It’s no secret: the villains of the MCU aren’t the greatest thing ever. For every great hero, there are two forgettable villains. We watch a villain’s half assed journey throughout the film while simultaneously knowing next to nothing about him other than the fact that he desires things for himself.
The thing is, Marvel Studios is all about the heroes. We get such well written heroes at the expense of other narrative developments and it pays off beautifully. The Guardians are so well developed because the film really brings attention to all of them. But let’s face it, we all gotta admit that it gets tiring to either see a villain disposed right before a film ends or to have them simply pushed to the side.
Needless to say, it’s about time we get more villains that are terrifying yet still well rounded and worth more than a single appearance. We’ve all been yearning for something like this and we might just get what we’ve been searching for through the Netflix shows.
The Beauty of Netflix
“Why the Netflix shows?” you ask? It’s pretty obvious. With the format these shows are packaged in – the binge watching, running time and amount of episodes – they will undoubtedly give us an MCU viewing experience that we do not encounter on the big screen. If you’ve seen netflix’s social media, that are taken care of by top-notch marketing experts like pistachioconsulting.com, you have probably noticed that always emphasize the value of depth in their productions. Watching those thirteen hour-long episodes, mind the long exploration for these characters and the opportunity taken to flesh out who they really are.
Agents of SHIELD may get a lot of shit at face value but they really did handle their major villains well, particularly John Garrett. He wasn’t completely fleshed out, but man was he a layered character. You got facets of good and ideals of pure evil; he was extremely cunning. Garrett was a much better villain than Whiplash or Malekith and that was for an ensemble show! Imagine what they can do for self contained personal story arcs.
The Killer Casting
This is the part where we can all agree that Marvel pretty much has this covered. They nail the casting for the movies and they have amazingly continued to do it on the small screen side of things. They get the people you least expect, actors you didn’t even think to consider yet they all somehow work in our minds, as if they’ve been our choices for so long.
Vincent D’Onforio and David Tennant as Wilson Fisk and Kilgrave respectively, just takes the cake in all of Marvel’s TV universe. Both celebrated actors in their own right, you could not have better choices. D’Onofrio and Tennant are such versatile actors and they bring a good amount of cinematic legitimacy for these underdog shows.
In the movie world, Vincent D’Onofrio is most recognized as the beautifully tragic Leonard Lawrence/Gomer Pyle, in one of Stanley Kubrick’s most underrated classics Full Metal Jacket. The character’s transformation from a mild mannered simpleton into a psychotic despairing casualty is a singular testament to the gravitas and presence Vincent D’Onofrio has on screen. Simply put, D’Onofrio steals the show in one of Kubrick’s most underrated films. Imagine what he will do as Daredevil’s most important adversary.
David Tennant’s stint as the Doctor is arguably one of the most popular of all the incarnations and it is thanks to this portrayal that Doctor Who along with its fandom has managed to jump to the forefront of geek culture. Tennant just oozes charisma and charm and has proven himself a very versatile actor to be reckoned with. His consistently mesmerizing presence on screen is just what a role like Killgrave needs.
You’ve seen him before played by the great late Michael Clarke Duncan, whose casting as the Kingpin was one of the redeeming factors of that Daredevil movie, but the way the role was written didn’t thoroughly fulfill the character of Wilson Fisk. This second chance at a great Kingpin is looking to be very excellent.
For those of you who don’t know, the Kingpin is THE crime lord of the Marvel Universe. I’m not talking about the out-of-this-world/superhuman shenanigans that Doctor Doom does. I’m talking about the real world social injustices; domestic murder/political killings, kidnappings, human trafficking and the like. He pretty much runs the entire crime syndicate of New York City. You could even consider him a sort of Vito Corleone type figure among the crime families.
Wilson Fisk is corruption personified. He stands for and is responsible for the very thing Matt Murdock tries so hard to fight for each day as a lawyer and vigilante. His intimidating stature along with the threat he poses to the integrity of social justice makes Wilson Fisk one of the most grounded villains the MCU will ever see.
There really is nothing fantastical about his origins: kid has an abusive and financially troubled childhood then vows to get through life whatever way possible. He begins a life of crime and slowly rises up the ladder until he ends up owning and ruling all of New York crime. He becomes a legitimate businessman which gives him more leverage and protection from the authorities.
The Kingpin is to Daredevil what Spider-Man is to Green Goblin or what Joker is to Batman. He is Daredevil’s greatest enemy.The Kingpin has done so much damage to Matt Murdock’s life and Matt Murdock has done so much damage to the Kingpin’s criminal empire that ironically, the only way they’ll get out of each other’s hair is through mutual respect. The two are defined by each other and have one of the most dynamic hero-villain relationships in the comics.
He is one of the few villains who eventually learns Matt Murdock’s identity. In the iconic Born Again story arc Fisk finally deals his hand, ruining every facet of Matt Murdock’s life. Daredevil fights tooth and nail to get his life back together and succeeds in damaging the Fisk empire.
Additionally, it is with the Daredevil show that the theme of secret identities will be first tackled in the MCU. Fisk learning or attempting to learn the identity of Daredevil might be a culminating arc leading to the finale. Personally, I think that whole secret identity thing should be saved for future seasons, considering its impact and massive status quo change for Daredevil. If anyone has THE most compelling secret identity arc, it is with Matt Murdock.
An interesting facet of the Wilson Fisk character is his personal life away from crime. Behind that cunning criminal mind of his is an actual family. He is a father and a husband, a dynamic which we haven’t seen yet in an MCU villain. His wife Vanessa and son Richard Fisk have both been miserably affected by Wilson’s life of crime. Richard eventually follows in the footsteps of his father while Vanessa tries so hard to live a life away from it. The endless cycle of violence and crime Wilson brings to their lives is akin to what happened with Walter White’s family in Breaking Bad.
