We pick up immediately from the mid-credits scene, close on the picture Arsenal’s using of himself for target practice, from when he was Speedy (timeline-wise we’ll probably play fast and loose with this, but the general idea is that he and Ollie were friends, and when Ollie started heroing, Roy tried to help, but was too eager to get out there too quickly, and got the hell stomped out of himself, which required some pain meds while he healed… which led to him shooting heroin; he’s upset at Ollie for cutting him loose rather than helping him through rehab; Ollie’s perspective is that he was helping by cutting him loose, that he’d put too much on the kid’s shoulders and had no right to keep asking for something he couldn’t give). An arrow bullseyes him in the other eye. Jason tears the photo down, the way it tears leaves a sinister-looking happy face torn through the photo. “Self-loathing can be a great motivator,” Jason says, “provided it doesn’t become a problem. You sure you’re good?”
“Don’t try to fool me, Roy; you know who trained me.”
“The Joker?” Roy asks.
Jason breaks the leg of the chair Roy’s sitting in so he falls forward, towards one of his arrows Jason freed from his target board. Jason stops him about an inch from the arrow jabbing into his throat. “You get that one crack for free. Next time you bleed for it.”
“I had been pulling your chain,” Roy complains, “but you ain’t convincing me the Bat would pull what you did.”
“There’s plenty of places he and I disagree, but reading people, knowing what they don’t want you to,” he slides a newspaper clipping out of the desk Roy’s sitting at, “I had a hell of a teacher.”
Roy tries to be unphased. “It’s just a newspaper clipping.”
“It’s that girl you failed to save.”
“I tried. She was pinned.”
“Wrong answer,” Jason says, his voice softening. “I was there, remember. We couldn’t lift it, even before Killer Croc knocked me unconscious. There was nothing you could do, Roy.”
“I could have asked for help sooner.”
We see a flashback, Arsenal trying to budge a bolder pinning a little girl under water, but he can’t even wiggle the damned thing; it’s important, for the arc of this, that it at least be feasible a human being could, even if we’re talking men who do those silly strongmen competitions where they pull semi-trailers with their teeth. It might make more logical sense that Roy has to swim rescue breaths down to her as the chamber floods; however, it might not be possible to film that in a way that it visually reads. Regardless, the girl points out that Jason is now underwater, too, and will drown without help. Roy swims Jason to a ladder or something, and by the time he gets back to the girl, she’s gone. Budget allowing, Artemis and Natasha arrive and move the boulder and help Roy with Jason- but the girl can’t be revived.
“Tash and Artemis were busy with Croc. They peeled off as soon as they could…” he squeezes Roy’s shoulder, “it wasn’t your fault. We are a band-aid in the violent patient wing of Arkham; we’re trying to save a world that wants to bleed itself to death. We save who we can. But we can’t save everyone. Probably not even ourselves. But so long as we can lace up our boots we do the job, and we try, anyway, to make this crazy place sane again. You did everything you could- everything I would have.”
“That’s not what you said, then.” I think we just cut to Jason, soaking wet, berating Arsenal. We probably don’t need (or want to hear it), but it’s brutal, cruel even by the standards of what you’d expect from this kind of scene because Jason is beating himself up, too; even in the present, he’s trying to save Roy because he can’t save himself from that guilt, from that pain.
Jason sighs. “World-class detection I learned at the feet of the master. But compassion… was never his strong suit. I was angry, and I was wrong, on the merits, and taking my guilt out on you. With the two of us, with our tech, maybe we could have got her loose, but I lost focus, and got myself knocked out.”
“I’ll meet you half-way,” Roy says: “We both suck.”
“That’s probably fair,” Jason says. “But use it. Hit the weights harder in the gym. Remember it the next time you’re exhausted and don’t think you can go on- because you know what happens when you fuck it up. No pity party, no wallowing- you make the ones you can’t save count, by using them to help you save the next ones.”
“The Bat let any of you people drink?”
“You think that’s a good idea.”
“I neither want to be alone or sober tonight. Sounds like a perfect solution.”
Jason sighs. “Fine. But we’re planning the mission- and the moment you’re too sloppy for that I start pouring you coffee instead.”
“This gig doesn’t work out for you, something tells me you’ve a promising career as a dominatrix.”
“A male dominatrix is called a dominant.”
Roy gives him a side eye. “I know what I said.” We need to end this scene. I get addicted to banter, and we’ve got a whole movie to plot out, here.
