Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Future of the Defenders on Netflix

Note:  We're going to be signing up for Netflix tomorrow, so we will be able to watch Daredevil!  My plan is to post 1 expectations article tomorrow for the entire season before I watch the show. Then I plan to post 1 review each week until I get through the season, but if you would like to see reviews more frequently, let me know (but no guarantees).

The final post in my mini-series leading up to the release of Daredevil on Netflix tomorrow will be a look ahead to the future of the Defenders/Marvel/Netflix corner of the MCU.  Considering that one of the Defenders (Iron Fist) still hasn’t been cast, 3 of the shows still haven’t entered production, 2 still lack showrunners, and none of them have actually been released yet, it is very early to start talking about the future of this corner of the MCU.  Nevertheless, since they are going to start laying some of the groundwork for their “Phase 2” through these series—and I’m pretty sure this experiment will be successful enough to warrant a “Phase 2”—I think it is still relevant to talk about the ways in which this will grow and expand after The Defenders comes out in 2016, 2017, or 2018 (my best guess is 2017).

For the purpose of this article, I will assume that Marvel and Netflix are going to structure “Netflix Phase 2” with about the same number of series as “Phase 1,” but I will add at least 1 (for a total of 5 character-centric seasons, all leading up to an event-focused The Defenders Season 2).  Presumably, it would be entirely possible for them to produce and release all of these in about 3 years, following roughly the same schedule as the movies are:  2 per year, gearing up toward 3 per year.  I project that all of the “Phase 1 Defenders” will appear in series leading up to The Defenders Season 2, but not necessarily in their own series.  Instead, a few of the series will be combined together, leaving room to explore other characters in their own series in anticipation of the inevitable team-up.

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Daredevil, Season Two

Daredevil began the Marvel/Netflix experiment, so I expect to see Matt Murdock open “Netflix Phase Two,” as well, just like Iron Man and Iron Man 3.  I think Kingpin will be back as a villain, though not necessarily as the main villain; instead he may take a backseat to another villain such as Bullseye.  Additionally, I see Jessica Jones appearing in Daredevil season 2 as Matt Murdock’s bodyguard and private investigator, appearing about as often here as Luke Cage is going to appear in A.K.A. Jessica Jones season 1 (8 or so out of 13 episodes).  In other words, she will play as big a role in Daredevil season 2 as Black Widow did in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, if not bigger.  There will also be several new heroes who appear in Daredevil season 2 for the first time, leading up to their integration into the larger MCU.

First, Jennifer Walters is another lawyer from the comics who would be right at home in the courtroom opposite Matt Murdock.  Oh, and she’s also Bruce Banner’s cousin who turns into She-Hulk when Bruce needs to give her a blood transfusion to save her life.  She may appear in Daredevil as a non-super-powered lawyer, setting up her transformation into She-Hulk in an upcoming movie—or even over the course of Daredevil season 2.  Alternatively, she could already have become She-Hulk, in which case she and Daredevil may begin on opposite sides in the courtroom but eventually form a solid working relationship.

Elektra is another hero/anti-hero who could appear in Daredevil season 2 (preferably not the Jennifer Garner version!).  She and Daredevil have a very longstanding relationship, which makes Daredevil (season 1 or 2) a likely place for her to be introduced into the MCU.  However, Elektra already appeared opposite Daredevil in one film (and its spinoff), so they may try to avoid using the same plots as Ben Affleck’s Daredevil (which would include her).  Additionally, introducing She-Hulk and giving Jessica Jones a big part might make this season a little too cluttered to fit Elektra in.  Add a possible role for Bullseye and Elektra might see herself getting pushed back to Daredevil season 3.

A third possibility is for Punisher to make his MCU debut in Daredevil season 2 as a client of Matt Murdock.  There were rumblings when Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out that the guy in the Penske truck who ran over Sitwell could turn out to be the Punisher, so he’s certainly on their radar for eventual inclusion in the MCU.  Given all of Frank Castle’s run-ins with the law (thanks in no small part to his penchant for breaking the law like it’s a fortune cookie!), it’s practically inevitable that he would be arrested at some point and put on trial.  If he gets arrested he’ll be looking for a lawyer to represent him, and who better than Matt Murdock (or Jennifer Walters) to serve as his defense attorney?

The main plot of the season could revolve around Jessica Jones investigating Castle’s claims of innocence of a particularly gruesome gangland slaying.  In the court, Matt (representing Castle) squares off against Jennifer Walters (representing the People).  Once Jessica Jones discovers the people really responsible for the murders, she and Daredevil go to confront them at night in uniform and gather evidence Matt can use in court.  However, Assistant District Attorney Walters is the target of an assassination attempt by Bullseye (who was hired by Kingpin to take her out because she’s getting too close to uncovering his involvement in the murders).  Her cousin Bruce Banner (hello, Mark Ruffalo!) witnesses the assassination attempt and thwarts it.  However, in the process Jennifer is grievously wounded and at the point of death, forcing Bruce to give her a blood transfusion to save her life—and the She-Hulk is born.  The series ends with a huge confrontation between Kingpin’s forces (including Bullseye) and Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and She-Hulk.  Daredevil and She-Hulk come to an agreement after the battle to drop the charges against Castle.  When he learns of the agreement, Castle cryptically offers them his “assistance” if they should ever need it.

