Joker's Shocking Climatic Scene Is a Major Dark Knight Returns Easter Egg

DC's Joker Movie is now out in theaters and breaking box office regards - despite a growing wave of controversy that keeps washing over the film. Aside from big discussions about Joker's thematic arc, or the film's resonance with real-life realities of madness and mass violence, this is still a movie based on a comic book universe, which comes with plenty of great Easter egg references. In fact, there's a great deal of irony in the fact that one of Joker's most shocking and upsetting moments also happens to be one of its most slavishly loyal odes to Batman source material - specifically Frank Miller's iconic storyline, "The Dark Knight Returns"!

WARNING: Major Joker movie spoilers follow!

The climatic act of Joker sees Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) invited onto the show of his celebrity idol, Murray Franklin (Robert DeNiro). Murray hopes to bring Arthur on to mock the struggling comedian's recent embarrassing (and public) failure at a local comedy club, but Arthur (now fully into the murderous mania of his "Joker" persona) has other ideas. The clown-faced killer comes dancing out onto Muray's set in full clown makeup and that iconic purple suit, before grabbing the other guest, Dr. Sally, and kissing her on the mouth without consent. Arthur settles into his seat for an awkward and uncomfortable segment with Murray, which culminates in Arthur admitting he is the dreaded "Clown Mask Killer" the papers and cops have been investigating. When Murray berates Arthur for his crime, Arthur gives a twisted monologue painting himself as some sort of hero of the people, before blowing Murray's brains out on live TV, while claiming it's exactly what a society run by those like the wealthy TV star deserves.

This sequence is a key reference to The Dark Knight Returns, specifically the lead-in to that book's climatic portion of the Joker subplot. In the comic, Joker has awoken from a decade-long catatonia state following Batman's retirement. Through his shoddy celebrity therapist, Joker manages to book time on the late night talk show, the "David Endocrine Show" (a Conan O'Brien satire), where he plans to show off just how reformed and sane he really is. Instead, Joker snaps his doctor's neck and murders David Endocrine and the entire studio audience with chilling calm, using his signature Joker gas (and a pair of foul-mouthed robotic babies, but let's move past that...). The other guest on the David Endocrine's show is sex scientist Dr. Ruth, who Joker kills by (you guessed it), grabbing her and kissing her with some poison lipstick laced with Joker gas chemicals.

In Dark Knight Returns, the David Endocrine sequence is used to finally push Batman over the line, and force him into a final, brutal, confrontation with his nemesis that results in Joker's death; in the movie, it is conversely the very moment that first establishes Joker as a criminal icon and force of nature, who represents the madness and savagery lurking just beneath Gotham's surface.

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Did you catch that Dark Knight Returns moment in Joker? Let us know in the comments!

Joker is now in theaters. Upcoming DC Movies include Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) on February 7, 2020, Wonder Woman 1984 on June 5, 2020, The Batman on June 25, 2021, The Suicide Squad on August 6, 2021, and Aquaman 2 on December 16, 2020.