Let’s Talk American Gods

American Gods is a 2001 novel from master fantasy writer Neil Gaiman. It’s one of my favourite books. It’s also a 2017 TV series that happens to be the best thing on television, and y’all need to know about both of them.

Now, you might have a reflex to judge this, if you’re like me and have really gotten over movies or horror anthology shows slapping the word “American” in their title for… why do they do that, exactly? Because American Beauty and American Pie were successful?

I get using it in American Sniper, because unless you really drape that story in aggressively jingoist patriotism all you have is a story about a racist who likes shooting brown people that does a terrible job of portraying PTSD, but what is, say, American Horror Story gaining by slapping “American” on the title? Is it necessary? Is it helping? When the international market is more important than ever?

But for any of you that do have my weirdly specific issue, rest assured that in this case, it’s earned. The rest of you probably just wonder why I’m still talking about this.

The Basics

The basic plot of either American Gods is this: ex-thief Shadow Moon is released from prison just in time to attend his wife’s funeral. On the way he meets enigmatic conman Mr. Wednesday, who wants to hire Shadow to be his body man. Wednesday takes Shadow on a road trip through the back roads and small towns of America, where he learns a hidden truth: gods are real, and they’re everywhere.

People believe in gods because they exist, but gods exist because people believe in them. From the Bering Straight until relatively recently, every time that people came to the American continent and worshipped their god(s), said god(s) would appear in America. But worship dwindled, and with it, the gods’ stature and power. And in their place, new gods are rising, representations of what the modern world worships: Media, the Technical Boy, and their mysterious leader Mr. World. War is brewing between the old gods and the new, and Shadow is stuck in the middle.

The Book

Gaiman’s novel is a sweeping epic that still manages a languid pace, which is perfect for how the story unfolds. Shadow and Wednesday move from town to town, encountering and attempting to recruit gods from various pantheons, and Gaiman relishes in exploring how they’ve acclimated to modern day America.

And sometimes he just puts the main story on pause for a “Coming to America” story, about gods or human lives they’ve touched along the way.

It’s a story about faith, and how it affects people’s lives. It’s a story about immigrants, if “coming to America” wasn’t enough of a clue there. It’s a story where a major character can just hang out in small town Wisconsin for the winter and it’s still fascinating.

The Series

American Gods has been adapted to television in part by one of my all-time favourite TV writers, Bryan Fuller. Fuller was behind the delightfully whimsical fantasy procedural Pushing Daisies, and the gorgeously shot nightmare fuel that was Hannibal. That one’s particularly relevant.

Hannibal used the original Hannibal Lector novels as a loose guideline. Fuller’s team wove the backstory of the Red Dragon novel into some of the most compelling television you could ask for. The relationship between Hannibal and his friend/nemesis, haunted profiler Will Graham, is both hunter/prey (though which is which constantly shifts) and a touching yet seriously twisted bromance. And through all of his work is a visual flair unlike anything else on television.

Which makes him basically perfect to take on this story. The visual style of Pushing Daisies and Hannibal brings American Gods to lush life beyond what I could have hoped for, and the writers have an instant rapport for Gaiman’s characters. Ian McShane’s take on Mr. Wednesday is incredible, Ricky Whittle is nailing Shadow, and the guest cast is filled with great choices. Peter Stormare’s Czernobog, Gillian Anderson as the many faces of Media, Kristen Chenoweth as Easter… and I didn’t know Orlando Jones could even be as good as he is as African trickster god Anansi/Mr. Nancy, a character from the novel so beloved that he got a spin-off.

And all of that is putting aside the fact that they’ve formed an improbably compelling duo out of two more minor characters: Shadow’s dead wife Laura and Mad Sweeney the Leprechaun. The unapologetically unpleasant Laura Moon and the hilariously put-upon Mad Sweeney are such strong characters that Shadow and Wednesday can disappear for entire episodes and you don’t even mind.

Diverting From the Course

At first, they’re pretty faithful to the source material. Entire sequences in the first three episodes seem to be chapters lifted directly from the book and brought to exquisitely vivid life. Exquisite, gorgeous, sweet-yet-holy-hell-graphic life. That… doesn’t last. By the halfway point of episode five, we’re in completely uncharted territory.

Well, not completely, necessarily. They’re still on the same basic path, they’re just taking some diversions along the way.

Normally “diversion from the source material” is the opening salvo of a massive nerd rant about “How dare they change so-and-so,” but not today, readers, not. Today. Too many things I’ve seen have done well with diversions from their source material. Preacher spent its entire first season in a town that blew up in the first issue of the comic (with a villain who didn’t show up until year four), and it’s great. iZombie has almost nothing in common with the original comic and it’s one of my favourites. And apparently the novelizations of Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and something) have all sorts of superfluous characters and apparently go-nowhere plots (Lady Stoneheart seems to lift right out) that the show does fine without.

(By the way… TV fans spent five seasons saying “No spoilers no spoilers” to book fans, and then the very instant the TV show passed the books, spoilers everywhere. That was messed up, guys. That was a messed up thing we did. Or let the entertainment media do.)

But most relevant? Hannibal.

Bryan Fuller knew Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lector novels inside and out, but his goal wasn’t to do a chapter-by-chapter remake of Red Dragon. Hell, it took two and a half seasons to get to Red Dragon. Instead he used the characters and backstory of the various novels to weave his own story about Will Graham and Dr. Lector, and it was amazing. So if he wants to add his own digressions, his own spin on Gaiman’s story, he absolutely has my trust.

Especially since Gaiman is an executive producer and is around to say “Yes, sure, do that, that’s neat.”

Similar to the highly underrated Before Watchmen comics– yes, I called Before Watchmen underrated, fucking fight me– Fuller takes single chapters and minor characters and brings them into the spotlight, expanding on characters only glimpsed in the book. And sure, fine, okay, there are plot points and character meetings happening in the back half of the series that in no way happened in the books. But you know what, that’s fine. It’s fine. Because A) if I haven’t been clear, they’re great, and B) the worst, the worst thing they could have done is try to just cram the entire book into one season. Even if it had been longer than eight episodes. Racing through this story would have killed it.

Okay, there is middle ground between “racing through the story” and “padding said story with new stuff,” but I refer you back to point A. If Fuller going off-book brings us Corbin Bersen as a white nationalist Vulcan, Lost/Justified’s Jeremy Davies as Jesus Prime*, and an early confrontation between Wednesday, Crispin Glover as Mr. World, and Gillian Anderson as Media as Marilyn Monroe? I say bring it on.

*The novel admits the existence of various regional Jesuses but avoids having any turn up. The TV show has dozens.

So Which Should You Try?

Well that’s kind of up to you. Both are excellent in their ways. I guess the question is, are you in it for the destination, or the journey?

If you want to know the full story ASAP, the show is no help. They are in no rush to get through the events of the novel. The first eight-episode season barely makes it a fifth of the way into the book. (Sure, spending two entire episodes on non-Shadow/Wednesday stories and one entire episode and chunks of two more on new Shadow/Wednesday stories slowed them down just a smidge.) I doubt they’ll even reach Lakeside, Wisconsin until season three or four. So if you’re impatient, read the book. Just devour it. Get all up in all 600+ pages of that long and winding sumbitch. Then read it again and savour each chapter.

Sure but you’ll know how it ends. Might end. Assuming the ratings stay high enough to see it through, the TV show might not end with the end of the book. In addition to the spin-off, Anansi Boys (which some have said Gaiman wrote to prove that the late, great Terry Pratchett didn’t write all the jokes in their classic collaboration Good Omens), Neil Gaiman is reportedly working on a sequel. And since he’s better at getting these written than George RR Martin*, it’ll be done and in stores by the time the series catches up, and that’ll be another five seasons right there.

*Relax, Song of Ice and Fire fans, by “better” I just mean “faster.” I’m not saying Gaiman’s objectively a better writer than Martin. You might have inferred it, I might be thinking it, and it’s true, but I didn’t say it.

And take it from someone who’s read the book multiple times… knowing where they’re headed isn’t detracting from the ride. I mean, you heard me mention the new stuff, right? And my opinion on it was clear?

On the other hand, if you don’t mind spending a few years making your way down a long, winding, and fascinating road, and would rather have no idea where it’s going, then watch the show. I’ll do my best not to spoil anything for you.

But pick one. Book or TV series, it’s going to be brilliant. So pick one. Read it, watch it, get on it.

Get on it.

Get. On. It.

(This has been “Dan heartily endorses American Gods.” Thanks for tuning in, see you next time.)

On the Subject of Crowds

Continuing some shorter reflections on Ireland before we get into some super-long nerd blogs.

My last proper solo vacation was Peru, last year. We’ve talked about it, you remember. No need to go back into it in detail. There was one large difference between these trips. Well, other than language. And amount of hiking. Local alcohols. Weather. Quality of hotel room and existence of night buses and pressure to eat guinea pigs–

Okay, there were a lot of differences. Obviously there is one difference in particular I want to talk about. Hint: it’s in the title. Compared to everything I did in Peru, Dublin was crowded, yo.

Maybe it’s a difference in time periods… Peru was in early March, Ireland was in early June. Those three months seem like they could have an impact on tourist volumes. Peruvian summer was just ending, Irish summer was about to begin. Maybe Dublin’s just a more popular city than Arequipa. I don’t know what exactly it was, I just know this… nearly every tour I went on in Dublin was packed, and nearly every tour I went on in Peru was mostly empty. Cliffs of Moher? Full bus. Dune boarding? Just me, Kate, Amy, and Tayla. Belfast? Nearly full. White water rafting outside Cusco? Just me. 

Well, there were obviously exceptions. There were plenty of people condor-spotting at the Colca Canyon. And Machu Picchu is probably always crowded. That’s the one place that definitely had crowds to match the Guinness Storehouse. Yes, Machu Picchu had crowds the same size as the Guinness Storehouse.

I had to go to a world heritage site in Peru to find crowds that matched the Guinness Storehouse. People know what they like about Ireland, I guess.

The weird thing, though? I actually felt more alone in the larger groups. The more people in a tour, the easier it became to feel isolated. The bus to the Cliffs of Moher on day two hadn’t even left Dublin before I stared to miss Maria and Kate and Amy and Tayla. Before I missed being part of a long-term group.

(I’d miss my same-city friends later, when I lacked people to drink with.)

I guess it’s not that weird. I didn’t invent the phrase “Alone in a crowd.” And it’s not like I was the only person on the buses not bonding. People don’t go on 40 person tours to bond with people. You do that on a 14 person hike up the Inca Trail.

Now don’t go thinking this is some prolonged pity party about solitude. It’s not like I never talked to people. I managed that just fine, albeit often with the assistance of the whiskey tastings that came with distillery tours. One of the bartenders at the Jameson Distillery was particularly delightful, and pushed me in the direction of one of the museums I visited.

I guess the point is, Dublin is a bit on the crowded side during peak season, and the smaller groups were always better. Easier to meet people, easier to chat with. Large tours, people stick with the people they already know. Or maybe they just want to read their comics or listen to their podcasts on the drive to and from places. Certainly some people on my tours did. Well, one. Minimum one on each tour. Doesn’t matter who.

On the Subject of Plans

Day four in Ireland. Day one turned out to be all about visiting one pub and then slowly but surely succumbing to jet lag backed up by two nights of bad sleep. Day two was a day trip through the countryside. Day three was getting a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour and hopping off when I saw something neat (primarily the Teeling Distillery, the first new Dublin distillery in 125 years). Now day four… I had a plan.

  1. Up at 8:00.
  2. Exercise?
  3. Breakfast at the hotel. It’s included with the room, after all.
  4. On the hop-on-hop-off bus by 9:00. Ride it to the Dublin Zoo.
  5. Check out the zoo. It’s included with your three-day Dublin Pass, after all.
  6. Back on the bus before your 24 hour ticket expires at… 12:10? Hoo. Thought it was later. That’s fine, that’s fine…
  7. Ride the bus back to the core, find a pub for lunch.
  8. Hit some other attractions covered by the Dublin Pass. Cathedrals?
  9. Back to the hotel by 7:00 for the Dublin by Night tour.

How things actually went.

