The Arkham Family In The Batman, Explained

"The Batman" is a film that feels both fresh and familiar. We're introduced to characters and places we know well and asked to reconsider them in different contexts. Case in point: for the first time in a live-action Batman film, we learn more about the Arkhams. Even those only casually familiar with all-things-Batman will no doubt know the name Arkham — Arkham Asylum is the place where most of Batman's deranged villains get locked up, and there's an entire series of Batman video games with "Arkham" in the title. 

But up until now, Arkham has mostly been a name. "The Batman" changes that. 

Warning: spoilers follow for "The Batman."

The Arkham Family

In the Batman comics, the Arkham family has deep roots in Gotham. In fact, the family helped found the village that eventually became Gotham City. However, like most residents of Gotham, the Arkhams were plagued by tragedy. Amity Arkham, sister of Gotham-founder Ezekiel Arkham, was burned at the stake for witchcraft in the 17th century. Since then, Amity's ghost has possessed her descendants throughout the ages, forcing them to become arsonists in the process. And look, we've all been there, right? Who among us hasn't been possessed by one of our dead relatives and then gone out to burn some s*** down?

In the 1800s, Amadeus Arkham founded Arkham Asylum, a hospital known for its castle-like atmosphere, utterly deranged patients, and great games room (I bet they have Boggle!). While Arkham remains a mainstay in Batman lore, you have to admit the hospital doesn't seem to have the best record when it comes to rehabilitation. I mean, heck, "Batman: The Animated Series" had the Joker locked up in Arkham multiple times, and he always busted out to make all of Gotham's fish have big grins or some such nonsense. Then, in "Batman Begins," Arkham doctor Jonathan Crane (Mr. Pretty Eyes himself, Cillian Murphy), was revealed to be a criminal known as the Scarecrow, using Arkham patients to poison Gotham's water supply. All I'm saying is that Arkham Asylum might want to re-evaluate its hiring process. Or perhaps just shut down forever. 

Arkham in The Batman

While Arkham Asylum has popped up in Bat-movies before, the Arkham family has remained in the shadows. But "The Batman" changes that. In Matt Reeves' film, Bruce Wayne's mother Martha (why did you say that name?!?) is actually an Arkham. Before she became Martha Wayne she was Martha Arkham, and "The Batman" presents both the Waynes and the Arkhams as Gotham royalty. They're not just families, they're a dynasty, the Gotham equivalent of the Kennedys or the Roosevelts. With that in mind, it kind of makes sense that children from these obscenely wealthy Gotham families would meet and eventually get hitched. 

Traditionally Martha Wayne in the comics is not descended from the Arkhams. Instead, her maiden name is usually presented as Martha Kane (yes, that's right, her name changed from Martha Kane to Martha Wayne, because sometimes writers are lazy). However, there is some precedent for the Martha Arkham concept. The graphic novel "Batman: Earth One," which gives readers a new, altered retelling of Batman's familiar origins, reveals that Martha is a member of the Arkham family. Indeed, Matt Reeves seems to have borrowed more than a few things from "Earth One," a comic which involves Thomas Wayne running for mayor (something that's mentioned in "The Batman") and features Alfred as a former soldier who now walks with a cane (two details also in Reeves' film).

We're not given much more info about the Arkhams in "The Batman," but I love the way the film plants the seed of the family's old school history within the city, and I love how it leaves plenty of room for more exploration in future films and TV shows. Using the comics, Reeves and company have built a rich, sprawling world for their Caped Crusader to play in.