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The Heroes for Hire, Season One

This series would combine the Luke Cage and Iron Fist series into one, with the two of them co-starring and Jessica Jones appearing in around half the episodes (probably just as Cage’s super-powerful girlfriend who offers them backup when necessary).  This series would involve the formation of the Heroes for Hire (if that doesn’t happen in Luke Cage, Iron Fist, or The Defenders—one of the problems with writing this article 2 years early!), and see them hire a couple of additional heroes to their group in the first episode:  Misty Knight and Colleen Wing (again assuming they don’t debut in Iron Fist).  The series would then see the Heroes for Hire taking cases to provide muscle for other heroes and anti-heroes such as the Punisher (I know, he usually works alone).  It might also see them encountering other vigilantes and adding them to their stable of team members.

One of their clients could be the Black Knight (Dane Whitman), who is trying to infiltrate the Hell’s Kitchen underworld to root out a super villain.  Perhaps he needs the Heroes for Hire to act as backup who come in to clean things up once he’s gotten the information he needs.  When Cage and Rand see how well the Knight handles himself, they offer him a position at the Heroes for Hire.

Over the course of the series, they might also encounter Black Cat as a cat burglar attempting to steal something valuable from one of their clients.  Though they thwart her robbery, she escapes and tries again later.  Eventually they convince her that she doesn’t need to steal for money by offering her a position with the Heroes for Hire—allowing them to keep a closer eye on her.

Given that the Heroes for Hire comic book has such a long production history and a flexible roster, this series has the possibility to introduce a new hero in each episode.  I doubt they would do that, but they may introduce 3 or 4 new “Heroes for Hire” in the first few episodes and then see those new team members cycle in and out over the course of a few different cases.

Other Possible Series

Rather than project the other two or three series that would be part of Marvel’s “Netflix Phase Two” right off the bat, here are a few possibilities for characters that could be given their own series to fill the final slots leading up to The Defenders season two.  They may not make the cut for “Netflix Phase Two,” but some of these might even come after The Defenders season two.

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Son of Satan- We’re going to meet Patsy Walker in A.K.A. Jessica Jones, but we may not see her suited up as Hellcat in that series.  However, this series—a spinoff of A.K.A. Jessica Jones—would focus on Patsy and her future husband, Daimon Hellstrom (the eponymous “Son of Satan”).  Over the course of the season Daimon learns that his father is a demon, and that dark magic is part of his heritage.  Rather than embrace his demonic heritage, however, Daimon struggles to resist it and cling to his humanity, aided by his relationship with Patsy.  They need to work together (perhaps with help from Jessica Jones) to stop Daimon’s father’s plan to enslave the world.  As part of this plot, they may even encounter Gargoyle, a servant of Lucifer who turns against his master and joins Daimon, Patsy, and Jessica to battle his former master.

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Valkyrie- In my projection, the only female-led Marvel/Netflix series gets folded into two (or three) others in which she is either a co-star or recurring character.  However, to make up for that, they could introduce another female hero with her own series:  Brunnhilde, aka Valkyrie, the leader of the team of Asgardian warriors known as the Valkyrior.  After the events of Thor: Ragnarok, we could see all the Asgardians “killed” and their spirits placed within the bodies of Midgardians (humans)—which is what happened in the comics.  Following Ragnarok, one of the Asgardians, Brunnhilde, would be placed inside a Hell’s Kitchen woman named Samantha Parrington (one of Valkyrie’s human “hosts” in the comics).  Though she doesn’t know this at first, over the course of the series she triggers her Asgardian spirit and fights the criminals in Hell’s Kitchen using her Asgardian abilities (and a huge magical sword).  She might also meet the Black Knight and through him come into contact with the Heroes for Hire and the rest of the Defenders.  This would be a very easy way to tie The Defenders in with Thor: Ragnarok.

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Spider-Woman- So Spider-Man is getting his own movie, but thus far nothing’s been done with Jessica Drew, aka Spider-Woman.  I’m pretty sure Marvel has always owned her rights, but one of the fan theories is that they were unwilling to use her character because it might be confusing to have an unrelated Spider-Man and Spider-Woman running around different movie universes.  Now that it’s no longer a problem, why can’t she appear in the Marvel/Netflix collaboration?  She could be a private investigator along the lines of Jessica Jones, but without the PTSD.  Instead, she might be a brainwashed Hydra agent seeking to undo her programming and atone for the crimes she committed under Hydra’s influence (a little like Black Widow, but not quite).  Even if she doesn’t get her own series, she could debut in a supporting role in another series, especially Daredevil or Heroes for Hire.

