The Batman ending explained: The Riddler, Catwoman mysteries solved
Who was that mystery character, and what was the Riddler's plan? We break down the conclusion to Matt Reeves' new Batman movie. **CONTAINS SPOILERS**
Matt Reeves’ The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson as the iconic Caped Crusader, is finally here.
It picks up with Bruce Wayne in his second year of crime-fighting in Gotham when a menacing serial killer called the Riddler (Paul Dano) starts a deadly game that targets the city’s institutional corruption.
Don’t worry – this isn’t an origin story, so we’re spared from yet another slow-motion shot of Martha Wayne’s pearls cascading to the floor in Crime Alley.
Instead, Bruce is already an effective vigilante on the streets, but this new threat forces him to become something more than a brawler to unravel the mystery behind the killer. The gripping tale takes its cues from classic thrillers like William Friedkin’s The French Connection and David Fincher’s Se7en thanks to its many twists, as well as the noir take on the Caped Crusader.
But how does it all play out for Bruce, the Riddler, and Gotham? Read on for everything you need to know about the ending of The Batman.
Be warned, full spoilers are ahead – so if you haven't seen The Batman yet, look away now.
The Batman ending explained
Who is el rata alada?
At the centre of the Riddler’s twisted machinations is a mysterious figure he calls ‘el rata alada’ AKA the rat with wings. This person is the anonymous informant inside the mob that’s responsible for giving the police information to put notorious mobster Salvatore Maroni in prison, which was a crushing blow to Gotham’s drug trade. Although Batsy suspects Penguin (Colin Farrell) at first, he simply doesn’t know enough to be the rat.
Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz) is ultimately the one to figure this one out as she desperately investigates the death of her best friend, Annika, who had a secret affair with Mayor Mitchell (Rupert Penry-Jones). The Mayor told her all about the Renewal money becoming a criminal slush fund, as well as the truth regarding Sal Maroni – as the GCPD and the Mayor worked with another gangster, Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) to put Maroni away. Falcone even took over the narcotics business while the GCPD was applauded for the huge drug bust, even though it didn’t really have an effect whatsoever.
Unfortunately, this gives Falcone a lot of power over the city, because he can blackmail anyone involved with the scheme to do as he pleases. He even views himself as the real Mayor of Gotham. When Gordon and Batman arrest Falcone, the Riddler shoots him with a sniper rifle, effectively cutting out the city’s rotten core.
Why does the Riddler target corrupt officials in Gotham?
So what’s Riddler’s whole plan about anyway? Paul Dano’s twisted killer leads Batman and the GCPD on a merry chase around the city as a way of proving that the corrupt wealthy elite are the true cause of Gotham’s rotten core. When Batman and James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) lock the Riddler up in Arkham following Falcone’s death, the killer is revealed as Edward Nashton. He grew up in Gotham’s poorly funded orphanages before becoming a forensic accountant, where he stumbled on the financial records of the Renewal project.
Renewal was originally founded by Thomas Wayne and was intended to help the poorer citizens in Gotham, orphanages included, but after the Waynes were murdered this money disappeared. As the media’s attention turned to the tragedy surrounding the newly orphaned Bruce Wayne, officials worked with gangster Sal Maroni to line their own pockets as the billion-dollar Renewal fund was quietly repurposed. This obviously meant that orphans like Nashton were doomed to live in poverty, all because of the greedy, corrupt elite. He even explains that it led to babies dying every year in the winter because the orphanages simply had no money to properly house the children.
To make matters worse for Bruce, he has to grapple with the true nature of the Wayne legacy and his father’s Mayoral campaign. The Riddler reveals that Martha Wayne was part of the Arkham family, and she struggled with mental illness over the years which led to her being briefly institutionalised. The Riddler insinuated that Thomas had a journalist killed so Martha’s past wouldn’t come out and ruin his run for Mayor. But as Alfred (Andy Serkis) reveals, Thomas only wanted to keep the story quiet so his wife’s struggles would be kept quiet, and he was heartbroken that Falcone had killed the journalist instead of scaring him off.
