THE BATMAN’s Ending Character Explained and What They Mean for DC Movies

The Batman has arrived! Matt Reeves’ highly anticipated take on the Dark Knight is here and it’s fantastic. The darkly enchanting detective story gives us a whole new take on Gotham. Reeves reimagines the early years of Batman and creates something textured and real. While there’s plenty to dig into about the film—which we will certainly be doing elsewhere—viewers will likely come out of their first viewing with one question: Was that the Joker at the end of the film? We’re here to answer that question. So let’s talk about that “Unseen Arkham Inmate” and what that massive character reveal could mean for the DC movie universe.

Was the Joker in The Batman?
A still from Batman: The Killing Joke shows Batman holding a man dressed as the Joker saying Where is he????
DC Comics, Brian Bolland

Yes! Though he’s credited as “Unseen Arkham Inmate,” it’s obvious to fans that the character we see at the tail end of The Batman is the Joker. Played by Barry Keoghan, we meet him as the Riddler laments  his failed attempt to connect with Batman and destroy Gotham. As Edward Nashton cries over news footage of Batman helping the citizens of the city he wanted to destroy, he’s comforted by an unseen voice. During their conversation it becomes clear that the unseen presence wants to help Riddler and perhaps team up with him. “After all, Gotham loves a comeback story,” the voice tells a crying Edward. Then he offers up a riddle: “The more you have, the less one is worth.” The answer, as Nashton realizes, is “a friend.”

The pair begin to laugh together as the camera reveals Nashton’s neighbor, a cackling man with a mutilated face. His smile is a scar showing bare teeth against bubbling flesh. His curled hair falls into his eyes. This is a much more horrific iteration of the Joker than we’ve seen before. And just in case you’re worried this is just a theory, at a recent Q&A we attended with Matt Reeves he confirmed that “Unseen Arkham Inmate” is the Joker. “He’s who you think he is. That’s who he is!” Reeves responded to a question about the mysterious villain. So yes, the Joker just entered the world of The Batman in an appropriately creepy fashion.

How Many Jokers Are There Now?
The cover for Three Jokers shows... you guessed it Three Jokers. One is older and stylish, the second is campy and spooky and the third is a scary wide smiling version
DC Comics, Jason Fabok, Brad Anderson

So, if we’re counting current iterations in the DC movie universe, this is our third Joker. Jared Leto’s Suicide Squad Joker was confirmed as still living—and potentially loving Batman—in Justice League. Then we have the Oscar-winning Joaquin Phoenix version of Joker. And now DC has introduced a third iteration in The Batman’s Keoghan. The DC movie universe is very much a multiversal situation; basically, each of these worlds can exist alongside each other. But the current number of Clown Princes of Crime is still pretty interesting in theory terms as recent continuity in DC Comics introduced the—rather maligned—idea of the “ Three Jokers.”

Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok’s DC Black Label limited series—that was originally meant to tie into the DC main line—posed the concept: what if three Jokers existed at once? The three issue mini follows a series of crimes committed by what seems to be multiple Jokers. The three are known only by these monikers: The Criminal (Golden Age), The Clown (Silver and Bronze Age), and The Comedian ( The Killing Joke). The frankly outrageous story suggests that The Comedian is the “true joker” and he created the other two to mess with Batman. He’s also planning to make Joe Chill—the original killer of Batman’s parents—into a new Joker. So do we think we’re going to get a Three Jokers movie adapting that story? No!! But does it set a precedent for three Jokers existing and perhaps collaborating together? Yes! And that could definitely come into play.

What Does This Joker Mean for the Future of The Batman?
[03/04] The Batman’s Ending Character Explained and What They Mean for DC Movies_1

For now, Keoghan is really the focus of the Joker’s future. While The Batman is an impressively intimate detective story, it obviously sets up the steps to take the franchise further. As we leave Bruce, he’s had a startling realization: his violent quest for justice has only made his city worse. For the first time he’s reconsidering his role in Gotham. We see him helping those around him, connecting with the community that he’s long criminalized and cut himself off from. It’s a surprisingly hopeful ending, but it also sets up a huge conflict. The idea of pitting a Bruce who’s trying to do his best against the chaotic evil of the Joker is a heartbreaking concept. And from what we’ve seen in The Batman, it’s very likely the next step for Reeves’ franchise.

There’s another interesting tidbit we can take from the final moments of the film: The Joker seems to be allying himself with the Riddler. So we could perhaps see him orchestrating a collection of villains old and new to go up against Batman, sooner rather than later.

Featured Image: Warner Bros.

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