With The Defenders less than a week away from debuting on Netflix — seeing the bit-players of the MCU team-up against a street-level supervillain too great to take on individually — one can’t help but wonder exactly how we arrived here. I’m not talking about how we got from The Avengers to Daredevil or from Daredevil to The Defenders. That was twisted road, sure, but not the most difficult one the comic publisher’s had to deal with.
How did we end up here, with the titular team-up squaring off against someone that nobody’s ever heard of before. Okay, sure, it’s still The Hand they have to take down, but sitting on the ground floor of villainy is Alexandra: a mafiosa that hasn’t so much has been referenced in any of the four series that lead into this crossover event.
It’s not like the Marvel Cinematic Universe is short on villains, either: not even for the small screen. While the prevailing wisdom is that Marvel doesn’t have any good villains for their heroes to square off against, that simply is no longer the case. Sure, because of their tangled film rights, they don’t have Magneto or Doctor Doom, but Loki was arguable the breakout star of Marvel’s Phase 1, even more so than Iron Man. Between The Mandarin, The Winter Soldier, Ultron, The Vulture, Ego and Infinity War‘s Thanos, they have evil doers to spare.
Not only that, but they have plenty of ne’er-do-wells established on the cold streets of New York that could do the job just as well as the steely-eyed newcomer. Madam Gou, the wizened head of the Hand’s heroin production, has proven herself on multiple occasions to be a magnetic screen presence and more than a match for any one Defender. Elektra, the recently risen ex-girlfriend of Daredevil, proved to be the perfect blending of warrior-ninja and irresistible seductress. And then, of course, there is Wilson Fisk: New York’s Kingpin of Crime.
Even the die-hard “no good villains” crowd begrudgingly admits that Vincent D’Onofrio’s crime boss is the crowning achievement of the MCU to date. He is a fascinating, sympathetic and utterly ruthless crime lord who isn’t above getting his hands dirty. He singlehandedly united the gangs of New York under his control in season 1 of Daredevil and proved to be just as potent an adversary while incarcerated in season 2.
Given the reception of Iron Fist by the general public, changes to Marvel’s Defenders plans were always going to happen. Five seasons into their Netflix plans was too far to completely remove The Hand from the equation, but changing up their on-screen leadership is an easy way to shoot some extra life into the series. Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra is the fruit of that eleventh-hour labor.
I just can’t help but think that the simpler — and probably better — solution was to give fans exactly what they’ve been clamoring for since 2015: more Kingpin. There is absolutely no reason to think that he’s been idol while in jail; in fact, his season 2 appearance in Daredevil pretty much spelled that out for everybody watching. He has dealt with the Hand before — both with their undead Ninja warrior Nobu and Madam Gou herself — so he has clearly proven his merits as a leader and business partner to them. It would be a natural fit for the franchise to upgrade him to the Hand’s on-the-ground leader: using the organization as a weapon against his old enemy Daredevil and his newfound allies.
I trust Marvel enough at this point to concede that they know what they are doing. It just seems like there was a much easier way to unite the Defenders than introducing an entirely new character into the mix. They could have just made better use of the pieces already on the table.
Tell us what's wrong with this post? How could we improve it? :)
Let us improve this post!