  1. After a prolonged and unknowable amount of time, give up on getting back to sleep. Check the time. It’s 6:45? Damn.
  2. Instead of, I don’t know, starting the day early and ensuring the success of your timeline, stay in bed and watch another episode of The People V. OJ Simpson on Irish Netflix.
  3. Yeah, exercise.
  4. Breakfast at the hotel. It’s included with the room and lunch might be a ways off.
  5. Back up to your room to use the washroom.
  6. Remember that there’s a new Cracked After Hours this week.
  7. Get briefly sucked into a Cracked hole. Pull yourself out of it before you get too deep.
  8. On the bus by 9:30 and away. Not so terrible.
  9. Spend a lot of time hearing the guide complain about construction and traffic because this route has plenty of both.
  10. Arrive at the zoo between 10:30 and 11:00. Being back on the bus by noon is… problematic.
  11. Monkeys! Penguins! Lions!
  12. Yeah, we’re not making that bus. But on the plus side, red panda! Cuuuuuute!
  13. Leave zoo. Realize that you’re in a lush green park, the weather is the best it’s been since you got here, and maybe a walk back into town isn’t the worst thing in the world.
  14. Reach central Dublin faster than you would have on the bus.
  15. Lunch, later than planned.
  16. Other attractions, as planned. No cathedrals. Line was too slow.
  17. Back to the hotel in time for the Dublin by Night tour at… 9:30? God damn it. Look at the itinerary once in a while, man.
  18. …Italian for dinner?

As Captain Cold put it on The Flash… “Make the plan. Execute the plan. Expect the plan to go off the rails. Throw away the plan.”

I guess I did offer whiskey facts last time. Here’s a few.

  • Spelling “whiskey” with an “e” is something Dublin distilleries did to be snooty and superior.
  • Irish whiskey held 60% of the market share until a few small snags in the early 20th century… refusal to adapt to modern technique, warring for independence costing them the Commonwealth, and Prohibition costing them the US. If only Irish distilleries were as willing to work with the mob as the Scots.
  • In order to make whiskey, you must first make beer. So one could say that beer is just whiskey that someone gave up on.

On the Subject of Jet Lag

An annoying thing about traveling to a different country is that your body has this rhythm. You sleep during these hours, you’re awake during those hours. Then you land in a new country and all the rules have changed.

In recent trips, I’ve discovered a handy trick for this many people claim to know already. They say “take a nap.”

I’ve had some success with this. When Ian and I were in England, and I nearly passed out while standing up during a Beefeater tour, a quick nap before dinner made all the difference. In Peru, a quick nap really helped shake off the fact that I barely slept during the trip down from Houston. On another England trip with my parents, a nap might have really helped had the staff of the hotel not insisted on checking the mini bar no less than 3 times in 90 minutes. I should have started yelling earlier. Or put up a Do Not Disturb sign. I just didn’t think that would be necessary when there was no need for housekeeping.

But there are some situations in which this nap plan will not work.

Maybe on the Wednesday night before the Friday when you left, you had, perhaps, a couple too many adult beverages with the boys. And as such maybe you didn’t get the best sleep that night. So, one would say, that’s not a big problem. You’ll just get better sleep on Thursday.

Except perhaps your traitorous flesh body will betray you. Perhaps you will get no sleep on Thursday either, or at least far less than you intended.

Was it having a Coke at the 10:20 screening of Wonder Woman? That can’t be everything. It might explain why you had trouble getting to sleep, but not why you had trouble staying asleep.

No matter. Now it’s Friday. You’re leaving early in the morning– well not super early in the morning but early enough. And since you haven’t slept well for two nights in a row you’re pretty tired. Well, this must be ideal. Now you’ll be able to sleep on the plane with no problem, right?

Don’t be ridiculous. You have never slept well on a plane and you certainly aren’t going to start now.

So now it’s Saturday morning in Dublin. Your body still thinks it’s Friday evening. More to the point, it has not slept well since Tuesday. So it’s time to try that nap thing, right? Ninety minutes. One full REM cycle. That’s all you need. The problem is, as far as your body is concerned you have now spent two days on minimal sleep, and now your body clock thinks you just crawled into bed at 2 a.m. and then asked it to get back up at 4.  it’s like fasting for a week and then having one slice of pizza and thinking you’ll be full.

And that is how you spend your first day in Ireland too tired to function in public.

Desperate times, desperate measures. Like some 90 year old narcoleptic, you go to bed at the embarrassing time of 5 p.m. The plan? Get those 12 hours of sleep you need in order to make up for all the sleep you haven’t gone since Tuesday.

And that, sports fans, is how you end up awake and ready to go at 3 in the morning while the rest of central Dublin is finally putting itself to bed. But that’s ok. It gives you a couple of hours for Irish Netflix before you have to be at your tour at 6 o’clock. And then all you need to do is stay awake (more or less) for 20 hours and you’re finally ready to be acclimated to local time.

Join us next time when our topic will be: “Before you get off your hop-on hop-off bus tour, make sure you actually are near your hotel. Because you might be in for a longer walk in harder rain than you anticipated and then everything in your jacket will be soaked.”

Huh. Not sure that will require an entire blog now that I come to say it out loud. Maybe just some fun facts about Irish whiskey I learned.

Dan Writes Plays: Dying on Stage

“Wait, it’s been how long since I blogged about my old plays? Twenty-five months? Wow. And what have I been talking about in the meantime? No, aside from The Flash and Arrow.”

Huh.

Someone really took “My blog, my rules” to heart, I see.

Well, back to it. I mean come on, Dan, they were finally getting good.

Ladies and gentlemen, join me on a trip back to 2008, a time of antiquated things like hope, optimism, and American democracy… a time when I decided to take a crack at a genre I’d long enjoyed, but never experimented with… farce. And then I made it a murder mystery. I do like slapping murder mysteries onto things. This is Dying on Stage.

What’s it about?

Call it “Murder at the Muppet Show.”

PREMISE!

Who here remembers my go-to graphic for “Wacky premise?”

The Comedy Invasion is a struggling sketch/variety show (picture a non-televised Saturday Night Live, or a Muppet Show with humans and a musical guest) hosted by its creator Johnny Rayner and produced by his long-time business partner (and to his chagrin, only business) Mera Lucas. Tonight they’ve gotten a windfall that could turn their fortunes around… star of stage and screen Gareth Gardner has agreed to guest appear. If the show goes well, they’re on top.

So imagine their dismay when their asshole lead actor dies at the end of the opening sketch, apparently poisoned. It’s up to the remaining cast and crew to figure out who the killer is without Gareth or the audience noticing anything’s amiss. Cue hijinks!

So why’d that happen?

…I’m not sure I even remember.

I certainly am a big Muppet Show fan, but in the end it didn’t have that big an influence. There might be some traces of Kermit the Frog in Johnny’s occasional flustered ranting and role as MC. Resident comedienne Finnian Shale (an early case of me defying the “comic characters are men” stereotype and saying “Well, why can’t this role be a woman?”) certainly owes a debt to Fozzie Bear, especially given her big joke routine is a direct homage to one of my favourite Fozzie bits.

Maybe it had some influence from my love of sketch comedy in general, really. Back then I think I was using Kids in the Hall as background noise while writing. That would make sense. The continued presence of Premise Beach on my blogs prove I’m a bit of a Kids in the Hall fan. Maybe fondness for the brilliant and sadly forgotten late 90s show Viva Variety drove the notion into my head. Maybe it just came to me. I used to write sketches, especially back in the days of my old company, Mind the Walrus, and had some funny ones lying around that I felt I could be seen more.

No, wait, now that I think about it, I reused old sketches because I hadn’t written sketch comedy in several years and had slightly forgotten how. Hmm.

I guess at some point “Murder at the Muppet Show” became a fun idea and I decided to chase it, even though farce is a whole different animal than simple comedy.

I’m not positive when I decided to combine murder mystery and farce, but it works pretty well. The thing that drives a farce is high stakes. There is a secret, or a crisis, and any second it could come out, and if it does, lives will be ruined. And from there comes our pace, the desperate dance of lies and cover-ups that fuel the comedy. Hiding a body, or a series of bodies, while trying not to be the next victim provides those stakes.

How’d it turn out?

Really, really funny.

The opening scene was the biggest challenge. I needed a scene of pure pre-show chaos, where everything’s crazy and everyone’s high-energy and trying to get prepped, and at the same time it needed to accomplish two key things. First, introduce the cast of ten characters (well, introduce nine of them and hint at Gareth, who would show up in the next scene), and second, give as many of them as possible a motivation to kill Frankie, the lead character and first victim. Tricky juggling act but I think I got there.

Gareth Gardner works well as a hybrid of two archetypes: he’s every Very Special Guest Star from the Muppet Show (above this nonsense but still having a good time), and the Suspicious Constable from British farces, constantly spotting the holes in the protagonists’ cover stories.

Not all of the cast is super well developed, but given how fast some of them need to die I don’t see how that’s my fault. This thing needs to hit the ground running, so I don’t have unlimited time to spend teaching everyone what vain actress Veronica Horne’s hopes and dreams are. I just need you to know she’s narcissistic, weaponizes her sexuality, and the shier actresses don’t love her.

Bucky, the long-suffering intern, is as funny as he needs to be. Especially if you get someone hilarious in the role, like we did. Cliff the stage hand’s forced transition to leading man is a nice arc. I enjoy Finn. She’s so earnest and so bad at keeping a secret. Her habit of saying exactly the wrong thing at any given moment might be a bit of Fozzie Bear slipping back in.

Also, I got to end it with a line that had been in my head for a while… “If we spirits have offended, think but this and all is mended… No refunds. Goodnight everybody!”

There is one odd thing that happened. Some of the sketches didn’t get the laughs I expected, at least not at the workshops. And it’s not because the sketches weren’t funny, they were tried and true material. I’ve gotten laughs with Lost and Found and Celebrity Where Are My Pants before and since. It’s just that compared to the more rapid fire off-stage scenes, the sketches slowed the pace some. A weird effect that doesn’t really help.

But that might be more of a staging issue.

Would you stage it again?

Absolutely. That said, there were a couple of issues that came up during rehearsal, that we never got around to smoothing out. See, if I’m at a rehearsal and not on stage, I like to read. And the director took that to mean that I couldn’t be interrupted or asked questions. Which… makes no sense to me.

But anyway, it works. The major comic set pieces are reliable and not difficult to pull off. The pace is solid, and the full-on Agatha Christie Poirot-style “It was YOU!” revelation of the killer is enjoyable.

Man, why haven’t I done this one again…

Repeated theme alerts

  • Man and Woman Cannot Be Friends: Of course there’s a romantic C-plot between Johnny and Mera, because why not.
  • Writing about writers: I mean, there’s not a lot of discussion about it, but Johnny probably writes the show, doesn’t he? Someone must.
  • Something something pop culture reference: Well I mentioned the “Good grief, the comedian’s a bear!” homage, but here’s an obscure one. Bucky the intern’s real name is Hubert. This comes from the first “An Evening With Kevin Smith” DVD, in which one of the fans asking questions introduces himself as “My name is Hubert but everyone calls me Bucky,” and Kevin runs with it. “BUCKY! You don’t even need to ask a question now, man… what was your real name?” “Hubert.” [Kevin chuckles] “Bucky!”

Next time… how do you follow up the funniest thing you’ve ever written? You abandon comedy and get dark.

The Impossible Dream Comic Stories

You know, it’s a damn shame I already wrote, like, a dozen blogs about The Office, because I could sure say some more things about how lethally toxic Angela and Andy were as a couple. And how I don’t even know who I was supposed to root for in that story.

But no. We closed that book.

So previously I covered big crossover stories that I feel could be done even if they probably won’t. But hey, they already did Invasion!, and I wouldn’t have guessed that, so who knows. Today, though… instead of depressing myself by pitching ideas they could use but won’t, I’ll depress myself a little less by looking at the big, classic stories that neither Marvel nor DC could possibly do justice to.

I don’t know why I do these things either. But it’s no sadder than wondering how Marvel Studios could integrate the Fantastic Four if they got the rights back. I mean it’s pretty clear that Fox is going to keep making terrible Fantastic Four movies every seven years until Emperor Trump shuts down Hollywood for being too liberal and all the studios move to China. I don’t know why, maybe they’re just trying to dilute Marvel’s brand, but it’s clearly going to happen.

So. Allons-y.

1. Secret Wars

Now, there’s a few Marvel event books under this particular banner. The mid-80s miniseries (and subsequent sequels) in which the all-powerful Beyonder gathered the heroes and villains of Earth for a battle-royale on his artificial Battleworld; the infrequently shipping mid-2000s miniseries in which Nick Fury discovers that the nation of Latveria (once and future domain of Doctor Doom, but at the time a democratic ally state) has been funding America’s tech-based supervillains, and thus leads a covert team of to attack, which has consequences down the road; and the most recent Secret Wars, in which a years-long storyline about the Marvel multiverse collapsing ends with the main and Ultimate Marvel universes fatally colliding, and Doctors Doom and Strange saving what they can in a new Battleworld.

I could cover all three of them, but only one really fits here. I don’t think anyone is really clamouring for an adaptation of the original Secret Wars. It’s pretty thin, narratively speaking, which makes sense because it was written to sell a toy line. And it got its name from focus groups finding that kids reacted well to the words “secret” and “wars.” Also, the MCU simply doesn’t have enough interesting, Avengers-level villains to pull it off. That’s why the only way to get all of their film characters (but never their TV characters) together in one movie is to have them fight either Thanos or each other.

