The laughter’s died down and the clowns have been sent for. What now? Questions. Lots of questions.
While the Joker ending may seem fairly clear-cut at first glance, dig a little deeper and you’ll see a few loose threads still dangling by the time Arthur makes his curtain call. Below, we’ll attempt to answer some of the biggest puzzlers in the Joker movie (opens in new tab) – including that Bruce Wayne reveal, what happens in the final scene, as well as Arthur’s not-so-real relationship with Sophie.
Major spoilers for Joker follow…
What happens in the final scene?
The Joker movie finale builds to a crushing crescendo. First, there’s Arthur’s pressure cooker of a ‘performance’ on the Murray Franklin show, which ends with the loveable talk show host (played by Robert de Niro) shot dead live on-air for mocking Arthur. So far, things are pretty straightforward.
From there, though, things snowball. Arthur brutally murdering Franklin proves to be the spark that ignites rebellion on the streets of Gotham. Despite the newly-christened Joker’s capture by the police, he is rescued from the back of a police car by the clown-themed gang that has risen up in the wake of the injustice felt among Gotham’s poorer citizens. Joker smears blood on his face, creating his iconic rose-red clown smile and stands over his new ‘subjects.’
However, he’s caught again, and this is where it gets… uncertain.
It’s not clear when or how Arthur was brought into Arkham State Hospital. In the very last scene, he’s sat across from a hospital worker, who questions him about his life. He responds by asking if he can tell her a joke, but abruptly stops himself, saying she “wouldn’t get it.” Shots of the chaos in Gotham – and Bruce Wayne standing over his dead parents – are shown, accompanied by an Arthur voiceover. Joker then scrambles out of the room, still handcuffed, and with blood on his feet. He manages to evade a hospital guard before running out of frame.
So, what the hell happened? Theories on this will run and run. We could take this scene very literally: he was committed to the hospital, murders the worker and makes his escape. A Joker origin, after all, doesn’t do much good if he’s stuck in prison.
But, is all as it seems? Arthur (and his mother, possibly, more on that later), suffer from delusions and severe mental illness. He imagined his relationship with Sophie and the final scene in the hospital also takes on a dreamlike quality with its close-ups and sheet-white colour palette.
At this point, the viewer is as warped as the Joker. Bluntly, there’s no telling what is real and what isn’t. Arthur may have conjured up this hospital scene in his head as a fitting end for his Joker. Perhaps he’s still stuck in the cop car? Or maybe he ended up committing suicide on television and imagined the rest? He may have even imagined the entire movie while trapped in the hospital. Now wouldn’t that be something?
Are Bruce Wayne and Arthur Fleck half-brothers?
This is a difficult one to answer. If you were to ask Thomas Wayne – as well as the state records in Arkham – then the response would be a definitive ‘no.’ Every idea that Penny Fleck had about an illicit affair and lovechild with the head of the Wayne household was put down to the long-suffering woman dealing with serious mental illness.
The plot thickens in the final act, though, as Arthur stumbles upon his now-dead mother’s belongings. On the back of one photo is the note: “I love the way you smile – T.W.” hinting that there was perhaps more to their relationship than the brusque explanation Thomas knocked Arthur back with (literally and figuratively) during the Charlie Chaplin screening earlier on in the movie.
Plot-wise, the eye-rolling reveal of Bruce being related to his nemesis is pulled straight from the Spectre playbook of ham-fisted connections. So, we’re willing to say, in hope rather than expectation, it’s probably not the case.
Did Arthur imagine all the scenes with Sophie?
Not all of them, it seems, but a vast majority. Sophie (Zazie Beetz) was shown accompanying Arthur to his comedy club showing, as well as on a later date. Neither of those happened. The only ‘real’ interactions Arthur had with Sophie was their first meeting (featuring plenty of suicidal miming in the elevator) and when Arthur broke into Sophie’s apartment and was asked to leave, though her fate is left up in the air. Everything else was just a figment of a broken man’s imagination.
Does Arthur create Batman?
Indirectly, yes. Arthur ignites the powder keg of unrest in Gotham by killing Murray Franklin. On that very same night, the Waynes leave the fated Zorro performance and are tracked by a man wearing a clown mask. Obviously inspired by the ‘eat the rich’ mentality imbued by Joker’s previous killing of three investment bankers earlier in the movie, he guns down Thomas and Martha Wayne, leaving Bruce standing over the two of them.
This, of course, is the touchstone for essentially every Batman origin story ever written. Without this night happening, Bruce would never put on the cape and cowl and become The Dark Knight. Joker inadvertently creating his own nemesis – a neat flipping of some Clown Prince of Crime origins – is sweet poetic justice.
Where does Joker go from here?
A sequel? Probably not. Despite director Todd Phillips telling Total Film (opens in new tab), “If people show up to this movie, and Warners came to us and said, ‘You know what? If you guys could think of something…’ Well, I have a feeling that he and I could think of something pretty cool,” he later elaborated (opens in new tab), saying: “We have no plan for a sequel.”
That sounds definitive. It’ll be a shame to have a one-and-done story with Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, especially if rumours persist (via Discussing Film (opens in new tab)) that Matt Reeves’ The Batman will be set in the ‘90s. Those two timelines would just about match up. A Joker more confident in his clown shoes going toe-to-toe with an inexperienced Batman would most likely be a mega hit. Unfortunately, it’s a tale likely to be spun in fan fictions and forums rather than on the big screen.