So you've watched all thirteen episodes of Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix and you're itching for more? (If you haven't, you should probably stop reading this article, because we're about to go deep into spoiler territory and we're not holding anything back.) The bad news is, the second of Marvel's Netflix shows, AKA Jessica Jones, won't be along til late in the year, and there's no guarantee that we'll see Daredevil again before the Defenders mini-series, but these thirteen episodes have gone a long way to enriching Marvel's on-screen world, and setting up hints for the future.
So let's unpack some of the mysteries, Easter eggs, teasers, and in-jokes from Daredevil, and speculate wildly on where all this is going to go in the other Netflix solo series, and perhaps even in Daredevil season two.
A host of Marvel writers and artists get a thank you at the end of each episode for the characters and locations they created, including Gene Colan, Frank Miller, Brian Michael Bendis, and Archie Goodwin — but there were more hands at work than even these credits acknowledge. From incorruptible police officer Brett Mahoney, created by Marc Guggenheim and Dave Wilkins for Marvel Comics Presents, to perspicacious priest Father Lantom, created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona for Runaways, this series is peppered with pre-existing Marvel characters. Even locations like Josie's Bar and Fogwell's Gym originate in the comics.
Dante Rigoletto, Fisk's mob boss predecessor, hails from Man Without Fear, and ever-present career criminal Turk Barrett first appeared in a 1970 issue of Daredevil by Gary Friedrich, Roy Thomas and Gene Colan. St Agnes' Orphanage, where Stick finds Matt, does not come from the comics, but it is the same orphanage that young Skye was left at in Agents of SHIELD.
The Roxxon Corporation, previously seen onscreen in Agent Carter, the Iron Man movies, and Agents of SHIELD, has been around since a 1974 issue of Captain America by Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema. The truck carrying the chemicals that blinded Matt Murdock bears a different fictional company's livery, but I couldn't find a shot of it in the episode.
The Daredevil TV show doesn't throw the comics lore in the audience's face, but it draws heavily on the comics for inspiration. This is absolutely a Marvel universe.
(Strangely, Stan Lee does not make his usual in-person cameo, though his photograph does appear on a police station wall, apparently as a valued officer and not as a suspected perp.)
GIVE THEM A GREAT BIG HAND
The 7th episode of Daredevil really starts to build out the weirder side of Matt Murdock's world of ninjas and supernatural foes, introducing Stick as not just his mean ol' mentor, but as a foot soldier in a war against unspeakable forces, including whatever made that Black Sky kid in the shipping container such a threat.
A later episode establishes that Stick's opponent Nobu isn't simply a yakuza boss, but an assassin whose robes mark him as a member of the comics villains The Hand, a power-hungry order of mystic ninjas. Stick meets with a scarred mystery man credited as Stone at the end of the 7th episode, which suggests that they're both members of The Chaste, a breakaway order of The Hand that is sworn to fight against them. (Yes, Stick and Stone. It's too late to do anything about it now.)
Marvel loves to play a long game, so while these scenes don't pay off within Daredevil itself, they're obviously laying the groundwork for something big, and I wouldn't be surprised if The Hand were the major enemy for The Defenders.
(The Hand have also frequently appeared in the comics as enemies of Wolverine, which could have complicated the rights around them, but the Hand previously appeared in 2005's Elektra, so the're probably part and parcel of the Daredevil that Marvel reacquired.)
K'UN-LUN CALLING TO THE FARAWAY TOWNS
The Hand are far from the only long-term threat set up in Daredevil, but I would guess that the dangers posed by Madame Gao and her operation will have a more immediate impact in next year's Iron Fist show. Gao's heroin packets bear the insignia of the Steel Serpent, a master martial artist exiled from the mystic city of K'un-Lun (which is actually an alien enclave on Earth that just happens to bear a striking resemblance to the mythical lost kingdom of Shambhala).
Marvel can't do an Iron Fist show without tapping in to K'un-Lun and its pseudo-magical, psuedo-alien mix of mysticism and martial arts. Madame Gao talks about returning to a homeland "a considerable distance farther" than China; an extra-dimensional alien city accessed via a pilgrimage to Tibet would seem to fit the bill, be it K'un-Lun or one of the other "Cities of Heaven" in Iron Fist lore. Steel Serpent is the perfect dark mirror villain for Iron Fist — they even dress alike — and Madame Gao is very probably Steel Serpent's sometime partner-in-crime, the Crane Mother. That Buddha's palm technique that she hit hornhead with was not a lucky strike.
In her enigmatic farewell to Leland Owlsley, Madame Gao notes, "the wheel constantly turns" (to Owlsley's great perplexity). That's probably a reference to the Buddhist concept of the wheel of life, the constantly turning cycle of birth and death, given that Buddhism underpins a lot of K'un-Lun mythology. But there is another great wheel in the Marvel Universe, and the show drops another hint to it.
In Jonathan Hickman's Secret Wars and SHIELD stories, the Great Wheel is a circle of espionage heads who crossed partisan lines to work together against exceptional threats. One of their members was Taurus, aka Cornelius Van Lunt, who earned his place at the table as the head of the Zodiac criminal cartel.
Van Lunt was an astrology obsessive who made his fortune in real estate, and he's namechecked by Owlsley as one of the beneficiaries of the building boom that followed the Battle of New York in the Avengers movie. But he must have started from humble beginnings, because we see his name in one other conspicuous place; 'Van Lunt Real Estate Co' is the name on the door of Nelson and Murdock's law office, underneath their hand-written sign.
