The following post contains SPOILERS for The Batman, and specifically about the end of the film. This is not a riddle or a joke; you have been warned.

After a movie that’s been single-minded in its focus on establishing its own self-contained Gotham City and world of a new, younger Batman, Matt Reeves’ The Batman suddenly shifts in its final minutes into full-on comic-book movie tease mode. Paul Dano’s Riddler winds up in Arkham Asylum, in a cell next to a mostly unseen man, who talks to him about how “one day you’re on top, the next you’re a clown” and does a lot of maniacal laughing.

This character, played by Barry Keoghan, never says his name, and remains mostly obscured behind the windows and walls of his prison cell. The credits call him an “Unseen Arkham Prisoner.” He seems like he’s supposed to be the Joker — but is he really?

According to Matt Reeves, he is. He spoke to IGN about why the scene is in the movie, and how it was originally part of his larger plan for the Keoghan character. He explained that although Keoghan only appears in that one scene in The Batman, in the script he showed up much earlier in a sequence that ultimately got deleted from the film. Here’s how Reeves described this missing moment:

It’s a scene where Batman is so unnerved because the Riddler is writing to him. And he’s like, ‘Well, why is this guy writing to me?’ And he figures he’s got to profile this killer ... [Batman] goes to see another killer that he’s clearly had an experience with in these first two years. And this killer in this story is not yet the character that we come to know, right? ... In the comics, these characters often declare their alter egos in response to the fact that there’s a Batman out there. And so here, we have a Joker who’s not yet the Joker.

I would be interested to see how the movie would have played with this deleted scene in the film. Because the way The Batman is now, that one scene between the Riddler and the sorta-Joker really feels out of step with the rest of the film. It doesn’t really fit the tone and style of The Batman, and it comes out of nowhere, and it basically contributes nothing to the plot. If an earlier scene had established that character, it might have worked a lot better — and felt less like a shameless setup for a sequel.

But perhaps when a movie is already three hours long, there’s pressure to make it as short as humanly possible. When this deleted scene eventually emerges online. or on The Batman Blu-ray, we’ll see what it looks like. The Batman is in theaters now.

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