Joker is Bruce's Best Friend: The Dark Knight part 3 (3250 words)
13. Bruce wins. Harvey loses.
The mayor is shot at and Gordon is “killed.” For some reason the guy who is arrested isn’t the Joker but a man who suffers from schizophrenic paranoia, former patient of Arkham. He is wearing a badge on which is written “Officer Rachel Dawes.” (Joker has all his men replace the soldiers who are supposed to shoot the rifles).
We’re given a lot of elements to play with here. Harvey and Rachel’s honeymoon is over, he is starting to doubt her. When he proposed to her and she didn’t answer, he became convinced that there was another man => Schizophrenia, he suddenly sees her as two-faced, and she is. One Rachel loves him and the other is manipulating him and loves another man.
It is quite meaningful that once Harvey Dent decides to question a guy violently, he finds himself in front of a schizophrenic man. Harvey Dent who thought himself incorruptible, all-white, all-pure, cannot look at the complexity of the world and remains stuck in front of people’s moral duality. He thinks he can force people to “act good” and thus is condemned to come across people who “act bad” but cannot make the difference because there’s no “good side” or “bad side” to be found in humans.
After the evening at Bruce's, things have taken a different path for all these characters. Rachel is now the announced next victim and she runs to hide at Bruce’s. Maybe he managed to make his argument be heard with the fall from the building. Harvey also understands this, he knows that he is losing Rachel now that he has more or less been discredited.
Again, how convenient is all that ? The Joker is killing people and the consequence for Bruce is… : The woman he wants and who was with another man comes back to him. Hiding at his place is like acknowledging that he was right about keeping the Batman’s identity secret, otherwise she would trust her public superhero (Harvey) to protect her. Bruce finally won.
Reminder---Bruce is terrified of losing Rachel and well… she’s dating another guy. He knows that his only chance to get her back is either to clean Gotham or to reveal the Batman’s identity. The first plan fails because another guy reaps all the merits… and it is quite logical when you think about it as Batman essentially operates “in the dark.” Bruce is the opposite of his father, he is the guy who does things that make a difference but is never there to be thanked, necessarily there will be a guy to steal the show. (Gordon: “I didn’t thank you” Bruce: “You’ll never have to” at the end of Begins, two sentences that are echoed and altered at the end of The Dark Knight)---
The first plan failed and as a consequence the alternative becomes more and more unavoidable. Bruce certainly wishes he could live without Rachel’s love, but he can’t, and because of that and of her relationship with Harvey, an ultimatum sets itself on in Bruce’s subconscious and also in the real world through the pressure that Joker puts on Batman.
Alone with Rachel in his penthouse Bruce has never been closer to getting her back. Harvey has lost the battle now that the woman has somewhat understood the relevance of keeping things secret… and it is quite creepy as her life was threatened by the Joker. So, it’s a bit as if Bruce told her “you should wear a bullet proof jacket” and she answered “no” and he had her shot in the chest to prove her wrong. But well, let’s say he is right anyway because she could get killed if people knew she’s The Batman’s girl… aaah, and I get it, it has to do with Bruce’s mother. He can’t be the benefactor who puts his wife in danger. Can’t he speak !?!
In Bruce’s penthouse things are… (sigh) complicated because… again… Bruce and Rachel do not understand each other. Bruce plays with words and Rachel… well Rachel raises a good point. And… and… god I’m so tired of their tragic lack of any luck whatsoever.
At this point, I believe Rachel is actually sold on Bruce. She is ready to be his girlfriend and let him remain the Batman in secret. The problem is that Harvey calls and tells her that Batman is going to turn himself in.
Of course he’s going to turn himself in, he’s got his girlfriend back and a psycho-killer is miraculously killing people in order to force him to reveal his identity. Bruce is in heaven. Plus, people somewhat hate him a little bit because he has taken too much time, so it’s not very likely that he’s going to be compared to his father. Yeah ! Everything is awesome !
