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Why The Riddler's Final Act Has The Batman Fans So Divided

Contains spoilers for "The Batman."

From the very opening scene of "The Batman," new villain the Riddler (Paul Dano) enacts a murderous and effective campaign of terror to expose the corruption at the heart of Gotham City. The frightening puzzle-wielder first targets city officials while leaving a series of riddles chock-full of clues for Batman (Robert Pattinson) to uncover the conspiracy that has radicalized Riddler and which has turned Gotham rotten. In fact, he later tells an appalled Batman that he was inspired by the Caped Crusader's own use of pressure and violence in crafting his plans to permanently change the city and its infrastructure.

The Riddler is eventually captured, but Batman is too late to work out the final part of his plan. After the Riddler's car bombs destroy the breakwaters of Gotham, flooding the downtown area, his followers intend to kill mayor-elect Bella Reàl (Jayme Lawson) and shoot into the crowd of people taking refuge in the stadium. Batman and Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz) are forced to fight the Riddler's devotees and save the city residents. Fans praised how the early stages of the Riddler's master plan felt but were very split over his scheme in the last act. Here's why.

For some Redditors, Riddler's last actions felt inconsistent

In a discussion of "The Batman" in the r/movies subreddit, some superhero fans were frustrated by how nonsensical the Riddler's endgame is compared to what u/PencilMan called "[his] (brilliant) plan to publicly embarrass, expose, and assassinate the city's leadership" earlier in the movie. The Riddler did tell his devotees that he wanted real change enacted in Gotham. But creating a major disaster via bombing Gotham's sea walls, and then using that flood to kill mayor-elect Bella Reàl (and, in doing so, random citizens) is not on par with the string of killings Riddler masterminded earlier in the movie, including the late Mayor Mitchell's murder and several other city officials.

Redditor u/PencilMan also noticed that the mayhem didn't even make sense. They wrote, "The plan was to get everyone in the stadium and have like 10 guys in masks snipe everyone? Why not just blow up the building?" The scheme seems like it'd be too easy for someone like Batman to foil compared to the destructive power of a bomb or another device. It's understandable, then, that fans like u/Eraserhead310 took issue with the former serial killer "[taking] a sharp turn to full-on supervillian [sic] since up until that point he was only killing extremely corrupt people, which arguably isn't that bad" compared to average civilians.

The film never mentions the sea wall before the end of the movie

Part of the issue is that, unlike "Batman Begins," which involves the villain tampering with Gotham's water supply in the final act, the destruction of Gotham's sea wall as the big act in the final stage of Riddler's master plan isn't foreshadowed or telegraphed to the audience at all. Reddit user u/TwoHeadedPanthr noticed how "at no point in the movie are we ever told about a sea wall keeping Gotham dry. Suddenly ... [The Riddler is] blowing up dikes to drown the city and wash everything away." The plot device definitely feels like it comes out of nowhere after no mention of it as part of the city's structures that must be preserved, nor any hint from Riddler that he was considering putting a large portion of Gotham's population (read: everyday citizens) in peril.

The flooding also doesn't feel consistent with the tone of the dark, stripped-down film. Compared to the detective story at the heart of "The Batman," the last 30 minutes are more of the climax to what feels like a standard, action-packed superhero blockbuster. U/t3rv33r wrote that, overall, "the final act was needlessly dramatic compared to the rest of the movie that felt pretty grounded until that point." 

The last act admittedly makes Batman into a better hero

However, other Redditors pointed out that the final scenes help complete Batman's arc, as seen over the course of the Matt Reeves film, in regards to him becoming a more compassionate, empathetic person. Throughout "The Batman," the titular hero often comes off more like a movie monster than a superhero. Batman is obsessed with the "Gotham Project," and as Bella Reàl observes, isn't doing much to help the population when he's Bruce Wayne. Moreover, when he is sporting the cape and cowl, he takes a very hard black-and-white view of anyone he's interacting with rather than allow for any possible nuance to color his understanding of others or their motivations.

But, when Batman saves the innocent folks trapped in the flooded downtown arena, this leads Mayor Reál and the helpless citizens to trust him enough to lead them out of the flood. He also recognizes that the Riddler shooters are traumatized, angry people, much like himself. Redditor u/domxwicked commented that "seeing Batman evolve as a hero through those scenes [was] crucial". 

Additionally, Bruce empathizes with the people he rescues as well as the shooters, who "taught him he needs to change to help Gotham too," according to u/BoggsWH. In the end, both the Bruce Wayne side and the Batman side of the character decide he can't only personify "vengeance" but should also be an inspiration to the residents of Gotham who just survived a terrifying event. Arguably, "The Batman" could have had a different climax, but it might not have delivered the same emotional payoff.