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Why Deathstroke Was Both Batman's Friend And Enemy In Zack Snyder's Justice League

This article includes spoilers for Zack Snyder's Justice League.

The Joker might be one of DC's most famous villains, but Deathstroke is arguably its most layered. The man is an immortal gun for hire, but he lives by a code and has children who have found themselves on both sides of the law. While Deathstroke primarily antagonizes the Teen Titans, he has gone toe-to-toe with many of DC's adult heroes, especially Batman.

Not so recently, Deathstroke has developed a fixation with Batman. While the villain has appeared in other pieces of DC Media, such as Arrow, he was a major player in Beware the Batman and the latter two entries in the Batman: Arkham game franchise. Deathstroke also appeared in the closing minutes of Justice League. Predictably, the Snyder Cut expands on this appearance.

While Deathstroke receives more screen time in the Snyder Cut, he also swaps allegiances mid-movie. In one scene, he wants to kill Batman, but in another, the two are best buddies. Why the sudden heel turn? The answer isn't improper characterization.

It's difficult to kill people when a hero like Batman stops you

Since Deathstroke is a mercenary, he relies on warlords, arms dealers, and other rich villains to make a living, mostly carrying out assassination contracts. Deathstroke might live by a code that prevents him from taking the wrong contracts, but when that code gets in the way of a big fat payout, he's willing to make a deal with the devil, especially if it makes future hits easier — and Batman-free.

Before the events of Zack Snyder's Justice League, Deathstroke chopped his way to the top of Batman's nemesis list. When you're on Batman's radar, he hounds you relentlessly. So to live a life of wanton assassination without Batman dropping in uninvited, Deathstroke needs to take him out of the picture, which is easier said than done because Batman is, well, Batman. Deathstroke needs an ace in the hole, and Lex Luthor wants to sell him one.

While Lex Luthor initially gets on Deathstroke's nerves (not a difficult task, mind you), he offers Deathstroke the kind of knowledge few characters in the DC Universe have and even fewer would turn down: Batman's civilian identity, Bruce Wayne. With this nugget of info, Deathstroke could potentially kill Batman/Bruce Wayne while he's unaware and then return to a career of contractual murder. But as the Snyder Cut reveals, that isn't in the cards.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend: The Knightmare in Zack Snyder's Justice League

Deathstroke is many things, but he isn't stupid. He is first and foremost a survivor. Thanks to razor-sharp instincts honed from a lifetime of military service and mercenary work, Deathstroke can almost instantly assess an opponent and determine how to best kill them. But, this tantamount superpower also lets Deathstroke know when he's in over his head and that his best chance of survival is allying with the only heroes he has never been able to kill.

One of the most notable additions in Zack Snyder's Justice League expands on Batman's post-apocalyptic dreams from the theatrical release. This addition, known as the "Knightmare," portrays an Earth ravaged by the unlikely alliance of Darkseid and Superman, and the only source of rebellion is the Insurgency, whose members include Batman, Cyborg, the Flash, and Deathstroke. In this potential dark future, Deathstroke has decided that defending humans from an army of invading aliens is far more important than a paycheck, which is why he teams up with Batman. This isn't inference, mind you: Deathstroke's actor Joe Manganiello confirmed this character motivation on his Instagram page.

Also, let's be real for a moment: the Joker is part of the Insurgency. When the world's deadliest and most insane psychopath teams up with heroes for humanity's greater good, you'd have to be a different kind of insane to not ally with them.