This post is looking forward into the future, so beyond what's been confirmed I indulge in some speculation. Potential SPOILERS below.
The Punisher (Marvel has confirmed the show will air in 2017)
The series was ordered in April, with filming beginning in October (Marvel Netflix shows typically take six months to shoot, meaning it will wrap in March, with a release date as early as June--this would follow Daredevil season two's timeline exactly). It's unknown if Marvel wants to air The Punisher before The Defenders--given that both series are filming at the same time, the option exists to switch which is first (media coverage seems to assume the latter will be first, but without sources I'm starting with the show that started filming first). Steve Lightfoot was tapped as the showrunner (Hannibal, Truckers, and Public Enemies among others). There's been no information to indicate what storyline the show will follow, but given that the Punisher origin story has already been told (in Daredevil season two), there are any number of classic Punisher stories they could use. At a minimum Lightfoot will be building up the supporting cast to avoid Frank becoming one-dimensional. The Punisher is a tricky character to handle as when he becomes overly dark he ceases to be an anti-hero and becomes simply a killer--the Daredevil writers were very careful to walk that line and I think we'll see that continue here.
This is the confirmed cast members plus a couple of characters which (so far) only appear on IMDB, whose track record for accuracy is very hit and miss (so keep that in mind):
- Frank Castle/The Punisher: he's already had his revenge on those who killed his family in Daredevil, so he'll be looking for new targets (or perhaps new foes will be looking for him)
- Karen Page: I'm unsure how big her role is, as it's without precedent in the comics, but she provides connective tissue from Daredevil (I thought the two had good chemistry)
- David Lieberman (aka Micro): a long-time Punisher character (created by Mike Baron and Klaus Janson in 1987) who will at least begin as an ally in the show; he was killed off in the comics in 2011
- Billy Russo (aka Jigsaw): originally a Spider-Man villain (1976), he has a long tenure of facing the Punisher; like Micro he's also been dead in the comics since 2011
- Curtis Hoyle: a short-lived Punisher character from Frank's past (also created by Mike Baron and Klaus Janson in 1987), having served with him (Vietnam in the comics, but if the role remains the same it will be updated to Afghanistan and Iraq)
- Rawlins: presumably William Rawlins from the comics (a corrupt CIA agent), who is a Punisher character (created by Garth Ennis and Doug Braithwaite in 2005); he's been dead since 2007
- Sarah Lieberman: this is Micro's wife in the show; Micro has no wife in the comic, having instead a fiance (Jan O'Reilly) who appeared exactly once (Punisher Origin of Microchip 1), so we're likely getting a completely different character here
- (via IMDB) Ahmad Zubair: assuming he hasn't been created for the show, the only Punisher-related character with a similar name is Ahmad Rasfanjani, a Mike Baron/David Ross (1988) short-lived villain
- (via IMDB) Bowers: the only comic book Bowers is the one-issue Iron Man villain Mastermind, but I think it's unlikely to be him
The Defenders (2017 air date has been confirmed)
The long-planned team-up started filming in November (not long after The Punisher above). It's unknown if more time will be spent filming versus the usual nine-days-per-episode pace used by the other shows. If it follows the established pattern, with eight episodes versus the usual thirteen, filming will complete in just four months (finishing at the end of February), with post-production making it available as early as May. If instead they use the typical six months to shoot the show, then filming wraps in April, with post-production making it available in July. It's unknown if Marvel prefers to air The Punisher before The Defenders--the media coverage seems to assume the latter will be first, but without sources I've starting with the show filming first.
The initial Marvel Netflix plan (back in 2013) mirrored the original MCU movie plan. The movies began with Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, and Captain America having solo films leading into The Avengers. This is the template for the original Netflix plan: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage leading into The Defenders. Just like the movies, as the plan rolled out there were small changes, a second season (ie film) squeezed in due to the success of its predecessor (Daredevil season two ala Iron Man 2--both received with less enthusiasm than the original).
