This article contains major spoilers for The Batman.
Has your heart ever been beating so hard while you sit in a movie theater because of the events unfolding on the screen that your Apple Watch gives you what is essentially a “calm down” alert?
The answer to this question for me used to be, “no.” Until I saw Matt Reeves’ The Batman, and Unseen Arkham Prisoner made his way to the screen to push Paul Dano’s Riddler to new levels of insanity only found in Arkham Asylum. Unseen Arkham Prisoner isn’t just some throw-away character, though. This character with mere minutes of screen time is none-other than Reeves’ take on the infamous Clown Prince of Crime, the Joker himself — chaotically brought to screen by none-other than the incredible Barry Keoghan.
Keoghan has been rumored to be portraying this character for several months now, and once again the Hollywood rumor mill delivered on its promise when Keoghan’s prosthetically scarred face barely made its way to the screen toward the ending of The Batman. Keoghan has proved he can dive into dark depths that match the likes of Dano’s Riddler with previous roles — most notably his role alongside fellow The Batman cast-member Colin Farrell in The Killing of a Sacred Deer. It’s no surprise that in his short moments on the screen in Arkham Asylum, Keoghan proves that he is worthy of yet another reboot of the Joker character.
In the scene, we see the Joker pushing the Riddler to deeper depths of insanity, urging the man to not give up on sparking chaos throughout Gotham and insisting that he will have more opportunities to play his games with the citizens of what has to be the most dangerous city on Earth, and most importantly the Dark Knight himself. The scene closes on Keoghan showcasing his eerie, sinister, chaotic, and piercing laugh as Gotham’s most infamous villain (which earned him a roaring applause at my showing).
Following his short introduction to the new Reeves Batman universe, where will we see Keoghan’s Joker next … and how long will we have to wait? Unfortunately, it may be a while.
Keoghan has big shoes to fill — and not just because they’re clown shoes. This is the third iteration of the Joker that has been introduced to film in just a few years — Jared Leto took on the role in 2016’s The Suicide Squad and was followed by Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar-winning dead-serious performance as Batman’s greatest nemesis in 2019’s Joker. Neither of these performances live up to the precedent set by the late Heath Ledger with The Dark Knight, and while I truly believe Keoghan could live up to the standard set by Ledger, unfortunately Hollywood has become over-saturated in Joker content and audiences are demanding that other villains of Gotham be featured.
This sentiment appears to be shared by Reeves, who briefly discussed Keoghan’s appearance in The Batman with Variety. Immediately after confirming the role we see Keoghan tackling is the Joker, Reeves elaborates that this doesn’t mean we will see Keoghan returning to the role. “It’s not an Easter egg scene,” Reeves stated, “It’s not one of those end credits Marvel or DC scenes where it’s going, like, ‘Hey, here’s the next movie!’ In fact, I have no idea when or if we would return to that character in the movies.”
However, later in the same interview Reeves states, “There might be places [for the Joker to show up]. There’s stuff I’m very interested in doing in an Arkham space, potentially for HBO Max. There are things we’ve talked about there. So it’s very possible. It also isn’t impossible, that there is some story that comes back where Joker comes into our world.”
With the previously greenlit The Penguin (working title) limited series coming in the future from HBO Max, and the establishment that Keoghan’s Joker has already been creating havoc in Gotham (hence already being in Arkham Asylum), I will certainly be keeping my fingers crossed that Keoghan makes an appearance in this series. Those eager to see more of the character will have to wait for Reeves to release the deleted scene from The Batman featuring a longer look at Keoghan as the Unseen Prisoner.
For now, the future of Keoghan in Reeves’ The Batman universe will remain an unanswered riddle.