The 2004 Secret War has its issues as far as adaptation goes. A) the MCU has no equivalent to Latveria except maybe, maybe Sokovia (who could hardly afford to spend money on American supervillains), and B) there has never been a Marvel movie villain where we had to stop and ask where they get the money to fund and fuel their high-tech weapons. The Marvel movie villains are mostly arms dealers and interplanetary despots, not bank robbers with gimmick suits. But… if they were really inclined… the basic premise would make for a hell of a Captain America sequel. So they actually could do this one if they wanted.

The latest one, however…

Why would they want to?

Because like the great Crisis On Infinite Earths, grand-daddy of the Event Crossover, which we’ll get back to, this event existed to clear the deck. It ended the Ultimate universe experiment, save for Ultimate Spider-Man Miles Morales, who was brought into the main MCU. It paved away some things they wanted to be done with (the re-aged Steve Rogers, the evil Tony Stark, the still-existing Fantastic Four), and let Marvel start fresh with new ideas. Some new ideas. A couple of new ideas. They didn’t go post-Flashpoint New 52 crazy or anything.

Marvel Studios is coming up on the end of Phase Three, the culmination of over ten years of interconnected films and largely ignored TV projects. It’s also the end of the contracts for their main stars. All in all, a great time to clean house and start fresh. Doing a Secret Wars-type story would let them reboot and recast without going full Amazing Spider-Man.

So why can’t they?

Because for all of the craziness happening, the army of Thors and the wasteland of Hulks and the extra-wastey wasteland of zombies and Ultrons, all of that, Secret Wars was ultimately a story about Victor Von Doom and Reed Richards. Doom is triumphant, he has reforged reality in his own broken image and rules it as a god, and it all falls apart when Reed arrives. The fate of the Marvel multiverse comes down to a grudge match between these two classic, eternal rivals.

And the Marvel Cinematic Universe just does not have an equivalent.

The closest thing they have to a Reed Richards is Tony Stark, but his first and greatest nemesis in the films is himself. Tony can’t exactly wrestle his own arrogance for the fate of everything. They simply don’t have anything or anyone on par with Doom to serve as the other half of the equation. The 2004 Secret War has some elements and characters the films lack, but with a little wrangling Sokovia could replace Latveria, Falcon or Ant-Man could replace Wolverine, and they could just suck it up, stop shunning the TV branch, and put Luke Cage and Daisy “Quake” Johnson in a movie. But they have nothing in their arsenal to replace Doom. Not even Loki.

2. Crisis On Infinite Earths

I’d save this for last but I already went and brought it up, so… here goes. Crisis on Infinite Earths is the grand mac-daddy of all universe-shifting crossovers. DC editorial decided that their complex multiverse of overlapping characters was a little messy and confusing, and thus commissioned a massive event miniseries to tidy things up. Every single character in DC’s stable made at least a brief appearance, even some they’d just acquired. Worlds ended, heroes and villains died, including Supergirl and the Flash, and in the end there was one Earth in which the survivors all co-existed. The DC universe changed forever.

Okay, sure, within twenty years and change there was a multiverse again and nearly every character they’d killed had come back (I can name two who stayed dead, but you don’t know them). Creators who grew up reading comics tend to bring back the stuff they loved as a kid. But, you know… it’s still basically different.

Why would they want to?

Because this is the dream crossover. Forget Supergirl visiting Star City or even the Avengers meeting the Defenders, this is the impossible dream. The stuff fan trailers are made of.

These guys.

I’m talking Grant Gustin racing Ezra Miller. Fellow Supermen Brandon Routh and Tyler Hoechin throwing Henry Cavill a brood-intervention. Stephen Amell and Justin Hartley in an Arrow-off. The Dark Knight meets the Caped Crusader. Get weird with it, and all to stop a threat so big it takes upwards of five Supermen and three Flashes to bring it down.

So why can’t they?

Dude, think about it. Are you really going to be able to talk Christian Bale back into the batsuit? No. No you are not. Michael Keaton won’t be much easier, Christopher Reeve is dead, and 1990’s Flash, Superman Returns’ Superman, both Lois and Clark of Lois and Clark, and the 1970s Wonder Woman are all playing other characters in the DCW-verse.

Plus the only Joker you’re going to be able to get is Jared Leto and nobody wants that.

And which Earth would die to sell the stakes? Smallvile? Lois and Clark? You’re gonna get fans and ex-stars complaining on Twitter whichever you pick.

It’s the impossible dream for a reason. Even a Crisis on Two Earths (comic-wise, the first time the Justice League met the Justice Society), where the TV and film universes collided, would be a bit of an ask.

3. Secret Invasion

In case you were wondering if Marvel naming things based on focus groups liking the word “secret” was a thing of the past… well, we can’t be sure. Maybe writer/architect Brian Michael Bendis just wanted the homage.

Secret Invasion was the culmination of a story Bendis had been cooking since he took over the Avengers books. After a massive prison break which led to the newly formed New Avengers discovering an illegal, black-books vibranium mining operation in the Savage Land run by SHIELD, it becomes clear that some sinister force has infiltrated the global peacekeeping force. And, as time goes by, they learn whatever it is has infiltrated Hydra and the Hand as well. After Civil War splits the team in half, Luke Cage’s rogue Avengers find out who this shadow force is: shapeshifting alien would-be conquerors the Skrulls have mastered a new form of infiltration, one that no hero, despite magic or supersenses or being Reed Richards, could detect even when it was right in front of them.

So the question then began… who was a secret Skrull? Who could be trusted? Did the Skrulls orchestrate Scarlet Witch nearly wiping out the mutants or the Civil War that turned hero against hero? And when a ship full of heroes dressed like it was still the 80s crashed in the Savage Land, were any of them friends finally returned?

The answers were “Five people of note and some nameless SHIELD agents,” “Pretty much everyone,” “No,” and “No, that was just a waste of five incredibly repetitive issues.”

Why would they want to?

It combines both of Marvel Studios’ favourite tropes: heroes fighting heroes, and a climax involving fighting a giant horde of faceless alien minions. Plus, as we’ve learned from Winter Soldier, Civil War, and basing their film franchise around the Infinity Gauntlet, they love harvesting their event books for film plots. Not enough to fully give in to the endless cries for a Planet Hulk movie (looks like one scene from Thor: Ragnarok is all those people will get), but still.

Also, the story leading up to the event book was great. The years-long build-up, from the jail-break through to the secret within SHIELD and all the way to the big Skrull reveal and the two teams wondering who on the other side was a secret Skrull, it was one of the best slow-burn builds in recent memory.

So why can’t they?

Weirdly the fact that the build-up is the only good part of Secret Invasion isn’t the problem. Sure, it was savagely under-written, what with spending five issues on the go-nowhere Savage Land plot while the Skrull Queen gave a series of repetitive, half-issue monologues about change. Sure, the climax is hot garbage, since it boils down to all of the heroes lining up on one side of Central Park, shouting “Hey Skrulls, come fight,” and every Skrull in the global invasion saying “Yeah, sure, be right there.” Sure, the title doesn’t even make sense, since the Invasion stops being in any way Secret by the end of issue one. But the Civil War comic was also badly paced with a half-assed conclusion, and that movie turned out fine.

No, the issue is that there’s no real way to do the build-up. Are they going to slip some hint that not all is well into every phase four movie? That’s just going to lead to awkward, tacked on scenes that draw complaints, like Thor and his Vision Spa in Age of Ultron. And the reveal will make less sense without an established race of hostile shapeshifters like the comics have. Which brings us to another problem… Marvel Studios doesn’t have the rights to the Skrulls. They’re tied up with the Fantastic Four, so Fox owns the film rights. And as we know, Fox doesn’t give these things up easily.

Might make for a good Supergirl season if you swapped the Skrulls for the Durlans, though. Wouldn’t be the first time a Superman-related show stole a story from Marvel.

Inter-company cross-overs

Gonna break the format here, because “Why can’t they” is perfectly obvious. Marvel and DC the publishers don’t really get along these days, a state of affairs exacerbated by ex-Marvel head Joe Quesada pulling some dickish moves back in 2010. Which is sad, because back in the day, DC/Marvel crossovers were a frequent event, from their beginnings in Superman Vs. Spider-Man to the Teen Titans teaming up with the X-Men to the well intentioned but ineptly executed DC Vs. Marvel (or Marvel Vs. DC, depending on the issue number), which at least created the interesting experiment Amalgam Comics. And then after a hiatus, they managed to join forces one last time for the greatest inter-company crossover ever.

BOOM.

JLA/Avengers (or, again based on issue number, Avengers/JLA) is filled with classic moments. The Justice League saw Dr. Doom ruling Latveria, the ruins of mutant nation Genosha, Hulk tearing through the military, and the Punisher shooting up gangs (until Batman broke his own “don’t interfere” rule to whoop on him), and decided that this world’s heroes just don’t try. The Avengers saw Wonder Woman addressing the UN, Superman being deified, and the Flash Museum (“They have a museum dedicated to a speedster!” shouted an enraged and envious Quicksilver. “A museum!”) and decided the heroes of this world overstepped, ruling as gods for the public’s adoration.

It also had the best “fight-then-team-up” sequence of any comic ever… Batman and Captain America trade a few jabs, testing each other out, then Batman essentially says “You might be able to beat me, but it’ll take a while. Want to figure out what’s actually happening instead?” And off they go.

And then history gets twisted, creating an alternate past where the DC and Marvel universes had known about each other for years, to the point of getting together each Thanksgiving like the JLA and JSA used to do. And Hawkeye and Green Arrow exchange the one piece of dialogue that’s missing from most DC multiverse stories (especially this season of The Flash)… “For the last time, we’re Earth One, you’re Earth Two!”

But it’s not to be. If Marvel and DC the publishers aren’t getting along, one can probably count on Marvel Studios and Warner Brothers to be just as reluctant to get into bed with each other. Even if people would pay all the money on Earth to see Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man go three rounds against Batman.

Sadly, this will also prevent comics’ one-time weirdest inter-company crossover…

This is real. This is a real comic.

Archie Meets the Punisher. That happened. That is a thing that two companies agreed to make and paid people to write and draw. Multiple people, actually, because the Archie scenes are all drawn in the Archie house style, while a different artist drew all the Punisher scenes in a more appropriately gritty fashion. It’s fascinating in how audacious it is just for existing, in how committed they are to a team-up that makes no sense and should not be, but still somehow turns out worth reading.

So in that spirit… how much do I want to see Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle set loose amongst the teen-drama-fuelled noir mysteries of the CW’s Riverdale?

So. Goddamn. Much.

It would be so weird and so stupid and so, so mesmerising. But Marvel won’t let their Netflix characters cross over with their own film branch, so that there is a pipe dream. A ridiculous, near-indefensible pipe dream.

Maybe in Riverdale’s fourth season they’ll get desperate enough to do Archie Vs. Predator.

Wasn’t kidding about that one either.

Next time… I return to a long-neglected blog series, discussing things that do exist instead of things that don’t.

Inexplicably Underused Comic Characters

“Wait,” you say. “You did this already. I vaguely pay attention to what you write, and you definitely covered this.”

Not so, Hypothetical Strawman. Can I call you H-Straw, by the way? I assume I can, like I assume everything you’d theoretically say.

Anyway, H-Straw, that was obscure characters I thought the various TV properties could use. And frankly, obscure characters are having their heyday. Wild Dog, Ragman, Prometheus, Citizen Steel, the third Ghost Rider, Misty Knight, and Mon-El all have or had prominent roles on comic TV shows this season. Black Lightning is close to getting his own show. The best comic book TV series this season was about an X-Man only hard core fans are familiar with. Powerless has pulled out Global Guardians member the Olympian and Justice League International mainstays Green Fury (later “Fire,” but that only made sense because she was paired with “Ice,” formerly Ice Maiden) and Crimson Fox. Well, sort of Crimson Fox, she actually wasn’t really similar to– I’m drifting.

And bigger than any of that, the most anticipated superhero movie of 2017 stars Rocket Raccoon and Groot, two characters who were greeted five years back not with “At last, those guys,” but “Is Marvel just screwing with us now?”

Today we’re looking at major characters who are bizarrely absent from major live-action adaptations in the bizarre hope that doing so will somehow conjure them into a TV show or movie.

Look, sometimes it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

1. Zatanna

I’ve brought this up in the past, but since it still hasn’t happened, it bears repeating.

Who’s that?