Tom Tennant (editor/publisher of MidwestMovieMaker and MarvelCinematicUniversity) has an interesting theory about the plot. He proposes that we'll get one of two storylines, first suggesting a version of The Revolution (something Tennant suggested back in July), which is a New Avengers (27-31) story from Brian Michael Bendis. In Revolution we get a variation of Frank Miller's Elektra resurrection plot (Daredevil 189-190), as Bendis has Elektra resurrect the character Echo to aid the Hand (rather than the Hand attempting to raise Elektra with the same purpose in mind). When I read this storyline I was underwhelmed by it and don't consider it an option. Tennant's other suggestion is Shadowland (an Andy Diggle-penned crossover focused on a Daredevil-led Hand), which I haven't read, but I consider extremely unlikely (at least insofar as having Daredevil as the villain--it doesn't mesh with The Defenders first-ever team-up). In both cases the antagonist is the Hand, which fits all the hints we've been given so far.
Personally, I hope the Hand isn't the ultimate villain, that instead they are a prelude to a larger threat (that would certainly serve the purpose of Marvel trying to do something productive with the Netflix-version of Elektra), but there's no strong hint of who that might be. I don't think Daredevil did justice to the Hand, as while there's an element of creepiness to them, they don't come across as particularly interesting (they aren't as grounded as the rest of the Netflix universe). Neither of these theories have a place reserved for Sigourney Weaver, which poses a fairly significant problem for them, but they could be a starting place for the plot (or, at least, the Elektra side of it). As for Weaver, all she's said publically is that her character is smart and in charge (the only pictures of her character so far make her look like someone corporate), which hardly narrows it down. It's hard to imagine her at the top of the Hand's hierarchy given the inevitable white-washing complaints if she was. The possibility remains that she's an invented character for the show, but Petrie and Ramirez are far more likely to use someone from Marvel's extensive roster. There were rumours before her casting about the team facing the villain Mephisto; Tom Tennant guesses she's Madame Hydra (difficult to parse this with his Hand theories), but given that the Hydra organisation has played no role at all in the Netflix shows it makes little sense here; I've also seen The Beast suggested, who is the supernatural end-game for the Hand, but it puts the show in the realm of white-washing complaints again.
On the very basic level of where the show begins: Claire Temple connects all four heroes, having met them all, so may serve as peacemaker for the initial conflict that's been teased. There are other connections as well: Luke Cage knows Jessica Jones intimately, while Foggy Nelson and Danny Rand know Jeri Hogarth.
- Matt Murdock (Daredevil)
- Jessica Jones
- Luke Cage
- Danny Rand (Iron Fist)
- Claire Temple
- Karen Page
- Foggy Nelson
- Trish Walker
- Jeri Hogarth
- Malcolm Ducasse
- Misty Knight
- Colleen Wing
- Frank Castle (Punisher) - as per IMDB (which seems likely given the comments from the showrunners above)
- Lead villain - Sigourney Weaver
Inhumans (September 4, 2017)
This is an ABC show, but it has similarities to the Netflix format, with an eight-episode season, as well as Iron Fist's Scott Buck coming in as the showrunner--a nice pat on the back to Buck, indicating Marvel is happy with his as-yet unseen Netflix work. The first two episodes getting a short-run (two weeks) in theaters, which is an interesting idea (with Imax wanting more deals like this). Because it's an ABC property, I'd expect Agents of SHIELD references; it remains to be seen if it will also directly reference either the Netflix or movie properties (I think at best we'll get easter eggs).
Jessica Jones 2 (late 2017/early 2018)
The second season was ordered in January (2016), with filming commencing immediately after The Defenders. We don't have a definitive release date once it wraps, and should take comments about that (saying 2018) with a grain of salt because the same date was initially given for The Punisher. Recent comments from Netflix suggest that it could appear in late 2017 (given its filming schedule that's feasible--that date may have been confirmed recently).
