[Spoilers for Daredevil (Seasons 1 & 2), Jessica Jones and Luke Cage]
When Marvel and Netflix announced that they would be teaming up to release a Daredevil TV show, no one knew where their corner of the Marvel cinematic universe would go. Since the release of Daredevil Season One in early April 2015, Marvel and Netflix have delivered Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. We still have Iron Fist on the way and The Punisher has started production as well. All of this this is leading to The Defenders but I am beginning to wonder if the shows will be hampered in the long term.
This is basically my worry for the Netflix/Marvel shows going forward: they’ve blown their load when it comes to the villains. They’ve chosen to go the complete opposite route to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has painstakingly saved its’ big bad Thanos for years and years. By the time the Avengers come face to face with Thanos as a unit, we’ll have watched 18 separate Marvel films. That’s a lot of build up, a lot of hype and a lot of development. But Marvel/Netflix have decided to go all in with the most well known big bads for their respective heroes. Let’s take it one by one.
You’d think that with Matt Murdock in his very early days of running around sporting an Under Armour shirt and a kitchen towel that he would be aiming low. Instead, the first season of Daredevil pits Matt right against Kingpin, perhaps the most iconic Daredevil/Spider-man villain. Now don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the first season of Daredevil but using Kingpin in season one and resolving the threat in that season did have detrimental effects on what came next.
In season two, instead of opting for a straight villain from the get-go, Daredevil pulled in characters like The Punisher and Elektra to keep Matt busy whilst the looming threat, The Hand, were wasted in a few short episodes and they never felt like a scary and frightening force against Daredevil. They even had to bring Kingpin back in for a couple of episodes and if anything he was the best villain in the entire second season as well. My question, for Daredevil and the shows to come, is where do they go next?
Now, I don’t know a hell of a lot about Daredevil but some research tells me that some good villains we have yet to see in Daredevil include ‘Jester’, ‘Typhoid Mary’, ‘The Owl’ and ‘Bullseye’. ‘The Owl’ has been alluded to in the show that’s for sure so that could be in the near future and ‘Bullseye’ is the obvious choice for where to go next. But ‘Jester’ and ‘Typhoid Mary’? Give me a break. Of course the show could always do an actual full season on the Hand but judging by how poorly they were handled towards the end of season two, I’m not holding my breath. Only ‘Bullseye’ looks like he could be a true adversary to Daredevil on a Kingpin level.
But that’s exactly the point, Kingpin is most certainly above them in the hierarchy. He will, of course, break out of prison and be the big bad in a future season but then do you risk repeating the same themes? I just feel like building up to these alarmingly good villains is what Netflix and Marvel should have done with Daredevil rather than start at the top and work their way down.
I think Jessica Jones has an even bigger problem than Daredevil. Personally, I wasn’t as crazy about Jessica Jones as everyone else. It was too slow and wayward and alcohol-fuelled for me to get truly invested in Jessica and the show in general. But I can say one thing: David Tennant stole the show as Kilgrave aka the Purple Man … again, Jessica Jones’ most famous villain. Every single scene with Kilgrave was dynamite and the show explored some interesting arcs of redemption and empathy and rape through him but they completely botched the ending. Instead of Jessica ripping out his tongue thus leaving him powered but unable to utilise it, she just snaps his neck. Not only would the former have left a return on the cards, when Marvel does bring him back from the dead (this is Marvel, no one dies) we wouldn’t have had to be sold a bullshit reason. Nevertheless, Kilgrave is Jessica’s biggest foe so where does this series go next?
After some research in which I ignored all the Spider-man villains as they will undoubtedly be saved for the cinematic side of things, I found a few names: ‘Lone Shark’ who’s a hired thug sporting a powerful suit, ‘Chemistro’ who’s a scientist with transmutation powers, ‘Bobby Tisdell’ who sold his soul so he could shape-shift and ‘Nuke’ a character that’s already been introduced in the show. Let’s be real here: that’s a sorry bunch of names. Jessica Jones showrunner Melissa Rosenberg has hinted that the show may go for multiple villains in its’ next season but how will they ever live up to Kilgrave? How can you go from such an emotionally daunting villain like Kilgrave to lowly physical threats that break bones but not character? This stuff can be worked around of course and Kilgrave was needed in the first season purely because he is essential to who Jessica is but killing him closed that door.
Luke Cage, more so than its’ peers, has a chance at breaking this and calming my worries. Cottonmouth isn’t considered to be the absolute big bad of Luke Cage but he’s up there. So he’s introduced and then he’s swiftly disposed of, that’s one villain down the train but there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Then Diamondback comes along and is revealed to be Luke’s brother, that’s another villain. An added problem with Diamondback is that the show has changed him to be Luke’s brother whilst in the comics his brother becomes the villain Coldfire. So if they ever introduce Coldfire, they’ll have to change up his story, which shouldn’t be a problem with Luke Cage considering in the show he’s not even from Harlem originally. You also have other famous villains like Black Mariah and Shades and Commanche name dropped and appearing in the show.
Luke Cage has a whole host of villains to fight and some of the best ones like Chemistro, Moses Magnum and Cheshire Cat could be introduced.
The problem with Luke Cage is that the show now has to get creative with its’ villains because its’ hero is just so damn impenetrable. Whilst Cottonmouth excelled at emotional warfare, Diamondback was the physical threat on an ammunition level. If the show does call on the likes of Chemistro and Moses Magnum or even Cheshire Cat then it needs to add a new threat to the show, which will be hard to do owing to Luke being bulletproof and all.
Admittedly, this idea that Marvel and Netflix have blown their load can only be truly assessed ion hindsight and it can be easily avoided with good writing. But what the aforementioned shows need to do is show that they are strong enough and cohesive enough to provide constant and engulfing stories with or without their best villains in tow.