Friday, November 8, 2013

Brain Splatter on the Marvel/Netflix Deal

Earlier today Marvel and Netflix announced a new deal that would bring 4 new series and a mini-series to Netflix's growing TV-on-Demand audience. Terms of the deal seem to dictate that Netflix will produce 4, 13 episode series, beginning with Daredevil in 2015, which will be followed by Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist individual series, and a culminating The Defenders mini-series. The 13 episodes are a minimum agreement, meaning if the episodes are successful, Netflix could potentially opt to order more episodes for any or all of the individual series. This is a groundbreaking deal for Netflix and Marvel as the two continue to grow their partnership which began last year when the two came to an exclusive agreement to deliver Marvel's movies straight to Netflix after they leave theaters, beginning in 2016.  After the jump, I'll dig into just what each of these series could be, how they set up The Defenders, what else this might mean for some of Marvel's lesser known heroes and the big picture of the MCU.


According to reports on the deal, which do not, at this juncture, contain a whole lot of details, Daredevil will bat lead-off in the Marvel/Netflix lineup.  Marvel recently regained the right's to the Daredevil property and have reportedly been working hard on what to do with it.  It seems as though they have settled on that project and have chosen wisely!  Back in August and again last week, I postulated that Hornhead was very well-suited to an episodic TV show given the amount of character development required to fully appreciate Matt Murdock and his dual identities.

The 2003 Daredevil, while not hugely successful, was not a terrible film.  One of the issues I have with it is it's attempt to cram the complexities of Murdock, his origins as Daredevil, a crazy villain, two important relationships and a high-profile Marvel baddie (the Kingpin) into a 2-hour space.  What Marvel now has at its disposal is the ability to let many of the key elements of the Daredevil mythology develop generically over 13-hour-long-episodes. In such a set up it is likely we'll see some flashbacks occasionally to delve into how Matt Murdock developed his senses and became a masked hero; however, each episode will be able to spend time attending to Murdock's court room drama and Daredevil's vigilantism without having to overdo either one.

A strong template for a successful Daredevil series already exists; in fact, it just completed its 8th and final season: Dexter. The show, which was very successful, especially early on, does a nice job of showing what it would take to live a dual life when one side of your life is tied up in the law.  Given that courtroom dramas always seem to gain a following, that side of the show seems to be pretty well covered as well.  As I said in August, Daredevil, like all comics when you think about it, is made to be told serially, and it will thrive as a TV series.  It's long been a huge part of Daredevil to have him team up with or, at the very least, interact with other heroes so I'd imagine we'd be seeing a fair amount of crossing over in the Daredevil series.

Using Netflix as the medium through which to deliver Daredevil, one of Marvel's oldest original characters, is a strategically brilliant maneuver by the studio. Many elements of a good Daredevil story can be told to general audiences, but we may get a more complete picture of the character with a little freedom to push some R-rated boundaries that wouldn't fit the ABC model. Certainly Marvel doesn't want to completely turn away younger audiences, but I have a feeling that some more mature concepts may be a part of these series on Netflix. Basically Marvel has given itself the freedom to tell the Daredevil story the way it wants and you can be sure that, as the first of 4 series, it will be done well.

Jessica Jones

Marvel has been developing this series for quite some time and it was destined to hit TV screens at some point despite being turned down by ABC. For those of you who aren't quite sure who Jessica Jones is, she is a super-powered hero who gave up the costume and became a private investigator.  She has close ties to MANY other heroes, including her husband Luke Cage, and much of her PI work related to other super powered people. Melissa Rosenberg, who worked on the original idea, AKA Jessica Jones, has mentioned that the show was geared more for adults and that's likely why it was rejected by ABC.  As with Daredevil, using Netflix allows Marvel to make the show a little more adult-themed.

Marvel will almost certainly use the Jessica Jones series to introduce new characters or have occasional appearances by existing characters, as will be the case with Daredevil.  The timeline for which of the shows will follow Daredevil has not been revealed yet, but the Jessica Jones show would make introductions of Luke Cage and Danny Rand pretty simple.  This is a show that the people at Marvel have been high on for years as they searched for the right fit.  I'm very excited to see what they do with it on Netflix.

Luke Cage

Luke Cage is one of Marvel's most under appreciated heroes. He's been an Avenger, led his own team of New Avengers and is headlining the current Marvel NOW! title, The Mighty Avengers.  Cage and Daredevil are the faces of the Marvel street-level in my mind. A Cage series may just be the best of the four.

Given Cage's close ties to Jessica Jones, it's really likely that the actor cast as Cage and the actress cast as Jones will make a good deal of appearances in each other's series. That opens the door for Marvel to cast some bigger names in these roles.  I've said many times that Dwayne Johnson would make an excellent Cage and I still believe that to be the case; however, I'm unsure that Johnson is going to squeeze a TV show into his schedule without assurances of a film.  Fortunately, Marvel has mentioned that if these films do well, the characters could potentially move onto the big screen.  I could easily see Cage and Iron Fist moving onto the screen in a Heroes of Hire film, or being a part of future Avengers films, like the third installment, if they are well-received.

Iron Fist

This series might already be written.  The Immortal Iron Fist series by Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker is one of Marvel's best individual arcs and would play beautifully through a series.  It would allow time to explore Danny Rand's journey to becoming the Iron Fist while also developing a deep mythology around K'un L'un and the Immortal Weapons.  It's entirely possible that they are going to go in a completely different direction, but that series was definitely the basis for the long-time development of an Iron Fist film.  You can read a lot more about Iron Fist  HERE.

Iron Fist's relationship with Cage means that we'll likely see some of them in each other's series as well...this really seems to be a pattern here.  Though each series may only be 13 episodes each, it's a safe bet that each of the actors will be contracted for several appearances in the other series in addition to the culminating mini-series, The Defenders.

The Defenders

 The Defenders roster has been as in flux over the years as any other Marvel team; however, Cage, Daredevil and Iron Fist have all been members. The Defenders mini-series is a very interesting denouement to the Netflix series. I'll be able to speculate further when more details emerge regarding the timing of things, but for now my foremost question is who else will be joining the team? Almost certainly they won't just have the 3 heroes above and Jessica Jones.  Buzzing around in my brain now is whether or not an actor from one of Marvel's current or future films might cross-over for the mini-series. Leading the pack in my mind are Doctor Strange and The Hulk.  Strange has long been the "hub" of the Defenders, who have almost exclusively dealt with supernatural type threats.  Given the potential of a Strange film sometime in 2016 or 2017, it's possible that the Defenders mini-series ties into a Doctor Strange film. Strange makes much more sense than the Hulk given that they have a pre-existing deal with Mark Ruffalo.  Of course they may not have anyone else in the show for that matter and just focus on the 4 heroes we meet from our series.

Big Picture Takeaway

This is a bold and brilliant move by Marvel.  They have almost nothing to lose by throwing a little bit of cash at some Netflix original series.  These are going to be watched by a lot of people.  If they suck, Marvel is out very little and their good rep with films stays intact; however, if they are well-received, Marvel has opened up a new door to their heroes and can shift gears to making feature films for those heroes that did the best. This is a step in the right direction for Marvel.  As a fan I am very excited to see how these turn out and what that means for the future of the MCU.  I have no doubt in my mind that much like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., these series will all be MCU canon, giving Marvel the ability to continue to expand its scope.  Bravo Marvel...hurry up 2015.