Looking ahead, I can't imagine the show will follow the known comic book arc of her character (I say "known" as Brian Michael Bendis has just started a new series for her). Showrunner Melissa Rosenberg has said it will focus on Jessica and Trish's friendship, which is something without comic book precedent. In the comics Jessica Jones fades into the background as Luke Cage's partner (and as a mother)--not fertile territory for an independent woman dealing with the trauma of Kilgrave. Bendis' new series has her becoming a detective again, but it's uncertain how much (if any) impact that will have on the show. From the hints at the end of the first season it seems like IGH--with its connections to Jessica, Will Simpson, and Luke Cage--could play a prominent role in what happens (along with, perhaps, Trish becoming Hellcat--something her actor would like to see). Oddly, despite having Luke Cage as a major part of the first season, his actions in Jessica Jones had almost no impact on his own series, which makes me wonder about the romance between Luke and Jessica (given that the shows will want to maintain their distinct identities, I wonder if she'll have different romantic partners--as, indeed, she does in the comics).
This is a bit tangential, but there's an interesting interview with Brian Michael Bendis reflecting on the adaptation of Jessica Jones that I think is well worth reading (he's a big fan of the series).
Daredevil 3 (2018?)
The sequel was ordered in July (2016), but with an unstated film date. The 2018 release confirmation is via the same shaky ground as mentioned above (CBR, link below, thinks it will be in 2017), but with no production date known for now it's all just guesswork.
Luke Cage 2 (likely 2018)
The second season was recently announced (December), but with no film date set. I think it will appear in 2018 (I doubt Netflix wants to wait more than two years between seasons). Diamondback is alive at the end of the first season and I have to think showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker wants to do something with him. Similarly, Mariah and Shades remain in power, so there's plenty of leftover villains. Despite those remaining, I believe we'll see more added. Here are Comicbook.com's suggested antagonists:
- Nightshade - originally a Captain America villain (1973), she briefly became an antagonist of Luke Cage and Iron Fist when she ran a crime syndicate via robots (Power Man and Iron Fist 51-53); in a much later issue (110), she's part of a supervillain team trying to break up Jeryn Hogarth's wedding; subsequently she becomes a hero fighting alongside Misty Knight in the Villains for Hire mini-series and then partners up with Nighthawk; none of this seems like particularly interesting Luke Cage story material
- Tombstone - a Spider-Man villain (1988) from Harlem who has since battled virtually everyone; in Cage (2-4) he's simply hired muscle, while in the current run of Power Man and Iron Fist (1-4) he's a pawn in a plan by Black Mariah and White Jennie to get their hands on the Super Soul Stone; none of this seems like fertile material to work with
- Bushmaster - the first version of the character was an Iron Fist villain (1977); his initial arc is actually a Misty Knight story that winds up involving Cage and Iron Fist--she's trying to infiltrate the criminal syndicate he works for and has to blow her cover to save Danny Rand from Steel Serpent; once that's resolved the pair have to fend off Luke himself as he's being blackmailed in order to save a kidnapped Claire Temple and Noah Burstein (you can read the storyline in Iron Fist 15, Marvel Team-Up 63-64, and Powerman 48-49); the second Bushmaster, incidentally, was a Captain America villain (1985) who has become an all-purpose antagonist; he only interacts with Luke in the Villains for Hire mini-series; I think there's potential in the first Bushmaster's storyline
- Master of the World - originally an Alpha Flight villain (1983) with a very light history against Cage (a single story arc from John Ostrander's short-lived run in Heroes for Hire 1-5, 8, 10-12), but that's part of a very different group (more Avengers-like than the usual Danny, Luke, Misty, and Colleen); this is another odd choice (if it worked anywhere it would be as a Defenders storyline)
- Chemistro - specifically the third to use this name (Calvin Carr, created in 1983), he's an original Luke Cage villain (Power Man and Iron Fist 93); his initial storyline (93-96) has elements that might appeal to Coker (issues of race--with Cage being called a tool of the white man ("Oreo for Hire")), but the villain himself has very simple motivation; his only other interaction is when Luke is part of the New Avengers, but there he's simply part of the Hood's criminal gang
A final observation that's come from reading a lot of Luke Cage material: it's interesting how much more integrated his stories are with Iron Fist than the reverse. I think this has something to do with the bizarre nature of Danny's origins and the much more straightforward arc of Cage.
