Marvel Netflix – What’s Next?
Feature by Louis Rabinowitz.
San Diego Comic Con has come and gone, and with it, we have been left with the traditional deluge of information about every superhero property under the sun that’s coming up in the next few years. While the showy trailers and glimpses of superheroes on the big screen in Justice League, Wonder Woman and Doctor Strange, to name just a few, may have stolen most of the attention, one of the Con’s surprising highlights was a panel that took place on the very first day, showcasing the future of Marvel’s burgeoning street-level Netflix universe.
The Netflix shows have delved considerably into the mythology of this particular corner of the MCU with two seasons of Daredevil and one of Jessica Jones, but as the Comic Con panel showed, they’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s to come. With a much clearer picture of Marvel’s plans for their Netflix shows in the next couple of years, here’s a look at how this street-level universe will develop from the foundations already laid:
Release date: Filming has been completed, and a date is already pencilled in, with season one hitting Netflix on September 30.
Starring: Mike Colter as the titular hero, Mahershala Ali as Big Bad Cornell Stokes, Alfre Woodard as fellow villain Mariah Dillard, Simone Missick as New York cop/possible love interest Misty Knight, Frank Whaley as hardened veteran cop Rafael Scarfe, and Theo Rossi as manipulative criminal Alvarez. Rosario Dawson will keep up her streak of appearing in every show thus far as Claire Temple, though she’ll only guest star.
What’s it about? Like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, this won’t be an origin story – it takes place after the events of Jessica Jones, in fact, so Luke will have had his powers of unbreakable skin for quite some time. Given that the central villain, Cornell Stokes, has been described as a Godfather-esque crime boss masquerading as a nightclub owner, the plot of this season might look a little like the first season of Daredevil, with Luke attempting to dismantle his illegal operation and expose Stokes publicly for his criminal actions. It’s also very likely that Luke Cage will, as one of the very few Marvel properties starring a person of colour in the lead role, will delve into racial issues surrounding police brutality and entrenched prejudice, in the same vein as Daredevil explored corruption and Jessica Jones explored sexual assault and PTSD. Given how charismatic Colter was as Cage in Jessica Jones and seeing the themes that are ripe for the kind of mature exploration the rest of the MCU cannot match, this looks like another surefire hit if it manages to expand beyond the relatively generic premise.
Release date: Marvel confirmed a 2017 release date at Comic Con – but considering that Iron Fist has been filming for a few months now, it’s likely it will hit Netflix early on in the year, likely in March or April.
Starring: Finn Jones in the lead role of Danny Rand, Jessica Henwick as ally and martial arts expert Colleen Wing, David Wenham as Harold Meachum, a sinister, villainous businessman, Jessica Stroup & Tom Pelphrey as Joy and Ward Meachum, childhood friends of Danny Rand whose business prospects are threatened by his return. In the requisite crossover, Carrie-Anne Moss will be reprising her role as Jeri Hogarth from Jessica Jones. Given that Rosario Dawson is said to be currently filming ‘another Netflix show’, it’s likely that Claire Temple will be back again here.
What’s it about? Iron Fist seems to be, at first glance, more of a conventional origin story. The trailer revealed glimpses of Danny as a child, being picked up by monks, and the synopsis clearly indicates that he’ll be returning home at the start of the series having learned Buddhist philosophy and kung-fu in his extended holiday. Danny Rand is the most actively supernatural of any of the Marvel-Netflix heroes, possessing the powers of the ‘Iron Fist’, giving him increased speed, strength and resistance to injury, so the plot will most likely dip into the heightened and less realistic sides of this street-level universe. Given that the groundwork has already been laid for the magical city of K’un Lun with the character of Madame Gao in Daredevil (who has hinted she’s from a ‘very far away’ place) and all that entails, Iron Fist might be a little more expansive in its outlook and less focused on the gritty street-level battles. Iron Fist has always seemed like a bit of a black sheep among the four main shows, with a radically different formula necessitated by the supernatural elements – during the protracted development period, there were rumours that Marvel were struggling to make these incongruous elements work in a gritty setting. However, if it can successfully find the balance between supernaturalism and gritty street-level action, this could be a bold step forward in terms of world-building for the universe.
Release date: This was also confirmed for 2017 at Comic Con. Filming will begin right off the back of Iron Fist, presumably in the latter part of this year, so it’s likely that The Defenders, running at a shorter eight episodes, will hit Netflix in the autumn of 2017.
Starring: The four lead heroes – Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, Mike Colter as Luke Cage and Finn Jones as Danny Rand, will all be present and correct. The Comic Con teaser had voiceover from Matt’s grouchy mentor, Stick, so Scott Glenn looks likely to join the ensemble. Presumably, the cast here will be a patchwork of supporting characters from across the few shows with relatively few new characters, so expect plenty of familiar faces in the supporting cast.