Is Wonder Woman the most powerful woman in the DC Universe? Not quite. Sure she’s up there, given she makes Batman nervous, can go 12 rounds with Superman, and was the God of War for a spell (an excellent story that is tragically being retconned out of canon, but so is goes), but you know what Wonder Woman can’t do? Cripple the armies of Darkseid just by saying “Parademons turn into corgis” backwards.

Daughter of famed magician, Golden Age magical hero, and sometimes mentor to Batman Giovanni Zatara, Zatanna Zatara came onto the scene in the late 60s, becoming a member of the Justice League during the hallowed “Satellite Era,” known as the group’s Silver Age pinnacle.

No, that was not word salad, it makes perfect sense. Welcome to comic books.

Zatanna inherited her father’s powers: she can make almost anything happen just by saying it backwards. She’s been an off-again/on-again lover to John Constantine, had the lady-balls to make a slightly tipsy pass at Batman, but more than that, she’s become a natural leader, as the head of the currently defunct Justice League Dark. She is, without question, the most powerful magic user in DC canon. Well, the most powerful human magic user. Comparing her to the Spectre, the embodiment of divine wrath, or the unquantified power of the ancient and ageless Phantom Stranger is probably unfair.

And her only live-action adaptation so far is two underwhelming episodes of Smallville*, and that is hardly good enough.

*Not… I’m not saying they were underwhelming for episodes of Smallville, but “underwhelming” was kid of Smallville’s default state. At its very best, it whelmed within reasonable expectation.

Where should she be?

They are, possibly, slightly ahead of me on this one. Warner Brothers has been kicking around an adaptation of Justice League Dark for a while, sometimes called “Dark Universe.” There’s an animated Justice League Dark movie out there which might help give the concept legs, or might make it redundant. Sure, my enthusiasm for the project diminished a little when Guillermo del Toro (who first pitched it) left the project, but it’s still kicking around DC films. It’s been rumoured to be one of several scripts DC is trying to get into position to replace The Flash on their 2018 docket. (Which, man, if they want to fill that gap, they are running out of time.)

But it’s not enough to get her into that movie. That’s key, but more important than having her in the movie? She should be the lead. They might be trying to centre it on John Constantine, but that’s a mistake, and not only because it might keep Matt Ryan from playing Constantine in the DCW-verse. It risks Zatanna, DC’s most powerful sorceress, becoming yet another victim of Trinity Syndrome.

Using Guardians of the Galaxy as our model, Zatanna should not be the Gamorra to Constantine’s Star Lord. Zatanna should be the Star Lord, and Constantine the Rocket Raccoon. His character is far better suited to the wise-cracking misanthrope who is half-dragged into doing the right thing.

(Nightmare Nurse is the Gamorra, Swamp Thing is the Drax, Etrigan is the Yondu, and the House of Mystery is Groot, if you were wondering.)

Zatanna’s been the lady in the fishnets for long enough. It’s time for a Zatanna project that lets her be a star.

2. She-Hulk

Who’s that?

Jennifer Walters, cousin to Bruce Banner, needed a blood transfusion to save her life. When Bruce gave her some of his gamma-radiated blood, she ended up receiving a lesser version of his powers, becoming the sensational She-Hulk. While she may not be as strong as her cousin, she does retain her personality and intelligence, something Bruce only managed for a stretch in, I wanna say the 90s?

As such, while extra-tall and green, she still maintains a legal practice.

There was almost a She-Hulk movie back in the 80s, which Bridgette Nielson was supposedly starring it, but it never made it out of script development.

Where should she be?

A while back, there was a run of her comic in which a firm wanted to hire Jennifer Walters… but not She-Hulk. This was a surprising turn when I heard about it, because until then, I didn’t even know Jennifer could change back and forth. I thought she was just She-Hulk 24/7. Turns out she was only in She-Hulk form all the time because she wanted to be. Jennifer likes being taller, stronger, powerful. And, sure, less plain.

This might make for a good TV series. There’s a good story there, one that separates it from the other “female cousin of a better known male hero” show. A powerful woman being asked to keep her power in check by her (presumably) male-driven firm? Or, you know, something Patriarchy related.

Supergirl tackled feminist issues throughout the first season, though in a more scattershot fashion. Jessica Jones did a great job with rape survival and abusive relationships. But as it turns out there are more than two ways to discuss feminism. A She-Hulk series about fear of female power would be a new take on issues that seem all the more important after the first serious female US presidential candidate was defeated by an unqualified garbage monster.

Plus, this would play into what Joss Whedon discovered was missing from the Hulk movies prior to Avengers. The movies spent most of their runtime treating Banner becoming the Hulk as a tragedy, when we as an audience just want the thrill of watching him Hulk out and cut loose. For She-Hulk, those moments when she gets to transform are a release, and we’d be right there with her.

Perhaps ABC could find room for it after the inevitable end of Agents of SHIELD, or if Inhumans doesn’t take off. I know it might seem like a decent fit for Netflix, especially if the lawyer aspects have as much to do with the superhero elements, but it would be more suited to a network, case-of-the-week structure than the Netflix “One story in 13 episodes” model. Also I worry that if Netflix did it, the show would end up being called “The Sensational She-Green-Guy.”

3. Robins Who Aren’t Dick Grayson

Who’s that?

Perhaps the earliest* and most iconic of the Kid Sidekicks in comic book history, Robin has been the title of Batman’s partner since his first appearance way back in 1940. Batman’s had a Robin since the last time America wasn’t doing enough to hold back the Nazis.

(*Some of the pulp stories, like Doc Samson and his contemporaries, might have beaten out Robin, I really don’t know.)

There are five in total, not counting Carrie Kelley from The Dark Knight Returns, which I don’t, because Frank Miller is racist, crazy, and crazily racist, and Batman V Superman gave him too many props as it is.

Dick Grayson is the original, the son Batman never had, the first to move out of his surrogate father’s shadow. As Nightwing, he’s been a hero and a leader in his own right, one so popular that DC head Dan Didio learned he literally couldn’t kill him off if he wanted to.

Jason Todd came second… he was the angry one, picked up off the streets when Batman caught him stealing the Batmobile’s wheels. He’s also the one killed by the Joker, but a couple of decades later he came back, adopting the Joker’s old name of Red Hood. He was a villain for a while, angry at Batman for not avenging him, but gradually worked his way back into the family. He’s still the black sheep, the most violent, and the only Robin occasionally okay with killing.

Tim Drake is the first Robin by choice. Whereas Dick and Jason were orphans Batman took in and taught to be Robins, Tim figured out Batman’s identity on his own, and deciding that Batman needed a Robin, broke into the Batcave and demanded the job. He’s also the first of the Robins to have his own comic. Eventually known as Red Robin, he’s become every bit the leader as Dick through Young Justice and the Teen Titans. He’s probably the smartest, and if you asked any of the other Robins who their favourite was, they’d each say Tim.

Stephanie Brown, usually known as Spoiler but for a time a surprisingly good take on Batgirl, was Robin for a brief period when Tim gave up the job. It turned out Batman only gave her the gig in an attempt to lure Tim, her ex-boyfriend, back into the role. She ended up starting a massive gang war in an attempt to earn her way back– you know, the story only gets ugly from there. Really ugly. Moving on.

And last but least only in stature, Damien Wayne, created by comics legend Grant Morrison at the beginning of a many-year run on Batman. Dick Grayson was the son Bruce Wayne never had, but Damien was the son he didn’t know he did have. Son of Bruce’s lover/nemesis Talia al-Ghul and grandson of A-list Batman villain Ra’s al-Ghul, Damien was dropped on his father’s doorstep (well, the water entrance to the cave) at the age of ten. After spending time with his father, he turned his back on his upbringing with the League of Assassins and devoted himself to being the new Robin. He died at the hand’s of his mother’s soldiers at the end of Morrison’s run, but if death couldn’t keep down Jason or Stephanie (I told you that story got ugly. I TOLD you.) it certainly couldn’t keep down Damien. He’s definitely arrogant, doesn’t always play well with others, but tries his best to be a Robin his father can be proud of. On the outside he begrudgingly tolerates his surrogate siblings, but there are subtle signs he’s come to like at least two of them.

Of these five, the only live action adaptation we’ve seen is Dick Grayson, always as Robin, and the best of them is the one where he’s played by Burt Ward. People are so eager to see Nightwing in something that there was a fan cry to have Nightwing on Arrow, a show that has never acknowledged the existence of Batman.

There is talk of a Nightwing solo movie, but like Man of Steel 2, Suicide Squad 2, Gotham City Sirens, Dark Universe, and basically any DC film project that isn’t Wonder Woman, Justice League, or Aquaman, talk is all there is.

Where should they be?

As long as Fox has a lock on the TV rights to all things Batman, we’re stuck with the movies. But Warner Bros will keep making Batman movies as long as their business model depends on blockbuster film franchises. So, if The Batman starts introducing Robins, you have room to spin them off into their own movies. Pad out the DCEU with Bat-family properties, just like they do in the comic branch. Sure, have a Nightwing movie, but instead of having Batman show up in a similar role to Tony Stark in Spider-man: Homecoming, have Tim swing by. Show the sibling relationship of the Robins. Also Batman, just, you know, less Batman.

BvS already established that Joker killed a Robin, so a live-action adaptation of Under the Red Hood (already an animated movie) could not only introduce Jason Todd’s Red Hood, but also involve Nightwing, and if you fudge the story a little, Tim Drake as well. Then bring them back to the Batcave for Son of Batman (also already an animated movie) and finish the quartet.

Plus there’s every chance that bringing in the younger Robins can help shake off the notion that the DCEU isn’t fit for younger audiences. Of course it would help to, you know, be more suitable for younger audiences.

4. Doctor Doom

Yes I know that Doctor Doom has been in four movies so far. I also know that of the three that made it into theatres, they haven’t come within a parsec of doing Marvel’s Greatest Villain right.

But sadly, a key part of the Marvel Film Formula is “The villain is a one-dimensional representation of the hero’s flaws,” so even if Fox stopped making increasingly worse Fantastic Four movies every seven years out of what at this point I can only assume is spite, and gave Marvel back the film rights, Marvel Studios is unlikely to nail him either. Let’s move on.

5. Sandman

Who’s that?

Neil Gaiman’s Sandman isn’t a classic graphic novel for adult audiences, it’s the classic graphic novel for adult audiences. Sandman was one of several books DC had in the late 80s where they decided “You know what… if we slapped “Mature readers only” on these things, told the writers they didn’t have to be superhero comics anymore… then they could really do some cool stuff,” and started the Vertigo imprint.

The basic premise… well, master author Neil Gaiman could never write a basic premise, but the nickel tour is that the series revolved around Morpheus, aka Dream, one of the Endless. The Endless were nigh-immortal beings who represented various forces driving life: Dream, Destiny, Destruction (who left the family), Desire, Despair, Delirium (formerly Delight, but then drugs happened), and inspiration to goths worldwide in more ways than one, Death.

The cool one.

As his name suggests, Morpheus/Dream* rules over the Dreamlands, where we all go when we’re asleep. And you do not want to cross him if you value your sanity. And then a bunch of fascinating stuff happens, and it’s all amazing and you should just read it.

(*You’re not gonna be able to call him Morpheus much. Thanks, Matrix movies.)

Where should he be?

People have been circling a Sandman movie for decades to no avail. Joseph Gordon-Levitt came closest, but has since left the project. So here’s my hope. My desperate hope. Now that Sandman’s successor as the flagship title of Vertigo, Preacher, is doing well on AMC, and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is apparently about to be the best show on TV, maybe, maybe someone will finally realize that you cannot do this story justice in two hours.

Hell, one two hour movie is barely enough time to establish why Dream and Lucifer don’t care for each other, let alone cover the classic story… huh. Pro-tip. If you’re going to write about Sandman, you’re going to need to learn synonyms for “classic…” Um… iconic, vintage, time-honoured… Let alone the exemplary story in which Lucifer gets his revenge by closing up Hell and handing the key to Dream.

Why is that revenge? It takes time to explain that. This is my point. The story is complex and needs time to breathe. A movie would only be enough time for the Dead Boy Detectives introduced partway through.

No, I won’t explain who the Dead Boy Detectives are, read Sandman damn you.

An epic fantasy covering multiple times and a nigh-endless supply of fascinating characters, Sandman could be the “new Game of Thrones” everyone’s been looking for since the old one got an end date.

(The new Game of Thrones is Westworld, but I for one encourage competition.)

I mean… they don’t have to have John Constantine show up, just because he’s in the first arc. I mean they could. That’s an option. And, you know, there’s no strong reason not to ask Matt Ryan to reprise the role. Doesn’t necessarily mean that this hypothetical HBO Sandman show would then be part of the DCW-verse.

That would just be a special little secret for me. Us. For us is what I meant.