Roy drops off a much sillier Jason a few hours later. Artemis is annoyed he didn’t call, until she sees him with Roy, and realizes he really has been with the other Outsider all night and not either patrolling without her or visiting strip clubs.
“I am going to give you the best sex of the last twenty minutes of your life,” Jason whispers loud enough the neighbors definitely hear it.
Artemis tells Roy she isn’t sure exactly what he means by that, but she is intrigued. However, Jason faceplants loudly across her couch- clearly in no position to deliver on whatever he promised/possibly threatened. She thanks Roy for seeing him home, then hopes he didn’t drive; Roy says he’s got a car waiting to take him back to his place.
Artemis sits on the couch. Jason’s still drunk, still a bit silly, but we also find out he’s got more of his wits about himself than he let on. She asks if Roy’s okay. Jason asks if any of them are. She ponders a moment, before saying Natasha seems fairly well-adjusted, all things considered. And Jesse seems to have a reasonable head on her shoulders, too, probably on account of being a scholar of super-hero history. He grins, saying he mostly meant the pair of them. She smiles back, and says they are screwed up in ways that are adorably complementary, and that she intends to hold him to his boast, and turns out the light.
The next day, Natasha and Jesse are patrolling Gotham, Natasha from the air, Jesse from the street. They’re speaking by radio, trying to understand what it is they’re looking for, but also just chatting, some girl talk- namely about how the Speedsters did start patenting their tech through the QuickStart company she’s now helping run- which Natasha is interested in, because she’s now helping her uncle John run Iron Works. Eventually, Red Hood breaks through to explain to them this is Gotham. With its night time freak parade you might think it’s all one big anarchic carnival, but during the day the city runs on corruption- that if Lex had plied his corrupt scheme here he wouldn’t have had to feed Ivo to the wolves, his polling would have gone up if his corruption was exposed. He points out that Gotham’s corruption is old, as much a pillar of the community as the Waynes, that it’s persisted through years of reformers like Dent and Gordon and even the Batman because it’s run like a company- you take down the head and they just promote somebody else. So while it’s possible you’d see a brutal gang like the Snake Kings take territory – the only way they keep it is paying for it- either in blood or treasure. They’re looking for disruptions, namely violence. Jason’s watching the financials of the hundred or so crime figures most likely to be involved.
Natasha doesn’t like this plan. “So we’re waiting for bodies to drop, or for the corrupt rich to get richer- riches that will be used to fortify their position through bribes and hiring more thugs.”
Jason tells her these aren’t their only irons in the fire. We cut to Roy, showing up at a gang initiation for the Snake Kings. They make him give up his weapons- no projectiles, including some guns and a crossbow. Roy, a little concerned, talks nervously to himself (really a concealed earpiece) about his odds in this crowd hand to hand. Red Hood, on the other end of the radio, tells him that they said he couldn’t bring in any projectile weapons- that didn’t mean he couldn’t turn weapons into projectiles. He also tells him Artemis is standing by to extract him if it comes to that- but they’ll have to try and mop up enough of the Snake Kings to cripple their organization- if they fail to infiltrate them this time they’re done. Roy says he’ll try to handle it.
Artemis complains to Jason on a dedicated channel and says she doesn’t like this- that it isn’t the Amazonian way to use guile and subterfuge. He basically tells her too bad, that if the Snake Kings get their asses handed to them by an Amazon, and think Wonder Woman’s in town, that’s a whole kettle of fish. But dressed like she is, she’s just one more distant cousin in the Batfamily- and even he can’t keep track of all of them. We only see her in silhouette for now, because it’s going to be more fun to wait for the reveal, but she’s definitely wearing a batsuit with pointy ears and the spikey cape.
We cut back to the air. Natasha dispatches Jesse to check out a shooting at the LexCorp. branch in Gotham. She’s in and out, quickly assembling clues. It’s almost an afterthought that she moves a woman out of the way of rifle fire before taking the rifle, unloading it and disassembling it at the shooter’s feet. I imagine she takes the ID out of the first dead woman’s purse and compares the address to the ID from the man’s wallet (and we see that she’s already tied him to a desk with Cat 5 cables). We next see her taking keys from a police sergeant to get into a filing cabinet. “It’s a domestic violence beef. Killed his ex, who had a restraining order on him, and looked about to execute any cute young brunettes with a passing resemblance. Not our guy.”
