Now, when it comes to the great movie moments that we almost got to see, there aren't too many that can trump the potential return of Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight Rises. After all, his performance in The Dark Knight didn't simply steal the hearts of millions of fans, but virtually every critic and award voter going, too.
Sadly, though, Ledger's tragic and untimely death put an end to the character's potential return in the final part of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, and, as a result, we never got to see this classic scene's promise fulfilled on screen:
After all, when the Joker reveals to Batman that...
"I think you and I are destined to do this forever."
...it really does feel as though the two character's classic comic book rivalry is about to grab a hold of the big screen, and never let go. And yet, by the time The Dark Knight Rises arrived, the Joker was nowhere to be seen, even after Bane released every other criminal in Gotham City. In fact, no one even seemed to notice his absence, despite him having been such a major part of the events leading up to the movie.
As it turns out, though:
There's Another Reason the Joker Didn't Appear
Y'see, while the movie may not have revealed the reasoning behind the Joker's absence, the film's novelization (written by Greg Cox) very much did.
And as it turns out:
The Joker Didn't Appear Because Commissioner Gordon Is Good at His Job
As the novelization reveals, the Joker wasn't just locked away after the events of The Dark Knight, giving him a never ending set of chances to escape (as in the comics).
He was locked away in his own prison.
While the rest of Gotham's criminal element were moved from Arkham Asylum to Blackgate Prison following the introduction of the Dent Act, it seems Gordon was prudent enough to figure out that a crowded prison environment wouldn't be the best place to keep the Joker...
"who, rumour had it, was locked away as Arkham’s sole remaining inmate."
Which...makes a fair amount of sense - and since the likes of Talia al Ghul and Bane wouldn't have wanted as flamboyant a Bat-foe as the Joker stealing their thunder (and potentially interfering with their plans), that also explains why they wouldn't have gone out of their way to find and release him.
The only problem?
That Was Only One of the Rumors...
Y'see, that quote above is part of a slightly longer paragraph - one that reads:
"The worst of the worst were sent here, except for the Joker, who, rumor had it, was locked away as Arkham’s sole remaining inmate. Or perhaps he had escaped. Nobody was really even sure."
Yup, that's right:
The Joker May Have Just Escaped
It's entirely possible that the Joker wasn't actually in Gotham at all - but had escaped custody, and made his way to...literally anywhere else in the world you can think of.
So, on the one hand, we may well not have seen him appear because of Commissioner Gordon and the GCPD's expert villain storing abilities, and on the other, we might not have seen him because they completely failed to keep him locked away, and didn't think it was wise to mention that to the public.
Which, knowing Gotham's history of ineffectual policing, may well actually be the more likely of the two...
So, What's the Real Reason We Didn't See Him, Then?
Well, of course, the real, real reason we didn't see the Joker return is still the tragic death of Heath Ledger. Had he not died, the chances of the Joker's final appearance being a throwaway line in a novelization would've been incredibly slim - and yet, it's actually a little reassuring to be able to imagine that, in the world of Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, Ledger's legendary villain might still be out there somewhere, causing his own particular brand of anarchy.
Though, that being said, it does kind of make you question why Bruce Wayne thought it'd be a good idea to retire as Batman...
What do you think, though?