Crossover Fodder

So now that Iron Fist is over (and I promise to keep further complaints about Iron Fist to a minimum until June) there’s no doubt one question nerd-show fans have about the year’s big crossover…

How, exactly, is the Greg Berlanti Mask-Based Action Fun Factory (aka the DCW-verse) going to follow up “Invasion!” next season?

Photograph by Art Streiber

No, we’re not talking about The Defenders. Don’t get me wrong, when that launches in August I’ll be checking it out like everyone else, but Iron Fist deflated my enthusiasm a little. And frankly, the first teaser, in which the four leads are standing in an elevator looking about as far from a super-team as it’s possible to get, isn’t helping. Not even Daredevil has anything like a costume, just a suit and tie with a sweatshirt or something tied around his face. So there’s really only two things I want from the Defenders: two swatches of dialogue I’m not too hopeful I’ll get.

Number One:

Matt: “Can I please get my suit.”
Luke: “You look like a damn fool in that getup.”
Matt: “Right, because wandering around telling everyone your real names is working out great for the rest of you.”
Danny: “I’m Danny Rand! From the news!”
Matt: “Yeah, like that.”
Jessica: “We know, Danny. We know.”
Matt: “Say what you want about the mask, but my enemies never just show up at my office.”

Number Two:

Matt: “Damn it, Claire, if you were up against The Hand, how could you not call me?”
Luke: “She probably thought you were busy looking into crime in Harlem. No, wait, that can’t be it.”
Danny: “I like turtles!”

(Look, I said I’d keep it to a minimum. This is the minimum.)

So instead of trying to get psyched about this…

We’re sure this isn’t some Shondaland legal drama?

…I want to talk about how Berlanti and company could follow this.

The one with light, colour, and actual superheroes.

The annual Flash/Arrow crossovers have been a tradition since Flash’s first season. They started small, with the relatively self-contained “Flash Vs Arrow” (in which Team Arrow visits Central City and ends up helping against the rage-inducing Prism) and “The Brave and the Bold” (in which Team Flash returns the favour against Captain Boomerang); they escalated to a world-threatening two parter in “Legends of Yesterday” and “Legends of Today,” which finished the table-setting for the upcoming spin-off Legends of Tomorrow by introducing Hawkgirl, Hawkman, and their vendetta with Vandal Savage; this year, it took the combined heroes of all four DCW shows (although Supergirl really just guest starred, her show did its own thing that week) to save the world from sinister aliens the Dominators.

Eleven heroes from four shows plus two supporting casts against a global alien invasion. How do you top that? I’m sure somewhere in the writers’ rooms there are people desperately trying not to think about that just yet, but it’s coming, and they say this year it’ll be a proper four-show affair. Meaning that hopefully Supergirl’s Alex Danvers, Winn, and J’onn J’onzz will get to play as well.

As it happens, I have some suggestions.

(Yes, I know none of the writers will read this for legal reasons. And other reasons. Still, though.)

(Look, you might not care, but sometimes we rant about things we enjoy to fight off a rapid-onset emotional spiral that makes it hard to even just watch Netflix whee life is a roller coaster.)

Things We Can Rule Out

Sure as eggs is eggs and The Defenders won’t say the word “Inhumans,” there are a few big DC stories that we can probably assume are off the table, due to budget issues and corporate policy holding some things back for the film branch. Examples…

  • Darkseid. Ain’t nobody at the CW going to be facing Darkseid unless Justice League really tanks at the box office. Like, tanks so bad Warner rethinks their commitment to superhero movies. As long as there’s a Justice League sequel in the works, that’s where Darkseid turns up next. And honestly, given how Smallville did Darkseid, I’m kind of okay with that.
  • Justice League Vs. Suicide Squad. It’s the first big event of the current “Rebirth” era, and it’s working out okay, and lord knows I’ve missed its main villain, Max Lord, since he vanished from post-CBS budget Supergirl. But Arrow hasn’t been allowed to use the Suicide Squad since season three. No, if they adapt this, they’d want to do it with Affleck-Batman, Will Smith-Deadshot, and Harley Quinn.
  • Anything Batman related. It’s actually Fox blocking this. They have the TV rights to pretty much everything Batman, and not even cancelling Gotham is likely to get them to loosen their grip.
  • Identity Crisis. An unknown enemy stalking the heroes’ loved ones would have no impact in the DCW. Barry Allen and Oliver Queen are way too careless with their identities, and the Legends don’t even use their codenames most of the time. Their loved ones get threatened all the damned time.
  • Crisis On Infinite Earths. Even if the CW could remotely afford filming an epic battle against the Anti-Monitor for the fate of all of existence, according to Harrison Wells’ future newspaper, it won’t happen until April of 2024.

Season nine’s gonna be off the HOOK. Or awkwardly disappointing.

So, what does that leave us?

So much.

Let’s begin.

1. The Collector of Worlds

The most criminally underused villain in DC’s menagerie is Brainiac. He’s Superman’s number two villain, yet he has not even been hinted at in any of the seven movies Superman’s starred in so far. Sure, James Marsters played a version of Brainiac on Smallville (the “Brain Interactive Construct,” eventually called “Brainiac” for short), but is there anything Smallville did that couldn’t be done better elsewhere? Anything at all?

The answer is “No.”

Supergirl already opened this door by having its season one villain, Indigo, reveal herself as Brainiac 8. (Classic Supergirl move: can’t get Lex, bring in Lena. Can’t use the main Brainiac, bring in Brainiac 8.) So they’d just need to nudge the door a little further.

The pitch: A mysterious skull-shaped ship appears in the skies of Earth-38 (aka Earth Supergirl), which possesses similar technology and abilities as Indigo. Reactivating part of Indigo, the DEO learns that this is Brainiac Prime, aka The Collector of Worlds. While Kara investigates the ship, National City is sealed under a dome and vanishes. Brainiac has shrunk it and sealed it in a bottle. Alex manages to get Winn out with Kara’s dimensional extrapolater before the dome is fully active. If they’re going to find a way to get National City out of the bottle, they’ll need backup and an expert in transdimensional barriers and breaches. And all of that’s in Central City, Earth-1.

Supergirl gathers the others, and after the prerequisite “Brainiac drones follow Supergirl, big fight” sequence, they split into two teams. With Vibe-based portal help from Cisco, Green Arrow leads a covert squad (say… Diggle, White Canary, Vixen, Heat Wave, any of his new team who survives season four) to meet up with Alex, James, and J’onn inside the bottle to defend the city, while the muscle (Supergirl, Flash, Steel, Firestorm) fly the Waverider to Brainiac’s ship so that Team Science (Felicity, Cisco, Winn, Ray Palmer/Atom, Martin Stein, Gideon the supercomputer) can try to crack his technology.

I assume Harrison Wells and the Wests will only be in the Flash episode. Again. But you could get Superman in here. Frankly, you even should. Strand him in the bottle with Alex for preference, and have his powers dwindle the longer he’s in there. Ain’t none of these his show, he doesn’t get to show up Supergirl.

(I haven’t quite stretched that out to four episodes, but do I have to do everything? Because I will. I will do that. Call me.)

The perks: It’s certainly a threat that one-ups the Dominators. And making it a Superman villain makes it easier to start things off on Supergirl, which is the first to air and will need to be the start of the story to avoid another “four night crossover in name only” situation. And splitting the team gives everyone a role to play. It’s a classic JLA/JSA story trick: kick things off with the whole team, then split them into groups before bringing everyone back together. It lets you play with different combinations, like Green Arrow coaching Superman on fighting without his powers, or White Canary and Alex Danvers, who I would pay real money to see kick ass together.

Why they might not do it: Brainiac doesn’t have to be more expensive than the dominators, and Supergirl needs alien ship sets all the time, so I doubt it’s a cost thing. No, if anything’s blocking them from doing this, I’d point to WB brass. Matthew Vaughn is being courted to helm a proper Man of Steel sequel, and they might be holding Brainiac in reserve for that.

The dream casting: Role like Brainiac, you want the casting to cause some excitement. Either a big geek-friendly name like your Bruce Campbells or Scott Bakulas, or a Legacy Casting: someone from a past, related superhero show or movie. Like former Flash John Wesley Shipp as Barry Allen’s father, or Supergirl’s foster parents being Helen Slater (1984’s Supergirl movie) and Dean Cain (of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman). In this case? Michael Rosenbaum. His seven years as Smallville’s Lex Luthor suggest he’s got the gravitas, and he’s relatively likely to be available and affordable.

2. Forever Evil

The biggest event of the New 52 (that period of DC comics in between the Flashpoint reboot and Rebirth rolling back said reboot) was Forever Evil, in which Earth was taken over by Earth-3’s evil alternate Justice League, the Crime Syndicate of America: Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman, Power Ring, Johnny Quick, Atomica, and Deathstorm. Having decimated three Justice Leagues at the end of the crossover “Trinity War” (all of that makes sense, no time to explain, stay with me), the Crime Syndicate is virtually unopposed, and sets to work uniting the villains under them. But a few holdouts refuse to join. With Earth’s Greatest Heroes out of commission, it’s up to Earth’s Mightiest Villains to save the day.

Also Batman. Always Batman.

All this one really needs to happen is the existence of the Multiverse and an array of villains interesting enough to lead the story. The DCW-verse has both of those things. Also, since by and large the Crime Syndicate have alternate identities from the Justice League, there isn’t a good reason why the film branch (or Fox) should get uppity about using them.

The Pitch: The DEO finds an unusual object, which is giving off similar signals to Kara’s dimensional extrapolater. Kara, Winn, and Alex head to Earth-1 to seek STAR Labs’ input. As long as Kara’s in town, one of Team Flash (Barry, Cisco, or whatever Harrison Wells is on the team that year) shoots out an invite to Oliver and the Waverider crew for an Invasion reunion party. During the party, the object activates a bridge to Earth-3, allowing the Crime Syndicate to break through. Similar to the comic, Deathstorm (who was created when Earth-3 Martin Stein used the Firestorm Matrix to merge with the corpse of his intern, Ronnie Raymond) traps the majority of the heroes inside Firestorm, leaving only a handful: Green Arrow, Alex, Winn, Heat Wave, Joe West, Wells, and Felicity. (I don’t really foresee a huge role for Felicity but I know the writers, it’s gonna happen.)

Supergirl and Flash find each other within the personalized prisons that Firestorm has become, and begin trying to unite the others and find an escape. On the outside, the few survivors find themselves massively outgunned and in need of backup. With no heroes to turn to*, it’s Heat Wave who sees a solution nobody else thought of… call in the bad guys. The ones the Syndicate doesn’t manage to recruit.

Joe West and Quentin Lance try to rally the Star and Central police forces against the criminal army the Syndicate begins to form. Alex and Winn make a desperation run to Earth-38 (followed by Ultraman, who goes a few rounds with Martian Manhunter until sunlight turns out to be his weakness and he flees back)… Superman is off-planet, J’onn is injured fighting Ultraman, so they try Mick’s idea, and wake up Bizarro. Heat Wave and a reluctant Green Arrow form a villain alliance: Captain Cold (I know he’s dead bring him back just make it happen), Malcolm Merlyn, Bronze Tiger, Killer Frost, Trickster, and as long as I’m fantasizing here, Deathstroke. And when things look bleakest… out comes Gorilla Grodd to even the odds.

I’m sorry about the rhyme. That was unintentional.

Team Villain takes on the Syndicate, and when the heroes escape Firestorm, they clean up the Syndicate’s army of whatever metas-of-the-week the producers could round up.

The perks: Given the sheer volume of villains cranked out by the four shows, some of them were bound to be great. Some of them, sure, are utterly forgettable, but enough aren’t that it would be fun to see them all brought together. Legends of Tomorrow’s Legion of Doom taught us that, and this time we’d get to root for them.

And man, could Wentworth Miller sell the shit out of how Captain Cold took out Johnny Quick (not pictured: his cold gun is voice activated).

Why they might not do it: …Now that I look at it that is a lot of guest stars. A daunting amount of guest stars. Even if John Barrowman and Wentworth Miller renew their contracts to appear on all four shows.

The dream casting: Yeah… this one wouldn’t be cheap. So they might not be able to throw a lot of money at casting the Crime Syndicate. But as long as I’m dreaming the impossible dream here… Tyler Hoechlin is already Superman on Supergirl, let him be Ultraman; Smallville’s Lois Lane, Erica Durance, as Superwoman; see if you can pry Mark Sheppard off Supernatural for a week to be Owlman; I don’t have strong opinions about Johnny Quick, Atomica, or Power Ring, so save money on them; and for Deathstorm, either have Robbie Amell reprise Ronnie Raymond, or make him a stunt man with Victor Garber/Martin Stein’s voice. Ooh, the second one. That. Do that.

