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The Batman: What the future holds for Gotham City

Note: Spoilers for The Batman are discussed in this article.

A gritty journey consisting of wading through Gotham City’s corrupt underbelly, a nerve-wracking killing spree to stop, and a deep level of introspection were what was in store for the Dark Knight in Matt Reeves’ The Batman. Robert Pattinson’s gloomy Batman had been operating in this grimy, perpetually crime-plagued urban jungle for two years, but wasn’t having the resuscitating effect on Gotham’s weak pulse as he’d hoped. After losing his parents to organized crime, Batman fixated on beating it into submission, only for the Riddler to forcibly show the city how deep the rot runs. In the wake of the Riddler’s flash flooding of Gotham, which effectively turning it into a “no man’s land,” how does Gotham grow from this?

Through the help of Alfred Pennyworth and Selina Kyle, Batman succeeds even through failure. His closing monologue indicates his realization that Batman has to evolve into something more hopeful if the city is to heal. With Gotham left in dire straits, and villainous power grabs sure to follow, plans for HBO Max streaming and the comic book source material are already showing where the inevitable sequel could go.

A mad dash to claim Carmine Falcone’s vacant throne

The Penguin stands in the rain in The Batman.

Like Officer Kenzie — the Penguin’s Gotham PD errand boy — told The Batman‘s trio of heroes, everyone who’s ever been the mayor of the city relinquished that title to Carmine “The Roman” Falcone behind the scenes. He’s been Gotham City’s shadow puppet master mayor for over 20 years, with hardly anyone the wiser. The sadistic serial killer Edward Nashton, aka The Riddler, finally “brought the rat into the light,” but sought to punish the city for it’s compliance. Suddenly exposing and assassinating Falcone, though, will surely not be the end of organized crime. Now that the city is at its most vulnerable state yet (and with martial law put into effect, no less), the underworld’s remnants that survived through abiding and playing The Roman’s game will want to claim the corrosive crown he leaves behind.

If Batman’s own foreshadowing of it wasn’t enough, Matt Reeves’ direction and Greig Fraser’s cinematography make it even clearer when we see a shot panning across Oswald Cobblepot’s face as he looks out at the shambolic state of the city at dawn. Now that the king is dead, the Penguin will likely take a shot at becoming the self-professed “Gentleman of Crime” like he is in the comics. He’ll have competition, though, as more wannabe mob bosses will rear their ugly heads out from the city’s flooded alleys to lay claim to the sunken kingdom.

No man’s land is more than just a phrase

Batman crouches while rain falls in No Man's Land, a DC comic.

Though it’s something that the DC Comics faithful have caught immediately, where the sequel to The Batman will likely go is something that would be thrilling for more casual audiences, too. The story is poised to go somewhere even rawer in terms of atmosphere than Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises by taking a page from the expansive No Man’s Land comics book arc. That arc was written in the late ’90s by an ensemble of talented writers and artists for DC and served as the direct fallout of Cataclysm, a storyline where a severe earthquake cuts Gotham off from the rest of the United States and the government declares it a “no man’s land” quarantine zone.

The chaos gets worse from there, as the lawless city sees many of Batman’s colorful rogue’s gallery members section off territories for themselves. Batman, Commissioner Gordon, and the former’s extended Bat Family are left as the only ones willing to pick up the pieces and help the city’s neglected. Things look eerily similar to that by the end of The Batman in a tasteful “bittersweet” epilogue. The World’s Greatest Detective couldn’t completely shut out the Riddler’s grand plan outright, but he thwarted the brunt of it to save countless people who would have been killed otherwise. Gotham City at least has a chance to make a comeback, but going by Barry Keoghan’s surprise cameo as a prisoner at Arkham Asylum, that’s not the only potential “comeback story” in the cards.

HBO Max building The Batman’s future

With the two (so far) live-action TV shows confirmed by Matt Reeves in the works, we may finally see some recurring villains pop in and out of the potential The Batman trilogy. Nolan somewhat toyed with this in his The Dark Knight Trilogy through Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow, but the scene with Keoghan’s Joker talking to the Riddler in Arkham State Hospital hints at something grander. Deepest into production so far is the officially greenlit The Penguin limited series, which aims to chronicle Colin Farrell’s villain climbing the ranks of the criminal underworld. It seems safe to say for now that the show will likely premiere before a sequel to this first film, and could be indicative of how or if we see Cobblepot in the Dark Knight’s sophomore endeavor on the big screen.

Secondly, it looks like the proposed “Gotham PD” series has been canceled or indefinitely put on hold, with ideas shifting into another series centering on Arkham Asylum. A show with a premise like this has the potential to venture into the horror elements of the Dark Knight’s slice of the DC universe, and could also pave the way for Keoghan’s aforementioned Joker and an expanded role for Paul Dano’s Riddler. The Batman did well to tell a focused, complete story that also has the possibility of planting the seeds for the future. That makes exploring another iteration of the brooding superhero’s most infamous rogue through the capacity of Arkham feel natural. It also justifies a third theatrical take on the Joker in the modern-day era.

Split image of Colin Farrell as Penguin and Batman facing the Joker at the entrance of Arkham Asylum in DC's comics.

Keoghan was likely not on any fans’ bingo card for being the next Clown Prince of Crime, but given the actor’s talents and Reeves being passionate and well-versed in Batman’s mythos, most will be eager to see what he could do with such a rendition. As speculative as this all seems at the moment, it could also be a natural stepping-stone into The Batman 2‘s chaotic No Man’s Land-inspired landscape. We can’t exactly expect all of Arkham’s inmates to stay there, after all.

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