The interesting thing is that the Riddler was actually inspired by Batman’s own war on crime because he saw that someone could actively make a difference to the city by taking matters into their own hands. It’s that old “two sides of the same coin” approach, where the hero and villain are similar in different ways. But where Bruce forges his pain into a force for good, Riddler’s warped personality transforms him into a sadistic serial killer. Unfortunately, he also has a devastating plan to flood Gotham as a way of cleansing the city of its endless list of sins.
How does Catwoman fit into the film?
The Batman met Selina Kyle in the Penguin's club, the Iceberg Lounge, where she works, but her investigations into the death of her friend Annika reveal another twist: Selina is the neglected daughter of Carmine Falcone.
Selina's mother used to work beneath the Iceberg Lounge and was the lover of Falcone.
When Falcone's actions are revealed to have been responsible for Annika's death, Selina confronts Falcone with the plan to kill him.
Despite a struggle, Bruce eventually persuades Selina into not taking revenge and Falcone is arrested.
However, he is ultimately murdered regardless due to the machinations of The Riddler.
Selina departs but later saves Bruce's life from the cronies of The Riddler.
Despite a strong romantic connection, Selina ultimately leaves Gotham at the end of the film, going her separate ways to Bruce.
How does Batman save Gotham?
Surprisingly, the Riddler actually manages to go through with his plan, using seven bombs to destroy Gotham’s sea wall, flooding most of the city and causing mass chaos. Although he misses out on the carnage because he’s locked up in Arkham, a small group of his online fans show up at the Gotham Arena where thousands of citizens are seeking shelter. They start shooting from the rafters, even wounding the new Mayor, Bella Reál (Jayme Lawson). But thankfully Batman and Catwoman swoop in and start beating the living snot out of the Riddler’s gunmen.
Although Gotham is devastated in the floods, the tragedy makes Bruce realise that he can become something more meaningful than just a brutal vigilante. The way he helps the survivors out of the wreckage and into the light proves he can be a watchful protector. Although Bruce’s quest for “vengeance” was born out of pain and tragedy, he ends the film knowing he’s transforming into a symbol for hope.
Unfortunately, he also sacrifices any chance he has at happiness with Selina Kyle, who leaves Gotham for Blüdhaven (hello, Nightwing!) at the end of the film. Given the huge personal journey he’s just gone through, it’s understandable that he wants to stay and fulfil his duty to the city.
Is Barry Keoghan playing The Joker?
OK, let’s touch on the Clown in the room. When Riddler weeps over being thwarted by Batman, he’s comforted by a sinister inmate in the adjacent cell in the Arkham Correctional Facility. This unknown individual has a grisly smile and a frightening voice, as he tells Nashton: "You know what they say, one day you're on top of the world and the next day you're a clown."
Well, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that this implies the Joker is already in Gotham just waiting to cause havoc – although it’s not clear why he’s in Arkham, or if he’s already crossed paths with the Bat in the two years since Bruce first donned the cape and cowl.
Eternals star Barry Keoghan is the man behind the clown for this new version of the Batman mythos, which is a little surprising given the huge success surrounding Joaquin Phoenix's 2019 film Joker. But by introducing their own Clown Prince Of Crime, Matt Reeves and co-writer Peter Craig have complete creative control rather than having to work around Phoenix’s character and the timeline that film set up.
Will we get The Batman 2?
Matt Reeves has already teased the possibility of The Batman 2, telling The Independent “we have started talking about another movie", so it’s highly likely Keoghan will reprise the role in the future.
With that said, the director also told Collider that he’d love to explore a grounded version of Mr Freeze, saying: "I think there's actually a grounded version of that story, which could be really powerful and could be really great.”
So give it a few years and we might see Robert Pattinson go up against a gritty version of Victor Fries – assuming Warner Bros gives Reeves the green light for The Batman 2, anyway.
Is there a post-credits scene for The Batman?
Well, it's not quite a full scene but there is a slight tease connected to The Riddler.
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