Is The Batman Trailer Setting Up the Riddler as a Serial Killer?

The Batman trailer reveals a new take on the Riddler that's new to the movies but that we've seen before in the world of video games.

The Batman Riddler
Photo: Warner Bros.

Wow, it’s 2020 and Matt Reeves just revealed a Batman trailer soundtracked by Nirvana — sorry, Kurt — and that looks like it was just as influenced by The Crow as The Dark Knight. I mean that in a good way of course.

But aside from the reveal of the horror-tinged tone, there were a few juicy moments to break down, like who was that masked figure wrapping up a dead person’s face with duct tape? And who was sending Batman those curious notes? As we saw in the trailer, which leaned heavily into the Dark part of the Dark Knight, there is someone killing people in Gotham in gruesome and terrible ways and it seems like they’re doing it to get Bruce’s attention.It’s also clear the murders will be at the heart of the film.

If you didn’t let the strange mask distract you, then you likely realized that the Riddler (Paul Dano) probably has something to do with the murder case Robert Pattinson’s Batman and Jeffrey Wright’s Jim Gordon are trying to solve. Of course, the fact that this version of the Riddler seems to be a serial killer hell-bent on murdering people to get Batman’s attention might have thrown you off the scent.

If you’re wondering just where this delightfully dark version of the villain comes from, then you need to look no further than an entry into the popular Batman Telltale adventure game series that spawned a seriously twisted vision for the puzzle-loving rogue. 

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Batman: The Enemy Within pits Bruce Wayne against a brutal version of the Riddler who kidnaps his victims and places them in his nefarious and deadly “Death Traps.” Imagine a Saw-style contraption but your fate is reliant on how good you are at decoding rhyming clues. The game more than sets a precedent for a grimmer and more murderous version of the villain than we’re used to.

It’s clear that The Batman is going to go a different route from what we’ve seen before and pitting a young Bruce Wayne against a burgeoning serial killer seems like a very new take. And it also fits with the more emotionally driven and tonally bleak story that Reeves explained was motivated by the murders that we saw in the trailer. It was really interesting to hear Reeves talking about how the killings are linked to a deeper corruption that runs through Gotham and its own history.

Maybe this version of The Riddler knows something deeper about the Waynes and their role in building the crime-ridden city that Batman so deeply wants to protect. If Bruce finds out that his parents weren’t the heroes he thought they were, this would undoubtedly change how he sees his role as Gotham’s protector. Whatever happens, it’s clear that the Riddler has arrived to break the Bat. With Penguin, Catwoman, Carmine Falcone, and a gang of face-patined goons also working to make Gotham a living hell, it looks like Batman is in for a hell of a fight.

And while we might not see the Riddler building intricate murder machines in The Batman, he definitely seems like he’s on some very gnarly and deadly business that will drive a stake into the heart of the Dark Knight and what he believes. Now whether or not you think I’m right, or you think that mask means we might be seeing the arrival of Hush or even the Court of Owls, is up to you! 

The Batman hits theaters on Oct. 1, 2021.