Iron Fist 2 (presumably 2019)
Iron Fist would need to bomb spectacularly to not get another season, so I think that even if the response in March is lukewarm we'll get one more season.
Potential Cameos in MCU Films
The Netflix stars all have contracts that include potential movie appearances, but given all the acrimony between Kevin Feige and Ike Perlmutter (see part one of this series), crossovers continue to seem unlikely, albeit the ebullient and optimistic Jeph Loeb keeps hinting at them. I thought it would be worthwhile to see where such cameos could occur if they are ever going to happen. I've organised the movie releases chronologically:
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (May): there's no chance; the film takes place in space and has far too much to do regardless (with new characters etc)
Spider-Man: Homecoming (July): no chance; while Peter Parker conveniently lives in New York, this is a character-establishing movie with far too much to do for a cameo (introducing all his supporting characters and so on)
Thor: Ragnarok (November): another busy movie mostly taking place off of earth with the Hulk co-starring; Thor will be in New York searching for Odin, but it's clear his only interaction with another hero will be with Doctor Strange
Black Panther (February, 2018): another establishing movie like Spider-Man, so even if the action isn't completely confined to Wakanda, I see no chance for cameos here
Avengers Infinity War (May, 2018) - principal photography begins in January, so that's alongside The Defenders; Kevin Feige has said it won't happen (just like no deal with Sony, right?), but of all the possibilities this film (or its sequel in May of 2019) are the most likely for cameos--they are big team-up movies and with everyone available to appear in them it's the best possibility (travelling between New York and Atlanta, where the filming for each is occurring, is not a big deal); that said, I think it's unlikely to happen (both Ant-Man and the Wasp (July 2019) and Captain Marvel (March 2019) have far too much to do for cameos)
Other Possible Netflix Series
A version of the New Warriors is apparently being shopped around, featuring a lineup that consists of Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, Speedball, Justice, Night Thrasher, and Rage. Netflix is one of the interested parties, although there's no guarantee it will happen at all. Thematically it seems similar in tone to what's been attempted with the Runaways and Cloak and Dagger properties (teen-oriented), which is interesting given that originally the New Warriors dealt with more adult-themes than was usual.
Runaways (Hulu (ABC), 2017)
Not a Netflix property, but I thought I'd mention it; other than an ordered pilot and scripts written by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (neither of whom have prior ties to Marvel), there's been virtually no information about the show (apparently Iron Fist writer Tamara Becher has also been hired to write). Much like the New Warriors above, it will be aimed at a younger audience.
Cloak and Dagger (Freeform (ABC), winter 2018)
Also not on Neflix, but with at least one connection (Joe Pokaski is the showrunner, having served as a writer on Daredevil season one). As a duo that were created largely as an anti-drug message, it seems likely the show will focus more on their love story as they target a younger audience.
Information for my work comes from a wide variety of sources--most obviously from the shows themselves, as well as their comic inspirations (for those I'm largely dependent on Marvel Unlimited, which I highly recommend). There's also the very handy Marvel Wiki for quick references. I've included some others for those interested.
Daredevil Explained (Comics Explained)
Daredevil Season One Easter Eggs (ComicBookCast2)
Daredevil Season One Easter Eggs (Mr Sunday Movies)
Jessica Jones Explained (Comics Explained)
Jessica Jones Easter Eggs (Flicks and the City)
Jessica Jones Easter Eggs (Mr Sunday Movies)
Jessica Jones Easter Eggs (Den of Geek)
Daredevil/Elektra Explained (Comics Explained)
Punisher Explained (Comics Explained)
Daredevil Season Two Easter Eggs (Flicks and the City)
Daredevil Season Two Easter Eggs (ComicBookCast2)
Luke Cage Explained (Comics Explained)
Luke Cage Breakdown (New Rockstars)
Iron Fist/Danny Rank Explained (Comics Explained)
Iron Fist Trailer Breakdown (New Rockstars)
Iron Fist Trailer Breakdown (IGN)
The Defenders Explained (Comics Explained)