When The Avengers hit the big screen in May of 2012, the groundwork for the epic superhero team-up blockbuster had been laid by five standalone films: two Iron Man movies, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger. Similarly, when The Defenders hits Netflix sometime in the not-too-distant future, the groundwork for the epic superhero team-up series will have been laid by five standalone seasons of television: Daredevil Seasons 1 and 2, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. With the release of the sophomore season of Netflix's first Marvel show, we're just over halfway through that set-up. So how exactly does Daredevil Season 2 pave the way for The Defenders ?
Somewhat surprisingly, Marvel's plans for the small screen version of the Avengers remain fairly obscure even three seasons into their Netflix gambit. When the first Iron Man came out in 2008, audiences knew exactly what was coming thanks to that after-credits scene of Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury recruiting Robert Downey, Jr.'s Tony Sark for the "Avengers Initiative." By the time Joss Whedon's film came out four years later, fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe had been teased with other connective appearances by Fury and his underling Agent Coulson, constant references to the "Avengers," and cross-promotional cameos by the likes of Black Widow in Iron Man 2 and Hawkeye in Thor.
Marvel's Netflix universe has had surprisingly little of that. There is no Nick Fury figure here — or even a Coulson — recruiting our heroes with talks of a team-up. There have been zero uses of the word "Defenders." And while there have been a few cross-promotional cameos — Claire Temple in Jessica Jones; Jeri Hogarth in Daredevil Season 2 — those are more just easter eggs for fans of the franchise rather than direct set-up for The Defenders. This relative restraint means that we have approximately zero percent of an idea what The Defenders will actually be about. What will bring the heroes together, and who will they be fighting against? Could a resurrected Elektra Natchios be the villain of The Defenders?
It's possible; after all, The Avengers brought in Loki, a preexisting villain from one of its lead-up movies, to butt heads with its team of superheroes, rather than introducing a whole new baddie — part of the reason, the first Avengers is still more beloved than last summer's Age Of Ultron, in which the titular antagonist felt like barely more than a one-and-done monster of the week. There have been so many references to "Black Sky" throughout both seasons of Daredevil; surely all that talk has to be leading somewhere, right? With the revelation that Elektra herself is Black Sky and the finale cliffhanger of the Hand presumably resurrecting her dead body, the character seems primed to have an even bigger — and more deadly — role moving forward.
We still don't even know what Black Sky really is, given that it's a phrase that never appears on the page of Marvel comics. But that doesn't mean we can't make some educated guesses! Based on what we know about the Hand — the evil ninja organization led by Nobu — it seems most likely that Black Sky is a person who serves as a vessel for the primordial demon known as The Beast. In the comics, the Hand exists in service of this demon, who is consequently responsible for most of their mystical powers… including resurrection. If Elektra awakens from that ominous tank at the beginning of The Defenders possessed by an evil magical demon — well, then we have a pretty formidable foe for our heroes to fight against.
Of course, Netflix could also be saving a resurrected Elektra for a third season of Daredevil . If that's the case, then perhaps The Defenders will actually adapt the comic book origins of the supergroup. On the page, the Defenders came together to fight off the Undying Ones, a horde of demonic beings hailing from the Himalayas and led by a villain referred to as the Nameless One. If Netflix tackles this plot line, then it begs the question of whether Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange will make a cameo appearance on the show — the mystical doctor is the one who founded, recruited, and united the Defenders in the comics, after all. (And Cumberbatch himself is no stranger to television thanks to his work on Sherlock. Hey — it could happen, right?)
There is another tantalizing possibility: that Netflix will find a way to combine the two aforementioned theories into one delicious cocktail of villainy. The M.C.U. has been known to conflate comics storylines before; for example, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Skye is both a character named Daisy Johnson AND an Inhuman — two mutually exclusive things in the comics, in which Daisy is actually a mutant. So it's not hard to imagine a scenario in which the Undying Ones = the immortal ninjas of the Hand, and the Nameless One = Elektra/Black Sky, their demonic leader.
There's one compelling reason I hope Elektra turns out to be the Big Bad of The Defenders, and that's that female villains have been few and far between in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far. Out of every movie, TV show, and Netflix series, only one property has had a woman as its chief antagonist: Season 2 of ABC's Agent Carter . Otherwise, the M.C.U.'s villains — like Kingpin, Malekith, Mandarin, Red Skull, Ronan the Accuser, Whiplash — have all been men. By the time Avengers: Infinity War — Part 1 and Part 2 have come out, all the villains the team will have battled against will also have been men: Loki, Ultron, Thanos. (Well, two men and one robot with a man's voice if we're being technical.)
If the Avengers won't ever get to face off against a powerful woman on the big screen, then it would at least be a refreshing change of pace to see the Defenders get a female foe on the small screen. And given how much ass we saw Elektra kick in Daredevil Season 2, a demonically-possessed version of the character would undoubtedly pose a credible threat to the team. So while the M.C.U. gears up for its first female superhero solo movie, hopefully it's also gearing up to give us our first major female villain to boot.
Images: Patrick Harbron/Netflix (2); Giphy (3)