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The Main Reason to Love Arkham Knight

I want to talk about the major part of Arkham Knight that I loved, with full spoilers. I couldn’t do that in the review, so only read this piece once you’ve completed the game. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Spoilers from here

“Without it, you’re just a man.” So Scarecrow threatens Batman toward the end of Arkham Knight, when he forces Batman to unmask himself to show Batman’s other side: Bruce Wayne. For Scarecrow, what Batman most fears is being powerless to stop another crime that will create another Batman/Bruce Wayne; and that power is represented by the cowl (for me, the cowl doesn’t mask Bruce Wayne; it reveals Batman).

Batman Arkham Knight.jpg

Removing it means removing Batman’s ability to be strong, to be a symbol of hope in a hopeless world. And the entire game’s focus is on fear: Whether it’s Scarecrow who literally uses fear toxin to begin undoing the city; Batman motivated by fear of losing his kidnapped loves ones; or, literally, a mechanic called Fear Takedown. When you land in the streets, goons will collapse and cry out; they flee from your Batmobile. Fear hangs over the city - fear is what Scarecrow wants and believes he can control.

But even Scarecrow discovers: You can’t control fear. It seeps in, it clings to aspects of yourself you didn’t realise were vulnerable.

Why Batman

This is what Batman realises when he encounters the fear toxin - but the toxin mixed with being infected with Joker’s venom means he begins seeing his fear manifested with a personal Joker.

I loved that Mark Hamill mostly said he’s never playing the Joker again - and throughout the marketing, Warner Bros. never showed a next-gen Joker. And yet, when he appears, it’s perfect. This is perhaps the best performance Hamill has given as the Joker - and he’s allowed to be, due to being a figment of Batman’s imagination.

He’s Batman’s fear manifested. He can comment on what’s occurring, he can be a guiding mark for where to move in the game.

Joker is not the opposite of Batman

Lots of people try to see Joker as Batman’s opposite - but, for me, that’s Bruce Wayne. The Joker is more lover than polar opposite and in his constant belittlement, mockery, and keen insight (he is, after all, Batman’s own mind), the Arkham Knight Joker embodies everything that made the Joker fascinating: He’s terrifying, he’s powerful, he’s insightful and he has no fear. Or at least we think so.

The Joker Arkham Knight.jpg

Batman not only has to fight throughout the game to overcome his fear of “the Joker” taking over his body (that is, Batman giving in to his power to make the world his own, like a god); but he must also figure out what it is that makes the Joker powerful. For me, the Joker’s lack of fear, he’s willingness to move without thinking of the repercussions to his own life or others’ is what made him terrifying.

How do you stop someone who has no fear?

The story does wonders with this reveal, using The Joker as a narrative device and plot guider, and showing the gradual breakdown of Batman. The final sequence where you play as the Joker, with matching gun and Jokermobile, is beautifully done - twisting the player character into itself, to show Batman overcoming his fear.

I love this story. Though often the dialogue is bit on the nose - I am so evil, listen to how eeeeevil I am, the villains moan on monitors - I love what they did with overarching story. With Kevin Conroy older and more terrifying than ever, with Hamill as perfect as Joker as ever, this was a perfect send off for an incredible series.

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