Zack Snyder’s Justice League epilogue explained: what the Joker cameo means

Zack Snyder's Justice League
(Image credit: HBO Max)

Spoilers follow for Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League has finally been released. The movie is now available to watch on HBO Max in the US, alongside Sky Cinema  in the UK, and if you've seen all four hours of it, you might have questions about the film's cameo-packed epilogue. 

The final part of the Snyder Cut contains plenty of footage that wasn’t present in the theatrical cut, and there are two significant moments that show what any Justice League sequels might have entailed. Below, we'll explain what they are. 

If you need the movie’s finale explained before we dive into the epilogue, you can check out our Zack Snyder's Justice League ending explained article first. If you’re happy to press on with the epilogue’s revelations, however, a word of warning. There are big spoilers for the Snyder Cut from here on out. If you haven’t watched it yet, come back later. 

Zack Snyder’s Justice League epilogue: the new Knightmare sequence explained 

Zack Snyder's Justice League

(Image credit: HBO Max)

This is your final spoiler warning. Don’t keep scrolling if you haven’t completed the movie yet.

As we mentioned, there are two major additions that hint at what Snyder’s two Justice League sequels would have covered. 

The first one is an extension of Bruce Wayne’s nightmare from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. To briefly recap that movie’s sequence, known officially as the Knightmare, Batman is one of the last heroes standing in a post-apocalyptic Earth. During a scouting mission, he is overwhelmed by Parademons - Darkseid’s winged-but-soulless army - and taken into custody. There, Batman is confronted by a seemingly evil Superman. After a brief interrogation, it’s strongly suggested that Superman kills Batman by crushing his heart.

Justice League’s Knightmare sequence, then, appears to take place before those events. Moments after we see Lex Luthor and Deathstroke converse on the former’s yacht - an incident that occurs during the present day in the real world - the movie abruptly transitions to the barren, scorched Earth we saw in Batman v Superman. A Parademon scout patrol flies overhead and, after they move on, Batman emerges from behind a destroyed vehicle.

He comes out of hiding, but he isn’t alone. Cyborg reveals himself from underneath a cloak and, even more surprisingly, Queen Mera and Deathstroke are along for the ride. As a Batman adversary, it might be strange to see Slade Wilson working with the Caped Crusader. Given that Darkseid has taken control of the planet, though, these two foes have evidently put their differences aside for the greater good.

Deathstroke isn’t the only individual from Batman’s rogues gallery in attendance either. After The Flash reveals himself and Mera mentions that someone will pay for killing Aquaman, the Dark Knight’s most iconic foe pipes up. Yep, it’s Joker - and it’s Jared Leto’s version to boot. We knew that Leto would reprise his role as the Clown Prince of Crime in the Snyder Cut, with Justice League’s teaser trailer hinting that this is where he would appear.

A tense back and forth between Batman and Joker follows, with the latter baiting Bruce Wayne over his desire to “stick to the plan” and listing all of the loved ones that Batman has lost. The duo trade insults before Joker lands a knockout blow - Batman let Lois Lane die.

Why is this important? Again, we need to revisit Batman v Superman. That movie’s Knightmare sequence revealed that Lois had died, with Superman confirming as much before he kills Batman. Supes says “She was my world, and you took her from me”, which is pretty much code for ‘You killed the love of my life’. After Bruce wakes from his nightmare in Batman v Superman, he receives a visit from a future Flash. This version of Barry Allen, who has traveled back in time, tells Bruce that “Lois is the key” before he’s pulled back to his time period. This proves that Lois must be kept alive or, consumed by grief, Superman will switch allegiances and help to bring about the end of the world.

As Batman and Joker continue their verbal spat, Cyborg chimes in saying “he’s found us”. Superman arrives, except this version isn’t the Clark Kent we all know. It’s the bad version. The group prepares to do battle with evil Supes but, before any action unfolds, Bruce wakes from his nightmare in the real world.

Why is Jared Leto’s Joker in Zack Snyder’s Justice League?

Zack Snyder's Justice League

(Image credit: HBO Max)

A comment that Leto’s Joker makes might hold the answers to this conundrum. During the pair’s vitriolic conversation, Joker asks Batman how many alternate timelines he’ll destroy before he decides to die. It might be seen as a throwaway line, but it may explain how Leto’s Joker is here, and how the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) factors into this.

In 2016 flick Suicide Squad, Ben Affleck’s Batman makes a brief cameo in a mid-credits scene - and briefly appeared in action sequences set earlier in the movie. This confirmed that Snyder’s movies and David Ayer’s Suicide Squad exist in the same universe, which is how Snyder was able to utilize Leto’s Joker in his Justice League cut. Back then, there was evidently a plan to connect the films together. 

How, then, does the ‘alternate timelines’ comment factor in? Well, rather than follow Marvel’s blueprint that allows every hero and villain to exist in the same cinematic universe, DC and Warner Bros. went in a different direction in 2017. 

By de-emphasizing their shared universe, Warner Bros. elected for the DCEU - a model that allows filmmakers to reboot DC characters without retconning or destroying those versions that have come before. It’s why we’re getting a new Batman movie, which stars Robert Pattinson instead of Ben Affleck, and a new Suicide Squad movie that Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is a part of.

If Affleck’s Batman somehow found a way to travel across the DCEU, he may have tried to persuade - or save - a different Lois Lane in order to prevent Darkseid’s eventual conquest of Earth and stop Superman turning evil in the wake of her death. If he’s failed multiple times with this plan, Joker’s comment may make more sense.

This is something that could be explored in The Flash’s upcoming solo movie, too. Affleck is reprising his role in Barry Allen’s standalone flick, which will incorporate elements of the speedster’s Flashpoint comic arc into its plot. If that’s still the case, The Flash movie should tie various elements of the DCEU together, including the Batman films starring Michael Keaton, who is also expected to return as the Dark Knight.

The second big addition to Zack Snyder's Justice League is a character who we already knew would show up. Martian Manhunter finally makes his live-action debut in the Snyder Cut played by Harry Lennix in a brief sequence with Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne, which takes place after he wakes from the Knightmare. This again seemingly teases a sequel that will likely never be.  

If you want a full rundown on who this superhero is, you can read our Martian Manhunter explainer

Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

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