The following contains MAJOR SPOILERS for The Batman.
The Batman is finally here, and while the movie itself is not an “origin story” in the traditional sense, the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents is still a major plot poin. That said, exactly what happened all those years ago is very much clouded in mystery.
We get two different stories from different characters regarding exactly what may have happened on the night Thomas and Martha Wayne died. While both versions of the story leave some dirt covering the Wayne legacy, one is significantly darker than the other. But is it possible to even know the truth? Let’s look at the stories that are presented.
Story 1: Maroni Had The Waynes Killed
After killing several prominent figures in Gotham City, The Riddler eventually sets his sights on Bruce Wayne as a stand-in for his father. The Riddler broadcasts to the world the accusation that prior to his death, Thomas Wayne had asked mobster Carmine Falcone to have a reporter killed who was going to publish dirt on the Wayne Family. The way it’s presented, Thomas Wayne was afraid the news would damage his chances to become mayor, and he was willing to do anything to prevent that.
When Bruce Wayne hears this, he goes to Carmine Falcone to find out if it’s true. Falcone confirms the key points, but he also adds one potentially important piece of information: that the reporter, named Edward Elliot, was actually in the pocket of mobster Sal Maroni. It seems that, according to this story, Elliot was going after the Waynes to intentionally damage Thomas’ mayoral chances.
After Falcone had the reporter killed and the story stopped, it was then that Thomas and Martha Wayne were killed. Falcone claims that, while he can’t prove it, he believes Maroni killed the Wayne’s because Falcone now had a “friend” who could be mayor, and Maroni couldn’t let that happen.
Story 2: Falcone Had The Waynes Killed
Bruce takes this story from Falcone and presents it to Alfred, angry that his surrogate father never told him the truth about his own father. Alfred, however, has a different version of events to present when he’s in the hospital after nearly dying. While he confirms that Thomas Wayne went to Falcone for help with the reporter, from there, the story changes.
According to Alfred, Thomas Wayne never wanted the reporter dead, just leaned on to get him to kill the story. Thomas' motives had nothing to do with his mayoral chances, but simply the reputation of his family and loved ones. The story being uncovered included the fact that Martha Wayne’s family had covered up a murder, and that Martha herself spent time in mental institutions. Thomas knew what damage this information could do to his wife and son, and so he wanted it kept quiet.
Alfred insists that Thomas Wayne did not want anybody killed, and when he found out what Falcone had done, he decided to go to the police and confess everything. Falcone, of course, would not want this to happen. So Alfred believes (but again, cannot prove) that it was Falcone who had the Waynes killed.
Story 3: It Really Was A Random Crime
While these are the two main ideas, there is also a third possibility that requires covering. Even after suggesting that Falcone is the guilty party, Alfred then adds the possibility that the timing of the shooting could have simply been a coincidence, but he simply doesn't know. It’s certainly possible that the shooting was the random act of violence that it appeared to be, and that there was no grand conspiracy at all.
In the end, lacking any specific evidence for any of these options, we have three different possible scenarios that are all equally likely. So if that’s the case, which one do we believe?
Which Story Is The Truth?
It’s clear in The Batman that Bruce Wayne holds his parents in high regard. To him, they were perfect people who died too soon, and so he has dedicated his life to fighting crime in their name. This means that the idea that maybe they weren’t perfect hits him pretty hard.
It’s likely for this reason that Bruce seems to take Alfred largely at his word. After being angry at Alfred for not telling him the truth, the two reconcile. Bruce seems to believe him, but considering Alfred has no more evidence than Falcone did, there’s really no actual reason to believe that the butler has it right.
Falcone has every reason to lie to Bruce, and he’s a criminal already, so it's easy enough to not believe his version of the events. But at the same time, Alfred has apparently been lying by omission for years. Is now the time that he would really come clean, or would he look to another lie, even a partial one, to try to convince Bruce that his father was still ultimately a good man?
With Falcone dead, it seems unlikely we’ll ever know if he was truly guilty. It’s doubtful he left any evidence behind, as that’s the sort of thing he wouldn’t want discovered. If Falcone is actually right about Maroni, it’s possible the truth could still come out. If it really was just a random street crime, then it seems impossible we’ll ever be able to prove that so many years later.
Of course, setting this situation in this particular way works on a couple of levels from a storytelling perspective. By leaving the answer ambiguous, it leaves the door open to using this story beat in future Batman movies. Especially considering The Batman’s solid box office performance, sequels would seem likely, and this way, regardless of what director or writers get involved, the story can potentially use this detail if they want to make it a core part of the next movie.
But then, the truth of it all is that it also doesn’t need to matter at all. Having the fate of Bruce Wayne’s parents become ambiguous serves the same purpose as having their death be random. The actual event doesn’t have to mean anything, it’s what that event represents that means everything, and that’s the case regardless of where the blame happens to belong.
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