The Dark Knight works perfectly as a self-contained movie, providing one of the most iconic Joker performances to date. With the Joker’s fate being left a mystery, many fans wonder what happened to the character, although it’s obvious that a clear answer will never be given. However, reference has been made to the Joker in the The Dark Knight Rises novelization, which paints a clearer picture of his true ending.
Joker actor Health Ledger unfortunately passed away in Jan. 2008, with The Dark Knight releasing just a few months later. For his incredible performance, Ledger won Best Supporting Actor at both the Oscars and the Golden Globes, and it was clear the role could never be replaced. Yet with his character alive at the end of the film, many fans still wonder what became of him.
During the end of The Dark Knight, Joker sets up his social experiment with explosives on two ferries. After neither group of passengers decides to blow up the other, Joker goes to destroy them both, with Batman swooping in to save the day just in time. With the Joker defeated, he’s strung up on the side of a building and left for police to come collect him. Nothing is heard of the character after that, although the fact Batman never hunts him again, it’s assumed Joker stayed locked up.
Director Christopher Nolan chose to not to include or mention the character at all in The Dark Knight Rises, out of respect for Ledger. Yet The Dark Knight Rises novelization, written by Greg Cox, offers a small tidbit of information about the Joker. A single line adds to the mystery and provides more insight into his fate than Nolan has ever given.
After Bane frees every inmate from Gotham’s Blackgate Penitentiary, it’s said that the prison was a replacement for Arkham Asylum. This would lead fans to assume the Joker escaped, however the novel goes on to say “The worst of the worst were sent here, except the Joker, who rumor had it, was locked away as Arkham’s sole remaining inmate. Or perhaps he had escaped. Nobody was really sure.”
This line clearly leaves some ambiguity for the character, as arguments could made for both sides of his fate. The Joker is infamous for being locked up and escaping, and he even does it in The Dark Knight. This, paired with the fact no one knows where he is, would suggest he really did escape. But on the flip-side, if the Joker were to escape, it would provide an unsatisfying ending for the character, as the Joker is nothing without Batman.
No matter his end, most fans will agree that his story is best left untouched. Health Ledger committed to the character so much that it wouldn’t feel right to carry on the story without him. And ambiguity can still provide a satisfying ending, as his true fate is still left unknown.
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