Natasha asks about Rupert Thorne. On paper, she says he just looks like a run of the mill corrupt politician, but before he came to Gotham, he was linked to organized crime figures in a handful of cities- pictures taken with the local bigshots, never involved in any kind of arrest. Red Hood breaks in to tell them that he’s just the kind of guy the mob would bring in as a face- a lightning rod for criticism and protest, but also always just removed enough from the action to act as a shield for the rest of their exploits. Course, if he doesn’t feel the mob are paying him his due, he might start working on a side hustle. Jason tells them to check it out, but to keep their presence subtle for the time being.
We cut back to Roy, as he’s punched in the face. Roy stumbles backwards, his puncher apparently confident, until he reaches for his belt, where he’d kept a knife in an overly-ornate scabbard- the missing blade for a moment pinched between Roy’s fingers before he lets fly, the blade sticking deep into the meat of his leg. He goes to pull it out, but Roy’s on him, and puts him in a sleeper hold, informing him that it cut his femoral artery, and the only thing keeping him from bleeding out is the knife sheathed in his skin.
King Snake, presiding over the fight, stands and declares Roy hasn’t won. These fights are to the death, and he must kill the man. He also moans about using a weapon as a projectile, which was firmly against the rules. Bane stands, and voices that he feels Roy has won; he’s cut the man’s femoral artery, and he will die without assistance, but in preventing the death, he’s also proven both his skill and his desire not to waste the Snake Kings precious resources. He waves away the concern about projectiles; they don’t want the entries to be gunfights, but that doesn’t mean a man shouldn’t be able to use what they left him with to his advantage.
Bane gives a handful of gestures, after which the next three applicants attack Roy together, even as the one Roy wounded is carried off the field. King Snake is furious with Bane, says something to the effect of “How dare you contradict me in front of my Snakes?” Bane swells up to his full size (no artificial inflation from Venom), and tells him even at his prime the King Snake would have been no match for his Bane- and that he is most certainly now no longer at his prime. Then he pivots; he tells Snake King that if Roy can survive a fight like this, without the time to strategize, without being able to take the short-term pain to gain the advantage, then he deserves a place in the Snake Kings, regardless. And if he dies, then the previous fight was a fluke and he doesn’t.
I’m thinking, just for giggles, he’s up against a man with a long, pliable staff, another with a whip, and a final man with a thin machete. Roy gets the staff first, because he’s used to having to fight with a bow with a broken string. Then he gets the man with the machete to cut specific notches in either end of the staff, before stealing the whip, and threading it through the notches. Finally, he gets the blade. The three men, however, are formidable hand-to-hand combatants, and he’s still having trouble keeping them at bay. He manages to catch them off guard a moment, drop-kicking the first into the other two, so they’re lined up in a row, firing the sword from his makeshift bow through them as all four fall. Personally, I’d cast these three so that they could come back as Bane’s henchmen, that they weren’t using their signature attacks because Bane told them not to, but are otherwise formidable even then.
King Snake is irate this time, believing that Roy leaving them alive is a personal insult after the last match. Roy responds: “I came here to stand with men worthy enough to have my back. If you want me to kill everyone in this room weaker than me, we aren’t going to have enough men left for a basketball team, let alone a gang. But it’s your dime,” Roy grabs the blade, and is about to yank it up and out of them, likely causing fatal wounds. Bane rises, and stops him. He knows Roy could have aimed for the throat, or the head, even the heart, but he can see from there they’ve been pierced just below the ribcage; painful, debilitating, but intentionally avoiding their organs or spines. Bane tries to play it off as a playful thing- that his father would chop off Mozart’s hands if he played a symphony at a different tempo than he preferred- but that he has an appreciation for talent, and that Roy stays.
Roy leaves to get some air, and is accosted by a handful of thugs, who blame him for throwing off the curve- now anyone who can’t fight 3 guys at once isn’t going to get their shot. Roy’s had the holy hell beaten out of him, and they’re armed with guns, and have enough distance Roy’s screwed. Someone in black rubber drops on all three at once. It’s Artemis. There are, honestly, a lot of permutations of why this would be funny. It could be a cheap Batman costume Jason bought her from a Halloween store, or one he clearly hand-sewed. It could be an ill-fitting Batgirl costume the taller, curvier Artemis is shoved into. It could be funny just putting her into one of the Snyder-era muscle suits just because putting a woman in one would emphasize how silly those were. I’m not sure what the best version of this joke is, but Roy snickers. “I could kill you with one of them; you realize that, don’t you?” She asks, and he snickers again and tells her it might be worth it.
