The Batman’s climax quietly sets the stage for Penguin’s rise to power by taking inspiration from a major comics storyline.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for The Batman, now playing in theaters.
Matt Reeves’ The Batman s new versions of many iconic Batman characters, including a truly gleeful scumbag introduce on Oswald Cobblepot (Colin Farrell). One of the handfuls of characters to escape the film relatively unscathed, Penguin is even positioned for a serious escalation of power going forward at the end of the film. That means the upcoming Penguin-centric series on HBO Max has a lot of fertile ground to explore, with the final battle between Batman (Robert Pattinson) and the followers of The Riddler (Paul Dano) setting the stage for a criminal rise to power for the character amid a No Man’s Land-inspired take on Gotham.
The movie ends with Gotham in a radically different place than when it began. The election of Bella Reál (Jayme Lawson) comes just as Riddler’s full plans for the city come to fruition, destroying the seawalls surrounding the city. The ensuing flood levels large portions of the city, leading to untold numbers of deaths, which harkens back to stories like Zero Year and No Man’s Land from the comics. The attack could have been far worse, though, if Riddler’s henchmen had completed their massacre on the civilians assembled into the Gotham Stadium. And in the aftermath, Batman acknowledges to himself that Gotham will need to rebuild from the massive damage and that, in the interim, dangerous forces will be able to use the chaos to their advantage.
The film cuts to Oswald Cobblepot during this moment as he contemplates the ruined city beneath him. With Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) dead and the rest of the GCPD/criminal conspiracy exposed, the future Penguin has a perfect opening to truly establish himself as a crimelord in the city. And, in many ways, Penguin’s rise to power feels similar to the way the Cobblepot adapted to the circumstances of No Man’s Land. The massive Batman crossover saw Gotham decimated by a natural disaster and struggling to maintain order as it rebuilt. In the chaos, Penguin became one of the city’s most powerful figures, as his criminal connections made him impossibly valuable as a weapons and supply broker.
Penguin’s central place in the future of the Matt Reeves DC Universe has already been hinted at, with the announcement that a Penguin-centric series is currently in development at HBO Max. Described as an exploration of Cobblepot’s rise to power, this version of the character would be the perfect place to explore the fallout of The Batman’s climax, including how it relates to Penguin’s rise to the station Falcone used to occupy. Seeing him transition from a low-level club owner to a ruthless crimelord in the chaos of a broken Gotham would be fascinating, especially considering he’s already held his own against Batman.
It’s certainly a unique approach to a Penguin origin story, which has been otherwise shown in films like Batman Returns and in shows like Gotham. Instead of leaning into a slow-burn that focused heavily on his personal history, the Penguin HBO Max show could be a compelling crime drama in a world where Batman can just show up, charting the rise of a terrible man during a terrifying situation.
To see where Penguin ends up, The Batman is in theaters now.
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