, he was firstly too protective of him. And now he seems to lighten up a bit.

In, "Beasts of Prey", He is also seen mis-directing Bruce.

He doesn't want him to direct into darkness but also wants to teach him disciplined defense. Gotham is a dark city, so a rich orphan without self defense is like a free roaming cash bank. So Alfred agreed to teach him, but the incident you mentioned where he helped Bruce in revenge might look contradicting. But it's like he used this instance to redirect Bruce into self defense. Bruce's parents were valuable for Alfred and he also doesn't liked that boy's comment, so he just did what he likes. And it also gives him an opportunity to save Bruce's feeling of sorrow. Bruce is already feeling helpless because of his parents' death and now he can't even teach a lesson to a school kid who abused his mother. So by helping Bruce Alfred also gave confidence to Bruce.

The other theory I can think of could sound bit crazy:

Alfred is Bruce's father: This is one of famous fan fiction theory which never got love in the Batman trilogy but Gotham can use it in their story-line. This would also give Alfred's response an appropriate reason.

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