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The following story contains enormous spoilers for The Batman. Do not read on if you don’t want to be spoiled!
There are a handful of major villains in The Batman, and they’re done impeccably. First and foremost, of course, we’ve got The Riddler (Paul Dano), presented this time by director Matt Reeves with a Zodiac Killer spin. There’s also crime boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), a charismatic and ruthless figure who works in the shadows. And there’s Falcone’s right-hand man, The Penguin (somehow, Colin Farrell), full of bluster and frankly hilarious. The movie strikes the rare three-villain balance where it never feels too much and they all fit into the plot. But pledged The Batman‘s near 3-hour runtime, viewers probably sooner or later had the same thought: is the big guy going to be involved somehow? Are we going to hear something about The Joker?
The Joker, Batman’s arch-nemesis and Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime, has always been integral to the Dark Knight’s on-screen story. In Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman Joker (Jack Nicholson) was the main villain. Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins went another direction with its origin story, but ended with a cliffhanger teasing The Joker, who would enter in the sequel, The Dark Knight, in a legendary, Academy Award-winning role by actor Heath Ledger. Even the DCEU had its own Joker, played by Jared Leto and showing up in Suicide Squad and Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
So wondering if and when the Joker would make his way into The Batman is a perfectly reasonable thought. And those villains are so compelling, that you also probably had the thought—who needs the Joker? But Matt Reeves knows. At the end of the movie, after Riddler’s plan has gone belly-up, he’s sitting in prison when a mysterious voice starts talking to him.
The voice tells him through the cell wall: “One minute you’re on top, the next…you’re a clown.” We never get a full glimpse of Riddler’s neighbor’s face, but we see—a distorted, creepy smile—and hear—a maniacal laugh—enough to have an idea of exactly who we’re dealing with. This prisoner tells Riddler he can be a new friend, but folks, it seems like we’ve got ourselves a Joker.
Was that the Joker in The Batman?
We never hear him referred to by any specific name, but there’s no doubt—Riddler’s cellmate was The Joker—the smile, laugh, and generally menacing presence gives it away.
Barry Keoghan is officially credited as “Unseen Arkham Prisoner”… but he’s the Joker.
Assuming a sequel to The Batman gets made, it’ll be exciting to watch Keoghan take on the role of perhaps the most famous villain in superhero history. And considering the fact that two of the last three actors to play the role have won Oscars for their performances—Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix in Joker—he’s probably excited to.
It also makes an interesting case, where Keoghan is playing a key role in both a DC property (The Joker, obviously), and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (he plays Druig in Eternals). A sequel or continuation to Eternals hasn’t yet been announced, but it would be surprising if we didn’t wind up seeing Keoghan in both continuities for years to come.
And considering Farrell’s Penguin is still alive, it creates the opportunity for the duo—who starred together in the underrated psychological thriller The Killing of a Sacred Deer—to have an on-screen reunion. Let’s hold out some hope for that, shall we? The fireworks await.
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