Let's Talk About The Batman And The Riddler's Big Scene

"The Batman" has arrived. A movie that has been in the works for years, it's one of the few superhero movies of the modern era centered on a marquee character that had a great deal of trouble making its way to the silver screen. But at long last, director Matt Reeves has introduced us to a brand new vision for not only the central character, but the seedy, rain-soaked Gotham City that the Caped Crusader inhabits. We are picking up with Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) early on in his crimefighting career, coming up against his first major villain in the form of The Riddler, played by Paul Dano.

The whole thing plays out like a twisted game of cat and mouse (or bat and cat and mouse), a murder mystery by way of the darkest of dark comic book films. As anyone might expect, this all builds to a big confrontation between the hero and our villain, and the scene in question is worth discussing for several reasons. For those who have yet to see the movie, now is your chance to turn back before we take a trip to spoiler country.

Warning: major spoilers ahead for "The Batman." Proceed with caution.

Batman meets the Riddler

After a series of murders and riddles that brings Gotham City to its knees, Batman and the Gotham City P.D. discover that Carmine Falcone was the rat at the center of the big mystery, which ultimately flushes The Riddler out and allows the authorities to take him into custody. It all seems a little too easy — but that was by design. Edward Nashton, the man behind the mask, is taken to Arkham Asylum and requests to see Batman. This was all part of his sadistic plan and, once Batman arrives at the institution for the criminally insane, one of the movie's most compelling scenes plays out.

Not only do we finally get some time with Riddler with his mask off, but this really serves as our first true confrontation between the villain and the hero. It's not a battle of fists or a city-destroying rampage. It's a battle of wits with bulletproof glass separating these two figures from one another, and it's a pretty fascinating way to stage what essentially serves as the big battle between the movie's two central characters. Yes, Batman does still have to save the day as Riddler reveals that there was more to his plan that Gotham's caped protector realized. The fact that Batman hadn't deduced this surprised Riddler, and this is where things get particularly interesting.

Up to this point in Batman's relatively green career as a superhero, nobody (save for Alfred) has any idea that Bruce Wayne is the man behind the mask. Riddler had targeted Bruce seemingly because of his family's complicated legacy, with the good deeds that got the lion's share of the public's attention being tainted by a secret under the surface. As a child, Riddler was an orphan who suffered in the Wayne's orphanage and had a vendetta. But as this all unfolds, it begins to get blurry for Batman. Does Riddler know his true identity? There is a moment where Riddler starts monologuing, saying "Bruce Wayne" over and over again, like an absolute crazy person, and this is a huge moment for the audience and for our hero.

No riddle left dangling

Riddler doesn't outright say whether he knows Batman is Bruce Wayne or not, and Batman doesn't vocalize his takeaway from the confrontation at any point in the room or after the fact. But it's all in the subtext. We see fear build in Batman's eyes as Riddler begins to go down this road. He's largely had his s*** together for the entire movie but when the words "Bruce Wayne" start leaving Riddler's mouth, there is panic in Batman's face. His entire demeanor changed in an instant. He even glances at a security camera in the room, perhaps worried someone else will hear this information. This is by design, and it's in both the body language and the subtext that the answer is found. Once Riddler transitions into saying that Bruce was the only one "they" didn't get, it all becomes clear.

Batman once again regains control of his body and the moment. The idea is that Riddler actually thought he was teaming up with Batman in some sick and twisted way to help take out the corrupt officials of Gotham City. Riddler was the brain and Batman was the unintended muscle, a pawn in the game. But for all of his smarts and psychopathic intellect, the forensic accountant named Edward Nashton, now defined by the psycho killer named The Riddler, wasn't able to put the biggest piece of the puzzle together. Batman's identity remained a mystery to him, even when incorporating the hero and his alter-ego into his evil plan.

It's a unique confrontation amongst superhero movies and an effectively tense scene that leaves the audience guessing right along with the protagonist. Tense though it may have been, it seems Batman's secret identity is safe heading into the presumed sequel... for now at least.

"The Batman" is in theaters everywhere now.