I’ll wait, while you wash the blood from your eyes.
Done? Okay. Moving on.
I think this is a good thing.
I can wait. Again. Try rolling your abs up into your spine; it helps the vomit come a little faster. Now swish!
Okay. Now that’s finished, let me explain. I really love Batman. The character, I mean. I love what he stands for — fucked-up people making the best of their situation, occasionally in costume, for the betterment of others. That’s how I read the guy. I know he’s nuts. I love him anyway. I’m wired that way. (I also have an unhealthy adoration for Rorschach, so there you go.) But I also know that one of the things that keeps the franchise ticking, that keeps it from devolving into soul-crushing ennui and bleakness, is Robin.
Robin — like all progeny — is Batman distilled. All of Batman’s flaws, all of his failures, are made clear in that one figure. His mania is there (Jason Todd), and his inability to let go (Stephanie Brown) and his sheer destructive capability, too (Damien Wayne). But his merits and successes are also reflected in Robin: his detective skills (Tim Drake) and his search for justice rather than vengeance (Dick Grayson). Robin is always both the best and worst of Batman, a living track record of all he was, is, and can be.
This is why The Dark Knight sequel needs Robin.
Take yourself back to the end of the film. Here’s some dialogue:
I’m whatever Gotham needs me to be. Call it in…You’ll hunt me. You’ll condemn me. Set the dogs on me. Because that’s what needs to happen. Because sometimes the truth isn’t good enough. Sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded.
Cut to Gordon’s son calling Batman’s name, insisting that Batman did nothing wrong, and wondering why he’s being chased. You see where this is going, right?
If, in the post-TDK Gotham, Batman is no longer a hero, then what he’ll need is redemption both personal and public. He’ll need to understand why he got into this in the first place. The easiest way to do this is to save not a city which no longer deserves it, or mix himself up in the politics or corporate practises of grown-ups already tainted by cynicism, but to save a truly innocent person.
It really doesn’t matter who Robin is, in the same way that it didn’t matter who the Joker was. He’s a symbol. In much the same way that Nolan and Ledger’s Joker was a symbol for all the havoc humans can wreak upon themselves and each other and their systems, I can easily imagine Nolan’s Robin being a symbol for all the potential for change in humanity. Robin is the kid who voted not to blow up the other ferry. Robin is the kid who watches out the window for Batman, because Robin is the kind of kid who wants to find the facts before making a judgement. Robin is all the good that Gotham can be, if just given the chance. And Batman is the person who affords Gotham that chance — who works, day and night, to continue giving it that chance. Even when it fails. Even when it’s too small to do the job. Even when it needs help.
“And why do we fall, Mr. Wayne? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
Involving Robin in Nolan’s story isn’t a half-assed attempt to cover for Ledger’s tragic loss. It’s actually the closure of a narrative arc that began with a very damaged man losing his father, and ends with him becoming a father for someone else. It’s about the choice to perpetuate the cycle or not, to alter the pattern, to recognize one’s potential for heroism not in oneself but in the eyes of another. Robin is Gotham: broken but ultimately good, and ultimately Batman’s responsibility. In the same way that Batman created the Joker, Robin could re-create Batman. Because if Gotham is Robin, and Batman is whatever Gotham needs him to be, then he’ll step out of the shadows and become the hero that’s needed.
Now do I want it to be Miley Cyrus? Not really. Although I’d love to see a female Robin and not Batgirl. But that’s an issue for another post.
Then again, I also think Bruce Campbell is an agent of SHIELD watching Peter Parker, and that he’ll show up in the Avengers movie. So what do I know?