Twenty-some years on from its initial publication, Batman: The Long Halloween continues to leave readers without a clear answer to its central mystery:
“Who was the Holiday Killer?”
Because the book is often recommended to new readers, and because its ending contains so many open-ended statements and contradictions, the question of who committed what Holiday murders will likely never fade away. Indeed, as I prepared to write this post, my own hypothesis of who Holiday is flip-flopped, proving how nebulous any theory likely is.
But in my mind, there’s one clear place to start when assembling any theory about the Holiday Killer’s identity. And that’s by believing in Harvey Dent, as The Long Halloween so often asks us to do.
I don’t believe that Harvey’s statement, delivered near the climax of the book, is just a product of his new, two-focused psychosis. And I don’t believe he’s implicating himself when he says there were two Holiday Killers. If that were the case, why not just come right out and tell Gordon and Batman what he means? Harvey’s already going to jail, or Arkham, for the murders he committed that evening.
No, I believe Harvey’s statement implicates someone other than himself and Alberto Falcone, the self-confessed Holiday Killer. While Alberto was undoubtedly a Holiday Killer, Harvey’s statement should lead us to believe he has additional insight on an additional killer. Someone he’s willing to implicate, but who he’s not willing to name outright.
Which may lead us to actually believe Gilda Dent’s end-of-book confession, despite its apparent implausibility.
The Case for Gilda
Many Long Halloween analysts dismiss Gilda Dent’s confession, delivered while she burns the Holiday Killer’s garb and an unused gun (which most theories seem to not mention), as the ravings of a woman who has cracked under pressure.
Additionally, they posit that:
- Gilda’s motive for her killings (to ease Harvey’s caseload) does not make sense.
- Gilda did not have the means to perform the Thanksgiving and Christmas killings.
- The switch from Gilda to Alberto requires too many coincidences to work.
However, working under the assumption that Harvey’s statement about there being two Holiday Killers is meant to implicate Gilda without revealing her directly, we can provide satisfactory explanations for the above, as well as some additional proof that Gilda did actually commit the first three Holiday murders.
Firstly, Gilda’s initial killings target those she knows about or has access to. We see the Holiday Killer preparing their first gun well before Richard Daniel is murdered by Johnny Viti. But the actual Holiday killing takes place after Daniel’s murder. More importantly, it takes place after Gilda receives a phone call informing her of Daniel’s murder, and possibly even of Jim Gordon’s primary suspect: Johnny Viti.
From there, Gilda simply has to track Viti down and commit her first murder, which would theoretically free up some of Harvey’s time, as he no longer has to prove who murdered Daniel. That’s one less loose end in the Roman case, which is what Harvey’s primarily working on.
Because we’re reading a comic, and the turning of a page suggests an immediate passage of time, the Holiday killing seemingly happens directly after Richard Daniel’s murder. But a caption places Daniel’s murder in September, while the first “Holiday” killing happens before, and not on, Halloween. That’s right, the first Holiday killing doesn’t happen on a Holiday, suggesting Alberto Falcone’s “my-birthday-was-on-a-Holiday” motif is not yet in place. However, the amount of time that passes between Daniel and Viti’s murder is sufficient for Gilda to perform some detective work (or just steal Harvey’s case files) and track Viti down herself.
With Gilda’s motive, means, and opportunity for the October murder in place (and an additional hole poked in the it-was-always-Alberto theory), we can move on to the Thanksgiving and Christmas murders.
The Thanksgiving murder is the hardest to make sense of, as Gilda is clearly lying in the hospital, possibly unconscious, on Thanksgiving night.
However, we see Gilda for only a split second in November. We do not truly know her condition, and we do not know how much she may or may not have discussed the Irish with Harvey. Harvey may have known exactly where the Irish went and told Gilda (“Can you believe it? Now they’re in Gotham’s finest hotel, celebrating!”) before the scene we see. From there, it is a stretch for Gilda to have been able to have a) left the hospital, b) acquired a Holiday gun, and c) outgunned all of the Irish. But it’s not impossible, especially by comic book logic.
