If you stop watching Zack Snyder’s Justice League at roughly three hours and 40 minutes, the movie will simply end, and on an upbeat note to boot. But the next 20 minutes after that marker hit very differently than you might expect.
The Snyder Cut does not have a post-credits scene, but it does have three scenes that comprise the ending of “The Epilogue,” which are varying degrees of redundant, thrilling, confusing, and straight-up freaky, depending on your appetite for such things. It’s hard to argue with the moxie of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, but just the audacity of one of these scenes alone will make you think this movie has gone off the rails.
Then again, just like Aquaman accusing Batman of being “out of your mind,” the existence of the Snyder Cut at all means you probably should have been expecting some over-the-top wackiness here. The whole point of this four-hour-long version of Justice League was to not play it safe, and “The Epilogue” pushes Snyder’s dark vision for these superheroes pretty far.
But what exactly are we looking at in “The Epilogue?” Here, a guide to what these scenes actually mean, where they came from, and, possibly, what it all means for the future of the DCEU.
Spoilers ahead for the epilogue of Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
Lex Luthor Recruits Deathstroke
If you saw the 2017 version of Justice League, this scene was actually the second post-credits scene, after a jokey moment in which the Flash and Superman race each other across the continent. The Supe-Flash racing scene has been cut, but this moment in which Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) escapes Arkham Asylum and invites Deathstroke (Joe Manganiello) onto his yacht is back, and much longer than it was in 2017. The content of the scene is also totally different. In the Whedon Cut, Luthor made a jokey reference to forming a baddie-centric super-team, saying, “Shouldn’t we have a league of our own?” But now, all of that has been replaced with something simpler and more sinister. Deathstroke is disinterested in teaming up with Luthor until Luthor gives him a useful piece of information: Batman and Bruce Wayne are the same person.
Assuming there are ever sideways DCEU sequels that honor the canon of the Snyder Cut over the Whedon Cut (and there’s good reason to think that’s the case), then this scene might be pivotal. Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne is probably going to appear in the 2022 movie The Flash. Will his secret identity be wide open at that point?
The Knightmare Future and Jared Leto’s Joker
Okay, this is the one you’re probably wondering about. Even we asked ourselves upon first watch, WTF is going on here? After Deathstroke and Lex Luthor drink some bubbly, there’s a hard cut to a skeleton in the middle of a postapocalyptic wasteland. Did you accidentally start watching a Terminator sequel? Nope, because there’s Batman, hiding behind a burning car and holding a machine gun! He has rounded up an alliance that includes Mera (Amber Heard), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and the Flash (Ezra Miller with some weird facial hair), as well as two baddies, Deathstroke (again!) and Jared Leto’s Joker. They’re all cowering, trying to avoid Superman, who, in this future, has been brainwashed by Darkseid following the death of Lois Lane.
Make no mistake, this scene is … confusing. But unlike a similar scene in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, there’s actually a very quick explanation as to what is happening here, teased out earlier in the film. Remember when Steppenwolf says he has found “the anti-life” equation on Earth? Well, in this future, Darkseid uses the anti-life equation to wipe out a bunch of people on Earth. During the scene in which the team brings Superman back to life, we see Darkseid underwater killing a bunch of Aquaman’s friends. Briefly, red letters seem to zigzag across the screen. That’s the anti-life equation, a kind of catchall magic spell that lets Darkseid screw everyone over — and apparently drive Superman insane enough to become a Darth Vader–style enforcer. And that’s just the context of this scene. (BTW, assuming Batman takes this postapocalyptic thing seriously, you really have to wonder why he keeps wearing the bat-mask. If the world has ended, does the Batman disguise really matter anymore? When did he have time to do the eyeliner?)
Batman also talks about how Harley Quinn died in his arms, and the Joker references having killed Robin, offscreen. In fairness, we kind of already knew about the Robin thing, since Bruce was upset about it in Batman v Superman. The future death of Harley Quin and Lois Lane, however, are both new to the Snyder Cut. In fact, this entire scene was brand-new. Although Snyder briefly considered shooting it in his “backyard,” he was eventually able to assemble the necessary cast members to complete the new footage, apparently, late last year.
This scene ends with Bruce Wayne waking up in bed. Was it all just a “Knightmare”? Well, no. According to Snyder, this future was supposed to happen for real in a planned Justice League sequel. The idea was that the Flash was the person who would end up setting it right by going back in time to save Lois Lane. This is why Batman talks about Lois Lane being “the key” earlier in the movie, during Part 6, titled “Something Darker.” This also partially explains why Batman tells Mera they are going to “stick to the plan” so they can “set it right.”
Martian Manhunter Joins the League
The final moment of the Snyder Cut finds the green alien J’onn J’onzz fluttering down to say hello to Bruce Wayne and offer his services as a super-friendly shape-shifter from Mars. Played by Harry Lennix, it now seems like Martian Manhunter has been hanging around the DCEU since 2013’s Man of Steel. Back then, Lennix played a character named General Swanwick, but Martian Manhunter has the ability to look like pretty much anyone. In fact, earlier in the movie, Martian Manhunter impersonated Superman’s mom, Martha Kent. Does this mean there never was a “real” General Swanwick? I mean, we know that Superman’s mom isn’t Martian Manhunter, though it’s very easy to accidentally be confused about that. I mean, if you were a little kid, you’d think Martian Manhunter was Superman’s mom, right? And has been all along?
Clearly that’s not the intent here, but what’s less clear is what Martian Manhunter would have done in a potential Justice League sequel. And taken together with the other two scenes, the epilogue of the Snyder Cut is basically one very, very long cliffhanger, delivered roughly three and a half years late.
Because there is no direct sequel to Justice League planned, these various cliffhangers are mostly hypothetical, gesturing at a series of films that will probably never come to pass. Then again, if the collective reception to the Snyder Cut is positive, you never know. There are already signs that the directors of other DC movies, including Patty Jenkins, consider the Snyder Cut as real canon. So, right now, this is just a trippy epilogue, but in a year or two, it could become the Rosetta stone of the entire DCEU. Which timeline will we live in? It’s hard to say, but if the Snyder Cut proved anything, it’s that it’s possible to live in two pop-culture universes at the same time.