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The Dark Knight Fan Theory That Might Change How You View The Ferry Scene

2008's "The Dark Knight" remains one of the most acclaimed "Batman" films, both among audiences (it sits at a 9.0 on IMDb) and critics (it's certified fresh at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes). It won a posthumous Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Heath Ledger's work as the Joker (via IMDb) and one for Best Achievement in Sound Editing. With 159 honors under its belt, "The Dark Knight" proved to be a success on the awards circuit as well.

One of the film's most famous scenes involves a social experiment constructed by The Joker involving two different heavily populated ferries filled with people trying to leave Gotham in the wake of a wave of terrorism sparked by the villainous clown. One boat is a ferry filled with ordinary people. The other is a prison ship filled with convicts. Each ship has a bomb strapped to it connected to a timer and a detonator. The Joker informs each group that he will detonate both ships unless someone chooses to press the detonator and blow up the other boat. The day is saved when an inmate (Tom "Tiny" Lister) grabs the detonator from the hands of his warden and tosses it overboard, encouraging the ferry passengers to do the same.

Fans were impressed by the moral and social implications of the Joker's ultimatum, and have taken to reexamining The Joker's motives through further rewatches of the scene. One "Dark Knight" devotee posting to the "Fan Theories" subreddit thinks they've figured out the true nature of The Joker's dastardly plan — and it will definitely change how you view the ferry experiment the next time you rewatch "The Dark Knight."

Did the Joker give the ship's crew their own detonator?

On Reddit, u/animewhitewolf notes The Joker's love of "messing" with others — a character trait that defines the clown across many different iterations of his existence. With that in mind, they said, "I don't think that he gave the [ferries] a detonator to the other ship. I think he actually gave them the detonator to their own ship." u/animewhitewolf then pointed out that should either of the boats follow through with the detonation, "the other ship would have been blamed for it."  They note that the plan would be "sadistically perfect" for a criminal mind like the Joker, who would get everything he might ever want out of such a plan. "[Y]ou get the challenge to societies morales [sic], you punish the selfish individuals who value their lives above others, and you create a distrust of people who did nothing wrong."

It's definitely the sort of diabolical thing that The Joker would do — something he might even consider funny, the ultimate prank. Members of the Fan Theories subreddit agree. "I always liked how the inmates never questioned the civilians' right to live," noted u/No-Welcome-3707. They pointed out that the only thing that stopped the civilians from "detonating theirs" was the intervention of a police officer. 

Other fans disagreed with the theory. "Joker is a 'man of his word.' I think if someone pushed a button the result would have been exactly what he said it'd be," said u/NotTheGreatPumpkin. Other fans suggested that it might be possible that there were no detonators, or that both switches were set to blow up the prison ship. In any event, it's quite an interesting theory, and a very plausible one.