Batman: The Dark Knight Rises part 13
As Act V of The Dark Knight Rises begins, we find Dr. Crane, the Scarecrow, presiding over a kangaroo court, passing judgment on Daggett’s lapdog Stryver, the man who stood by while Bane murdered his boss. Crane sentences him to exile, which, in this case, means death, since exile involves walking across the ice that surrounds Gotham (a city taking its “frozen” status literally). Politically, the scene indicates that Bane’s rule has reached its “terror” phase, where, after all the aristocrats have been purged from the society, the mob turns on itself. “I’m one of you!” splutters Stryver as he’s dragged in. What he means is “I betrayed my master just like you!” but Crane, deep in his insanity, sees Stryver as a leech (the opposite, in fact, of a “striver”). Stryver, and others exiles, teeter out onto the ice, fall through, and drown, again, a literal reminder of the “thin ice” all the moneyed of society walk on.
“The bomb goes off tomorrow,” says Gordon, setting the alarm on the ticking clock that will power the final act. He meets with a handful of not-buried cops, except Foley isn’t among them. Foley, instead, is hiding out in his home, “keeping his head down,” the anti-Gordon, a man putting his own safety (or willful ignorance) ahead of the public good. If Bruce is the child of privilege who ultimately sacrfices himelf for the sake of society, Foley is the dark face of civil service, a spineless bureaucrat who waits for others to act. When people need a leader, he hides — rather like Act I Bruce, come to think of it, except Bruce hid in a time of peace, not in a time of crisis. (The peace was built on a lie, but that’s another story.)
Foley refuses to join Gordon, but Miranda Tate offers herself, easily as big a target as Foley in terms of people Bane’s army are looking to kill (as far as we know, which also raises the question of how much Bane’s army knows). At this point, Miranda has been presented as (1) a wealthy investor interested in “saving the world,” (2) a truly selfless philanthropist, (3) a savior to Wayne Enterprises, and (4) Bruce’s personal savior, helpmeet and comforter. Now she is presented as an urban warrior, a mirror of Bruce, to further cement her in our minds as an unalloyed good guy. (Heh heh heh.)
Selina, meanwhile, has become her own Daytime Batman, protecting the weak in “her neighborhood” (it’s unclear whether she’s carved out her own territory or if Bane has granted it to her) by beating up some goons after a kid who has stolen an apple. Absent civic law, the law of the jungle asserts itself, and Catwoman, while a thief herself (and so is the kid, for what it’s worth — he did, after all, steal the apple) stands up for the little guy (and takes a bite from his apple — not a Robin Hood, she collects a tax for her protection). And here, out of nowhere, is Bruce, back (somehow) in Gotham City, whole again, and with Selina’s precioius “clean slate” program. In spite of their past, Bruce teams with Selina to find Lucius, who holds the key to disarming the bomb. So the thieves’ thief, the protector of the little thief, teams up with the city’s prodigal son (odd that Bane doesn’t have anyone in the pit who will call him to tell him Bruce has escaped) to restore the status quo. Note is made that Selina might not want to restore the status quo, but we know that all she really wants is to get on with her life.
Gordon and a handful of other cops are caught by Bane’s men and sentenced to walk out on the ice, while Selina (now in Catwoman mode) takes Bruce to Bane’s HQ and frees Lucius. Lucius and Bruce head to Bruce’s downtown Batcave and Bruce suits up. As Gordon and the others are sent out onto the ice that night, Batman strikes, freeing Gordon and handing him a flare, to use to light up an improvised Bat-signal he has (somehow) rigged on a nearby bridge. “Impossible,” Bane splutters, caught short for the first time, as he realizes the broken Batman has risen from the pit. Does his disbelief stem from his underestimation of Bruce’s physical abilities, or is it that his social theories have proven untrue? The child of the pit, after all, didn’t have wealth to fall back on if the climb upward failed.
On a busy night (rigging the Bat-signal, finding Selina, getting Lucius, suiting up, retrieving a device from The Bat, rescuing Gordon, issuing orders) Batman finds time to save Blake from being executed by some of Bane’s thugs. “If you’re working alone, wear a mask,” he advises the younger man, “To protect the people you care about,” and we are reminded that Bane, although certainly masked, does not work alone, and has allowed (promoted?) his mask to become his identity. Is the same true for Bruce? Is he, now, Batman, or Bruce? Him saying this at this moment seems to indicate that Bruce firmly understands now that a mask is a tool, not a soul — you have to maintain your identity beneath the mask or else the mask devours you. Batman frees the cops from the sewers and orders Blake to organize an exodus from the island. It seems odd that Batman assigns his best Bat-buddy Blake to a protective role instead of an assaultive one, but perhaps the answer lies in the “people you care about” line — he knows Blake is an orphan, and he knows that orphans need a father. That’s the thing Bruce lost, he’s not going to let Blake be another casualty.
Finally, Bruce goes back to Selina (whew! What a night of errands! He’s a Knight Errant!) and gives her his Bat-Pod to blast a hole in the debris blocking a tunnel out of town. He had given a tiny bomb to Blake, like a friendship bracelet, but he gives Selina the Bat-Pod. It must be true love, because Selina, under her flinty, practical facade, is smitten — Bruce has trusted her, despite all her shenanigans (stealing his mother’s pearls, selling his fingerprints, giving him up to Bane, getting his back broken), and has granted her the chance to start over. “You don’t owe these people anything,” she snarls, but she’s projecting — she doesn’t owe these people anything, but Bruce feel he does, both by his own lights and according to his nemesis.