Gotham City is full of hidden secrets. Some of them are even locked up.
In Matt Reeves’ The Batman, out now in theaters, it’s the dawn of a new DC Universe. Separate from the “DCEU” continuity, The Batman takes place in its own universe, which means there’s a whole new batch of characters waiting to be introduced — and reintroduced.
That’s the case with The Batman, which has a new actor fill the shoes of a familiar supervillain. But who is it? And what does their presence imply about a sequel? Here’s what that surprise cameo is all about.
Warning: Spoilers for The Batman ahead.
At the end of The Batman, the cryptic serial killer Riddler (Paul Dano) is apprehended at Arkham Asylum. While his plot to flood Gotham City mostly succeeded, his Too Online henchman failed to assassinate Gotham’s newly elected mayor due to interference from a certain caped crusader: Batman (played by Robert Pattinson).
Stuck at Arkham with the sun shining in his face, the Riddler confides in a fellow patient at Arkham. He doesn’t reveal his name. But with his scarred clown makeup and piercing laugh, it’s mighty obvious who it is: It’s the Joker, played by actor Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk, Eternals).
A New Joker?
The DC multiverse continues to expand. While Jared Leto and Joaquin Phoenix are still actors in their prime who’ve played Joker, their roles inhabit different universes.
Jared Leto is still the Joker of the DC Extended Universe, which includes films like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League, Suicide Squad (and The Suicide Squad), and Birds of Prey. Meanwhile, in 2019’s Joker, Joaquin Phoenix's version inhabits his own pocket universe, with no evidence of the Justice League existing anywhere in that story.
Barry Keoghan’s Joker is exclusive to the universe of The Batman, officially dubbed “Earth-2” by director Matt Reeves. At this moment, the character is terrifying simply because we’re not sure what he’s capable of yet.
We’ve seen previous Jokers in action, from Jack Nicholson’s mischievous parades to Heath Ledger’s domestic terrorism. Jared Leto seems perfectly capable of surviving a bombed-out apocalypse ruled by aliens (seen in Zack Snyder’s Justice League), while Joaquin Phoenix is just trying to live in a society. With Barry Keoghan, we’re not sure what he can do outside a room at Arkham Asylum, though one wonders how he got there in the first place.
A War in Gotham
What differentiates Keoghan’s Joker from others — again, with what little we’ve seen of him thus far — is his willingness to work with others. At the end of The Batman, Barry Keoghan’s Joker seems open to collaborating with the Riddler. Why? And how, exactly? That’s still shrouded in mystery. But their shared moment of joy seems to imply they’ll get along just fine.
I’ve previously mentioned that the Riddler and Joker have a history together in comic books. In writer Tom King’s 2016-2019 run on DC’s Batman comics, the storyline The War of Jokes and Riddles had the Riddler approach Joker with an idea to kill Batman. But after the Joker rejected Riddler’s proposal, the two waged an all-out war that nearly destroyed Gotham City.
It’s unknown if The Batman 2 (which Reeves has only confirmed is in early discussions of happening) will adapt a story evocative of The War of Jokes and Riddles or do something else entirely. All we know for sure is that with the Joker now in this universe, anything can happen when an agent of chaos is let loose.
The Batman is now playing in theaters.