Warning: Spoilers ahead for Gotham season 5.
Gotham delivered its own take on Bane's iconic "breaking of the Bat" but did so with a surprising and unique twist. The fifth and final season of Gotham has included a raft of antagonists from Cameron Monaghan's almost-but-not-quite Joker to the conniving and mysterious Theresa Walker. However, perhaps the most high profile villain this season is Eduardo Dorrance, better known to Bat-fans as Bane.
Like many Gotham characters, Bane was given a slightly altered backstory, presented as a former military colleague of Jim Gordon's that had been captured behind enemy lines. From there, the traditional Bane origin was weaved into the fabric of the character, spending time training in a grueling foreign prison and finally escaping with the intention of taking down Gotham City, albeit at the behest of a handler as per The Dark Knight Rises, rather than acting upon his own designs.
Undoubtedly Bane's most memorable contribution to Batman comic lore is the moment he achieves his goal of breaking the Batman in the Knightfall arc from the early 1990s. After tiring the superhero out by setting the assorted criminals of Arkham Asylum free, Bane finally faced down the Caped Crusader and effortlessly dispatched him, concluding the assault by smashing Bruce Wayne's back over a bent knee and forcing him into a lengthy spell on the sidelines. This image was first immortalized into live-action with Christian Bale and Tom Hardy's 2012 duel in The Dark Knight Rises, a clash that resulted in Bale's Bruce Wayne spending a significant chunk of the film recuperating.
With Bane finally making his debut on Gotham, it's perhaps natural that the show would want to deliver its own interpretation of breaking the Bat, although the idea of snapping a teenager in half doesn't have quite the same impact, especially when said youngster hasn't even properly become Batman yet. Gotham found a way around this conundrum with a hugely surprising twist.
In this week's episode, Bane's master, Theresa Walker, was revealed to be Nyssa al Ghul and, understandably, the daughter of the late Ra's al Ghul had revenge on her mind, targeting the two people who finished Ra's off last season: Bruce Wayne and Barbara Kean. Complicating matters considerably is the fact that, during Bane's assassination mission, Barbara was in the middle of giving birth to her baby with Jim Gordon. Thankfully, Bruce was able to free himself and tell Alfred and Selina Kyle to get down to Gotham City's medical clinic and protect mother and child.
Aside from saving the life of the baby who will likely go on to become Batgirl, Bruce's warning also ends up putting the two people he cherishes straight into Bane's path. Alfred bravely takes the brute on headfirst but is soundly beaten by the physically superior warrior, and Bane also puts a very familiar, brutal exclamation point on the fight. With the butler on his last legs, Bane lifts Alfred straight up over his head, directly mirroring his "break the Bat" pose, and smashes his back right across the spine, this time into a pillar rather than a knee. Broken and crumpled on the floor, the notoriously detached Selina is horrified by Alfred's injury. The episode ends without exploring exactly how grievous the blow was.
Batman fans will no doubt appreciate this nod to the source material, but Bane's breaking of Alfred also serves a key narrative purpose. In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane destroys a superhero coming to the end of his crime-fighting career, helping Bruce to realize that he should consider retirement. In this week's episode of Gotham, Bruce's long-suffering employee confessed that, with Bruce now an adult, there was no need in the boy's life for a butler. In both instances, Bane breaks someone nearing the end of their profession and this makes a lot more sense than inflicting a devastating back injury on a fledgling Dark Knight.
As viewers well know, however, Alfred's time assisting Bruce Wayne is far from over and Gotham viewers can be assured that Bane's back-breaking assault won't keep Alfred from tending to the Batcave in the years to come. But, sadly, Sean Pertwee's battle-ready incarnation of the famous butler may be a little less of an action hero from now on.
Gotham continues with "They Did What?" April 18th on Fox.