Red Hood, over the radio, and cameras, we now see, switches his focus to Jesse and Natasha, and asks how things are going with Thorne. Natasha’s going over digital records, and tells him Jesse installed a network dongle she could access remotely. Jesse’s read two-thirds of their physical records- would have been done, but at about the 40% mark figured out how the records actually functioned as both the clean transaction records- but, once decoded, showed the dirty records, too- records of payouts to corrupt municipal authorities, contractors. Jason’s concerned she’ll be seen; she says people can’t see things that don’t stay in their vision longer than 1/220th of a second, and that she paces when she reads, anyway; the Speed Force, which protects her (and by extension everyone in contact with her) from the truly devastating impacts of someone moving at those speeds blunts the problems she would otherwise have moving through an office at thousands of miles per hour (otherwise the air she displaced would essentially create tornados in her wake wherever she went).
Jesse clarifies that it’s clear that while Thorne might be their cut out, he functions as a separate entity, a free agent- so that even if Thorne got nailed, they’d just move on to the next cut out. Natasha has the final piece- that isn’t represented on the paper records Jesse’s been scanning: Thorne’s been consulting for a Santa Priscan outfit, namely the mercenary corporation that took over the government, and now operates the gangs and drug funneling operations they’re targeting. The money doesn’t seem to even be acknowledged in any of his political fundraising or disclosures; it’s off the official books. Jason thanks them, and tells them that they’ve done good work- and that they should meet back at the hotel- he’ll be joining them soon.
We go back to Roy, within the Snake Kings compound. He’s at the head of a group lead into the inner chambers. He is greeted by the three mean he pierced together, now bandaged. One each grabs his arms, while the third puts a knife to his throat. “What the hell is this?” he asks. Bane tells him that they’ve had many attempts to infiltrate, from the Bat people, Checkmate, even a Gardner for the Superfriends. And from every law enforcement alphabet you’d care to imagine. They never cared. They let them in- if they passed this final test. The secret to the Snake Kings’ tenacity and strength is their Venom. They sold its weaker form on the streets, like heroin, if heroin made you feel like you could push over a car or a tyrannosaur. But the good stuff, the pure stuff, the strain Bane has hooked to his gauntlet- that was a high no one could walk away with. Strength you could never go back to living without. Riding the Venom meant pledging yourself til death to the Snake Kings. Most of those infiltrators were wise enough to pass, to walk away; the few who weren’t served the Kings, turned on their lives, their lovers, their coworkers, whatever they had believed in their life before the Kings. Venom isn’t a test- it’s a rebirth.
Jason is legitimately worried. “Roy, stall; I can have Artemis there before they can so much as call you a mean name.”
“I can handle it,” Roy says out loud, and snorts a line of Venom, and proceeds to beat the crap out of his attackers. Bane watches, with his hand on the dial of his own Venom supply. After thrashing the three, Roy spins on Bane, ready to attack him, too. But he stops, and says that he can’t stand people trying to kill him.
“Then you don’t like me,” Bane says. Roy shrugs. He’s not against someone wanting him dead. But doing somebody else’s wetwork? That’s just low class. Besides, he knows if Bane really wanted him dead, he’d turn that dial and do it himself. He tells Bane he puts other people in harm’s way to understand who they are- but they both already understand who they are- the only thing left to be gained is violence. Bane opens his hands, removing the one from the dial as he extends the other to Roy. “Welcome, brother, to the Snake Kings.”
Artemis and Red Hood chat on their private link. She’s pleased with the progress of their mission, and underconcerned with Roy. Jason cuts off abruptly, saying he’ll have to call her back. Because finally, we pull back to confirm that, yes, Jason has been in the Batcave this entire time. And 2, that Batman is standing there, glaring angrily at him. “I asked a question, Jason: what the hell are you doing here?”
Red Hood shoots back that Nightwing called about his little Venom problem. Batman says he doesn’t have a Venom problem. Jason replies that Gotham sure as hell does, and given his history of… performance anxiety, Dick was concerned he might need some help- help he would never, not if he lived to be 9000 years old, ask for.
“I want you the hell out of my cave. Your mission’s concluded. I want you out of Gotham, too.”
“What’s your favorite pie?”
“But that is the password, if you’re trying to find out if I’ve been doubled or mind-controlled. I haven’t. I just want you gone.”
“And why’s that?”
