There is a vast accumulation of comic books and story arcs out there that perfectly describe the struggles of Batman as a character and the inner demons he must face and endure every-time he dons the cape and cowl. Some of those demons belong to his past, but most torment his present, with his arch enemy and greatest adversary, The Joker, being the front of most of them. In them, none perhaps, is as effective and in simplistic terms, quite mind-blowing as Alan Moore’s one shot graphic novel ‘The Killing Joke’. In the minds of avid readers and religious followers, the said source material is immortal. Needless to say, it was only a matter of time before the DCAU adapted it into an animated feature.
What actually came as a surprise was that the makers were willing to go all out with due respect to the subject matter when they decided on the R Rating of the film, in an effort to preserve what true horrors the Joker unleashes on the Gordons and Batman. The result in the form of the 2016 animated movie we got was instead a mixed bag, with several shining moments that were mostly to the credit of the source material, while all the major criticism was directed towards deviations from the original. This article, however, is about that ambiguous ending that forced the audience to think what conspired as the Joker’s plan and that fateful night drew to a close. What was the killing joke, after all? We attempt to find answers to the same.
The story begins with Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) keeping guard over Gotham city, and later pursuing a bunch of robbers, the leader of which seems fixated upon Barbara, one that escalates to dangerous levels soon. Failing the pursuit, and later being tricked into a sick game by Paris Franz, the gang leader, wherein she is made to discover his uncle’s dead body, she is confronted by Batman who advises her that she stay off the case, concerned about her safety and warning her about the personal nature she imbues her crimefighting with, lest she mortally hurt one of the criminals upon losing control. The two break into an argument, and the tension is dissipated as both of them give in to mutual feelings towards each other and have sex, something that was widely criticised as a deviation from the comics and deemed an unnecessary angle to add to the relationship between Batman and Barbara.
Later, in an ambush for Batman, Barbara confronts Franz who riles her up and makes her lose control. Barbara beats him red and blue proving Batman right, and not much later has a moment of realisation as she decides to hang up her cape and move on to other things in life.
This is where the plot gets really dark and sinister as the Joker’s plan comes into play. Batman investigates a very ‘Joker’-esque crime scene with detective Harvey Bullock, and immediately requests to meet with Gordon at Arkham Asylum where the Joker is being held, suspecting him of being behind it. Upon reaching there, Batman realises that the Joker has escaped, leaving a decoy in his place. The escaped Joker plans to rain down hell upon the Gordon family, indirectly targeting Batman, and shoots Barbara in the stomach, fatally wounding her and paralysing her for life. He later attacks Gordon, kidnaps him and takes him to an abandoned amusement park, where he makes him go through a madhouse ride of sorts, stripping him naked and showing him pictures of Barbara, naked, tortured and in pain.