The Batman ending explained: How it sets up a sequel

The Batman (Warner Bros.)
The Batman (Warner Bros.)

The Batman has finally landed, and it’s the best outing the Caped Crusader has had in years.

The film, starring Robert Pattinson in the title role, has been a hit with critics and audience alike enjoying the second highest opening weekend of the pandemic era.

Cloverfield director Matt Reeves, working with screenwriter Peter Craig, has crafted an epic noir thriller that focussing on a junior Bruce Wayne and his crime-fighting alter ego in the second year of being Batman.

It’s a complete reboot, not connected to the previous Batman sagas of Christopher Nolan or Zack Snyder, or even the recent Joker origin story, but it sets up a new world of heroes and villains that we’re sure we’ll be returning to sooner rather than later.

Read more: How Batman was built in Britain

Although there was a lot to pack into The Batman’s chunky three-hour runtime, we got to meet the Caped Crusader, Catwoman, Riddler, Penguin and explore some of Gotham's most famous locations.

As Robert Pattinson prepares to answer the Batphone for the already confirmed sequel, read on to find out how the ending of The Batman sets things up for future films.

Warning: The Batman plot spoilers ahead

Gotham in ruins

The Batman (Warner Bros.)
The Batman (Warner Bros.)

Reeves adapted a number of Batman comics for his franchise debut, but notably, it was Batman: Zero Year that got its time to shine. The comic arc saw the Riddler try to take over Gotham while also flooding it. In The Batman, Bruce was unable to stop Riddler's bombs decimating the Gotham sea wall and flooding downtown.

With Riddler locked up in Arkham State Hospital (no longer an asylum), he recruited a cult of loyal followers that stormed Gotham Square Garden and attempted to assassinate Mayor Bella Reál. Batman defeated the Riddler goons — with a little help from Jim Gordon and Selina Kyle — but Gotham is left a wreck.

Read more: Batman movies that nearly got made

The Batman ends with the National Guard being drafted in for a humanitarian effort. A mud-covered Batman is seen helping airlift civilians to safety, and to put it bluntly, Gotham City has gone to pieces. Although a sequel is only in the first stages of development, we could see Reeves take cues from the No Man’s Land crossover of 1999.

The Batman is coming to cinemas in 2022 (Warner Bros.)
The Batman is coming to cinemas in 2022 (Warner Bros.)

Here, the city was rocked by a magnitude 7.6 earthquake and the U.S. Government annexed Gotham. Even though most civilians were evacuated, the various villains seized power and divided Gotham into their own districts.

Although we’ve already seen No Man’s Land being adapted for Fox’s Gotham and the animated Harley Quinn series, it could easily work here. The gist is the same, and with a fat suit-wearing Colin Farrell looking out over the city, you can bet he’s going to carve himself a nice piece of Gotham real estate amidst the chaos. Don’t expect major No Man’s Land players like Lex Luthor and Superman to appear, but when The Batman 2 rolls around, expect more villains to come out of the woodwork.

The joke’s on you

Irish actor Barry Keoghan arrives for
Irish actor Barry Keoghan arrives for "The Batman" world premiere at Josie Robertson Plaza in New York, March 1, 2022. (ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Tinfoil theories were right on the money that Eternals’ Barry Keoghan would be playing Joker in The Batman. We don’t get a traditional post-credit scene, and instead, The Batman ends with Riddler making friends in Arkham. Using Riddler’s own catchphrase of “riddle me this”, a disfigured Joker teases an alliance between the pair. It would be great to see Eddie and Mr. J break free from Arkham to cause havoc in The Batman 2, however, don’t be so sure.

In an interview with Variety, Reeves confirmed that’s definitely Joker at Arkham and explained how Keoghan was supposed to appear in an earlier scene. After Riddler murdered Commissioner Pete Savage, Batman was going to attempt to get inside the villain’s head à la Silence of the Lambs. Breaking into Arkham, Batman was going to find Joker in his cell, with the latter saying, “It’s almost our anniversary, isn’t it?” Even if Joker’s debut was trimmed back for (the highly effective) finale scene, the implication is that he already has a complicated history with Batman.

