Recently Telltale has outdone themselves with their sequel to last year's Batman: The Telltale Series by giving us even more drama and action to sink our teeth into. As well as introducing new versions of some of Batman's villains, including a new Joker, known as John Doe in the game. I'm aware we met him last year in the first season, but his role was only limited to a chapter and two quick cameos later on. Now he's back playing a much bigger role, and he's not you grandma's Joker! He's got another fixation other than Batman, or does he?
When characters like Batman and The Joker have been around for as long as they have (78 years for Batman and 77 years for The Joker, just in case you were wondering), they are subject to many changes and alternate versions of their personalities and motivations. One constant factor about the Joker, in most of his iterations, is that he is obsessed with Batman. However in Batman: The Enemy Within Telltale has shifted The Clown Prince of Crime's attention to Bruce Wayne rather than his masked persona. Don't get me wrong he still likes Batman, but that's it, he simply likes him, which is a far cry from his feelings for Batman in the comics.
But why Bruce Wayne? Why is The Joker interested in a simple billionaire playboy with a questionable personal life? There is definitely more intriguing characters in Gotham to win his admiration, like Batman for instance! But what if his fixation with Bruce Wayne isn't what it seems? What if "John Doe" knows more than he's letting on about? What if he knows Bruce Wayne's deepest darkest secret? That he's Batman! Now I know what you're thinking, "Well where's the proof? Huh?!", granted I don't have solid concrete proof, no one ever does until everyone knows, but I have something else. Speculation! I agree it's not as good as evidence, but going back to the first season and reviewing the current season, there are a lot of clues and references that the Joker knows who Bruce Wayne really is. Let's take a look at some.
In the first game, we first see "John Doe" and Bruce Wayne on screen together when Bruce is declared insane and locked up in Arkham Asylum during the events of the first game. Specifically when Bruce is trying to shake off a drug that made him act with extreme aggression during a press conference, subsequently getting him locked up in Arkham. While coming down, Bruce is preyed upon by two inmates that have had bad experiences with his father, and are planning to take it out on him. Naturally even though mostly dead to the world, Bruce is able to hold them off for a moment (because Batman). But they gain the upper hand, and are planning to go in for the kill, but are stopped by an inmate, who is none other than the Joker. He makes quick work of the thugs and goes to Bruce's aid.
Immediately Joker puts on the charm referring to Bruce as "buddy", while he calls the other inmates "pathetic". He goes on to say that they should stick together and begins to get real chummy with Bruce, saying they should look out for each other. Upon entering the asylum's rec room, John gives Bruce the low down on the more dangerous inmates and tells him to be weary. But why would the Joker want to keep Bruce safe? His whole purpose is to cause chaos wherever it can grow.
Bruce and John go on to have a conversation while watching several awful things unfold in Gotham, sparking a conversation between the two. While talking John reveals that he's been watching Bruce for a long time, and sees something in him, something darker. Referencing him beating Oswald Cobblepot nearly to death, while being drugged. Bruce tries to convince John that it was the narcotics, but he persists telling Bruce that the drugs amplify what you're already feeling, seeing killer potential in Bruce (pun intended). How does this relate to John knowing Bruce's secret identity? I'm glad you asked. In Batman comics, the Joker is constantly laying out carefully laid schemes for Batman to to unravel, that often have violent and disturbing ends, designed to push Batman to break his one rule. And for those of you who live under a rock, Batman's one rule is to never kill under any circumstances.
Jumping back to the game, the Bruce Wayne in the story really hasn't had any other violent altercations aside from the incident with Cobblepot. His alter ego, however, has had numerous covered by the news, painting Batman as a brutal vigilante, but never accusing him of murder. So when John tells Bruce that he's been watching him and that he senses something darker in him, he's referring to what he's really referring to is Bruce's one rule and how he should break it.
Going further into this conversation, John reveals that he's long discovered the identity of the enemy Bruce is currently fighting, named Lady Arkham, (SPOILER ALERT!) who is actually Vicki Vale, and the one who drugged him earlier. John goes on to elaborate that Bruce and Vicki are on a collision course with each other, and when they finally crash into each other, it will be glorious. He then volunteers to cause a diversion so that Bruce can make a phone call, to use his connections to get out of the asylum. It's clear that Lady Arkham is out to get Bruce Wayne, anyone can see that. But why does John want Bruce to confront Vicki if he believes he's just Bruce Wayne? Surely if that was the case, the fight would be over quick and wouldn't be much of a fight. The answer is, he knows that Bruce is Batman!
In the comics, the only thing the Joker likes just as much as fighting Batman, is watching Batman fight others. It reassures him of Batman's insanity, that his cause is just as crazy as his. As he continuously stops criminals, but refuses to kill them, then expects legitimate change to happen. This is why he wants to help just Bruce escape and not himself, to see him in action. There's even a moment after this where the player can choose to intervene in John's diversion, where he is instigating Victor Zsasz into killing another inmate, during this John enjoys watching Bruce's fighting prowess, possibly because he's seen it before in Batman. And to top it all off during the conversation between the two, John goes right up to Bruce's face and says "I know who you are." and does not elaborate whatsoever. Leaving cause for much speculation.