“Because you put together a team consisting of has-beens and wash-outs, all with a chip on their shoulder or something to prove, most of whom would content themselves with petty revenge. Maybe you just see enough of yourself in them that you want to give them the second chance you feel I haven’t given you. But you put a junkie undercover in a drug sting. You put an Amazon who was too extreme for other Amazons into a batsuit. Your judgment is beyond compromised. And I thought I told you I didn’t want to see that symbol back on your chest until you earned it.” Yup. Subtly, just essentially an indented detail like some of the latter-day Batsuits, Red Hood’s costume has a bat symbol carved into the chest. Eventually he’ll have the full red symbol he wears. I think it should probably be there from the moment we do the mid-credits scene in the last film- Jason essentially considering himself having earned it while Bruce… clearly disagrees.
“Guess you really can’t go home again,” Jason says, trying not to show how hurt he is. Then he spins on his heels, a smile on his face. “No. You almost had me. I don’t know if this is your pride, or you trying to protect me after you failed so spectacularly to. But you don’t get to tell me not to help. I’ve got an agent in with the Snake Kings. And we’ve put together who the cut out is they’re using to pass a percentage to the local cappos to stave off a turf war.”
“Thorne,” Batman tells him. “I’ve known for a week.” But there’s something beyond intensity in him, perhaps a little pride. “We couldn’t get past the initiation. Everything I tried, every barrier, every countermeasure, anti-toxin or anti-dote, failed to even slow Venom down. Nightwing thought he could talk his way past it- when he refused to snort the stuff Bane tried to kill him. GCPD ignored my advice, put in their most seasoned undercover; Venom hit them so hard he put a bullet in Gordon; he barely survived.”
“Roy can handle it.”
“He’s an addict. Pull him out.”
“You don’t get to give me orders anymore.”
“It’s not an order,” he says, his voice softening. “It’s concern. They look up to you. It means they’ll do most anything you ask. Even when you have no right to.”
“I’ll keep an eye on him.”
“If you think that’s best.”
“I do.” Jason turns to leave, feeling triumphant.
“Just stay the hell out of my cave.”
That night, Artemis arrives. They discuss their progress. Natasha tells them that she installed surveillance equipment on Thorne’s phones, and still has Jesse’s backdoor into his campaign’s equipment. Arsenal’s tracker starts moving. Natasha checks, no emergency communications from any of the known Snake King associates. Jason says that he doubts the Kings tell Thorne everything- only what he needs to know to keep them good with the mob- especially if we’re talking shipments of something a rival might decide to try to take for themselves.
So they follow Roy’s tracker. Red Hood and Artemis ride on a Batbike together. Jesse, mostly a blur, runs beside them, with Natasha in the air overhead. Jason asks Natasha if she’s sure she isn’t exposed. She tells him that with the cloud cover and the gray sky, she’s practically invisible to the naked eye. The rear of a moving truck opens, the back metal gate hitting the pavement with a shower of sparks. One of the King Snakes fires a stinger missile at her. It’s one of the men who Arsenal fought earlier, specifically Bird, tipped off by his falcon. Jason asks Jesse to confirm Arsenal’s location; last thing they want is for him to get hit in the crossfire. Jesse zips up to the truck, then zips back as gunfire hits a sideview mirror where she’d been. She tells them he’s in the cab, and she thinks he took a shot at her. Jason tells her he’s probably preserving his cover, then says, “Natasha, stop the truck.”
She plops down in front of it, planting her feet in the pavement and pushing against it, stopping the truck. Bird leaps out of the back, onto a follow car. “Artemis?” Jason says, but she’s already flying through the air towards the car, letting a spear fly. It goes through the driver and into one of the passengers in the backseat, and she kicks the front passenger through the windshield. We get a quick, brutal fight scene where she fights four men in a confined space and just dominates; it’s more about speed and skill than powers, though- think John Wick. Jason brings his bike to a stop beside Arsenal’s door. Arsenal kicks the door open, and it smacks Jason in the face, bloodying him. Jason opens the door violently, prepared to smack Roy for his little Joke. But we see Arsenal’s eyes- he’s stoned out of his gourd, and his blood is up, his veins bulging, maybe his muscles, too.
Jason’s caught flat-footed as Arsenal draws on him. Artemis leaps between them, her shield on her arm, as she dives past, deflecting the shots. As she clears, Jason flings a fistful of red batarangs into Arsenal, the pain making him drop his gun. Artemis relates that she’s seen that look, fighting Norse berserkirs- that Arsenal isn’t himself. There’s a gunshot, hitting the grill of the truck; there are more Snake Kings at the overpass. Jason and Artemis exchange a glance, and she flies off to deal with the assault.