Heath Ledger won an Oscar for his portrayal of The Joker in 'The Dark Knight'. (Credit: Warner Bros)
Heath Ledger won an Oscar for his portrayal of The Joker in 'The Dark Knight'. (Credit: Warner Bros)

Although fans might’ve expected Joker to be queued as the big bad of The Batman 2, Reeves went on to tell Variety, “In fact, I have no idea when or if we would return to that character in the movies.” That presumably counts Joker out of The Batman 2, but in a case of clever wording, that doesn’t mean we won’t see that maniacal grin in the upcoming Arkham spin-off series.

Details are thin on the ground, but doing what Todd Phillips did with 2019’s Joker, a villain origin story could be on the cards.

A little Hush

The Batman (Warner Bros.)
The Batman (Warner Bros.)

If Joker is out for the count in The Batman 2, which other vile villains could emerge from the shadows? There’s potential in the form of Thomas Elliot, aka Hush. We mentioned the lack of post-credit scenes, but in classic Riddler style, he has one more trick up his sleeve. The final shot of the credits has a cryptic message from the Riddler that leads viewers to the website

If you decide to play his game, it loads a viral marketing campaign for Thomas Wayne’s Mayoral campaign. Riddler has tampered with the footage, and at one point, Wayne’s face appears with the word “Hush” scrawled across it.

Connecting the dots, it’s like all to do with Edward Elliot. One of The Batman’s plot points included a throwaway reference to Elliot — a journalist who threatened to blow the lid off Martha Wayne’s psychiatric troubles. Thomas Wayne hired Carmine Falcone to scare Elliot, but instead, the mobster killed him to gain leverage on Wayne. Picture the scene where Thomas Elliot is the vengeful orphan who wants to take out Bruce. In the comics, Dr. Tommy Elliot is an unhinged childhood friend of Bruce who tries to murder his parents, is foiled by Thomas Wayne, and later, gets facial surgery to look exactly like Bruce in a bid to take him down.

The Batman (Warner Bros.)
The Batman (Warner Bros.)

Further tying things together, Hush’s comic book introduction was all part of a scheme from the Riddler when he worked out Bruce’s secret identity. But where is all this leading? It’s clear Riddler knew about Thomas Wayne’s dodgy dealings, but as the movie ends, he still hasn’t deduced that Bruce is Batman. With theories that Riddler is the son of Edward Elliot, Reeves might amalgamate Riddler and Hush.

We don’t actually know if Edward Nashton is Riddler’s real name, so it’s all possible. Remember, the end of 2019’s Batman: Hush movie featured a twist where Riddler was actually Hush. Still not convinced? Reeves even discussed the possibility of using Hush during s Q&A with Twitter Movies.

Holy, sidekick theory, Batman

The Batman (Warner Bros.)
The Batman (Warner Bros.)

Bruce will need all the help he can get in The Batman 2, so it’s a good job it might be out there. As well as Selina Kyle’s inevitable return after she rode off into the sunset, there are theories that Jay Lycurgo’s unnamed street thug could be waiting in the wings as a certain Boy Wonder.

If Reeves goes through with his rumoured plans for a trilogy, we could see a fully-formed version of Robin after The Dark Knight Rises stopped just short of giving Joseph Gordon-Levitt a mask and cape. It’s all wild speculation about Robin for now, but as another potential tie, we last saw Catwoman going “upstate” to Bludhaven. Those up on the comics will know Bludhaven is the haunt of Dick Grayson, aka the first Robin.

Whatever ever is going on in Gotham right now, this isn’t the end. At the time of writing, the Riddler’s viral site has a jpg titled "Its_Not_Over_Yet.jpg" and a timer that is currently on 20%.

It’s common knowledge that Reeves is working on a sequel, and whether this is simply an official announcement or something more, there’s at least one more riddle that has us scratching our heads. As Bats himself repeatedly warns, he is vengeance, but when it comes to Riddler and Joker, we know revenge is a dish best served cold.

The Batman is in IMAX and cinemas now.

Watch: The Batman producer pays tribute to Robert Pattinson