The newest Batman film — The Batman — isn’t another origin story for Bruce Wayne, nor does it end the way you’d expect it to, either. Part of what makes this film different than other Bat-flicks is that it subverts expectations, a little. However, the ending does really scream from a sequel.
But how will that all shake out? Here’s a breakdown of the ending of The Batman, plus how it could set up a less-than-predictable sequel, that won’t retread familiar territory of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Spoilers ahead.
The ending of The Batman sees The Riddler (Paul Dano) placed behind bars in Arkham Asylum, but that doesn’t mean Batman’s (Robert Pattinson) crusade to save Gotham is anywhere near complete, or that The Riddler will be out of the picture for long. Director Matt Reeves clearly has grand ambitions for his vision of Gotham, which he’s already revealed will expand across two, so far, HBO Max series, and at least two film sequels. With the dynamics of Gotham City greatly changed by The Riddler’s mission of vengeance, new power players are set to emerge.
With Maroni and Falcone (John Turturro) out of the picture, The Penguin (Colin Farrell) is free to spread his wings over Gotham’s criminal empire, and growing drug trade. The conclusion of the film sees him gazing out over his new city from the Iceberg Lounge, ready to become the criminal kingpin he’s known for in the comics. Undoubtedly, part of his rise and grasp for territory will be covered in the first of the upcoming HBO Max series, centered on the Penguin, which will see Farrell return to the role. When he inevitably returns in a sequel to The Batman, it’s likely he’ll be a much more dangerous figure, and better prepared to face the Batman.
Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz) strikes out on her own, after failing to convince Batman to join her. While there’s been no word of her receiving a spin-off series, she will inevitably return to Gotham in a sequel. But whose side will she be on? While the character has always walked a morally gray line, the Falcone family legacy may be calling her name, and enticing her to return. Selina Kyle, crime boss does have a certain potential, though it’s doubtful it’ll mean giving up her Catwoman persona. If anything, when Catwoman comes back, she’ll likely be sporting a proper cowl and have developed something of a reputation among criminals.
The Riddler’s plan may have failed but Gotham remains a flooded disaster zone, not unlike Gotham was during the comic event No Man’s Land, which saw rival gangs divide Gotham into feudal territories. As city officials and Batman struggle to keep order, the emergence of new villains and gangs to derail that process seems like a safe bet, and an opportunity for Reeves to introduce more of Batman’s iconic Rouge’s Gallery. And on that front, with district attorney, Gil Colson deceased, Gotham’s going to need someone else to fill that role. Does anyone believe Harvey Dent is up for the challenge?
And if the film’s post-credit message from The Riddler, “Good-bye?” wasn’t evidence enough, the criminal makes a new “friend” (Barry Keoghan) in Arkham, one with a manic laugh and his own twisted relationship to Gotham City. Yes, The Batman sets up a new iteration of the Joker, one who may potentially be allied with The Riddler. If there’s one thing we’ve never really seen in a modern Batman film it’s a gang of Batman’s adversaries working together, like in Batman (1966), one of Reeves’ sources of inspiration.
Reeves will naturally want to avoid treading where The Dark Knight (2008) has trod, so expect a very different version of the Joker and a different plan, when he finally does come face to face with Batman. The Batman offers a satisfying conclusion to the story it sets up to tell, but it also lays the groundwork for a new Gotham City to be built, one that will continue to test Batman as a detective and a crusader.
The Batman is out in theaters now.