Jason and Arsenal spar for a moment, Arsenal demolishing him, before picking him up and throwing him onto the hood of a car. From the pavement, Jason tells Jesse to put Arsenal down. Arsenal is suddenly hit with several dozen punches, before falling over. Jesse stands over Jason. “So, when you said ‘down’ I assumed you meant as in lying and not as in like a quadriplegic St. Bernard with a bad heart.” He nods.
Jason checks out the truck, and finds out it’s full of Venom, big enough containers that Jesse can’t lift them, and enough of them that while Natasha and Artemis could maybe each carry one or two, it that would leave too many. Jason calls Batman, and asks him if he knows a way to ruin a shipment of Venom. Batman asks what chemicals they have immediate access to. He says he might be able to whiz in one, and if they weren’t currently shooting at the truck, he might be able to siphon some gas- but the tanks appear to be hardened against heat, and there isn’t enough gas for an explosion- besides which aerosolizing a truckload of Venom in the middle of a city seems like a bad idea. Batman complains that they aren’t giving him a lot of options. “You’re the one with the head for chemistry. We might only be able to hold this truck for another sixty seconds.”
“And where are you- nevermind, I got enough tower pings to triangulate. Can you start the car? Because you’re only a couple blocks from Axis.”
He tries to start it, but the battery took a bullet in the fighting. He calls out, “Irons, start the car.” She routes power to her outer shell and shocks the car to life- also blasting off a couple of Kings who had grabbed her. Jason gets it to turn over, and peels off. “Axis? Thought it was a Superfund.”
“It is .It takes an average of 12 to 18 months to clean up a Superfund site- and this is the third time it’s been designated as such.”
“And that will destroy it?”
“Even if they manage to clean the toxins out of it, would you be willing to take a hit if it might turn you into the Joker?”
“For some people that might be a selling point.”
“Not enough to build a stable market.”
Artemis tells him over the radio she’s led a retreat- which was easy, because the Snake Kings are all following him- some on foot (could make for an interesting scene as several Kings pump after him, T2 style).
Jason says they should keep retreating, but he’ll need one of the flyers with him- to literally pull his ass out at the last minute. He thinks a moment before clarifying- just him- he needs the Venom to be contaminated.
Jason bursts through a chained gate onto the Axis property. Jason checks the side mirror, and sees a King chasing after him, getting close. He drops a batbomb out of the truck, blowing the King off his feet. Jason asks Batman what the shelf-life is on the gases in his grapnels. He says 18 months. Jason says he’s pretty sure the one he has is older than him, and his team aren’t responding. Jason drives the truck up a ramp of fallen wall, and the van tips into a chasm over the pits Joker threw Harley into. Jason jumps out the door, firing his grapnel… which sputters, barely gaining another couple of feet before dropping limply. His oustretched hand is grabbed by Natasha Irons, who flies him over the pit.
She flies him back over the pursuing Kings. They’re firing at them, and Jason gets agitated. She tells him she’s been thinking about his cute little gas bombs, and considering the need for crowd control. Panels in her suit slide open, and a couple of dozen gas canisters shoot out, into the Kings, enough to put even the enVenomed Kings down. “Cops may not be able to get all of them, but they should get some of them, and that should make all our jobs easier.” Jason congratulates her.
Arsenal is in the Snake Kings infirmary. He’s woken by Bane, who puts a bow in Arsenal’s hand; he has his own, even heavier duty, slung on his back. Bane leads him out into the night, specifically to a rival organization’s headquarters. He’s skeptical of Arsenal- that in the infirmary he refused more Venom. “It enhances healing, counters pain. It also makes my men more predictable, and dependable.”
Arsenal’s in pain, and irritable from the detox, so he can’t keep himself from sniping back, “And pliable.” Bane doesn’t deny it, and we get the sense, from his voice, that he’s amused that Roy’s so much more aware than the rest- he’s grooming him for an important position in the Snake Kings. He tells Arsenal to shoot the man in charge, who, on closer inspection, seems to be a ventriloquist dummy.
“Not the dummy, the man with his hand up its ass.” Arsenal pulls the shot at the last minute, only cutting the Ventriloquist’s throat- it’s a nasty wound, one the Vetriloquist may never speak again after, but he’ll live, if his mooks can keep pressure on it while they wait for an ambulance.. Bane grabs him by the arm and twists it behind him, straining it until it pops loudly and Arsenal screams in agony.