*Except Vixen, Hawkgirl, and Hawkman, but that won’t happen. Maybe there’ll be a reference to those three fighting and losing against Johnny Quick and Atomica. Sure, that.

3. The Darkness Within

If guest stars are a problem, why not go with a menace that lets you just use who you have handy?

One of the great tragedies of Constantine’s too-soon cancellation is that they appeared to be getting the pieces in play for a grudge match between DC’s two spirits of vengeance: the often-brutal but usually noble Spectre, embodiment of God’s wrath, and the villainous Eclipso, a former god of vengeance who was imprisoned in a black diamond for going too far.

It’s that second one I want to call attention to here. Back in the early 90s, DC reinvented Eclipso from a lame 60s villain (who only had powers during a solar eclipse) to a dark god capable of possessing anyone who felt anger while touching one of his black gems. Or sometimes manifest himself as the embodiment of their rage. It depends on– not important, not important, started heading down a rabbit hole there.

The pitch: The DEO finds a black gem, and most of the DEO ends up possessed. Kara makes a deal with Eclipso: if he releases her friends, Kara will take their place. Stupid deal, stupid, stupid deal, but it worked on Superman in the comics. As a last ditch defense, as the possession takes hold, Winn sends her to Earth-1, in the hopes that Barry and Oliver can find a way to neutralize her (Guess Superman’s off-planet again, why not). Problem is… Earth-1 has an Eclipso too, and soon they’re both loose, and possessing heroes and villains of Star City, Central City, and the Waverider left and right.

Who can help them bring a magical vengeance god to heel? Who else?

John Constantine to the rescue.

The perks: In addition to fixing the whole “it’s been too long since Constantine has been on one of these shows” problem, unleashing Eclipso saves money on guest stars by having hero fight hero, and it also gives the writers a fun way to progress story lines. Eclipso feeds on his victims’ rage, so this crossover would let every little festering grudge and problem anyone has with anyone else burst out in violent glory. Even after Eclipso is defeated, the underlying problems that he lights a match to will provide story fodder for either the fall finales or the back halves of the season.

Why they might not do it: …Well, would it really take four episodes to tell this one? It could, but you’d have to put some effort into it not getting stale.

Dream casting: Assuming Eclipso manages to manifest at some point, this here is a job for James Marsters, master of the deliciously fun-to-watch charming evil.

Closing speed round

  • The heroes of the four shows get trapped in a grudge match between extradimensional imps Mxyzptlk and Music Meister. Sounds stupid saying it out loud but hey, it could be fun, and maybe introduce Jakeem Thunder.
  • Shenanigans involving the Legion of Superheroes, who have been hinted at on both Flash and Supergirl, and are from the future, which brings in the Legends.
  • An adaptation of Armageddon 2001 (written back in 1991, when 2001 still felt like the far future), in which a time traveler named Waverider (not a coincidence) came back to 1991 to read the futures of the DC heroes in order to learn which one would become the villainous Monarch, turn on their friends, and conquer the world. It was obviously Captain Atom until the last second when it suddenly wasn’t.

What will they actually do? I could not begin to guess. I don’t think they know yet. Like anyone else, they probably want to put this season to bed before thinking about the next one. But they obviously have some love for DC lore, so here’s hoping it’s close to one of these.

Dan Watches Iron Fist (So You Don’t Have To) Vol. 4

And at last, we enter endgame.

I’ll take back a brewing accusation about Davos: he is not the new Diamondback. The big problem with Diamondback in Luke Cage was that while Diamondback the arms dealer had been foreshadowed, Willis Stryker, Luke’s childhood best friend/secret half brother/Spectre-style architect of all of his pain, had not. This supposed key figure to Luke’s backstory leapt up to shout “It was me all along!” out of absolutely nowhere, and seized the third-act reins from better, more compelling villains.

And that ain’t Davos. First of all, Davos has been teased throughout the season. He’s a key character in Danny’s happier K’un-Lun memories. And second, he’s the culmination of something that’s been brewing since Danny’s duel with Gao’s quartet of assassins.

That being, the Iron Fist has abandoned his post.

Davos is here to represent the fact that Danny is supposed to be guarding the entrance to K’un-Lun. It’s a dull and unsatisfying job, since for 15 years at a time there’s no way in, so it’s a lot of standing next to a pile of rocks near a sort of convincing backdrop (the brief glimpses we get of K’un-Lun this episode tell a story about why the show has taken a tell-don’t-show approach to Danny’s time there), but that doesn’t change the fact that he knew what the job was, went after it, and when it wasn’t super-satisfying he ran away the second that became possible.

Davos, who also trained his whole life to be the Iron Fist, is absolutely justified in being pissed off that the guy who beat him to it has gone AWOL.

I mean, we’re not supposed to think he should go guard a pass, we’re supposed to think his greater destiny is protecting New York and maybe being best pals with Luke Cage, but they are not making a case for this so far. Danny Rand barely seems qualified to guard a 7-11 in a nice neighbourhood, let alone a city. Or even whatever the people who have Daredevil saying “I just want to make my city a better place” and then keep him squared away in a two-square kilometre neighbourhood think a city is.

Now Bakuto, he’s more of a Diamondback. We had a perfectly serviceable villain in Gao and her Hand faction, then in the third act Bakuto pops up with virtually no set-up and steals the whole A-plot. We get three whole episodes to try to wrap our heads around what this Hand faction is and what they want, and this was already confusing enough when the original Hand story in Daredevil still makes no sense at all.

If The Hand are going to be the villains in The Defenders, the writers had better be putting some work into figuring out what the hell they even are or why they do anything they do.

Plus, we can add to the list of stolen plot points. They stole “ruin Elektra” from Daredevil, stole “last second villain with no context” from Luke Cage, and “No, that was a different Hydra” from Agents of SHIELD. Seriously now. Steal a plot that worked if you must steal at all.

Episode 11

Episode eleven in a nutshell… after Claire patches up Danny and has words with Colleen about how The Hand were a bag of dicks during Daredevil so why does she think they’re so great, Danny and Davos meet up with Joy and Harold Meachum, who have a plan… since Gao and now Davos haved been laundering all their money through Rand Enterprises, Joy can steal everything back and shut all of their accounts. Their money gone, Bakuto will come looking for it, at which point Danny and Davos will off him.

Joy does not love this plan. Neither the murdering nor her father’s newfound enthusiasm for murdering. Joy would have been happier turning Bakuto over to the SEC and being done with it. But she goes along with the plan because her twice-resurrected father hasn’t been taking “No” very well.

Colleen chooses not to give up Danny’s location to Bakuto, which gets he scooped up by her Hand-loyalist students when she tries to get Danny some anti-biotics. Bakuto expresses disappointment in her choices and commands her students to steal all of her blood. For whatever it is The Hand does with all that blood they steal. Resurrect Elektra to be their secret weapon or whatever, who the hell knows. Colleen escapes just in time to run past Danny so that he can see her and blow the whole “Stake out the compound until Bakuto shows up” plan, because the episode wouldn’t be complete if Danny didn’t screw something up.

Here’s what’s interesting.

This is the first time that we’ve really looked at why Danny is so catastrophically flawed as a hero and as a person. Why he’s dangerously impulsive, quick to anger, and sometimes flies off the handle faster than Wilson Fisk if you interrupt his dinner date. Or for anyone who somehow didn’t watch Daredevil but is still reading this, faster than Donald Trump if you block his Muslim ban. Why every time he remembers his past he grips his head like he’s having a grand mal ice cream headache, something most people who aren’t Rain Man aren’t known for doing.

As Claire learns from Davos, the monks of K’un-Lun are trained to repress all emotion. To take any feelings (like, say, Davos’ anger over Danny being chosen over him as Iron Fist and then bolting) and bury them deep down. Maybe in the ancient times this seemed like a good idea, but… Danny was 10 years old when his plane crashed and he watched his parents die, only to be taken to a monastery where his life involved being beaten with sticks by his new guardians. Danny is sitting on a volcano of trauma and suppressed rage that the monks of K’un-Lun have not only not given him the tools to process, they’ve pushed him farther from processing than you could get with a map and a mission statement. No wonder he’s spent the last few episodes on the verge of a psychotic episode. No wonder he’s so fixated on “avenge my parents” that the idea now ends “by wiping The Hand from the Earth.”

It’s an interesting revelation, and it explains a few things. However, like Bakuto, it is staggeringly late to the party. Danny’s been screwing up too long and too often for this to turn the tide here, right before the end.

(You’d think learning to express and release his emotions is what lets him re-access and properly wield the Iron Fist. Nope. He just, I don’t know, tries harder or something.)

Episode 12

Right off the bat things feel repetitive. Like episode two, someone is strapped to a bed in the exact same mental hospital (with, according to last episode, the exact same doctor, who seems awfully blasé about his last patient punching through a wall and leaving) with a story too crazy to be believed. But this time it’s Ward (turnabout being fair play), and his extreme withdrawal from the synth-heroin manages to make “My father isn’t really dead” seem even crazier than “A literal dragon gave me super powers.”

(I mean it’s post-Avengers New York, super powers are probably way more common than fathers coming back to life, but the dragon part did not help.)

(And no I will not call it post-“Incident,” that is an awful name for the Battle of New York and you cannot convince me Americans would use it. The BBC, sure, but not New Yorkers.)

Bakuto recruits Ward to kill Harold and trap Danny, and we cut to Danny, Davos, and Colleen, who have the exact same “She’s Hand, we can’t trust her” conversation that’s been happening for two episodes, and frankly even the cast seem to be getting bored of it. The whole “Take Bakuto’s money to draw him out” plan falls apart immediately, but not simply because Danny spotted Colleen and lost focus. No, Bakuto was already springing Ward “Remember when I was the biggest asshole on this show” Meachum from the asylum by then. It’s simply that the good guys are bad at everything and the bad guys can magically appear anywhere and do anything they need to.

In other words I’m not super impressed with how the episode is starting. Ward tries to get Joy away from their father, but even without withdrawal symptoms, Ward is incapable of acting like a calm, rational, non-garbage person, so the murder-happy lich father seems like the winning side all the way until Ward pulls a gun. Which is when Bakuto shows up, like Ward arranged, but before Joy is clear, which wasn’t the deal.

Ward’s deal with Bakuto falls apart immediately, as anyone but Ward could have predicted, and soon Danny’s turning himself in to Bakuto to save Joy and Harold’s lives. You know, my second least favourite plot device from last season. The hostage scenes were a little tiresome, because Bakuto is not pulling off “smug” the way a Tom Hiddleston or Neal McDonough would, and that’s all he’s being given to play with, but Harold spending what he thought were his last moments telling Ward he’s a piece of shit and complete disappointment were satisfying. Fortunately, Colleen and Davos ain’t having with this “surrender to Bakuto” nonsense, and come for the rescue the second everyone’s out in the open. Also Danny managed three whole seconds of Iron Fisting, enough to escape handcuffs then go limp trying to hit Bakuto. Insert fail trumpet.

We now hit a kind of problematically stupid sequence. Colleen fights and defeats Bakuto in a suitably over-dramatic rain-soaked duel, then immediately jumps on board with Claire’s “killing is wrong” philosophy and wants to turn Bakuto over to the cops.

There’s a scene in one of the Assassin’s Creed games, where after your epic boss fight against your greatest enemy, the man who had half your family killed, then installed himself as Pope, Ezio Auditore suddenly decides that he’s done with killing (he’s not, he has two more games left). Which… I’m not saying I don’t see his point, but… you have to kill like a dozen guards just to get to this fight. They are all still dead. Maybe this isn’t the time to rethink killing. Maybe that was several dead bodies ago.

I bring this up because Bakuto had a half-dozen bodyguards, and most of them are dead now. Sure, most of that was Davos, but Colleen came at them with a sword, her hands are not clean.

Fortunately for anyone who’s sick of Bakuto’s smug face, Davos doesn’t pick up what Danny and Colleen are putting down, and manages to casually stroll 10 feet, pick up a sword or knife, and shove it into Davos’ heart before anyone thinks to object. Unfortunately, Davos wasn’t around five minutes ago when Bakuto was explaining that you have to take off his head to kill him for good as long as Hand resurrectionists are lurking around, so there’s a non-zero chance he’s back in season two.

Although that can only hurt us if we’re stupid enough to watch it, I guess.

What follows is a surprisingly well-done fight between Danny and Davos with a surprisingly well done emotional conclusion (“surprisingly” because they’ve been consistently screwing both of those things up), in which Danny, in victory, apologizes for leaving Davos without saying anything, which is what he believes Davos is really upset about. Hey, if they wanted to commit to “Davos loved Danny as more than a monk brother,” I’m good with that. But forgiveness isn’t coming, as Davos reminds Danny that the pass to K’un-Lun is unguarded, and that will have consequences.

