—The Love You Save (May Be Your Own)
Hands down, Alfred Pennyworth.
I think sometimes Alfred gets sort of taken for granted by fans, because he’s loyally stood by Bruce through so much and we kinda just expect him to always be there, you know? He’s a source of comfort not only for Bruce, but for the readers/viewers; we see Batman experience and witness terrible things, but when the sun rises we know he’s going to home to Alfred and eat a bowl of soup and have his wounds bandaged before drifting off to sleep in a freshly-laundered bed. Alfred provides more than just assistance—he provides normality.
But beneath the dry humor and the matter-of-fact, prim and proper demeanor, Alfred has endured an extraordinary amount of pain and sadness. IMO, one of the most memorable scenes from Batman: Under the Red Hood is when the Batcomputer’s analysis reveals that Red Hood is without a doubt Jason Todd, and Alfred is so overcome with the revelation that he drops the tray he was carrying. For me, seeing the always-composed Alfred actually drop a tray was absolutely jarring; that brief slip of poise and the horrified, pained look of shock on his face cements that scene in my mind as one of the most important—and most heartbreaking—moments in the Batman mythos.
Imagine how difficult is must be to watch the boy that you raised since he was eight years leave the Batcave every night and know that it may be the last time you will ever see him alive. Imagine seeing the boy who stood underneath your umbrella at his parents funeral and looked up at you with the sad, troubled expression no child should ever have, the boy held your hand during his childhood and shook it strongly as an adult, the boy who is the closest thing that you have ever had in your life to a son—imagine seeing that boy bleeding and broken and bruised and feeling every injury as vividly as if it had been inflicted upon you, and pushing your own pain to the side and cracking dry jokes as you nurse his wounds when really all you want to do is break down and beg him to never put on the suit again, to never have another night like this. But you don’t, because you’re his stability and you’re his normality and you’re the only thing keeping him sane. And so you continue on, and you help him the best that you can, and no matter what you tell him or what you tell yourself, you both know that your reasons are much more complex than upholding a promise that you made long ago.
For all of its faults, I felt Arkham Origins did an excellent job of illustrating Alfred and Bruce’s relationship. And there’s one more scene that stands out to me as a significant (and much more subtle) demonstration of Alfred’s love for Bruce. Throughout the Batman Confidential series, Alfred spends countless hours tirelessly working on the Batcomputer (with Bruce repeatedly requesting that he work faster), which he has nicknamed “Dupin”. When Bruce flies into a rage after his girlfriend is stabbed by the man who would later become Joker, he is so overcome with anger that he blindly destroys Dupin. When surveying the destruction of his hard work, Alfred reacts by calmly stating “sir, that was very expensive”. That’s it. A much more extreme reaction would most certainly have been justified, but instead Alfred is as cool and collected as ever, because he understands that Bruce isn’t just upset over his girlfriend—he’s upset over everything that he’s lost throughout his life, everything that he’s sacrificed for Gotham.
And don’t even get me started on the ending of The Dark Knight Returns.
Alfred is the one constant in Bruce’s life, and serves a much more important purpose than I think many fans give him credit for. Out of all the tragedies in Batman history, I think Alfred’s love for Bruce ranks among the most tragic.
tl;dr I HAVE A LOT OF ALFRED FEELINGS