When Iron Man 3 was announced, and Oscar winning actor Sir Ben Kingsley named as playing Tony Stark's best know villain. Fans got really excited.
Kingsley's exotic appearance and chameleon like ability to play roles were a major plus point in generating buzz for the movie. As pictures and trailers emerged, it looked very much like they had nailed a great version of a difficult character.
Then T-Day came...
I'll be honest, I LOVE what they did with the character in Iron Man 3. Trevor Slattery was a great character, you never actually knew if he was playing Stark all along or was genuinely the befuddled, narcoleptic Liverpool fan who loves to say "Bloody Hell".
Most fans however HATED the switch, and there was nothing short of outcry, it was as if Marvel had not only taken their toys, but stomped on them just because they could.
However, some hope was restored when "Hail To The King" appeared, a short set in prison where Trevor has the celebrity status he always craved, even Justin Hammer who would have thought himself "top dog" was below him. However by the end of that we saw Trevor being led to a very uncertain future as "The Real Mandarin" wanted to see him...and he was not happy.
Since then fans have speculated who this real Mandarin is... could it perhaps STILL be Trevor, employing some kind of Doctor Who-esque mindwipe technique, just waiting for the real Ten Rings to be on his hands rather than a pocket watch to unlock his real self?
It's possible and I would indeed like to see that, but I think they are going a different way.
Meanwhile, Agents Of SHIELD initially got derision from many, the show was slow to get going but once the HYDRA reveal, linked to The Winter Soldier kicked in the show went from strength to strength.
Recently, the 3rd season has seen somewhat of a soft reboot, with several characters splintering into their own mission.
The most intriguing of the new arcs has been that of Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) who, after 2 seasons of being the most buttoned up, character has now not only reunited with her husband but has parents!
May's father is played by the legendary James Hong, you know him by face if not by name. He is best known for two "villainous roles", as Lo Pan in Big Trouble In Little China and as the "evil" father in law in Waynes World 2.
For many, had this been made in the 80's or 90's then Hong would have been most people's choice to play the Mandarin.
This time however, he is playing Melinda's dad, William. He's a nice old man, clearly who has a deep relationship with his daughter but seems equally in awe and afraid of her as she is "so much like her mother", indeed Melinda seems to have been brought up by William in the absence of her mother, who seems to be not only alive but some kind of covert agent. William seems equally afraid of her.
I think this could be because The Mandarin is in fact, Melinda May's mother!
A female Mandarin? after Trevor? BLOODY HELL I hear you scream!
It's not as crazy as it sounds, as up to now there haven't been any female "arch villains" for the MCU - we've had henchwomen and episode villains like Lorelai, and Madame Gau in Daredevil but no one who has been a sustained threat. Even when they did "twist" Jaiying into being bad, it was only for 2 episodes.
The idea of the Mandarin being a woman works, from the perspective of the "anonymity" aspect. Who would suspect a woman of being the deadliest terrorist in the world, much less the mythical Mandarin? Certainly not Aldrich Killian, who usurped the identity - or was allowed to use it to protect the real identity.
It's less crazy when you look at the character of Melinda May, who despite not being powered, at times appears to be powered.
She is almost uncanny in her agility, smarts and abilities. If there was a mythical component to the Mandarin, it's possible this was passed on to May by birth, giving her a little more in the way of prowess than the average person.
So... we have yet to meet Melinda May's mother... what if the reason William was so afraid and Melinda keeps away from her family so much is that she's been "destined" to become the next Mandarin since birth?
That would be a great arc for the show - an aging Momma Mandarin trying to coerce/convince/seduce her daughter into taking on the evil/mantle. The reason William is so sad is he knows it's inevitable.
Melinda becomes enemy of everyone she cares about and takes on the mantle, sidestepping an awkward issue.
Casting of a new Mandarin is going to be hard for the MCU, if they don't go with Kingsley. There aren't many actors of a suitable talent/age who could be convincing without resorting to the stereotypes.
Ming Na-Wen however, would be a VERY interesting pick to play that role and that of her mother. They've already show with the aging of Peggy Carter what they can do. Ming Na-Wen is 51 (seems impossible right?) so it's not going to be too difficult to age her 20 years or so to play her mother.
She has enough acting ability and name value to be a co-star in a RDJ movie. Melinda turning "bad" into the new Mandarin, replacing her mother would be a way for the TV cast to once again become involved with the movies.
Imagine that moment where Stark and Coulson finally meet and the "I feel betrayed" vibe from Tony is met with the same from Coulson as he knows the Avengers are going after his "right hand".
Of course it is a fan theory, but it seems very logical that this could be where it goes. If Iron Man 4 is going to be made, it'll need to have The Mandarin as it's villain - and Marvel seem to be very much into team-ups. Eventually the Coulson/Stark story needs to be resolved and this would be a good way to also bring Quake/Daisy, Mockingbird and some of the other characters from the show into the movies with SHIELD and Stark having to unite to take out May/Mandarin.
It'd certainly be fun to watch and be a good way to end Agents Of SHIELD as a show, while moving its core characters into the movie universe, after all Adrienne Pallicki is no stranger to big movies and the buzz the show has gained from the DubSmash Wars campaign has helped put Clark Gregg back on the map. They could even finally make Ward a proper villain for the movies as Taskmaster or someone similar.