(Spoiler Alerts for "Batman Arkham Knight" ahead-read on at your own risk)
Batman fans knew what to expect when they put the Batman Arkham Knight disc into their respective game consoles and played through the story. The ending was so advertised it was almost unbelievable. My roommate came up to me at one point after I played through the game's story and asked, "So does Batman REALLY die in the end?"
Playing through the game with Batman's inevitable death at the end was like being tied to railroad tracks knowing that the train is heading at you 100 mph. The game is beautiful, though, in that it always gives you hope that your favorite caped crusader is going to find a way out of his mess... until the end. I personally have seen the ending/secret ending to Arkham Knight dozens of times and I'm still trying to make sense of it (if you haven't seen it, you can watch it below).
Basically, Batman/Bruce Wayne activates something called "Knightfall Protocol", he gets in the Batwing and flies off as his Bat-signal blows up. It then cuts to Wayne Manor, where Vicki Vale and a sea of reporters are gathered to talk to the recently unveiled Batman - Bruce Wayne. Bruce flies in on his Batwing and immediately goes into Wayne Manor, where Alfred greets him with, "Are you sure you want to do this, Master Bruce?" and he replies with "I've got to, its the only way to protect them." Alfred then shuts the doors and we watch in horror as Wayne Manor explodes in front of our eyes, supposedly taking with it two of the most beloved characters of all time. I will continue on to explain the rest of the 100% completion ending, but for now...
What does this mean?
While I don't know absolutely everything there is to know about the masked vigilante, I DO know that Bruce Wayne is neither suicidal, nor homicidal; So it makes no sense to me that I just watched him kill himself and the person he cares about most. I also doubt a war veteran like Alfred would just let this happen. This leads me to believe that the giant Wayne Manor explosion was some sort of "theatricality and deception" taught to Bruce by Ra's al Ghul in the 2008 adaptation Batman Begins. AKA he faked his and Alfred's deaths. But why?
Well, the answer comes from Bruce himself right before the explosion. "It's the only way to protect them." I have always loved Batman so much because of why he does what he does. He doesn't need to be Gotham's reckoning, he doesn't need to fight crime, but he does, kinda for the hell of it... because it's the right thing to do. So I think that Bruce feels that the Batman mantle, after being exposed to the world, is just not effective anymore. I mean, why else would he have a hidden protocol that literally destroys his life's work? Because of a symbol, shrouded in mystery. You see most of Batman's power came from the fear that people had of him, not Bruce Wayne's detective brain or Lucius Fox's gadgets. The same fear that drove Bruce to embrace his fear of bats and literally become a bat, is the fear that empowers him. Once Scarecrow unveiled Bruce to the world, and people started putting a face to Batman, his power was lost, and hence it was time to lay down the cowl.
So, is Batman just done then? Or...
Here's where the secret ending comes in, and if you haven't seen it I suggest you do. The most important part of it, I think, is Jim Gordon's commentary - specifically "This is how it happened. This is how the Batman died." Notice how it doesn't say this is how Bruce Wayne died? Because he didn't. Only the symbol did. It was a symbol that thugs and goons once cowered from, one that as you can see in the ending, almost seemed to motivate them; which is why Bruce initiated the Knightfall Protocol at the perfect time. Criminals have now had a few months since Batman "died" to bolster up their confidence and start committing crimes again, just in time for the new saga in the Rocksteady series....
Batman Beyond: Arkham Legacy!!!
Whether intentionally or not, Rocksteady gave us the perfect basis for a "Beyond" game. First, they literally made a Batman Beyond DLC skin. Second, is this neat little concept art above titled "Knightmare Batman." Looks a little similar minus the whole Bat-face thing, right? The ears are longer and pointier than Batman's, while the torso is skinnier and more toned. Not to mention the giant red bat symbol on his chest.
Hmmmmmmmm, similar, right?
The best evidence though, in my mind, are the themes of this game. A major theme I picked up while playing was Death and Rebirth. The game practically hammers it into you from the very beginning scene where Rocksteady lets us cremate the former Joker; yet he is reborn in the depths of Bruce Wayne's mind, and stays there for a majority of the game. Another instance of this is when Barbara Gordon seemingly dies in the middle of the story, only to be brought back at the end. The "Batman" dying and being reborn into the "Batman Beyond" further reinforces this theme, while carrying it over into a new game.
So what do you think, should Rocksteady continue their successful Batman Franchise? Tell me below in the comments.