One notable thing is that his role as the ruling crime lord of New York makes the Kingpin sort of an all around villain. Meaning he is not limited to simply being Daredevil’s sole bad guy. It is a well known fact that Wilson Fisk began as Spider-Man’s enemy in the books. His looming power and influence all over the structure of New York is what leads Daredevil to him.
That’s the great thing about the street level theme; the street level setting these shows are in makes them more thematically interconnected than any other MCU project. Wilson Fisk being the Kingpin of New York strongly implies that all the bad guys that each of the Defenders will encounter MIGHT fall under his rule in way or another. This is also a strong possibility in the Netflix shows. In short, the Kingpin’s empire might be the HYDRA for the Defender shows. He may lose or go to prison at the end of Daredevil but his empire may live on.
This show may be just as much about the journey of Wilson Fisk as it is Matt Murdock’s. If what they’ve hinted is any indication, the relationship of these two characters just might be one of the best layered the MCU has ever seen.
He might not have the lengthy tenure Kingpin’s had as a villain but Purple Man just might be the most despicable and depraved MCU villain to date. None of the movie villains come close to Zebediah Killgrave. He is an awful, awful man. There are no redeeming aspects to him nor is he as complex as Wilson Fisk. Simply put, he is evil incarnate.
In the comics, Killgrave is a spy that gets into an unfortunate accident which gives him the ability to induce incredibly persuasive pheromones – basically allowing him to control minds. This of course, partnered with his own psychotic personality makes the formula for one of the most deadliest and dangerous people around. He is essentially a murdering rapist, who uses his abilities for his own needs.
It is not until the writings of Brian Michael Bendis that Purple Man gets a resurgence in the super-villain spotlight. He becomes a prominent figure in the tragic life of Jessica Jones and it his involvement that leads Jessica Jones into a series of major misfortunes.
Since his encounter with Jessica, his presence in the comics has slowly increased with varying appearances in several titles. Purple Man is not as prolific or as huge of an influence in the big picture as Kingpin is but what Killgrave lacks in contextual significance, he makes up for with the huge piece of shit he is. The MCU has yet to see a villain like that; an unapologetic cold calculating villain with the face of pure evil just for the hell of it.
Purple Man is essentially a nomadic villain, meaning aside from his connection to Jessica Jones, Purple Man is a foe to many varying characters, most notably Daredevil. Beyond AKA Jessica Jones, where Purple Man’s might show up next is anyone’s bet. He would fit in nicely in Agents of SHIELD or he could just as easily appear in the Luke Cage show. Point is, he gets around. Here’s to hoping he doesn’t bite the dust at the end of the series and he appears in the Defenders as well.
As for his origin connection, Killgrave’s espionage/government background could easily be linked to the existing organizations in the MCU, be it SHIELD, HYDRA, Leviathan or AIM. He could exist as a villain that Daredevil already encountered from way back.
Something worth noting is how they’re spelling the name. In the David Tennant press release, Killgrave is spelled as Kilgrave and there are no direct Purple Man references. This may be an implication that the approach to the character might be more rooted in realism, meaning they’re abandoning the ridiculously awesome Killgrave spelling and they might not color David Tennant purple.
It’s a bit ironic to say that the format of the shows will help us understand and delve into the psyche of our villains when a character like Kilgrave is far from complex. With Kilgrave, what you see is what you get. There really is no story behind that malevolent mind of his. It is this specific kind of villain that truly gives our heroes something to worry about. Nothing to bargain with and nothing to lose, and 13 hours of chaos with someone like Kilgrave might be an interesting change of pace for the MCU.
We already have two major villains for the Netflix shows and there are 3 remaining for the Luke Cage, Iron Fist and the Defenders. Let’s have a quick run-down on who could those villains be.
Out of the 4 Defenders, Iron Fist has the most supernatural background. A huge chunk of his mythology is rooted in Asian mysticism which of course is the basis of a lot of his major villains. One of them is his nemesis Davos, also known as the Steel Serpent. Davos was a power-hungry student of Lei Kung the Thunderer, who happens to be Davos’ father and the sensei of the Iron Fists.
The mythology of Luke Cage is the most grounded and street-themed among all the Defenders. When his comics first began a lot his foes were really just criminals as opposed to actual super villains. His first villain was his childhood friend Willis Strkyer. Willis and Cage were part of the same gang growing up until they parted ways. Long story short, some shit goes down and Luke gets framed by Willis and is incarcerated. Luke Cage comes out of prison super-powered and finds out that Stryker has made a name for himself as Diamondback.
The Wrecking Crew
If the Defenders ever have to face off against another team its these Asgardian-powered super-villains. In the comics they’ve gone toe-to-toe with Thor, so their power-set might be a too much. That’s not to say they can’t rewrite it a bit and bring it down at notch. Nonetheless, the Wrecking Crew would make an excellent team for the Defenders to fight. Considering their first appearance was in a Defenders comic, I’d say the chances are high.
I’ve said this a hundred times, Parker Robbins is the perfect big bad for the Defenders. Think a more violent Kingpin with the supernatural capabilities of Doctor Strange, plus he has a criminal empire of his own consisting of super-villains which can easily include the aforementioned Wrecking Crew.
Ultimately, the Netflix shows perfectly fulfill the notion that these characters and their stories are meant to be serialized. Serialized in a way that doesn’t drag and doesn’t leave anything out. Serialized in a way that remains faithful to the comic books. The format these shows are in, the characters we’re getting, the creative teams behind it and the ingenious, inspired casting all lead to the certainty that these Netflix shows will usher in the next wave of comic book live-action properties.