Bane releases him, and says that he refused to kill a criminal on command- even when it would save his life. That strength of will makes him very dangerous. Bane breaks Arsenal’s bow, and sets his own down at his feet. He tells him it was custom-made, that it cannot be pulled by a normal man, especially not one with a fractured radius. He puts a syringe down beside the bow, tells him he read about him; he preferred needles when he apprenticed to Green Arrow, yes? He offers him a choice. Shoot up with Venom, and he can use the bow to stop Bane. Or stand and watch while he kills an innocent bystander. He picks a woman at random from the street, and jumps down a fire escape. Bane follows the woman into an alley, and is reaching for her when an arrow strikes the brick beside his head. He sees Roy, with a second arrow waiting, aimed right at him. Bane smiles.
We cut to King Snake stalking powerfully around his chamber. Bane is cool and collected, with Arsenal standing by with Bane’s bow. King Snake is furious that Bane is trying to depose him, to use failures beyond his control- failures in part due to Bane’s hiring choices, to push him out. But Bane isn’t similarly passionate at all. He’s cold. Collected. “I inherited the tactical brilliance you used to turn a losing mercenary campaign into a successful coup, but none of your weakness: your vanity or venality. I synthesized Venom from the sciences I taught myself while serving out your prison sentence- from an infant. If I must end you to take my rightful place, I will do so, with regrets. But I will no longer stand by and excuse your failures.” My thinking is that, like in the comics, Bane was part of the experimentation in the Peña Duro prison, working from the Miraclo serum used by Hourman back in the day as a template, to create a longer-lasting formula. Most prisoners died from exposure. While Bane survived, it still only gives him a short burst of strength. However, Bane had taught himself many things, including enough science that he was able to help the scientist fill in the blanks on why his Venom didn’t work. Once it finally did, the scientist promised that he’d help him get out of prison, he’d see to it that he was granted a full pardon. Bane said he will help him escape the prison, but not the way he thought. Bane killed him, and uses his credentials as well as the Venom, to escape.
King Snake complains that he has no right. Bane corrects him, that it is King Snake’s short-sightedness that would have doomed their operations, because without the tribute to keep the other gangs at bay, the Snake Kings would become a losing proposition. But Bane refused to carry out his orders; only a portion of their shipment arrived the previous night- the rest arrives tonight by alternate means. Bane tells his father this proves his superiority of mind, but that if he must, he will prove his superiority in strength, as well. King Snake relents.
The Outlaws still have Arsenal wired for sound; they don’t know whether they can trust the intel, or whether they’re walking into a trap. Jason says it could be a trap, but Arsenal is snared in it. He’s getting him out, and trying to stop the shipment, too, if he can, but it’s his mistake, if they don’t want to come with him. The other Outlaws, in grand speechmaking tradition, relate their own mistakes, which brought them to the Outlaws in the first place. “The Outlaws are where you end up if you’re too traumatized for the Titans, too violent for a Justice League, or too good for the Suicide Squad.”
They do a Fast and Furious heist of the rest of the Venom, with Jaime Reyes again showing up to assist in the finale. He says he’s sad he missed Jason’s crow-eating speech- but agreed to help, because Natasha says she taped it. He’s sure it’s a lie, before Natasha plays some of the speech over their comms.
The Outlaws win again, this time echoing the Dark Knight Rises having Batman pick up the armored truck of Venom in a batwing and fly off with it.
The Outlaws then travel to the Snake Pit (what the Snake King’s nest is called) and soften them up for the cops, who are finally coming because the Snake Kings can’t afford to bribe Thorne without Venom to sell- who was in turn keeping the cops as well as the cappos of their backs.
Bane and his three henchmen are absent, as is Arsenal. They attack the Outlaws back at their hotel, initially humbling all of them methodically. The foursome all sport Venom upgrades similar to Bane. Bane doesn’t bother with Arsenal, buying him off, essentially, with the narcotic form of Venom he’s been hooked on, expecting him to stay out of it.
Roy is able to resist his demons long enough to help turn the tide, putting an arrow through Bird’s bird, and one into Bane’s leg, buying the other Outlaws enough of an edge it becomes clear Bane can’t win. Bane manages to escape, remarking that he’s learned a lesson: to isolate his foes, removing their friends first, their strengths second, and finally, exploiting their weaknesses. It seems like a win, until they realize Arsenal is shooting up with Venom- in fact, he’s ODing. Luckily, Batman gifted Jason a Narcan derivative he mixed that can keep himalive.