Now jumping forward to season 2. John is out of Arkham and seeks out Bruce, once he finds him John is shown to be a little more vulnerable than he was before in the Asylum, and is attempting seek solace with his "friend" Bruce (or so he would have us believe). The two hash this out at the funeral of Lucius Fox, who met his end earlier in the first chapter of the game. Even though Bruce wants him gone, John is persistent to talk to him, so he agrees which causes John to say something personal and somewhat ominous "we're two threads in the same stitch". Quiet the interesting phrase, could John be talking about how he perceives his "friendship" with Bruce? Or is he referring something more?
In the comics, Joker likes to point out the similarities between him and Batman. They're both wholeheartedly devoted to their causes, they both want to leave a lasting impression on Gotham, and (Joker's personal favorite) they're both insane. Now granted Bruce is not homicidal and is definitely able to function, but a man who thinks he can stop all crime, alone and dressed like a bat, is a far from sane. And Joker loves pointing this out to Batman, especially when it angers him. Could John be trying to explain his feelings about this to Bruce? Perhaps, but let's keep going.
As the service is conducting, John talks to Bruce about some friends he's made on the outside. While talking about them John says they're "That special breed who lives by their own rules. They remind of you." what else can that mean?! Batman is the epicenter for all of Bruce's rule breaking and if you knew that it'd be hard not to drop it into casual conversation, especially for someone as smug as the Joker. Also to further this, the friends that live by their own rules, just so happen to be, Bane, Harley Quinn, and Mr. Freeze. All costumed villains. Another thing Joker likes pointing out in comics is the different worlds of normal people and people like superheroes and supervillains, often claiming that their above the regular folks.
Later on in the story, Bruce decides to meet with John's friends, and gets to see the inside of his room. On the back wall is a collage of all his friends such as Harley Quinn, Dr. Leland (his former psychologist in Arkham Asylum), and of course Bruce Wayne. But among this wall there is a blank frame with no picture. When Bruce asks about it, John explains that it's for Batman. This wouldn't arose suspicion, if there weren't other photos of John taking pictures with complete strangers, and crudely taping a magazine clipping of Bruce's face over there's. So why not do this with Batman? Surely there are enough news clippings of Batman to do the same with right? Well my theory is this, throughout the comics, Joker often points out, that he doesn't care who is under the mask because he believes Batman is Bruce's true identity. So if John really does know who Batman is in the game. Then maybe him putting up little cutouts of Bruce over people's faces and not doing the same for Batman, is his way of letting Bruce know that he is the mask and Batman is his true identity. I'm aware that this one is a little bit of a stretch, but I can't get that blank picture frame out of my head, and know it is connected to something.
Well those are my clues, I'm sure I missed a few, or perhaps misinterpreted a few things, but I still stand by my clues. Now there's just one more thing I'd like to discuss, if John really does know who Batman is, how did he discover this?
How Does "John Doe" Know Who Batman Is?
Like most incarnations of the Joker, John Doe's true identity is unknown to us and probably even to himself. So this provides us with little information on what kind of man John was before his cosmetic bleaching. As the header suggests I'm going to speculate on how John would know Bruce Wayne is Batman, but I believe the way to find this is to hypothesize about who he was before he was a clown, but it's not impossible that he figured all of this out after he took a spill into some chemicals, so I'll dip into that too. So how could he have found out? Let's get speculative!
That's right the queen of corrupt government projects herself, has set up shop in Gotham in Season 2. In the game, Waller has come to Gotham to apprehend The Riddler, who in the game is an international criminal and an old terror to Gotham long before Batman dawned his cape cowl. Throughout her search she makes it clear to everyone that she wants the Riddler alive, to question him about a mysterious group of criminals he's associated with known as the Pact. As the game progresses Batman apprehends The Riddler and conducts his own interrogation, but before he can tell him anything useful, Riddler is conveniently shot and killed by an unknown sniper. But he's not shot by a bullet, he's shot by a dart filled with a combination of different chemicals, that when combined have lethal effects. Now out of the current villains in The Enemy Within, which one has a hobby that involves making deadly chemical combinations and using them liberally, you guessed it! The Joker himself. Surely you remember his Joker Venom, that makes it's victims literally laugh themselves to death while painting a permanent smile on their faces. Now I'm sure you're wondering "Alright, what's your point?", my point is that it's possible that John Doe was once an agent for Waller's "Agency"!
Think about it, since we've first seen John Doe all the way back in Episode 4 in the first game, all the way to the end of the second episode of the second game, John has shown proficiency in fighting prowess, advanced technologies, and Chemistry (possibly), special skills that could be the product of government training. Like for instance when Bruce is being jumped by prisoners during their first encounter in Arkham Asylum, John makes quick work of the prisoners and even disarms one, is he just a gifted brawler? Or has he received training? Also in the recent Episode John shows that he's fairly tech savvy. Earlier in the game, the player has the option to place a tracker on John, if they do, the very next time they meet, John presents them with the device and even refers to it by name, knowing exactly what it is, and is deeply offended at Bruce, could it be this brings back old memories of trackers being placed on him by his government handlers?
