In most versions of the Batman mythos, Bruce Wayne fights crime to avenge the sudden, senseless murder of his parents. The Dark Knight who stars in Batman: The Telltale Series has a backstory that’s surprisingly twisted.
At the end of episode one of the action/adventure superhero game, players were left with the nagging possibility that Bruce Wayne’s parents had significant ties to Carmine Falcone and the Gotham City underworld. After wrapping up that opening chapter, I figured the tarnish on the Wayne family name was a feint generated by the psychotropic chemicals Batman found during an earlier investigation. But there was no waving-away or misdirection in episode two: Thomas Wayne was a criminal.
The revelation starts when Bruce visits Crime Alley, a grimy stretch of the street otherwise known as Park Row where his parents were gunned down before his very eyes. Alfred soon joins him and the two talk about what Alfred knew about Thomas Wayne and that fateful night. Bruce pulls up the memory from his point-of-view, recalling details that have apparently been long suppressed.
Armed with the recollection of his father’s dying-breath mention of Falcone, Bruce goes to visit the roughed-up crime boss at police headquarters. Falcone, recovering from injuries he received at the hands of Batman, doesn’t mince words and says that he, Thomas Wayne, and Mayor Hamilton Hill used their individual influence in the criminal, business and political realms to ascend to power in Gotham City.
Players then get the choice to confront Hill as Batman or Bruce Wayne, using the former persona to intimidate the morally bankrupt politician or teasing out information as the son of fellow elites. I chose to go as Bruce, and Hill’s dialogue is great in the encounter, full of bluster and unapologetic avarice.
Later, at the mayoral debate held hostage by friend-turned-anarcho-revolutionary Oswald Cobblepot, Batman sees a video recording that makes plain just how deviant this version of Thomas Wayne was.
With the exception of the last clip, none of the sequences above have the whiff of mindfuckery about them. The scene at the debate has the candidates drugged with an inhibition-erasing compound that makes them say things they’d normally repress. While that moment features the masked leader of the violent Children of Arkham organization—who looks to be this continuity’s version of the Scarecrow—it doesn’t show any large-scale manipulation of the crowd in attendance. They’re all seeing what Batman is seeing in that footage. It’s real.
Telltale has said that they’re doing their own version of the Bat-mythos so that they can remix elements and surprise people. Seeing as how Bruce Wayne’s parents are presented as iconic citizen-saints in the vast majority of Bat-histories, I totally didn’t see this twist coming. The Waynes’ altruism has felt sacrosanct, the reservoir that feeds Bruce’s own urge for justice. But, changing that in Batman: The Telltale Series adds a different flavor to the Bat-justice being pursued here. It’s a more personal tale of redemption for Bruce Wayne, one where he’s not just trying to save his city but his soul as well.