Warning: As you could probably imagine from this article’s title, we’re delving deep into spoiler territory for Rocksteady’s latest, Batman: Arkham Knight. If you don’t want the titular villain’s true identity revealed then please, avert your eyes!
With the final installment of their Batman trilogy, Rocksteady decided to feature their supposedly newly created character, the Arkham Knight, as the Caped Crusader’s last major opponent. As head of the immense militia present in Gotham, the Arkham Knight taunts Batman throughout the game with a passionate hatred and deep knowledge of Bruce’s techniques, leaving much of the story with an undercurrent of mystery on who this new antagonist could possibly be.
Rocksteady’s treatment of the Arkham Knight was disappointing and confusing
Throughout the events of the game, Batman continuously attempts to uncover the face behind the mask, both through getting Alfred to snoop through databases, or by desperately trying to physically pull it off the villain himself, and the want for an answer is palpable as the night lingers on. So when the Arkham Knight is finally revealed to be the former Robin, Jason Todd, there’s no doubt that many Batman fans, myself included, were very disappointed and honestly confused about Rocksteady’s treatment of the secret identity.
Arkham Knight is the loosest definition of a new character. Most fans of Batman are certainly aware of Jason Todd, his death and resurrection, and eventual return to be at arms against his former mentor as the Red Hood. Arkham Knight merely feels like a retelling of this classic Under the Hood tale, with a few twists to apparently throw off already acquainted fans. However from the moment Batman began to have hallucinations of Jason Todd’s death, my worry had already set in. I told myself that certainly it must be a red herring, it’s too simple and we’ve seen this story before. These hallucinations may have served to only worry fans of the mythology, and flat out give the identity of the Arkham Knight away to less familiar players, as these scenes are far too obvious and prominent to not have any real bearing on the current story.
So my question is why the secrecy and playing up of Arkham Knight’s identity? If it was just going to be another version of the Under the Hood story, why not just have it simply be Red Hood to begin with? Many fans adore the Under the Red Hood animated movie, couldn’t they have just adapted that film in a less misleading way? If they were going for something different, why not something a little less obvious, like a grown up Damion Wayne avenging his deceased mother. I don’t know, I’m not a game writer, but certainly if they were going for a mysterious angle, they could have at least been a bit more original and less obvious with the resolution. Overall the reveal just came as a very deflating “Oh, well obviously”, rather than the shock they apparently intended it to be.
Arkham Knight possesses masterful storytelling, and the Knight’s identity is no exception.
Corey van den Hoogenband
Batman: Arkham Knight is, above it’s other successes, a triumph in storytelling. And despite a less-than-truthful description of the game’s titular villain by the game’s creators during promotion, the revelation of Jason Todd being the Arkham Knight is no exception to that narrative triumph.
The game’s story is one that dives deep into the psyche of Batman and forces him to question his decision to allow the people he cares for most to get involved in his destructive, life-risking crusade. Throughout the course of the game the fates of those whose lives follow Bruce – Barbara Gordon, Robin, Nightwing and more, are put in serious jeopardy. It was only fitting then, that in a story thematically tied together by fear, failures, and family, that Bruce’s greatest regret should make an appearance: losing Todd, the second Robin, to The Joker.
About three quarters of the way through the game players witness a sequence of hallucinations in which Batman unwillingly bears witness to the brutal torture and apparent murder of Jason Todd. In a scene reminiscent of the Tim Drake Robin’s kidnapping and conversion to insanity from the excellent animated film, Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker (which in turn was surely inspired by the original Death in the Family comic scene), Todd breaks down physically and mentally after months of holding out hope for Batman to rescue him.
These Todd hallucinations weren’t provided only to give away the Arkham Knight’s identity to players prematurely. As they were mixed in which gameplay scenes of the Dark Knight uniting with his youngest partner, Tim Drake, they served the function of letting players empathize with Batman’s growing terror of letting his allies fall victim to his enemies.
Yes, Rocksteady led many to believe this would be a fundamentally new character. But if the Arkham Knight was that, a character we’ve never seen before, one has to ask how the reveal of this entirely unfamiliar character would carry any gravity. Despite its predictability, certainly the weight of Todd’s reveal was felt thanks to the game’s phenomenal script and voice acting talent (i.e. “Alfred…I found Jason.”). No, Rocksteady shouldn’t have been so cheeky with their insistence that they’d created an entirely new character – Dick Grayson is still Dick Grayson whether he’s Robin or Nightwing, for example – but having Todd’s scarred and withered face be the one behind the Knight’s high tech helmet was the best possible choice for the story they were trying to tell in Arkham Knight.
Besides, the game holds so many other fantastic plot points and riveting loose ends that by the time you learn of The Knight’s identity it’s only the third or fourth most important thing on the players’ agenda.
Bat fans, who are you siding with on this one? Let us know either in the comments or tweet at us @ButtonMasherTO