Gotham Knight‘s debut trailer begins with a stunning sequence in which Bruce Wayne informs his closest allies that he is dead and that it’s now up to them to protect Gotham City. This sequence is actually an extension of the end of Batman: Arkham Knight, which saw Bruce Wayne initiate the Knightfall Protocol, ending his own life.
While Batman’s death at the end of the game seems like an open and shut case, not everyone is convinced the Dark Knight is really gone. And while WB Games has certainly made it look like the Caped Crusader is really gone in Gotham Knights, when you start to look at the evidence, you’ll find that Batman’s death is, at best, debatable.
That being the case, we’re going to look at both sides of this debate in order to help determine whether or not the Dark Knight is actually dead in Gotham Knights:
Batman’s Dead in Gotham Knights
At the end of Arkham Knight, we see Bruce Wayne enter Wayne Manor right before it explodes. As Bruce has no superpowers, it’s highly unlikely he was able to walk away from such a substantial blast unscathed. The Gotham Knights trailer even includes a voiceover that explains that the police found a body in the ruins of the mansion and that it’s confirmed to be Bruce Wayne.
There’s also the matter of Gotham Knights‘ core premise. In the first Gotham Knights trailer, we watch a pre-recorded video message from Bruce in which he explicitly states that, if his allies are watching this, it means he’s dead. Warner Bros’ description of the game even says that “a new guard of trained DC Super Heroes must rise up as the protectors of Gotham City in the wake of Batman’s death.”
In a follow-up interview at DC FanDome, Gotham Knights creative director Patrick Redding had this to say regarding the motivation behind Batman’s death: “We wanted to take away any certainty, any feeling of safety. So we could take a Gotham City where Bruce Wayne has been operating as Batman for, like, 15 years – with all that history, his whole network of allies – and then take him out of the picture. It really demands players tp figure out, ‘How would I step up, and how would I protect Gotham City?'”
That’s the other key point to consider. The very concept of Gotham Knights only works if Batman is dead. If Batman is still alive, then it kind of hurts the idea of you and your friends wandering around Gotham City as the series’ other heroes. The presence of Batman wouldn’t just loom large over the gameplay (we can already hear everyone asking why they can’t play as Batman), but Batman’s presence would surely overshadow Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl, and Red Hood.
Developer Warner Bros. Games Montréal seems genuinely interested in looking beyond Batman and explore these other untapped characters (at least in video games). After all, if WB Montreal had wanted to make a Batman game, the studio would have made a game with Batman in it, right?
Batman’s Not Dead in Gotham Knights
While there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Batman is indeed dead, there’s a surprising amount of evidence that indicates that he is actually still alive.
Exhibit A involves the alternate ending of Arkham Knight. Those who completed all the Most Wanted missions in Arkham Knight were treated to an extended ending in which we saw Jim Gordon wonder who (if anyone) would help protect Gotham now that Batman is dead. From there, we transition into an alleyway where we see some thugs harras a family. One of them notices a shadowy figure on a nearby rooftop who appears to be Batman and informs the figure that he cannot be Batman on account of Batman’s aforementioned death.
Entirely unmoved by the thug’s lack of faith in the impossible, the Bat-like figure transforms into a fiery bat monster who projects a small army of bats towards the thugs before advancing on them. In a Reddit AMA, Rocksteady Studios creative director Sefton Hill addressed that ending, saying that “I liked the very end! When Batman is left with no other option, he still manages to find a way out. To become an even more badass version of Batman. How cool is that?” That certainly makes it sound like the creature we see during that ending is, in fact, Batman.
Check out a clip of this ending for yourself:
Story aside, the biggest evidence to support the Batman is alive theory may be the entire history of comic books and comic book characters. How often do you hear about a major superhero dying only to discover that they are, in fact, not really dead? Dead superheroes generate some initial interest, but superheroes are at their most valuable while they’re alive.
If that’s a little bit too cynical for you, then consider the Bat lore. Batman doesn’t kill people, so why would he kill himself? Why would a man who doesn’t kill his enemies (despite some of them arguably being deserving of that fate) suddenly decide that his own death is the solution to his problems? Put it all together, and you can certainly see why fans are skeptical.
Besides, the Dark Knight has “died” plenty of times before in the comics. In fact, he’s met his fate at least twice in the last decade and change. He was first “killed” by Darkseid in Grant Morrison’s 2008 DC event Final Crisis, only to reemerge a few months later. Then Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo killed Bruce off again during their Batman run, but that death lasted even less time. The point is, Batman never stays dead for very long.
So, Is Batman Really Dead in Gotham Knights?
The fact is that we won’t really know what happened to Batman until we play Gotham Knights (if that game even offers definitive answers). If pressed to guess, though, we’d say there’s a pretty good chance Bruce is not dead and is instead simply in hiding. After all, it’s a trick we’ve seen him pull before in The Dark Knight Rises.
That being said, it’s important to keep a couple of things in mind:
The first is that Rocksteady Studios isn’t developing Gotham Knights. The Batman: Arkham developers have their own thing going on. As such, whatever they may have wished to imply with the extended ending of Arkham Knight may or may not be relevant to this sequel. That cute teaser at the end of Arkham Knight may forever remain a cute teaser.
The second, and perhaps most important, point to consider is that Batman’s death may be less important at the moment than the idea that he is dead. Gotham Knights promises to showcase a version of Gotham City presided over by a new group of heroes and (until we hear otherwise) that is likely what the game will at least initially offer when it launches in 2021.