Within the first few minutes of Joker, a movie where Joaquin Phoenix is going to get nominated for if not win an Academy Award for sleeping in a refrigerator, we learn that Gotham is being overrun by rats. Not just any ol’ garbage-eating rats, but garbage-eating super rats, and the only way to take care of super rats is super cats, obviously. Followed by super dogs, super gorillas, and finally, it’s winter time. Anyway, the rats never factor into the plot of the movie, but they might in another DC title, The Suicide Squad.
It’s suspected that the rats belong to Ratcatcher, an obscure villain in Batman’s Rogue Gallery. “Once employed as an actual rat catcher in Gotham City, Otis Flannegan soon started using his strange ability — an affinity with and the ability to control rats — to stage a variety of crimes,” his description reads. “Eventually, his control over the vermin grew until he threatened Gotham with a veritable army of rodents. Incarcerated many times at Blackgate Prison, he can cause as much damage behind bars as without, using his loyal, trained, pets to relay messages and transport materials inside the maze of ventilation ducts that wind throughout the giant prison.” If I lived in Gotham, I could deal with evil penguins and riddle-obsessed lunatics, but rat minions? That’s too much.
The rat infestation could be a coincidence — a way to signal that Gotham is on the decline, like how movies set in the future use trash-can fires as a visual representation of poverty — but maybe not, considering Ratcatcher will make his, or should I say “her,” official introduction in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. The role will be played by Daniela Melchior, who “will have some connection to whomever [Idris Elba] ends up playing,” according to Variety. Maybe Ratcatcher can join Harley Quinn’s girl gang?
Anyway, the rat reference did not slip by many DC fans.
Still reeling over Joker. Keep thinking the rats in the background of significant scenes could be a subtle hint to Ratcatcher?
— Pizzkey @pisskey October 6, 2019
Was the big rat thing a ratcatcher reference?
— Steven Glansberg @VDC234 October 6, 2019
Shoutout to the Ratcatcher
— Jbat: Striver for Justice @moeru_hoshi October 7, 2019
I mean come on you foreshadow Obscure Villain The Ratcatcher and not do anything with it?
— John Reid Adams @NarcoticCasser1 October 9, 2019
Noticed Ratcatcher too.
— Jack Bottomley @JJB888 October 7, 2019
Maybe they're saving that for the sequel. I mean, they're introducing Ratcatcher in The Suicide Squad, so maybe she and Joker will team up in "Joker II: Ratpocalyse". pic.twitter.com/61zaD2ZAnn
With large swathes of the population sitting at home, audiences have a chance to catch up on films that were released years ago and find new insights into their narrative. Recently, a fan who had been watching Suicide Squad with his family reached out to the film's director David Ayer to ask about the meaning behind the scene where the Joker is lying in the middle of a room lined with a circle of knives, guns, and baby clothes. Denying that the baby onesies were trophies after an infanticide spree on the part of the cackling psychopath, Ayer provided the following explanation for the scene instead.
'No it's more innocent. Harley wanted a normal family with Joker hence the baby in her vision. I figured she would have endlessly pestered Mr. J about having a kid. So he had Mr. Frost buy some onesies. The circle represents how he sees Harley.'
The scene under discussion comes up early in the story. Harley Quinn, played by Margot Robbie, is locked up in Arkham, and we see Joker, played by Jared Leto, in his mansion mourning her absence. He has also shown to have drawn a grin across his face using a sharpie, which according to David Ayer, is because...
'He was having a hard time smiling without Harley so gave himself some help with a sharpie.'
This introduction sets up the fact that this Joker is unlike any other live-action portrayal of the supervillain as a man who is missing his demon lover. The onesies we see lined up on the floor next to the Joker later make an appearance in the scene where the Enchantress offers Harley her heart's desire, and she imagines a life of domestic bliss with her beloved Mistah J, with their babies wearing the onesies.
How the circle of knives represents Harley in the mind of the Joker is up for debate. Perhaps he fears that his affection for Harley makes her dangerous to him, and thus views her as a circle of knives drawing closer, threatening to destroy him.
This sentiment of Joker being attracted towards Harley and simultaneously hating the fact that she has made him care for her is also played out in the scene where Harley willingly throws herself into a pit of acid on Joker's command. After trying to walk away from the whole thing, Joker almost unwillingly jumps in after her and rescues her, proving that she means more to him than he can bring himself to admit.
From his explanation, it is clear that Ayer had a solid backstory and reasoning behind the script for Suicide Squad, which unfortunately did not translate very well to the big screen. But now that James Gunn has taken over directorial duties on the sequel, there is a chance to see a Suicide Squad film that gets critical acclaim in addition to minting money at the box office. David Ayer on Twitter brings us this news.