We’ve discussed how Gilda’s means and opportunity are lacking for the Thanksgiving murder, but what sells me on her having committed the murder is her possible motive. If Alberto (and his father, as we’ll discuss below) truly performed all the Holiday killings, there’s no reason the Irish had to die. After all, they had not given the Roman up. They had failed to accomplish their goal of killing the Dents, but they did blow up the Dents’ house.
The Irish performed their job about as well as could be expected. For the Roman to simply cut them loose afterward does not seem in character, especially given his later dealings with Poison Ivy and the Riddler.
Gilda, however, has all the motive in the world for wanting to see the Irish dead. They blew up her home and the life she was trying to build. And for that, and to again ease Harvey’s workload, she decided to kill them.
At Christmas, I believe Gilda’s plans were interrupted. The Joker’s invasion of the Dents’ new home set Gilda on edge and ruined whatever plan she may have actually had for committing a murder on Christmas Day. There are two clues, however, that suggest Gilda likely did murder the Roman’s bodyguard, Milos, on Christmas Eve/Day.
The first is a scene in which Jeph Loeb goes out of his way to tells us that Gilda, even in her weakened condition, is more capable than we might think. Harvey tells Gilda to take it easy as they approach their new home, but Gilda jumps out of her wheelchair and dismisses her doctors’ advice. After all, she’s been well enough to commit murders for some time.
Secondly, when the Holiday Killer murders Milos, we see their hand shake as they place their calling card, a snowglobe, near Milos’s body.
The shaking could be due to the cold, or if the killer is truly Alberto, it could be due to the fact that Alberto may have actually known and liked Milos. However, I choose to believe that Gilda, who we already know has killed emotionally at least once, did manage to follow the Joker from her home to the Roman’s penthouse (again, we have no idea how much time has or hasn’t passed between pages), just in time to see the Joker escape. With no one else around to kill, Gilda took her chance and murdered the distracted Milos, to keep the Holiday Killer mythology going. The shaking hand is a clue as to Gilda’s condition.
Now, if we’re to believe Gilda’s confession, which I think we are, the October, September, and December murders are the only ones she committed. It’s possible Gilda had plans to commit more murders come January, but those plans were derailed by Carmine and Alberto Falcone, as well as Gilda’s own assumptions. We’ll cover all that in a moment.
But first, I want to talk about additional clues that point toward Gilda having performed the first three Holiday killings, and toward Harvey suspecting that Gilda was the killer.
How Did Harvey Know?
The first additional clue is the gun metal Batman finds in the Dents’ vise. This metal is never actually explained away. When Alberto confesses to all the Holiday murders, a fairly-distraught Batman drops his theory that Harvey Dent could have been the Holiday Killer. So Batman forgets about the gun metal he found in the Dents’ basement.
Batman attributes the metal to the gun found in Harvey’s briefcase, which is likely correct. But what Batman and Gilda both don’t understand is where Harvey likely found the gun.
Gilda, who performed three Holiday killings but stopped because she assumed someone, most likely her husband, had taken up the mantle, assumes Harvey’s gun is his own. That is, Gilda believes Harvey is currently committing the Holiday murders, and has been since the end of December. So she believes the gun is likely meant for Harvey’s next victim.
This, however, seems incredibly unlikely. By this point in the story, the Holiday Killer has been killing people connected with Alberto Falcone’s faked death for quite some time. Harvey Dent would have no reason to murder these people. So he is not a Holiday Killer, despite what his wife might believe.
But if the gun is not Harvey’s, and it is likely not evidence from a prior murder (as Gilda leads us to believe), then where did Harvey get it? Simple; he found it in his basement. He found it in Gilda’s stash, which we know must exist, as we see Gilda burning an unused gun at the end of the story.
Harvey seems incredibly put-off in the scene where Gilda confronts him about the gun. If he is truly a murderer, as Gilda suspects, this would make sense. But if, instead, he’d actually discovered evidence that Gilda might be the murderer, his attitude would still make sense. And his words to Gilda in that scene, “It has to stop,” take on additional meaning.