But is it? That place is filled with people who can fight as well as these two and it is a narrow-ass path, I feel like they could manage this without the Iron Fist for however long it’s open every 15 years. But whatever.

But in any event… Bakuto and Gao are defeated, the Meachums are safe, Danny can Iron Fist again, he a Colleen do a kata to hip hop music which makes them more endearing as a couple than their sex scene… everything’s good, right? Roll credits, show’s over, see everyone again for The Defenders in a few months?

HA! We should be so fucking lucky.

No, Harold sicks the DEA on Danny, having pinned the whole Rand Enterprises drug trade on him. You know, the one that was in full force when Danny was presumed dead and not affiliated with the company.

Because God forbid this show actually commit to a main villain. I know the Meachums haven’t exactly always been on the side of the angels, but there are 53 minutes left in season one, it’s a little late in the game to be pulling this. God damn it.

Fine. Just… just end it, Iron Fist. Just end it. Let’s move on to…

Episode 13

In which a horrific yet bland mishmash of a season attempts a satisfactory conclusion, but doesn’t.

So we have two things happening at Rand Enterprises. Danny Rand is being accused of using his company to traffick heroin, despite having a cumulative, maybe, 18 minutes at said company between being given enough influence to do this and having it taken back for making too many socially conscious decisions. Which doesn’t mean he wasn’t peddling drugs, lots of criminals can put on a friendly public face, but how would he have had time to set this whole network up? And how do they explain it going back more than two weeks if Danny’s behind it? Meanwhile, Harold is trying to take back control, despite having been legally dead for 13 years, which means the second he swaggers into a board room he ought to be under arrest for fraud and tax evasion. And that’s before he announces his plan to have the company sell both Gao’s synthetic heroin and Bakuto’s cure for synthetic heroin addiction, which… if that’s still happening, how would anyone at the DEA still think Danny was responsible for it all?

Remember in Luke Cage, when Diamondback put on a hoodie, killed a cop, and ran off screaming “I’m Luke Cage! Luke Cage, argle bargle bargle, Luke CAAAAAGE!” and it was the laziest frame-job ever? Well it still is but this one is really close and requires massive incompetence at the DEA to pull off. I mean, did they investigate this anonymous tip-off even a little before storming Colleen’s dojo to arrest New York’s most noble businessman? You know how much work it took to get Wilson Fisk into jail? And he was actually committing crimes!

Jesus this is lame. And we haven’t made it to the opening credits.

Let’s recap… at first, our obvious villain was childhood bully and adult asshole Ward “Rooted for the snobs in Caddyshack” Meachum. Then it was Gao and her drug-peddling Hand troops. Then from out of absolutely nowhere came Bakuto and his other Hand troops, because The Hand almost made sense for a second there. And now, in the end, it’s Harold Meachum, who turns out to be the real killer of Danny’s parents.

It is impossible to get a grip on this narrative. Everyone has been a villain at one point or another except Danny and Claire. Everyone has been an ally at one point or another except Dared–

That was a close one.

Everyone but Claire has betrayed Danny, everyone has betrayed someone else for Danny. It’s like they pick their allegiance out of a hat at the start of each episode. And our one stable thing, our rock at the centre of this mess, is World’s Worst Superhero Danny Rand, who is still having psychotic breaks every time he even thinks about his origin story.

So our agonisingly slow last episode mainly deals with Danny, Colleen, Claire, and Ward taking on Harold while Joy decides she’s had enough of all of them. The obvious answer would be for Ward to turn Harold in for the above mentioned fraud and tax evasions, then helpfully point them to Harold’s safe when they subsequently conduct a legal search of his office and secret penthouse lair. But that’s not what we’re doing. Ward gets eyes on Harold, but gets clubbed for being on the wrong side, leaving Danny, Colleen, and Claire alone to break into Rand Enterprises…

…in order to find the evidence they need to clear Danny of the (mostly*) false charges against him…

*I mean he did assault some officers and resist arrest. That did happen.

…while Claire begins to be concerned that an unhinged Danny and ex-ninja death cult member Colleen might kill Harold in the process…

…sorry I can’t do it call Daredevil call Daredevil CALL DAREDEVIL WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, CLAIRE, THIS SHOW HAS RUINED YOU…

[deep breath]

Well if you thought that little break was bad imagine spending half an hour with “ice cream headache” Danny constantly flipping out about his parents. Anyway. Big fight, some cool Iron Fist tricks we hadn’t seen yet, Danny beats but refuses to kill Harold (I mean he impales him on a metal rod but we all know that’s not lethal for Harold at this point), so Ward does it. Turns out that in addition to being beheaded, Harold can be killed through the traditional 80s Movie Villain Death: falling a long way onto something pointy. Big happy ending?

Well, let’s see.

Davos meets with Joy, claiming that Danny destroys everything he touches, and it’s his fault Joy’s life has gone crazy, so they should kill him. She’s not opposed to the notion. Someone rational might point out that her father working with a ninja death cult to sell drugs probably had more to do with it, and that if anything her family has been destructive to hisbut that person is not at the meeting– well, they are, but it’s Gao, and she’s really just eavesdropping.

Ward has made a full 180 from where we came in, and asks Danny to run the company with him. Where has this halfway decent person been this whole time?

Danny begins to decide that maybe his purpose is fighting injustice out in the world, not guarding the path to K’un-Lun until he dies, which would put him on course to being Iron Fist the Less Terrible Superhero… but decides he should still go back and explain himself. He and Colleen make their way to the path… only to find dead Hand soldiers in front of a giant gap where K’un-Lun is supposed to be.

Danny immediately blames himself and begins a spiral into self-hatred, paving the way for a second season of Danny being utterly insufferable, and ensuring that nobody in The Defenders is “the fun one.”

Can we have one Defender not driven by sulky, broody guilt. Between the four of them, plus Flash and Green Arrow this season, it’s getting played out. That show is going to be moody, isn’t it…

It’s, at best, a very slightly more satisfying ending than Luke Cage.

So. Let’s sum up.

Iron Fist as a whole…

  • Danny Rand is an absolute failure as a protagonist. He’s hard to root for, he does zero things well, he’s impulsive, his entire supporting cast can’t stop pointing out how bad he is at this and they’re always right… frankly, even if Tumblr had had its way and they’d cast an Asian, all that would have happened is that Marvel’s first Asian live-action superhero would be their absolute worst superhero. Is that what you want, Asian community? Maybe. I don’t speak for you. None of you would be on board with that.
  • Their inability to pick a main villain makes for an extremely sloppy season arc. Is there even a season arc? Is there a through-line on this? There is no natural flow at all.
  • Bakuto not only came from nowhere, he added nothing to this show except compromising Colleen as a character. The Hand was confusing enough without the whole “multiple factions” angle. Every other plot point could have been done as well or better by Gao, Harold, Davos, or leaving it out completely.
  • Ward’s redemptive arc would have worked better if it had started earlier, because in episode 12 he was still a total putz.
  • Did Claire and Matt Murdock really leave things on such bad terms? I’m going to need a scene in Defenders where she at least tries to explain what Matt did that was so goddamn bad she’d rather fight The Hand herself than call him. A week ago, Claire Temple was the best part of the Defenders franchise. Now she’s a stubborn idiot too proud to call in assistance. I’ll say it again for the kids in the bleachers: if you don’t want Daredevil to show up, don’t create circumstances where it’s obvious that he should.
  • The Netflix model makes the above point worse. There are times on Flash and Arrow when “Call the other guy” seems like it would at least help fix everything, but at least both shows are happening at the same time: we can see what Oliver and Barry are busy with in their own cities. I have no Earthly idea what Matt Murdock’s been doing since season two that he couldn’t help out with Diamondback’s rampage or The Hand taking over Manhattan.
  • The fights were too bad for too long, and there is still a serious problem with lighting, or rather the lack thereof.
  • The Meachum family drama was dead air too often.
  • Everything that happens in season one depends on characters making the worst choices they can, or the villains having magic plot powers that lets them pull whatever they need to.
  • I’m not saying I needed an entire episode of flashbacks to Danny’s 15 years of training. Lordy did I ever not need or want that. But Danny entering a magic cave to fight a dragon to earn the Iron Fist? That you could have found time for. Maybe instead of a second entire episode of “No, you can’t be Danny, he died.” I don’t know what your budget went to that wasn’t that but come on.
  • Between the above point, the lackluster and infrequent action, and spending more time than necessary on boardroom… and I use this word loosely enough to offend its people… “intrigue,” it feels like the showrunners were entirely ill-suited to the concept.

There were fleeting moments where you could see a better show struggling to free itself from the bland tomb it’s sealed into, but then Danny would think about the plane crash and have another rage-headache and we’d be stuck back in this show.

So in short…

It’s bad.

It’s really quite bad.

You wrote a bad show, Scott Buck. Go to your room and think about what you did.

Dan Watches Iron Fist (So You Don’t Have To) Vol. 3

I have talked in the past about one of the primary divides between Marvel Netflix and the DCW/Flarrow-verse… the DCW-verse (post-Flash) embraces all things comic booky, like superpowers and time travel and alternate Earths and rampaging man-sharks. Meanwhile, Marvel Netflix runs as far from that as they can, working to be as grounded and realistic as shows about bulletproof black men or super-strong PIs fighting a mind-controlling psychopath can be. They’re so averse to seeming comic booky that their every Easter egg is delivered with a grimace from the characters, and people talk about “the incredible green guy” like they’ll get sued if they say “Hulk.”

In the past, I haven’t placed value judgements on either approach, understanding that superstrong hyperintelligent telepathic gorillas might not be everyone’s particular taste in whiskey. But in this case, I’m doing it.

If you don’t want your show to be too “comic booky,” maybe you shouldn’t be doing a show about a magic kung fu master fighting a ninja cult.

This is comic book Iron Fist.

He is a full-fledged superhero with a costume and, this is important, a mask. TV Iron Fist is that guy from college who got super into ultimate frisbee, smoked a ton of weed, did a semester abroad, and won’t stop talking about how it “changed his life.”

Arrow did the “I must save my company, but also I must save my city” plotline back in season two, but they did it better, as Oliver Queen actually cared enough about his company that it didn’t take him two episodes to find out they’d given him the boot, and had two identities he needed to juggle, one of which he tried to keep secret from his enemies. Danny Rand, meanwhile, strolls around his office building saying “Hey, anyone know anything about the evil ninja cult that’s using us to sell heroin?” and expecting to be taken seriously. He’s also meeting up with said evil ninjas, maskless, and saying “Hey there, I’m Danny Rand, yes, the one from the news, I’m also the Iron Fist, here to destroy you, and here’s my current address,” and then acting surprised that Madame Gao starts threatening his friends.

I know secret identities haven’t been Marvel Studios’ thing since Tony Stark ended his first movie by announcing his identity to the press. I know that they’re so averse to masks and secret identities and codenames as a concept that Sam Wilson has been in four movies but has been called “Falcon” exactly once. But it’s time they got over it. Danny Rand not even considering having a secret identity, then being upset that his friends are in danger because of him, just makes him look like an idiot.

You’re adapting comic books. Stop being ashamed of that and learn the tropes.

Anyway. On to the back six, which even on better shows have sometimes felt like a long road to the conclusion.

Episode Eight

Our second way in which not being comic-booky is actively making this show worse: on a better comic book show, Ward “donkey punches are too vanilla” Meachum would be riding an experimental rocket sled and hurling around pumpkin bombs by now. Instead, a ragged-looking Ward comes to his father’s penthouse with the necessary equipment to cover up his patricide, and when he finds Danny there, acts surprised that his father is apparently dead, and not only lets Danny take the blame (or rather, take the blame for his theory that The Hand did it), but says everything he can to make it worse and drive Danny away.

And while he does have a point that his life has become increasingly worse since Danny showed up, it is really just his lifetime of non-stop assholery coming back to bite him. But we can’t expect a man who, in the words of John Stewart, survives on an IV drip of angel blood and panda tears to be self-aware enough to see that.

But let’s stop piling on human red flag Ward for the time being, and start piling on walking bad choice Danny Rand. His approaches to every problem are the solutions of a child. He tries to push around Rand Enterprises with all the understanding of stock price and corporate procedures that a tenth-grade education and 15 years of kung fu training can provide. Selling medicine at cost? Not so terrible, no. Closing a chemical plant without firing anyone? I’m as liberal as they come, pro-environment and anti-corporate, but even I know that’s beyond impractical. It’s more of a childish, simplistic pipe dream than Arrow’s recent, laughably vague, “Common sense gun control that respects ownership and safety” cop-out non-answer.