It's not guaranteed that either the Great Wheel or the Zodiac Cartel will make an appearance in the Marvel shows, but we know for sure that Cornelius Van Lunt is out there in this world.
(The office across the hall from Nelson & Murdock carries the name 'Atlas Investments'; that's not a company from Marvel comics, but a reference to an old name for Marvel, Atlas Comics, which boasted a similar logo.)
We've known since early casting announcements that the villain Gladiator would make an appearance in Daredevil — or, more precisely, his alter ego Melvin Potter. In the comics, Potter is a costume designer who built his own armor to take on costumed heroes, though the love of his social worker Betsy Beatty inspired him to make a face-turn and fight alongside the heroes.
In the show, Potter designed Wilson Fisk's protective armor and Daredevil's red suit, so he's already playing both sides — and Betsy is still the key to his redemption. The Gladiator suit in the comics is notable for having buzzsaws on the gauntlets, so buzzsaws feature prominently in Potter's workshop, and in Potter's fight with Daredevil, and in the blueprint briefly spied on Potter's bench. The insignia on Gladiator's costume also appears on a board in the workshop. Though Gladiator never makes a full appearance in Daredevil, all the work has been done to set him up for the future. (A 'Rise of the Gladiators' poster is even visible in Potter's workshop.)
Viewers will have noticed another superhero costume in-the-making in Potter's workshop; Stilt-Man's stilts. Dare we dream?
Two of the most significant characters in Daredevil's stories were conspicuously absent from the TV show, perhaps because they played such major roles in the 2003 Daredevil movie; Elektra and Bullseye. But the show did pay necessary lip service to the possibility of Elektra and her canon back-story, with reference to Matt's Greek girlfriend at law school. Not only did that relationship not work out, but we're told that Matt has struggled to hold down a relationship ever since. Elektra is out there, and she may be the love of his life.
As for Bullseye, well, the assassin who can turn anything into a weapon doesn't merit a mention, but some fans have noted that the sniper who takes down several cops in episode six seems to have a deck of cards in his bag. That may be a conspicuous reference to one of Bullseye's favorite weapons.
But can that really be Bullseye when he missed Ben Urich and failed to kill the detective behind him? A sniper who misses doesn't sound like Bullseye to me.
THE OWL FLIES AT MIDNIGHT
Another character revealed in casting notices was Bob Gunton as Leland Owlsley, known to comics fans as The Owl, an ex-Wall Street investor turned crime boss. In the comics he has a green cloak that allows him to glide, and big-tipped Wolverine hair and strap-on Wolverine claws.
In the show, he has none of these things. He comes close to getting a suit in his trademark shade of green courtesy of Melvin Potter, but he's never once even referred to as 'The Owl', and by the end of the first season, he's dead.
Not so fast. I don't think this was The Owl. Leland makes repeated reference in the show to his son. His son's name? Lee.
The comics Owl doesn't have a son, so why does the show invent one? The answer is obvious; the son must be Leland Owlsley Jr. and he is The Owl. He has a father's death to avenge, and a legitimate gripe with both Kingpin and Daredevil, plus quite a bit of cash squirreled away. Now all he needs to make him the Kingpin's rival is that green suit Melvin Potter was building. And maybe a set of claws.
Netflix has yet to announce a second season for Daredevil, and the scale of the broadcaster's initial commitment to Marvel — four thirteen-episode shows and a mini-series — was plenty ambitious, even for a broadcaster that happily makes two-season commitments.
But demand for Daredevil was so high that it seemed to crash Netflix's servers, and the reviews have been phenomenally positive, so it must meet Netflix's opaque criteria for success. I would be shocked if a second season — and a third — weren't announced soon, to air over the next couple of years. Given Daredevil's success, and all the material still left to explore, why wait for the other Defenders shows to air before going back to this well?
So what would the show do with a second season? Well, there's a lot more ground left to cover in the fight between Daredevil and Wilson Fisk. Elektra, Bullseye, and Typhoid Mary all spring out of that fertile ground and could provide a couple of seasons' worth of material. And we have the wedding of Wilson and Vanessa to look forward to.
There are a lot of other Daredevil foes I'd love to see brought to the screen. The Enforcers — Fancy Dan, Ox and Montana — are fun characters with relatively grounded gimmicks that would make them an easy fit for this world; Bullet is an obvous choice; and there's room for weirder villains like Death-Stalker and Mister Fear. And we're not giving up on Stilt-Man yet. More Daredevil should mean more villains.
I have a hunch that we won't see much of Rosario Dawson's Claire Temple in subsequent seasons; I think we're more likely to see her as a recurring presence across all the Marvel Netflix shows, as the night nurse tending to wounded street-level heroes of New York. I wouldn't be surprised if she plays the same unifying role for the Defenders that Phil Coulson and Nick Fury played for the Avengers.
Claire Temple; the Hand; K'un-Lun; the Owl; Elektra. There is so much more for Daredevil and the other Marvel Netflix shows to explore and build upon. Daredevil not only opened a door to another side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it showed how much is waiting for us on the other side. These thirteen episodes are just the start.
That said, Marvel did close one door in Daredevil. Ben Urich, a major supporting character, presumably won't be returning. It's sad to think that the Sony/Marvel deal to reintegrate Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe came along too late to allow Ben to take his rightful place at the Bugle. The Marvel Universe is full of promise, but we'll never get to see everything we'd like to see.