Harvey is still processing what he’s found, and he has an important case to try that day. He has neither the time nor the mental capacity to confront Gilda about what the gun means and why he may have found it in his basement. So he lies to Gilda about where the gun came from, until he can discuss the truth with her more thoroughly. But he does give Gilda a veiled warning, a warning she misses out on since she believes the gun is Harvey’s.
Of course, the Dents never get to discuss the gun more thoroughly. Instead, Harvey becomes Two-Face (and clues Batman and Gordon in on his discovery, if only ever-so-narrowly), and Gilda is led to believe that her suspicion, that Harvey took up the Holiday killings on New Year’s Eve, was accurate.
Of course, that’s not at all what happened. Instead, Gilda was outfoxed by both herself and the Falcones, who used the Holiday killings to start dipping their toes into Gotham’s new brand of freakish crimes.
The Case for Alberto (and the Roman)
Alberto Falcone is Holiday. Or rather, he is one of the two Holiday Killers. But how did the hand-off from Gilda to Alberto take place? That hand-off requires a number of coincidences to work as it does on the page, but I have a theory that makes it all make at least a modicum of sense.
The first facet of my theory is that Alberto’s “death” was Alberto’s idea. He may or may not have approached his father before faking his death, but I believe it was Alberto, the smart son, who had the idea of using the Holiday killings to his father’s advantage. The idea is entirely unorthodox, too unorthodox for a straight-laced gangster like Carmine Falcone to have concocted alone.
But I do believe the Roman and Alberto worked in tandem for at least part of Alberto’s run as the Holiday Killer. Without that coordination, several story points make much less sense. And with it, a couple additional pieces fall into place.
But before we get into how Alberto’s tenure as Holiday worked, let’s walk through the planning and coincidences that made it possible. Recognizing the possibilities that “Holiday” provided, Alberto (possibly with his father’s aid) decides to stage his own death. He chooses to do so on New Year’s Eve, likely for a couple reasons:
- He can escape his father’s yacht with minimal trouble, staging a murder and “falling” overboard to get rid of the need for a body.
- The Holiday Killer has already struck during December. Faking his death on New Year’s Eve gives Alberto a cushion of time, even if the first Holiday strikes again in January. The police could attribute both killings to the same killer, assuming Holiday kills on New Year’s Day, and be none the wiser about what Alberto has planned.
From there, coincidence aids the Falcones’ plans immensely. The same night Alberto “dies,” Harvey Dent comes home incredibly late with wet hair. Gilda does not know Harvey stayed late at his office studying Bruce Wayne’s possible connection to the Falcones, nor does he tell her.
Gilda, the actual Holiday Killer, then likely hears the news that Alberto has been killed aboard his father’s yacht. She knows she did not commit the murder. Knowing that Harvey arrived home late, wetter than she thinks he should have been, Gilda assumes it’s possible (though not confirmed) that Harvey has picked up the Holiday killings. Or at the very least, someone has. Later, Harvey finds Gilda’s gun in their basement. Gilda mistakenly believes this discovery confirms her suspicions, as she does not realize the gun is hers.
In the wake of Alberto’s “death,” the Falcones likely would have believed the Holiday Killer would strike on New Year’s Day, or possibly elsewhere on New Year’s Eve. When she doesn’t, that gives them free rein to co-opt the Holiday identity for themselves, as well as try out some of Alberto’s other ideas.
Alberto’s Experiments Begin
At this point, the Holiday Killer begins killing off Salvatore Maroni’s people. The February and March killings are, other than the holiday trinkets left at each scene, undistinguishable from typical gangland violence. I assume these murders were conducted under Carmine Falcone’s direct orders; they are extremely simple and benefit him significantly. Additionally, if Alberto were planning the murders himself, using the motivation he reveals near the end of the series, I do not believe he would have attacked just the Maronis so straightforwardly.
But in the background, as those murders play out, Carmine Falcone begins listening to his son’s other ideas. Ideas that involve experimenting with a new type of crime.
I believe it was Alberto’s idea to begin hiring Gotham’s “freaks” for use in Falcone operations. Carmine’s first attempt at integrating Batman’s rogues into gangland activities takes place almost immediately after Alberto’s “death.” Notably, the Poison Ivy operation, in which Ivy is to convince Bruce Wayne to launder the Falcones’ money, begins on Valentine’s Day, Alberto’s birthday.