14. No Luck, suddenly people realise that Batman was useful.
The problem is that several people are aware of the fact that he has no real reason to give-up. First, Harvey can’t accept the Joker’s victory because the madman destroyed his career and made Rachel go back to her despicable best friend. Watching the Batman fall would be the last straw. (And also, Batman represents his last shot at not losing face… mouah ah aha aha ha ah ah).
Then, there’s also Alfred who lectures Bruce “Endure Master Wayne. Take it. They’ll hate you for it. But that’s the point of Batman. He can be the outcast, he can make the choice that no one else can make.” I always took Alfred as an uninteresting positive character but looking closer at Begins and the Dark Knight made me realise that he is seriously flawed : he is a BUTLER. Did you see the Remains of the Day ? Alfred’s life is self-sacrifice and devotion pushed to the limits. It is only natural that he would admire a no-life like Batman.
Rachel brings up the fact that turning himself in won’t keep the Joker from killing people, and also that Bruce will be arrested and they won’t be able to be together. Because she wasn’t aware of the fact that Bruce has wanted to stop for ages, she interprets his present behaviour as abandoning, as giving up, as a sign of weakness. That’s why she tells him “Don’t make me your one chance of a normal life.” If he turns himself in, he doesn’t love her, he was simply defeated and is now looking for some consolation prize. She doesn’t understand that Bruce is simply jumping on the first occasion he has ever had of bringing everything to an end.
Also, what would have happened if he had turned himself in ? The Joker cannot kill Batman and Bruce is (metaphorically) behind all of Joker’s killings. As the Joker was killing people in order to bring Rachel and Bruce together, the killings would have stopped… Or better and terribly believable: The Joker would have kidnapped Bruce Wayne who would have magically found a way to escape him. The Joker dies/vanishes/goes to Arkham and Bruce is thanked, pardoned and released and lives happily ever after with Rachel. Joker never reappears as Bruce has become a well-balanced individual. THE END. Sadly, Harvey Dent declares publicly that he is the Batman. He has nothing to lose anymore and putting his life on the line is the last thing he can do to get Rachel’s love and his popularity/pride back.
Also, he has believed in the Batman from the start. When he declares “I am the Batman,” he does so only after having tried to make people support the vigilante in his silence. He is ready to accept his failure as a DA (being powerless in front of the Joker) if the people of Gotham accept to trust Batman.
Again, Bruce finds himself in an impossible situation. Here, Harvey represents all the people who believe in Batman, all the people who are ready to take a bullet for him/accept that the Joker might make more victims. If Bruce abandons Harvey to his fate, he also spits on everything he has accomplished with Batman and he loses Rachel because Rachel was proud of his being a fighter of crime (she was only jealous of his activities on another level). And of course, she would never forgive him if he let Harvey get killed by the Joker.
15. Harvey Too knows how to manipulate.
And thus fucking again, Bruce has to forget about his personal life, his deeper desires, his need for love and of a life he would live for himself, he has to consider the greater good otherwise Rachel is gone. And hum… really… I wish I understood her character better because she really is a fucking idiot here. I will have to look into this because she is just strange.I mean, she hates Bruce for not acting like a hero, but she loves Harvey who explicitly points at the fact that he is not leaving anything to chance.
He gives her his double headed coin while entering the police van => either the Joker comes for him and he dies a hero (or miraculously survives) and Rachel loves him forever, or Batman comes and save him and they catch the Joker and… he is a hero and Rachel loves him forever. He is still doing everything for the façade and well… he’s winning… for the façade, for Rachel.
She tries to convince him not to do it while he is walking to the police van and believes he is being a hero for not listening to her, contrary to Bruce whom she now considers a coward… when he fucking is the Batman ! He he, the double standard could drive a man crazy… and it does.
Harvey kisses her before entering the van and let’s take a look at his exchange with the press after the hellish fight with the Joker:
1: Mr. Dent! How does it feel to be the biggest hero in Gotham ? (= Batman sucks for not turning himself in !)
