The Dark Knight introduced the world to Heath Ledger's anarchic Joker, as well as Aaron Eckhart's tragic take on Harvey Dent/Two-Face. The 2008 movie is still considered to be one of the best comic book movies ever, as well as one of director Christopher Nolan's top films.
In the four years between The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, rumors swirled around that The Riddler would be the next Big Bad to receive the Nolan treatment, with everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to Johnny Depp listed as likely choices. However, the final movie The Dark Knight Rises instead went with villains Bane and Catwoman, and The Riddler never appeared in the trilogy. Or, did he?
Riddle Me This
The theory that an early version of Riddler actually was in The Dark Knight sounds like a story created by desperate fanboys wanting redemption for the character after Jim Carrey's horrifying version in Batman Forever. However, a closer look at the theory finds some legitimate evidence that maybe the Nolan brothers snuck in their more grounded take on the villain right under our noses in the form of Coleman Reese.
Coleman Reese (played by Joshua Harto) is the accountant at Wayne Enterprises who threatens Lucius Fox with blackmail after figuring out Bruce Wayne is the Batman, which is a very Riddler thing to do. He is also the only antagonist in #TheDarkKnight who deduces Bruce Wayne's secret. Joker threatened the entire city to make Batman unmask his identity, but later changed his mind to avoid a boring future with no Batman. Harvey Dent/Two-Face, despite cooperating with both Bruce and Batman closely during the entire movie, never caught on either (also despite being a detail-minded District Attorney). Within the trilogy, only the League of Shadows (led by Ra’s al Ghul and Bane) determined Batman’s identity, but since they were the ones who trained Bruce to be a ninja and sent him back to Gotham, this wasn’t quite a difficult mystery.
Reese wears a purple tie and a charcoal suit in the movie, which could be a subdued version of The Riddler's classic purple tie and dark green suit (green suits aren't too common in boardrooms). He also has a similar hair color and clean-cut style. Like his comic counterpart, he has no real physical strength, and is obviously intimidated by the thought of Batman beating him “to a pulp with his bare hands.” He ultimately isn’t shut down by physical means, but psychological tactics — whether it was Fox’s pointing out the logical flaw in his plan, or the Joker scaring him into silence with a clever threat.
What's In A Name?
Even more interesting is his full name: Coleman Reese. However, what is it that Lucius Fox keeps calling him throughout their conversation? He keeps saying “Mr. Reese.” While this initially doesn't blow anyone's mind, try saying that as one word instead of two. “Mister Reese” sounds a bit like “mysteries,” doesn’t it? In the comics The Riddler's name is Edward Nigma, but "mysteries" follows the same pun style as "enigma." Considering the thought put into the rest of the screenplay, it’s hard to see this name as anything but intentional.
What Could Have Been
Admittedly, this all could just be a fun nod to the character, similar to the "giant alligator in the sewers" line in The Dark Knight Rises that was a reference to Killer Croc. However, had Coleman Reese appeared later as a fully evolved Riddler, it would have been surprising to those who missed the foreshadowing, but perfectly set up. Fired from his job and driven mad by the Joker's threats, Reese could have instigated tortuous mind games against #Batman. Who knows what crazy plot Christoper Nolan could have designed for him? Alas, Coleman Reese's possible secret identity will remain a riddle without an answer.