The reception to Marvel’s Netflix shows has varied considerably from series to series – but something almost everyone agrees on is that Rosario Dawson’s character, Claire Temple, has been a highlight of them all. Like a Netflix Agent Coulson, it’s clear she’ll serve as the character who ultimately unites the team during the crossover series, The Defenders.
But it’s possible her role is destined to be even more substantial than that. The ending of Iron Fist in particular hints that Claire may take the step Coulson never did, and join the ranks of the (occasionally) costumed adventurers. We can’t help but wonder: is she secretly playing a version of the White Tiger?
There are a few things that make us think so.
Spoilers for Marvel/Netflix Iron Fist, Season One.
At the end of Iron Fist, having been trained up in martial arts by Colleen Wing – a former member of The Hand, no less – Claire takes some tiger claw-type weapons off the wall saying “I believe these are mine.” It’s a small beat, but clear setup for her future appearances, the next of which is going to be in The Defenders.
We already know her experiences on the sidelines of superhero battles have left her with a desire to defend herself in case The Hand come calling again – which, let’s face it, they will. Now, having completed her training, she won’t feel like she has to wait for her friends to rescue her. As a Hand-trained fighter, she’s officially capable of mounting a solid defence of her own.
But more could be going on. The choice of weapon clearly wasn’t random. She could have fought with a sword, with a staff, with anything. Why give her a signature weapon so identifiable and unconventional if they aren’t hinting at something?
At one point in Iron Fist, Claire, Danny and Colleen have Madame Gao imprisoned, leading her to attempt to get under their skin with her own brand of brutal but perceptive insight. When she talks to Claire, Gao essentially tells her “you hang onto the coattails of people who have special abilities because you want to be like them.”
Claire denies it, of course, but Gao isn’t wrong in what she tells the others. Is she also right about Claire?
The diversity row surrounding Iron Fist means Marvel/Netflix are more aware than ever that they need to keep pace with the demands and sensibilities of audiences. For the most part, the Netflix shows have been quite good at putting forward characters who aren’t just white guys, especially compared to the movies. But despite the occasional appearance of Robbie Reyes, the Ghost Rider, in Agents of SHIELD, there’s still no Hispanic superhero lead in the MCU, and only a handful of women, most of whom are white.
The White Tiger has been Hispanic in several incarnations – the first was Hector Ayala, the fourth was Angela Del Toro, and the fifth was Ava Ayala. The character has also been female in three different incarnations (the second was a female tiger who was mutated into human form by the High Evolutionary).
So in terms of rebalancing a universe that needs more characters of colour, more women and specifically more Hispanic people full stop, Marvel could do far, far worse than to give Rosario Dawson a bit more prominence. Especially given that she’s one of the biggest names to be attached to those shows, she’s already being under-utilised.
The second White Tiger was introduced to co-star in the 1990s Heroes for Hire comic series, and was a member of that team alongside Luke Cage and Danny Rand. Angela Del Toro, the fourth White Tiger, was set up in her role by Matt Murdock and later worked with both Luke and Danny.
It’s clear, then, that the White Tiger moves in the same circles as the street-level heroes of The Defenders. She’d be a natural fit for that group of characters.
One obvious argument against this theory is that Rosario Dawson isn’t playing a character named for any of the existing White Tigers. As a supporting character in the Luke Cage comics, Claire Temple was a Doctor and Luke’s love interest – but in the Netflix shows, she’s been largely merged with a character named Linda Carter who provides medical assistance for street-level superheroes as “Night Nurse”.
Given that the White Tiger lacks much in the way of a definitive identity – there have been five, after all, only one of which has had any significant cross-media presence – it wouldn’t be a huge leap to imagine Marvel evolving Claire’s character into the White Tiger for The Defenders rather than trying to create a new one.
In August 2016, several sites reported that Marvel had shot a number of short taster pilots for consideration as future Netflix shows. White Tiger was one of those rumoured to be under consideration. Speculation was shot down by various sources, but that doesn’t mean it had no basis in reality.
It could be that the rumour grew out of a decision to turn Claire into the White Tiger ahead of The Defenders’ production. It might also be that Marvel DID try the idea out, then rejected it, which left them with a free character to use elsewhere. That’s how Ghost Rider ended up on Agents of SHIELD, after all.
Indeed, former White Tiger Angela Del Toro was mentioned in Jessica Jones, but as a PI Jessica suggests as an alternative to herself, rather than as the FBI investigator she is in the comics. If nothing else, that proves that Marvel Studios has SOME idea of who the character is. That name didn’t get pulled out of nowhere.
Of course, at this point it’s little more than a fan theory. There’s no reason Claire couldn’t become a better fighter without assuming a costumed identity. Perhaps Rosario Dawson doesn’t want an expanded role in the Netflix MCU. Maybe it’s something that’ll happen after The Defenders, rather than before. But clearly, the pieces are there for it to happen.
We’ll find out come August whether this is just wishful thinking.