In addition to this, the Joker is often credited as a master manipulator. And his Telltale equivalent is no exception. During his time in Arkham Asylum, John was very manipulative, such as charming and playing his psychiatrist Dr. Leland into giving him more freedom and influence in the nuthouse. And who is more manipulative and secretive than government agents? But you may be asking yourselves "Well how would him being an agent for Waller, lead him to learning Batman's secret identity?", well you see (SPOILER ALERT) at the end of the first episode of Season 2, Waller tells Batman to his face that she knows that he's Bruce Wayne. It's not really explained how she knows this, she could have just deduced it for herself, or she could have had surveillance placed on Batman (my money is on the second one), however she did it, she's got his secret identity and effectively has something more valuable, leverage over The Dark Knight. But how would John gotten a hold of this information? Waller's not one to just hand out information, especially to her own employees. Well, as we know the Joker is very effective at sneaking around and getting what he wants, he could have very well hacked into Waller's servers and taken the information for himself. Or he could have been on the team that surveyed Batman and saw it with his own eyes.
It's an interesting thing to think about. However there's also the possibility that he was never a government agent and hacked into the agency all by himself. There's certainly enough media of the Joker screwing with Waller and her agency in the past. Like the time he stole their technology to put his consciousness into a chip, then implanted said device in Tim Drake's head, so that he could take control of his body to fight Batman in the future (Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker anybody?). Either way I don't think the "Agency" is in Gotham just for the Riddler and his pals, I think there there for a possible agent that's been laying low in the city.
Of course, there are other possibilities.
Yep, one of Batman's closest friends, and manufacturer of his entire arsenal. Now in The Enemy Within, the very first episode involves the death of Lucius Fox. After discovering a box that the Riddler left behind at one of his crime scenes, Bruce takes it to Lucius after examining the box, as well as getting it to emit a kind of radio signal. But it soon seems that this is no regular signal as it triggers a missile to be fired at his office, killing him. Now this may seem a little crazy, how could the good and honest Lucius be associated with the worst criminal in Gotham City? Well there are actually a number of clues that connect John and Lucius.
For starters, when John meets Bruce again in The Enemy Within, it's at Lucius's funeral. In fact he even has a short conversation with his daughter, Tiffany. He mentions how admired her father seems to be and insensitively notes that "at least he went out with a, BANG!", and throughout the the funeral John often disrupts the service, only calming down when Bruce tells him to. Could this be The Joker's general erratic behavior? Or could it be something more? My theory is that that John is a former employee of Lucius Fox's department.
That may seem like a little bit unlikely, but remember earlier when I mentioned his technological skills? This could also be the reason he was able to identify the tracker, naturally all of Batman's tech comes from Lucius's department, and if John played a hand in designing or crafting the device, obviously he'd be able to recognize it. Also there is another scene where Bruce agrees to meet with John's friends, but he must prove himself by obtaining the some tech from his own company. Once back at their hideout, Bruce is restrained and has a less than friendly conversation with Bane that is about to turn violent, until an EMP that they brought back from Wayne Enterprises activates while John is fiddling with it, distracting the others and saving Bruce. When Bruce brings this up to John later, he explains that the device would have encryption codes that only he and Lucius would be able to get past, but John simply states that he got lucky. But did he? If he helped create the machine, he would known the codes, or even could have wrote them himself. Now Lucius is a genius, there's no question about that, but the idea that he designed and created every last piece of Batman's tech all by himself, is nearly impossible. So naturally he would need help, specifically a group of minds like his own to help him create bat gadgets.
That being said, even if there were others working with him, there wouldn't really be a need to tell them who the devices are for. So how would John obtain Batman's secret identity? Well it is the technical division, plenty of cameras and surveillance gear are lying around. Perhaps one day Lucius and Bruce are discussing Batman, and footage would have been taken at the right place at the right time. Or (more possibly) it could have been take from Lucius's computer. Now this may seem too easy, but his server is hidden in a secret room in Wayne Enterprises, and only him and Bruce know about it, right? Or perhaps a high ranking employee stumbled upon said hidden office and found a certain piece of information about a certain vigilante.
It's not air tight I know. But John is always pleased to reference the way he died any time Lucius's name comes up, possible grudge? Since Bruce is always applauding Lucius and only Lucius on the technology designed for him, and any chance of his work being praised is slim, since it is all hidden and only used by a superhero who works at night. Maybe an unfortunate lab accident bleached his skin, being the the last straw causing him to wage war on Lucius and Batman, or he could have done it on purpose to conceal his identity until his revenge scheme came into place.
Not air tight like I said, but still an intriguing thought nonetheless.
Well there you have it, there is my big fat theory. Did you agree with the points I've made, or do you disagree, let me know! Does John Doe really know that Bruce Wayne is Batman? Only time will tell, with three more episodes on the horizon anything can happen!
Do you have your own clues about John Doe knowing who Batman is, tell me in the comments? Please! I need my speculation fix!