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Moon Knight- Marc Spector is one of the various Marvel Comics versions of Batman.  He’s an eccentric millionaire, expert in multiple forms of martial arts, and fights crime in an armored suit.  However, unlike Batman, Moon Knight gains superpowers from the Egyptian moon god Khonshu—enhanced abilities which shift based on the phase of the moon.  He also has multiple personality disorder, which would make him a very interesting character to explore over the course of a TV series.  His power set, and especially the source of his powers, is something we have not really seen in the MCU; they fall more into the realm of Doctor Strange than being the form of magic we associate with Thor and Asgard.

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Darkhawk- This character would be something of a poor man’s Iron Man with a bit of a Guardians of the Galaxy twist.  A teenager, Christopher Powell, discovers an alien amulet which acts like a transporter, taking his body to a cloaked alien ship in orbit around the earth and replacing it with an android which he controls.  Over the course of the series, Powell learns more about the origins of his amulet and android and needs to use its power to prevent an alien invasion (or something like that; they could make it more “grounded” and street-level for Netflix).

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Nova- I already suggested one series that would follow up on a 2017 movie; here’s the second.  While Marvel may choose to save Nova Officer Richard Rider for a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, before he left earth to travel to Xandar and fought with the Guardians of the Galaxy, Richard Rider was a teenager given extraordinary abilities in a chance meeting with a dying Nova Officer (Rhomann Dey, played by John C. Reilly in Guardians of the Galaxy).  He began his career on earth learning to use his abilities and teaming up with other heroes.  If they choose to introduce him on Netflix, they could focus on his exploration of his powers with the help of other heroes (Darkhawk and Spider-Man, perhaps?  Throw in another teenaged hero or two and you’ve got a Marvel answer to the live-action Teen Titans series currently in development).  Of course, for this to work they would need to set it up in either Guardians of the Galaxy 2 or The Avengers: Infinity War (either part):  Nova Corps would need to unlock a source of superpowers, maybe through experimentation on the Orb; Nova Corps would then need to be annihilated, leaving one survivor—why not Rhomann Dey; Dey needs to end up in a ship headed away from Xandar on a collision course with New York City.

Other possible characters include Blade, Ghost Rider, and Punisher, all of whom have been in movies produced by other studios, and whose rights have since returned to Marvel.  Netflix might provide a useful medium to introduce these characters into the MCU without causing confusion due to the previous movies.  After all, that’s what they’re doing with Daredevil!

So now for my projection of “Netflix Phase Two.”  If I were in Jeph Loeb’s (Marvel’s Head of TV) shoes, I would start releasing 3 series per year for “Netflix Phase Two” and make The Defenders Season Two align with The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2.  To fill in the series leading up to it, I would go with the following:

[April 2017      The Defenders Season One—the end of “Netflix Phase One”]

June 2017        Daredevil Season Two—possible crossovers/cameos with [The Spectacular] Spider-Man, releasing in July 2017

Sept. 2017       Son of Satan—spinoff from A.K.A. Jessica Jones

April 2018       Valkyrie—spinoff from Thor: Ragnarok the previous November

June 2018        The Heroes for Hire—merging of the Luke Cage and Iron Fist series

Sept. 2018       Moon Knight

April 2019       The Defenders Season Two—setup for/crossover with The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 in May 2017

[June 2019       Nova and Darkwing—spinoff/follow-up from The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2, in which the still-depleted Nova Corps is annihilated in battle against Thanos over Earth after having unlocked enhanced abilities through experimentation on the Orb (referenced in Guardians of the Galaxy 2) (this is the first series in “Netflix Phase Three”)]

By the time the Defenders show up to fight Thanos in The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 (after taking on one of his lieutenants in The Defenders Season Two), their team may have ballooned to up to 20 members, all of whom could appear in Infinity War Part 2.  Some of those characters might not survive the movie, while others (specifically Valkyrie) might leave the Defenders universe to join the movies in some capacity, leaving openings to explore other heroes on Netflix.

Of course, things could change over the next three years:  Some of these characters could be introduced to the MCU in “Netflix Phase One” or one of the movies, some of the possible crossovers might not be set up, or Marvel could even decide to just give a second season to each of the 4 “Netflix Phase One” series and not add any series focused on new characters.  But if they did choose to change things up a bit, I think any of the characters/series I suggested would be interesting and fun to watch.

How do you think Marvel is going to proceed with their Defenders universe?  Are they going to start making bigger connections to the larger MCU in Phase 2 or keep things smaller and more “street level”?  Who do you want to see show up on Netflix with The Defenders?  Let me know in the comments!

If you have any ideas for future articles about The Defenders on Netflix, put them in the comments and I will see what I can do.

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