Dent: No, I’m no hero. Gotham’s finest, they’re the heroes. (= I’m better than Batman)
1: But you and your office have been working with Batman all along. (= You’re full of shit).
Dent: No, but I trusted him to do the right thing. (No, I took a huge risk, I’m a hero, but him ? He only did the least he could do).
2: Which was ? (Come on asshole ! Give the credit where it's due !)
Dent: Saving my ass. […] Thank you detective, I’ve got a date with a pretty upset girlfriend.
So, everybody’s a hero in the story but Batman who saved the day and intervened AGAINST HIS WILL. Batman is only doing the right thing. All the others are heroes because they also have a personal life but Batman, it’s his job. Fuck him.
Before entering the car, Dent reminds everybody of his girlfriend. Everything was for Rachel, whereas Bruce saved him for the people, just like when he lectured him when he was torturing the schizophrenic man. Bruce is aware of the importance of symbols.
16. Unexpected development: Gordon’s come back.
The thing is… things don’t go the way Bruce and Joker planned. The idea was to have the Joker eventually reveal who Batman was, to have Batman lose (or win actually) the fight and become the hero with a face. Unfortunately, at the precise moment when Joker is going to remove the mask, Gordon pops out of nowhere and puts a gun on his head.
Again, you can notice here how everything in this movie is strongly metaphorical (and a bit problematically) as there were two of Joker’s henchmen around one second before, one of them even gets electrified when he tries to remove Batman’s mask, and they’ve suddenly vanished when Gordon steps in. If you stop Joker, you stop his guys because they’re just an extension of him. And also, why do Gordon have to appear like that ? Because Bruce thought he was dead. That’s how they capture the Joker, by hiding an element from Bruce Wayne.Think about it, how is the faked death of Gordon logical? The excuse is that he didn’t want to have his family put at risk. Ok, fine, so the Joker would have chosen another next victim, that’s really brave of you Gordon. Plus, he is the unofficial link to Batman, wouldn’t it be a bit counterproductive to have him disappear ? On the night of his death, the cops and Harvey turn the spotlight on, nobody comes. I mean, Gordon is the incarnation of the dedicated cop (who cares more about his job than his family) if he does something as radical as pretending to be dead, it certainly isn’t going to be in order to protect his family but because there is something productive in it on a fighting-crime level.
"Yeah, I know, you've just been through the worst hours of your life dealing with the loss of your beloved husband and the grief of two young children... but you know, I couldn't risk your safety and that kind fo things. And by the way, I'm just passing by to see my son and I'll have to go back at the police station, if you need to make relief love just call your usual guy, I don't mind. Is there coffee ?"
If truly his family was in danger and more important than hi job, he would have resigned. By doing this, he only confirms that his job/career is more important than his family. And he becomes commissioner… and comes back home to see his little boy, only to go back to work because Harvey’s been kidnapped. They’ve thought he was dead for several days and when he comes back it’s for five minutes. No wonder his wife will die (she knows she is unimportant) and his daughter will become Batgirl (Wants some recognition from daddy).
Gordon can only have faked his death because it looked like something that would make the capture of the Joker possible. How ? By allowing him to jump in with a shotgun “hello I’m here” style ? Anybody could have performed the arrest that we witness. Any random cop could have stepped in and stopped the Joker the way Gordon does.
I’m not going to dwell into this but I’ve got the feeling that Gordon knows that the Joker is Batman. And I know, it doesn’t fucking work literally but I think it is a flaw of Nolan’s writing to sometimes clumsily mix literal and metaphorical things. There should have been a strong literal element to explain how the fact that the Joker thinks he is dead makes Gordon’s intervention more efficient. Just like there should have been a stronger literal element to explain Gambol’s death.