What’s it about? The big team-up that was promised all the way back in 2014 when the entire Marvel-Netflix project was greenlit, The Defenders will unite Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist to fight a mysterious common enemy. The enemy in question will almost certainly be the Hand, the shadowy cabal of ninjas that served as the eventual main antagonists of Daredevil season two. That season certainly left a lot of loose ends surrounding the Hand, with most of their plans for New York involving a massive hole, a ‘Black Sky’, creepy children incubating certain substances and a blood farm left entirely unexplained. With luck, then, The Defenders will shed some light on just what they’re planning – and it’s very possible that the Hand as a whole will be wiped out as a continuing foe here, leaving a clean slate for Daredevil to deal with other lingering plot threads when it continues. This is a bit of a make-or-break for Netflix – and while the premise of a team-up is an irresistible and exciting one promising a whole load of new character dynamics to explore, the challenge here will be to sustain the premise for an entire season while delivering more of substance than simply the thrill of seeing these characters interact.
Release date: That’s a question mark at this point. A showrunner and lead actor are already in place, but with no cast and no confirmed filming dates, it’s unlikely that it will come out next year. A release date somewhere in 2018 seems more probable.
Starring: Only Jon Bernthal, returning to the role of Frank Castle has been confirmed thus far, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if some familiar faces from Daredevil affiliated with Frank such as Karen or Matt himself popped up briefly at some point, alongside the presumable glut of new characters filling out the ensemble.
What’s it about? Well, we know that it’ll definitely involve Frank Castle shooting criminals. The end of Daredevil season 2 essentially left the basic foundations for this spin-off – Frank roaming free but as a wanted criminal, sporting his comics costume and a sizeable armoury, but offered precious few hints about what Frank will actually do next. The Easter Egg of the CD named ‘Micro’ in Frank’s house hints at involvement from Microchip, long-time ally of the Punisher from the comics, but aside from that, the plot of this spin-off looks entirely uncertain at this moment in time. At a guess, the solo focus on Frank will have to maintain the ambiguity surrounding the morality and ethics of his brutal methods of crime-fighting, so a major exploration and critique of Frank’s ideology is likely to form the spine of his character arc here – it’s hard to see this incarnation of the Punisher ever becoming a clear-cut hero, even as a lead character. Jon Bernthal’s terrific performance was one of the unequivocal highlights of Daredevil’s uneven second season, with an intense, complex charisma that certainly looks capable of sustaining its own show – here’s hoping that showrunner Steve Lightfoot crafts a show worthy of that towering lead performance.
Jessica Jones: Season 2
Release date: The second round of Jessica Jones has been delayed considerably by The Defenders and all the contractual obligations that brings with it, so it won’t start filming until just after Defenders, sometime in early 2017. At a guess, a release date in early 2018 would seem likely, before either The Punisher or Daredevil season 3.
Starring: Most of the first season’s ensemble cast is still around, so Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, Rachael Taylor as Trish Walker, Eka Darville as Malcolm and Carrie-Anne Moss as Jeri Hogarth can be seen as certain to return. Not certain, but likely, is a return from Wil Traval’s Simpson, who was revealed to be a take on comics character Nuke before escaping last season. Though Kilgrave is sadly no longer with us, his important role in Jessica’s back-story could also mean a return for David Tennant in flashbacks.
What’s it about? As per usual, season one gave us a few hints at the direction season 2 could be heading in. Though the Kilgrave story is mostly tied up, the fact that Jessica killed him despite pledging to take him alive the entire season is doubtless going to be a subject of considerable angst and regret, and it remains to be seen if the impact of Kilgrave’s treatment on Jessica’s psyche has really subsided. On the villainous side, season one teased an untold story regarding the origin of Jessica’s powers, traced back to shadowy organisation IGH who may have experimented on her – and the crazed Nuke is still out there, hopped up on pills and waiting for his revenge after his defeat last season. These are all threads that could be picked up, but there’s always the possibility that season 2 will take a left turn with a completely different villain and character arc for Jessica. As long as it matches the twisted villainy David Tennant brought to the show and fleshes out the supporting cast a bit more, season two will hopefully be worth the long wait, whenever it arrives.
Daredevil: Season 3
Release date: As with Jessica Jones, it’s hard to tell. This was the newest announcement from Netflix, with season three announced just days ago at the Con, so it’s probably back of the queue regarding the shows already on this list. A release date later on in 2018 is probable, coming after Jessica Jones season 2.
Starring: Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page and Elden Henson as Foggy will almost certainly return. It’d be surprising if season three went by without, at the very least, a guest turn from Vincent d’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk. A return for Elodie Yung as Elektra is possible, though the loose ends surrounding her possible resurrection and status as the Black Sky could be tied up in The Defenders.
What’s it about? Season three could really go in two directions. It’s possible that The Defenders will keep the Hand going as a threat, which would mean season three would continue that storyline as the main focus by delving into the mythology of the Hand’s plans. However, it’s more likely that season three will motor ahead with the other big loose end of the previous season – Wilson Fisk, who promised in his brief return that he will be gunning for Matt and Foggy once he gets out of prison, having built up a new crime network from behind bars to support his plans. A great deal of people have predicted that this season could broadly follow the ‘Born Again’ storyline from the comics in which Karen sells Matt’s identity publicly with Fisk using this information to destroy Matt’s life, and all the pieces have certainly been put in place for a story along those lines. It’s possible, of course, that it’ll be a mix of the two above stories like how season two blended the Punisher and the Hand’s storylines, but season three could benefit from a more singular and coherent focus on just one story, given how uneven season two became.