Arthur Fleck is dead.
He dies when Joker pulls the trigger that sends a bullet through Murray Franklin’s skull, showering his own name on the wall behind him in red. For a moment after the gunshot, tinnitus ringing in his head, there’s the absence of sound, and the whole studio is overwhelmed by ear-splitting silence.
The screams feel better than the bullet he planned to bite, even as he stares into the camera while the audience scatters like a pack of super rats. Arthur did get a funeral, after all. Even if it’s a messy one. This feels good. This feels free. Joker imagines himself dancing out of the studio, down the steps that lead to the grime and filth of Gotham’s streets. Splashing in the mud. He’s already spoken his mind to one camera, but hopes there will be thousands more on the way. Maybe he’ll try to make the news crews laugh, but Joker knows his career in comedy died with Penny Fleck. Even now, memories of his mother are fond. She tried her best, when her boyfriends weren't cracking Arthur's ribs and giving him black eyes. The memories trickled in one by one over the last day, until he recalls one in particular.
A nice man. He'd been the nicest so far. Smiled a lot. Made him feel safe. Told Arthur he'd like to be his father. Tied Arthur to the radiator and left him for dead, stealing the only wad of cash in the house and breaking his nose before he left, just for good measure.
Funny. Two people he thought could be family have hit that same spot.
His nose still hurts where Wayne punched it.
Plans to dance in the streets cut short. Before Joker knows it, he’s swarmed by officers in blue and shoved into the back of a cruiser. It’s not easy going on the road—the city is on fire. All because of him. Marvelous . Then an ambulance smashes into the car and the world is spinning, there’s glass in his hair and his eyes and up his nose.
When Joker wakes there’s still smoke in the air. The stars are out—or maybe he’s seeing stars, because the pollution in this damn city is too bad for the real deal. Metal crinkles and pops beneath him—a car hood. The fire is fuzzy in the distance, and there are blobs of white and green everywhere. Joker blinks, adjusting to throbbing at his temple and copper in his mouth. His knees hurt, his back, throat, shoulders, but he can see, and for the first time in his life, he isn’t the only clown in Gotham.
They’re looking up at him, watching as he stands atop the mangled cruiser. Their faces are hidden behind cheap plastic masks, but their eyes are alive, and they’re shining. His people. His own. There are a thousand things he could do now, a million things he could say. But, Joker isn’t political. He lifts his arms, twists his hips, and just like that, responsibility falls into his lap as the crowd roars.
Joker doesn’t need his mother. He doesn’t need Thomas Wayne to be his father, nor Bruce to be his brother. He doesn’t need Sophie, and he’s beginning to realize Arthur never needed them either. He has a duty to fulfill the role given to him, because heroes are made and not born, and Gotham has just held the first election of the new age.
Long live the king.