I think next is a tough love moment between Arsenal and Red Hood, where he locks him up. At first, Jason is angry at him, it seems, saying, “You told me you could handle this.” His expression softens. “But that’s on me. I shouldn’t have asked what I did. You wouldn’t take a gambling addict to Vegas and stay on the strip. I put you on the casino floor and told you to stay put. ,I” Jason takes off his mask, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have let this happen to you. But I am going to make it right.” Roy starts chattering at him to let him out, thinking he can talk his way into an opportunity to get off the chain. “I’m getting you clean. Whatever it takes.” As Jason closes the peephole, Roy realizes Jason’s his jailer.
“Don’t say it,” Jason says. Batman asks what he would say. “I told you so, or any variation on that theme.”
“I meant there’s nothing to say.”
“That’s… not like you.”
I’m honestly not sure if this conversation is better, or him just leaving it there, and sitting with Jason. But because it’s a pitch and not an edit of the movie, I can have my cake and eat it, too. “Every one of you reminds me of myself in some facet,” Batman tells him.
“Let me guess: I inherited your temper.”
“I don’t think I was ever as angry as you are. Dick… Dick is the me I wish I could be, that I wish I could heal enough to be; he’s the hope I usually don’t have the courage to live. Tim has the mind everyone thinks I do.”
“But no one can take a crowbar to the face from the Joker like me and you.”
“Kind of. In a lot of ways I’m lucky. Born with money. Health. A good mind. But the one thing that felt like it was mine, that I didn’t inherit, was will. To keep going. Keep fighting. Survive, even when everything inside me told me to roll over and die. To get up, even though you don’t know where you find the strength to. To build something that will outlive you, filled with people who are better than you. And to shoulder your failures. I know what you think, Jason, but you are not one of my failures. I failed you; I know that. Failed to keep you safe. Failed to teach you how to channel your rage, temper it, into something you can use to change the world. But you haven’t failed me. Not a day.”
“Not even with these?” Jason asks, pulling his pistols.
“There was a time they would have been a deal breaker for me. Watching my parents die the way they did… but fighting with Nightwing, of all people, taught me every man has to forge his own path. My path can’t be yours, as much as I might wish it, as much as seeing you so much as hold those hurts.” He sighs. “But I will ask that you use them as a last resort; only when there’s no other way- that you only take a life in order to save one.”
“You know I can shoot to wound, right?”
“In a fight? With a hundred variables, including enemies moving at least as fast and erratically as you do? I’ve almost killed people with batarangs, and a grapnel, once. I don’t care how cautious you are, you’re going to kill someone with those things. So you should only use them when that’s an acceptable trade. But… I didn’t come down here to ask for that. I came because, I think you’ve been reckless, trying to accomplish more, and bigger. That when I said I wanted you to earn it, you heard I wanted fireworks. I wanted Joker in bracelets, with a few of his teeth left in his skull to show you’d learned restraint.”
“What, even that wouldn’t do it?”
“It might have. But this was what I was waiting for. Consequences, you accepting them, with maturity and grace. We all fail, son. Even Clark, though none of us shoulder it quite as well. But our failures only define us if we let them- and that includes trying to run from them. You made a call, and Roy got hurt. Accepting that you’re going to do the hard work putting him right, and accepting your culpability, that was how you earned it.”
They hug. Credits. Mid-credits scene. Batman and Red Hood continue to hug. Jason says, “If anybody asks I’m telling them I earned it kicking Bane in the nards.”
“I will too, son.” Resume credits. End credits scene. We start on a radar screen. An operator tells someone over radio that that’s negative, still no atmospheric radio contacts. The person on the other end says “Good. Then we still have time.” We recognize this voice from Outlaws 1, belonging to Lex Luthor. We can also see his face, because despite the fact that he’s built himself some Iron Man armor, he still really needs you to know it’s him sitting in it, so the face is see-through. He’s standing on top of the LexCorp. Tower, holding someone shiny in his hand by the throat. “I meant what I said when I thought you were dead, John, the world really would have been poorer for losing your genius. Lucky for it, I’ve got it- backed up every little thought you and that precocious little niece of yours ever had. Your recent stuff, I think we’ll live without. You’ve started repeating yourself, John. It’s sad, really; I know how we’d all prefer to go out on a high note.” He squeezes, crushing the armor around John’s throat, before dropping the armor.