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SPOILERS for Joker ahead! Obviously.
One of the biggest topics of conversation regarding Todd Phillips’ Joker has been about the film’s ending; what happened, what didn’t and was simply in Arthur Fleck’s head. There’s a lot to think about with how Joker ends, and now it seems that there’s a new permutation of that ending for us to noodle over. That’s because Joker reportedly has an alternate ending and it sounds horrifying. According to Kevin Smith, Joker’s alternate ending goes like this:
Originally, the ending in the hospital was different. He's in the hospital and he laughs, chuckles, and he says, ‘I was just thinkin' of something funny.’ What was supposed to happen was you flashed back to the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne and it was him killing Thomas and Martha Wayne and the boy was screaming and crying and he turned to walk away and he turned back, shrugged, and shot the kid. Credits.
Wow. That is dark. Like pitch black, no stars, Vantablack levels of darkness. This alleged alternate ending for Joker, described by Kevin Smith on his Fatman Beyond podcast, would have been an even bleaker and far more horrifying ending than what we actually got in the theatrical cut of the film.
In the version we saw in theaters, Joker ends with Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck locked up in the hospital at Arkham. There he responds to a psychiatrist/social worker and tells her that he was just thinking of a joke. He then seemingly kills her and then runs out into the hospital where he is chased by orderlies.
In the version described by Kevin Smith, Joker would have still ended with Arthur Fleck in the hospital, responding to the psychiatrist that she wouldn’t get the joke. But in this reported alternate ending, the joke itself would have been much more horrifying.
Rather than seeing the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne (which we’ve seen so many times before) at the hands of one of his followers, Arthur Fleck himself would have been the one pulling the trigger, just like Jack Nicholson’s Jack Napier did in 1989’s Batman. He wouldn’t have stopped there though.
With the parentless Bruce Wayne standing there, screaming and crying, the seeds now planted for his eventual crime-fighting future, Joker would have turned around, shrugged and shot and killed him, thereby unknowingly ending his conflict with Batman before it ever began.
It’s a wild idea that would have still allowed for the film’s ambiguous ending and left audiences even more shell-shocked than they already were when they left the theater after Joker. Seeing Arthur Fleck kill Robert De Niro’s Murray Franklin was incredibly brutal, but killing a child is another level of evil that was perhaps a bridge too far.
This alternate ending would have definitely put a new spin on the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne. It would have also firmly established that this is a very different story and not the tale of Joker and the Batman that we are all so familiar with. And I’ve got to say, while Todd Phillips has not confirmed this alternate ending, it definitely sounds plausible given the rest of Joker.
Although Arthur Fleck only murdered people that he thought had wronged him (that’s why he spared Sophie), which Bruce Wayne never did. Arthur was actually nice to Bruce earlier in the film. However, getting back at Thomas Wayne was part of his motivation and killing Wayne’s real son would have been a depraved way of doing that.