And as for fighting The Hand… even Ward is poking holes in his strategy. Ward, who is spiralling into some sort of blend of Lady Macbeth and the dude from The Telltale Heart, sounds more together and responsible than Danny when he asks why Danny thought an international criminal empire could be brought down by taking out one drug lab, or in Ward’s words, “breaking a few test tubes.” Danny sees his point, but when he meets up with Colleen and Claire, his new plan isn’t better… go to China, find Gao, and… grab her or something. He hasn’t really figured out his endgame, and Claire is fast to call him on every stupid call he’s making. Still, she and Colleen both insist on going to China with him, despite his lacking even 12% of a plan.

Claire doesn’t call Daredevil. Claire will not call Daredevil. I’ll stop complaining about it, but just know that I remain very, very cross about it. How about this… every time I get angry about Claire not calling Daredevil, I’ll just post a picture of a corgi.

Feeling better already.

Before we cut to them on the flight, we check back in with the Meachum siblings. Ward wants to sign the severance agreement and be done with Rand Enterprises (presumably to focus on his ongoing nervous breakdown), Joy wants to fight to stay in control… or so she tells us in a speech that’s so ham-fisted it’s not allowed within ten miles of a synagogue. There’s… there aren’t words. That speech was written an hour before they shot and everyone involved said “Eh, it’s fine, just shoot the stupid thing.”

Away from the corporate filler plot with no compelling reason to exist, and onto the plane, where Danny understandably freaks out about turbulence. Claire questions Danny about his and Colleen’s relationship, sensing that last episode they looked deeply into each other’s eyes and thought “Eh, this might as well happen,” before having the kind of sex movie characters have to indicate their lives are in a rut. This devolves into an argument over the ethics of killing: Claire’s “murder is always wrong” vs Colleen’s “Be less naive, bitch.” Well, that’s the gist of it. One turbulence-induced panic attack/flashback later, the trio is in a part of China that looks just like industrial New York.

Joy and Ward– I don’t care I don’t care I DON’T CARE these two are dead air when Danny’s not around… okay. Deep breaths. That’s only mostly true. Like, 80%. Joy wants to blackmail the board, Ward almost tells her about how their father has been dead for way less time than she thinks, but one more Lady M blood vision and he runs off shouting hurtful, asshole things. Classic Ward exit.

In China, we get our best fight yet, thanks not to Danny but to his drunken-master opponent, a Hand guard who sounds like he’s in a revival of Oliver Twist. “Cor blimey, I’m a servant of The ‘And, innit?” But drunk as he may be, he gives Danny a good working over before Danny spontaneously goes into a rage and beats him half to death.

Seriously, Danny’s inept as a hero and unravelling as a person almost as fast as Ward. Our protagonist, ladies and gents.

In the end he swallows his “She killed my parents” rage and takes Gao prisoner, with no legal status to do so, no plan, the tactics of an unbalanced four-year-old, and a big, fat, “fuck you” waiting for him at Rand Enterprises. (He values that place so much he hasn’t even noticed they kicked him off the board yet.) This should go great. This will all be fine. Nevermind the fact that when the villain is captured this far before the end it always, always blows up in the hero’s face.

Flash and Harrison Wells had a similar kill/don’t kill argument about Grodd a few weeks back. It worked much better than this one. Maybe because Claire’s “Killing is wrong” argument falls slightly flat when you consider that the rest of The Defenders franchise is watering it down to “Killing is wrong… unless it’s Kilgrave. Or the head of The Hand. Or if it’s Elektra doing it next to you. Or if Frank Castle’s doing it to someone you either really hate, or someone who’s Asian. Or if it’s Frank Castle doing it as the star of his own show in a year or two.” Throw in The Avengers and it’s exceptions for… everyone. Just everyone. The Avengers kill constantly.

Basically, Claire advocating against killing the bad guy feels hollow when Marvel Studios decided “Nah, killing is fine” over five years ago, and only one out of four Defenders-based seasons has successfully argued otherwise. I don’t think Iron Fist sparing Gao is going to put the genie back in that bottle.

(Sure, Oliver Queen has dropped his share of bodies, but at least they started giving him crap about that almost right away. Hell, the fifth season is about the damage his murder-happy past is causing.)

Also, half-hearted points for connecting to the other Defenders this episode. The character choice not to even try to involve New York’s leading Hand-fighting vigilante remains breathtakingly stupid, but Claire has been reading and re-reading a letter that’s pretty clearly from Luke Cage, and it’s heavily implied that Joy got her blackmail material from Jessica Jones.

Episode Nine

Maybe now’s a good time to talk about what a failure Danny Rand has been as a hero and a protagonist. Or rather, elaborate. I know I just covered this but there’s more. The Hand have been quick to point out that the job of the Iron Fist is to defend K’un-Lun, which is easier to do when you’re actually in it. Danny fought to earn the position, then once he had it, abandoned his post to go back home. Sure, he is actually fighting K’un-Lun’s sworn enemy, but let’s not pretend he left the magical Brigadooning monastery to hunt The Hand down. He left for selfish reasons then just happened to trip over them in the process. That he is even vaguely fulfilling his duties as Iron Fist is merely blind, stinking, doodah luck.

And now we join him having renditioned Gao to New York with amazing ease (rich white guys aren’t known for being held up by customs, I guess), and tied her to a chair in Colleen’s dojo (which she meekly protests, “meekly protesting” being the sum total of her agency in this scene) so that he can interrogate her about his parents’ deaths. Gao, Colleen, and Claire all raise two very valid questions: 1) what exactly is his plan to make her talk, and 2) is there even a point. What will these answers accomplish. Danny does not have compelling answers to these questions, because that would involve Danny having had a single itty-bitty clue about anything he’s done so far. He doesn’t know how to make Gao talk (Claire suggests he steal truth serum from Rand HQ, because sure, they obviously have that lying around), he can’t tell us why this is so important right now, and when he bumps into Joy on the way he’s stunned to hear they’ve been ousted. He did precisely two things at Rand other than hunt evil ninjas, neither was popular, both were unprofitable, and yet he’s mystified as to how this happened.

He’s a giant bag of suck at this point. It’s episode nine. It’s past time for him to have done something, anything, to prove his worth as the central character of this show.

Moving along.

I’ve talked about Harold Meachum having “faked his death.” This is not 100% accurate. He did die, but made an arrangement to have The Hand bring him back, which is why he was under their thumb. I bring this up now because when The Hand resurrects you, afterwards you don’t die easily. As such, Harold is back among the living, but he ain’t quite right in the head. Sure he’s eager to make amends with Ward, but he’s also gotten a little crazier and murderier than we left him, as his faithful assistant Kyle finds out when he turns down on offer of fancy ice cream. Ward’s at his least dickish this episode (though still on the drugs), but Harold is becoming a problem. If this means Harold Meachum has a concrete role in the end of the season, I’m for it.

After Danny breaks into Rand HQ to steal drugs (again… our hero), things go pear-shaped at the dojo. Colleen’s been poisoned, Gao gets into just everyone’s heads, and some sort of military team breaks into the dojo to claim Gao. Guess The Hand is getting over ninjas. Danny, poisoned Colleen, and Claire fight off the soldiers, and Colleen’s sensei Bakuto shows up.

We’ve seen him once before. I didn’t mention him because he made very little impression. I can’t even remember what he and Colleen discussed. Turns out he knows more about Iron Fistery than Danny does. Guess Danny had a couple of lessons left when he decided to swan off and reclaim his company instead of doing his job.

So Danny happened to bump into someone in episode one whose sensei happens to be an expert in K’un-Lun and reveals this exactly when it’s most needed in episode nine. As coincidences go, this one is extremely weak from a narrative perspective. If Claire had called Matt Murdock–

Sorry.

–and Matt had called Stick and Stick had known enough about Iron Fisticuffs to help them from here, that makes sense, it builds the world, it gets us closer to Defenders. Colleen’s sensei, who we met precisely once, happening to be the exact expert they need? That’s lazy writing.

Anyway, Danny heals Colleen but is burnt out, barely able to stand, let alone Iron Fist. Claire is left alone…

I begin to get concerned how fast I’m burning through corgis.

…while Colleen and Bakuto drive off with Danny, and Bakuto’s people (who I guess he has?) take Gao.

And Ward gets arrested for having drugs in his car, right after meeting with the Triads to find out if his dad can be killed, and learning Harold will probably try to kill either Ward or Joy. Either Ward is right, and Harold planted actual heroin in the car, or the writers already forgot that the synthetic heroin is so chemically removed from the real stuff it’s not even illegal. Let’s be charitable and assume it’s the first thing. This paves the way for Harold to let Joy into his secret penthouse when she comes looking for answers. It is… an awkward reunion.

Also there’s a creepy guy stalking around Rand Enterprises and the dojo, clearly looking for Danny, who can make actually dangerous origami throwing stars out of tin foil. More on him next episode, but I want to flag something. We know he’s after Danny because he’s giving the side-eye to an issue of Forbes with Danny on the cover.

Danny has been back at Rand for a week and a half. And he has been in the office for maybe 12 minutes. When did he do a photoshoot for Forbes? At what point did Forbes decide this was worth a story, send a reporter to get said story, arrange a photoshoot with Danny, and make it to print? When he was hanging around Colleen’s dojo waiting for it to be dark enough to raid the pier? While he was recruiting the Triads to bust up a drug lab? Were they on the plane while he was extrodinarliy renditioning Gao? It makes no sense. Between this and Daredevil’s second season covering half a year despite only having three weeks of plot, tops, it’s like Marvel Netflix writers don’t know how time works on top of not knowing how big Manhattan is.

God damn this show is stupid.

Episode Ten

Double digits. Home stretch. I can make it. I can do this. Deep breaths.

I’ve often said that when your characters are complaining about your plot holes, that’s not a great sign. Keep that in mind when I say that Danny pointing out that Colleen didn’t mention Bakuto for like seven episodes doesn’t make up for we, the audience, being blindsided by his arrival.

And it gets worse.

Turns out that Bakuto is also part of The Hand, just a different branch than Gao (who I guess is also in a different branch than Daredevil’s Nobu?). And Colleen has known the whole time, acting as a sleeper agent working Danny (well, it’s unclear when that started, so the ridiculous coincidence complaint may hold up). So in episode ten, Colleen and Bakuto become the very worst parts of Daredevil (Elektra goes from badass female character to pawn with no agency torn between the male hero and the male villain) and Luke Cage (Diamondback, ie. sudden betrayal from a supposedly important character who literally just showed up out of nowhere with no context).

Come on, Iron Fist, if you’re going to steal from your siblings, steal the good stuff.

There’s a very half-hearted attempt to convince Danny that these are the good Hand soldiers, as opposed to the bad ones that Gao was leading (no mention of Nobu but I’m past expecting it). He doesn’t buy it, and we who’ve known them as an evil ninja death cult since Daredevil last year certainly don’t buy it. So it only exists to accelerate Colleen’s slide into simpering pawn, a fraction of what her character once was.

Danny gets some help escaping from the guy who was stalking him last episode, who bursts to his aid, saying (accurately) “You are the worst Iron Fist ever.” It turns out to be Danny’s best pal from K’un-Lun, Davos. He’s come up a couple of times in Danny’s stories, which keeps him from being a second full-on Diamondback. The second thing that could do that is having him not betray Danny but I think we all know that’s too much to ask. He tells a wounded Danny that since he’s made zero progress against The Hand, can’t summon the Iron Fist (because he’s angry and confused and whatnot and it’s messing with his Chi), and has left an exposed K’un-Lun defenceless (save for its population of exclusively warrior monks), he is a complete and utter failure. He’s 100% correct in this, and it’s hard to react the way I think they want me to, since Danny hasn’t done one thing vaguely competently in ten episodes, so I’m just happy he’s getting called out on it.

He’s bad at being the Iron Fist, he’s bad at being the protagonist of a TV show, he should not have either job. There are three episodes left to convince me otherwise. I am not optimistic.

Oh, right, also Harold kills the board member who hates Danny and the Meachums, and makes it look like suicide (despite the wound screaming “homicide” to me), letting Joy (somehow) talk the remaining board members into reinstating her and Ward… and accidentally Danny as well. Don’t think she intended that. Harold sneaks out of admitting his role in the board member’s death (she only asks if he “had him killed,” not “did you kill him”), and tells joy they’re gonna have to go after Bakuto. Sure, why not.

Frankly, this “rival Hand” business only makes it harder to get a grip on who The Hand are, what they want, and why they do anything they do. And given they’re being set up as the main villains of The Defenders, that’s a problem.

Final note… a video Bakuto has shows that the Iron Fist of 1948 knew to wear a mask. I guess Danny skipped that part of his training as well. God this sack of patchouli is an idiot. the trick isn’t going to be having Davos decide Danny shouldn’t be the Iron Fist, the trick is going to be finding literally any way to make us think he’s wrong.

Three more. How much worse can it get? Guess we’ll find out.