The ‘el rata alada’ riddle from ‘The Batman,’ explained

The Batman (in theaters now) differs from previous Bruce Wayne movies in being more of a detective story, with the Caped Crusader (played by Robert Pattinson) and Commissioner Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) hunting for The Riddler (Paul Dano) and trying to solve his riddles.

One clue that leaves the pair baffled is “you are el rata alada.” This riddle leads the pair to go on many wild goose chases for a long (longer than it should be?) section of the movie. The answer to the riddle, however, not only reveals a villain working behind the scenes, but also provides Wayne and Gordon a new place to communicate with The Riddler.

However, the solving of the riddle takes so long, and has so many steps, that it is easy to get lost and confused somewhere in the middle. As such, here is a breakdown of all the steps of the clue, how it relates to the mob informant, and how it all links to the movie’s post-credit scene.

**Warning: This article contains spoilers from The Batman movie**

What does el rata alada mean?

Roughly speaking, the phrase means “rat with wings.” We say roughly because, as a police officer points out, it is grammatically incorrect Spanish. This is initially dismissed as being simply because The Riddler is bad at Spanish – a theory that Wayne and Gordon are a little too quick to jump on seeing as they think they are dealing with a criminal mastermind. This is an error on their part, as is made clear later in the film.

They quickly work out that rat is being used as a play on words, meaning both the rodent and a “rat” as in someone who sells out their associates. “Rat with wings” is also a way that many people describe pigeons, however, so they make the leap that they may be looking for a stool pigeon – a slang phrase for a police informant.

What does El Rata Alada have to do with The Riddler’s website?

Paul Dano as The Riddler in “The Batman.” It is he who leaves the “el rata alada” clue for Bruce Wayne.
Warner Bros.

Here’s where the fact that the phrase is bad Spanish comes into play.

Their first guess is that the phrase might refer to The Penguin (Colin Farrell) – after all, if he is the rat, then he is at once the rat and The Penguin – in other words, a rat with wings. (This reasoning amazingly turns out to be fairly sound, though the person they are looking for is someone else.)

However, when they confront The Penguin, they realise he is not who they are looking for – though he gives them the crucial clue. When they say the phrase “el rata alada” to him, he points out what’s wrong with it. Because rat is a feminine noun in Spanish, it should be “la rata”.

So why has The Riddler used the wrong definite article to refer to the rat? Because it is part of an aural pun, of the type that probably had frequent crossword solver shouting at the screen.

After, the full clue is “you are el rata alada.” Say it out loud: U R L rata alada.” Not only is the riddle a clue about who they are looking for, but also it is a website, Rataalada.com. In The Batman, the website is a place where they can communicate with The Riddler and work out who his new target is. In real life, it is a website set up by Warner Bros. where fans can try and solve The Riddler’s puzzles for themselves (as revealed in the brief post-credit sequence at the end of the film.)

Who is El Rata Alada?

carmine falcone batman
John Turturro as Carmine Falcone in “The Batman.” He is revealed to have been “el rata alada.”
Warner Bros.

With The Penguin crossed off their list of suspects, Wayne and Gordon draw a blank, and then start making some wild guesses – Gordon, for example, starts to think the clue might refer to The Batman himself, as a bat is, after all, a rodent with wings.

However, it turns out that the person they are looking for is Wayne’s family friend, Carmine Falcone (John Turturro). The fact that he is the only person in the film with a bird for a surname maybe should have tipped them off, but they get there eventually.

Can a falcon be considered a rat with wings? No, not really. But it just about works if you consider it as a two part clue – they are looking for a rat whose name describes something with wings, rather than someone whose name means rat with wings.

So who did Falcone rat out? Turns out it was Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s father. Before he died, Thomas was working on an urban renewal project for Gotham. When the various gangsters of Gotham got wind of the huge amount of money involved, however, they persuaded Falcone to turn on his friend and kill him, so that he could take over the project and make sure that all the crime families got their share of the urban renewal money.

Falcone was perfectly placed for this. He had legitimacy in the straight world, and was in a position where he was able to pay off the mayor, the DA’s office and the police so they would not look too hard into the renewal project and keep it running as a major cash cow for the mob.

Why has The Riddler been leading Wayne towards Falcone? Because he had grown up in one of the orphanages that were meant to get the money, and was scarred by how awful his experience was there. As a child, he had idolised Wayne as a fellow orphan, and so got a job as an accountant at Wayne Enterprises. It was here where he learned the truth about the urban renewal project.

And why did Bruce Wayne not notice the widespread corruption in the company he is the de facto head of? Do not forget that this is “emo Batman” – he has spent so long grieving his parents death and becoming The Batman that he has completely shut off from public life, leaving the running of the company mostly to his staff and only getting updates (that he ignores) occasionally from butler Alfred (Andy Serkis).

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