I think that Gordon is the character who “does with what he has” (as he tells Harvey Dent). He knows his officers are not perfect and incorruptible and he is thus the one who can understand that Batman can be evil and can be the bad guy he needs to stop… which is why he is the one who can arrest the Joker => because he is the only one to understand his existence. Mmm… but in the end, it actually has to do with his family. The whole story of the Dark Knight is about being scared of losing a loved one. Harvey, Bruce, Gordon, the people who have someone in a hospital… And so, maybe, Gordon becomes invisible to the Joker because he is capable of hurting his family.
And by the way, Batman obviously fails to hit the Joker with his bike because he cannot do anything to him. Again, Batman cannot kill the Joker because he’s Bruce Wayne’s best friend. He can make a truck flips but he cannot stand up in front of the Joker to stop him after a little bicycle tumbling.
"ouaaaaah ! I fell off my bike ! I scratched my knee, I'm going to lay down a minute, it's not as if I was 10 meters from the most dangerous man Gotham's ever met"
17. Second unexpected development: Gordon is useless.
Now, there is yet another unexpected development of the plot: the Joker had foreseen that he wouldn’t reach Harvey Dent. His attack was only a diversion that worked perfectly. This, I don’t understand. It is not logical that the Joker should predict that he is going to be captured if Bruce (unconsciously) wants him to win, he can only predict the issue of his fights with Batman. Plus, his motivations have to be exclusively related to Bruce’s desires. Gordon was unpredictable and therefore, I don’t understand. I’m ok with the kidnapping of both Harvey and Rachel, it is logical but I don’t understand the remark of Gordon about Joker wanting to be locked in the MCU with Lau.
Or… as Lau is there thanks to Batman, it is one final… yeah ok, maybe. It goes with what I was about to develop now.
Once everything is lost with Rachel, Bruce moves on to a deeper state of despair. If I can imagine that the Joker only does what Bruce wants to see happen, it means that I consider Bruce as a seriously deranged individual and as I said already, he suffers from an existential need for love. A bit naively, I’ve written somewhere that he would certainly commit suicide if he hadn’t Rachel, Alfred and the love of the people who admire Batman. But here, what we have is the loss of all hope that anything good can be accomplished. He acquires the point of view that the Joker develops while in custody.
Joker: No. No you… complete me. (Could it be said more clearly ?)
Batman: You’re a garbage who kills for money.
Joker: Don’t talk like one of them. You’re not. Even if you’d like to be. To them, you’re just a freak… like me. They need you right now but when they don’t, they’ll cast you out like a leper. You see, their morals, their code… it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you. When the chips are down these… these civilized people, they’ll eat each other.
I always thought this conversation was quite forced; the manner with which the Joker tries to make Batman come on his side or at least identify with him, I just couldn’t see why Bruce Wayne would, for even one second, fall for that argument and Batman’s silence seemed ridiculous to me.
But what the Joker is here telling works perfectly with what I’ve developed until now. People take the Batman for granted. Harvey is their hero and the Batman became an asshole in a few days for not turning himself in. And then, we love Batman again when he saves Harvey and nobody cares about the fact that it was the last thing he wanted to do… saving the arrogant arriviste who stole Rachel from him. The word “freak” refers to the fact that people think Batman isn’t made of the same flesh as them. That’s what creates the constant double standard. People, cops can be heroes, Batman can only be Batman, and nobody suspects that behind the mask, there’s a guy who struggles hard.
Actually, Batman is very comparable to Superman here. Bruce has just become exactly like Superman if he didn’t have Lois Lane. “Why should I be good to them ? Nobody loves me, they just need me ! The symbol I represent.”
Bruce is cornered, the only thing that still prevents him from being engulfed completely by nihilism is the idea that the morals he’s defended for so long have a meaning beyond people’s direct interests.
So, the Joker predicting that he is going to be captured is to be linked to this shift in the plot. Bruce feels that he is going to lose Rachel for good and so it isn’t question of getting rid of criminality or revealing the Batman’s identity, now it is question of destroying everything and everybody until someone proves him that there is something worth being defended in this world.
And now that I think, the Joker starts the new orientation of Bruce’s mind with the perfect idea: making him break his one rule.