But most convincingly, the Ivy operation solves a problem we know Alberto had an idea for all the way back in August. An idea his father would not hear then, but has likely given credence to now, in the face of increased pressure from his rivals.
When the Ivy operation works better than expected, Alberto is given free rein to execute his other ideas. And Falcone ends up hiring the Scarecrow, the Mad Hatter, and the Riddler.
The Falcones’ usage of the Riddler, in particular, stands out as noteworthy for a couple reasons. First, the fact that Falcone brazenly violates his typical conventions suggests he is seriously attempting to find his son’s killer. This pushes suspicion off the Falcone family, suggesting the Holiday Killer is a free agent, even as the killer’s attacks tighten in on the Maronis.
Second, the Riddler almost solves the Holiday case. When pressed to name who the Holiday Killer is, the Riddler uses his considerable faculties to name Carmine Falcone the killer (likely spurred on by how inconsequential the October-December killings are for the Falcone crime organization as a whole and how much more impact the Maroni killings have had).
Carmine laughs at the Riddler’s suggestion for, I think, two reasons:
- The killings, even as carried out under Alberto, were not the Roman’s idea. In fact, Carmine would never have conceived of such a thing without Alberto’s assistance.
- Though point 1 stands, Carmine is now, at least in part, the Holiday Killer. He is selecting who Alberto should kill, and when, and how.
Alberto then uses the Riddler once more, putting the fear of Holiday into him and sending him on his way to tell the world of Carmine’s search for Holiday’s identity.
It’s at this point that things begin to go south for Carmine and Alberto.
The End of the Falcones
As multiple members of the Falcone family begin to zero in on Alberto’s supply chain and the circumstances surrounding his “death,” I believe father and son have a falling out.
The shooting of Jasper Dolan, in particular, seems sloppy; it puts the Roman’s sister, Carla, on Alberto’s trail for no reason. I can imagine Alberto arguing that he and his father have to cover their tracks, while the Roman argues they don’t need to do any such thing. Either for that reason, or because the Scarecrow and Mad Hatter operation goes haywire, Alberto and Carmine part ways.
This explains Alberto’s behavior after his arrest. For some reason, though it is very likely father and son executed at least part of the Holiday operation together, Alberto is belligerent with his father after getting arrested. Is it possible that the Roman wanted to call off the hit on Maroni, suspecting that the murder would prove too dangerous? And that Alberto wanted to go ahead with it anyway?
Whatever the circumstances, Alberto refuses his father’s help, leaving an irate Carmine to wonder why he didn’t stop the whole thing.
The Roman feels complicit in his son’s fate because he is. For years, he kept Alberto out of the family business. But faced with increased pressure not only from his rivals, but from Batman and Gotham’s “freaks,” the Roman caved. He let his smart son, his good son, into the business. And the business destroyed him. It turned Alberto into not just a gangster, but one of two Holidays.
And that, to me, seems the likeliest Holiday theory. Both Gilda and Alberto were Holiday, with fate playing out in such a way that neither stepped on the other’s toes. This theory requires a couple leaps in logic, but those leaps are not insurmountable. And any other theory disregards the date of the first murder, the gun metal and multiple guns found in the Dents’ basement, and the circumstantial timing of the Roman’s willingness to work with Batman’s rogues.
Of course, there are a lot of The Long Halloween theories out there, and before I go, I’d like to point to some of the resources I perused as assembled this post. These theories are not my theory, but they helped me get to where I am. And also, they’re just fun to read/watch:
- Rikdad’s Theory
- Further Discussion of Rikdad’s Theory
- Chad Nevett’s Theory
- Theories from Quora
- Brett Fawcett’s Theory
If you haven’t yet read The Long Halloween, hopefully all this theorizing encourages you to pick up the book. And if you have, hopefully this post provided new insights that’ll help you win your next comic shop, Twitter, or message board argument about who the Holiday Killer is. Until next time, Happy Halloween.