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At the end of The Dark Knight Rises we see Jim Gordon run his hand across a new bat signal, but as far as he knows Batman is dead and no more. So what was the purpose in building a new bat signal? Whilst it was implied that Robin would become Batman, there was no way for Gordon to know this, so it makes no sense to build the signal.

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I need to watch that again. I had the impression that it wasn't Gorden, but Wayne who had the Bat Signal rebuilt. –  BBlake Dec 4 '12 at 19:11
    
@BBlake its right at the end. About when they reveal the batman statue. –  Popeye Dec 4 '12 at 21:33
    
@BBlake is correct, I believe. I just rewatched it, and answered below. –  Gabe Willard Dec 4 '12 at 22:25
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3 Answers 3

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Sorry, no way to answer without spoilers:)

This entire section of the film is Bruce/Batman letting those that were closest to him know that he is still alive. You can tell by quite a few cinematic clues that this the case. The music is swelling after the downbeat funeral and will reading scene, it is cut into the other three "proof of life" scenes, and most importantly, it occurs after the "escape clause" scene, where we learn that the autopilot worked after all. When you examine the actual mechanics of the scene, it becomes even more clear. Jim Gordon is reading reports, double takes at seeing the signal repaired, approaches and lays his hand on the symbol to verify that it is real, and then glances all around as though looking for his friend whom he thought was dead.

The entire section is a callback to Begins, where Nolan did the exact same style of reveal when he was showing that Bruce had survived the events of that movie.

As for why? Bruce was sowing the seeds for Robin John Blake to take up his mantle and become the new defender of Gotham.

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As far as Jim Gordon is aware he is dead there is nothing to say his still alive. That Gordon knows of, and it quite clear it is a face of satisfaction. He never double takes a look at it. He must be blind as a bat not to see it when he goes up in the first place. Totally disagree. –  Popeye Dec 5 '12 at 13:10
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rewatch the movie, it's the only possible interpretation. –  sarge_smith Dec 5 '12 at 13:16
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plus... gordon whould have no reason to rebuild it, he has already paid tribute to the Bat in the statue scene, just previous. –  sarge_smith Dec 5 '12 at 13:18
    
I have watched it 4 times since DVD release and love it. I have also just spent a bit more time researching this myself, and whilst the theory is there that Bruce Wayne did repair it. Many have said that Gordon is not surprised to see it there, and that if he did rebuild it then why did he not use the bat signal to signal that he was back as it would have been more visible, instead of the small fire on the bridge which wouldn't have been visible everywhere. –  Popeye Dec 5 '12 at 13:28
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However, as the note that Bruce leaves for his colleague, Jim Gordon, to let him know that he is actually alive and that he has provided a Batman for Gotham, it totally works and is thematically intact with the rest of section of the movie in which it appears. –  sarge_smith Dec 5 '12 at 18:21
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While I agree with Dylan Yaga's answer, he left out one major point that I feel should be addressed: Jim Gordon never rebuilt the Bat Signal. He did assume Bruce Wayne died.

Gordon was atop MCU looking over case files, as was his habit, and he saw the new Bat Signal after casually glancing towards it. The look on his face as he examines what he thought was a destroyed Bat Signal is surprise.

Bruce Wayne rebuilt the Bat Signal when he returned from The Pit, before revealing himself. We are not told how long he is in Gotham beforehand, which allowed him to set up leaving the bookbag that allowed John "Robin" Blake to access the Batcave, and time to rebuild the Bat Signal. He was letting Gordon know that Batman would return to protect the city.

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Although it could be an interpretation, and I really like it, I don't think it's correct. The look at his faces is not surprise at all, but satisfaction. Satisfaction for having a symbol, in which he believes, one which had been persecuted and hated, restored, as it has always deserved. –  Thecafremo Dec 5 '12 at 8:10
    
@Thecafremo I agree I don't believe this is correct ever. Good answer though, I don't believe I can accept it. There is nothing to suggest that Bruce Wayne had anything to do with the rebuild. I would also agree that it is satisfaction on his face, because he must have seen it when he went up there so the surprise would have already been and gone. –  Popeye Dec 5 '12 at 9:13
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people who are satisfied don't swing their head around in every direction checking for whom ever was up on the roof repairing a bat signal. –  sarge_smith Dec 5 '12 at 13:22
    
@sarge_smith agreed but people who are surprised don't sit with it without noticing for however long. So like I have already said "I do now believe this question is only going to get speculations and theories and no solid answer." so i am done I have made my mind up based on the answer I feel more towards. I wasn't satisfied with your answer so that's it. –  Popeye Dec 5 '12 at 16:31
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How do you know that wasn't the first time he was atop the MCU after Batman's "death"? If we're gonna be dogmatic about "he would have noticed it before," then where's the evidence he was up there before? –  Gabe Willard Dec 5 '12 at 18:07
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A good ending and a sign of hope. Gordon is happy to see the rebuilt signal and looks to see if his friend is nearby as Batman would alway surprise him. Gordon is hopeful again...but wasn't that alway Batmans objective...to give people hope.

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