Originally Posted by BlueLightning
There are arguments from both sides of the story. I'm of the opinion that the Joker did not win. Batman didn't let him.
Publicly, in appearance only? Batman more or less got his way.
But privately, in truth? The Joker forced Batman to lie to create peace, so ultimately the public ideal, the 'win' as perceived by the citizens, was flimsy and fake. It wasn't really a win, it was an illusion masquerading as a win.
Bruce had to acknowledge this. Perhaps more importantly, this also demonstrates that Bruce doesn't trust the people of Gotham with the truth. He doesn't have the same faith in them to carry on being good like they did on the ferries.
Personally, I think all of the weight from all these different angles adds a lot of much needed strength to Bruce's retiring (referencing "Never again." from TDK Returns and Batman Beyond), and ultimately makes his redemption when he goes out of retirement/exile to set things straight, and when he climbs up from the pit, much more beautiful and meaningful.