Matt Reeves The Batman shattered box office expectations, raking in over $700 million worldwide at the box office by creating a ground and dark version of Gotham City anchored in character development. The Batman not only proved that Robert Pattinson could bring one heck of a Dark Knight to life, but it also introduced layered and terrifying versions of some of Batman’s most beloved villains. Above everything else, The Batman turned Paul Dano’s Riddler into a dangerous serial killer that was pushed to the brink of sanity due to the city’s unfair social structure.

While for most of The Batman’s runtime, the Riddler is one step ahead of the World’s Greatest Detective, the villain turns himself in to the police right before the film’s explosive third arc. And while the police officers are cuffing him, the villain smiles, showing everyone that being arrested was precisely what he wanted. But why did the Riddler turn himself in? And how could being incarcerated help his plan? To answer that, first, we need to dig deep into the Riddler’s motivations.

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What Were the Riddler’s Motivations in ‘The Batman’?

The Riddler, played by Paul Dano, in his mask and ripping off a piece of duct tape in 'The Batman'
Image via Warner Bros.

As Bruce Wayne puts the clues the Riddler left behind together, he learns of a giant conspiracy involving his parents. Thomas Wayne (Luke Roberts) was murdered when he ran for Mayor of Gotham City, promising to take care of the poor and fight against social inequality. After Thomas and Martha’s (Stella Stocker) brutal death, part of their fortune was promised to help Gotham’s orphanage. The money, however, was embezzled with the help of mobster Carmine Falcone (John Turturro).

After the Waynes were murdered, Bruce became an orphan and was on the cover of every newspaper. All over Gotham, people pitied the poor orphan in his marble tower, where his father’s fortune at least prevented him from suffering from any material needs. Meanwhile, the Riddler, real name Edward Nashton, grew up in an overcrowded orphanage, watching babies die of cold and hunger for the lack of resources. It’s no wonder the Riddler resents the wealthy class of Gotham City, especially Bruce Wayne.

While hate alone is not enough to turn someone into a meticulous serial killer, the Riddler was inspired by Batman, a vigilante who commits crimes and defies the police forces while searching for vengeance and cleaning the streets of Gotham City. Just like Batman, Riddler decided he was gifted enough to do the same, which led him to target everyone that was involved in the embezzlement of the orphanage money.

After decades of feeling worthless and abandoned, the Riddler has become a misanthropist. The world sees him as a “nobody,” so his plan is also to allow “nobody” everywhere to rise and claim their place in history. That’s why in The Batman, the villain has a legion of fans, who help him to plan the ultimate attack on Gotham by planting bombs to flood the city and planning a mass shooting during an electoral debate.

In short, years of neglect turned the Riddler into a bitter and angry young man. His impressive intellect also fed his sense of injustice since the world ignored him while he deserved more than the lazy and corrupt wealthy class of Gotham City. Finally, Batman’s crusade for revenge inspired the Riddler to come out of the shadows and become what he sees as a fair punishment for the greedy people who feed on the misery of others. Riddler’s motivations are perfectly understandable, even if his methods are not defensible. But for his plan to work, he needs to inspire people like him to take up arms and continue his work. And for that, the Riddler needs to become a martyr.

Why Did the Riddler Turn Himself In to the Police In ‘The Batman’?

After killing everyone on his list, the Riddler tips the police off his location and patiently waits to be arrested. While working in the shadows, the villain proved to be a deadly adversary capable of achieving great things. After his main work was done, the Riddler had to turn himself in so that his story would become famous, and he would be forever a martyr to disgruntled people everywhere. As a master strategist, the Riddler knows his legion of followers need to see him sacrificing himself for the cause. So, by turning himself in, the Riddler proves not even he is above what he calls justice.

Getting arrested also gives the Riddler the rare opportunity to meet Batman, the man who inspired him to hunt down and kill the wealthy people of Gotham. This fateful encounter forces Bruce to realize the errors of his way, as being a symbol of vengeance and inspiring fear only feeds a never-ending cycle of violence. But for the Riddler, he thought of that as the opportunity to team up with Batman so that they could work together to cleanse Gotham and build a new legacy for the city.

Batman thinks he’s cleaning the city by beating up lowly criminals at night. The Riddler shows it’s more effective to aim for the powerful and the rich, the true culprits of social inequality, which in turn leads more people to a life of crime. For Riddler’s message to spread and inspire more people, he had to be arrested. And even if Batman stops the mass shooting enacted by Riddler’s followers, the villain indeed changed Gotham City forever. As a notorious criminal locked away in Arkham Asylum, his story will become an interesting tale for people to tell over and over again. And the bombs that exploded and caused the city to flood will be forever a testament to what sheer will can achieve. While the Riddler didn’t get to team up with Batman as he dreamed about, he will keep inspiring lost and lonely people to become vengeance for many years to come.

Fortunately, Riddler’s plan had some positive side effects, as Bruce realizes he cannot embrace the darkness and expect it to change the world in a positive way. Instead, Batman needs to become a symbol of hope. And since Reeves already promised the sequel to The Batman would remain focused on Bruce’s character growth, we might see a version of the Dark Knight like no other in the near future.


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