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Villain Overview
History says that the Iron Fist and The Hand are mortal enemies but I wonder, in the spirit of change, perhaps we could be something different. Last night showed me the truth: K'un-Lun did not send you to hunt us down. You left of your own free will because you wanted to be Danny Rand. So why not enjoy the life you traveled so far for. I need your company, but the spoils are for you to enjoy. Buy a yacht, eat at fancy restaurants with your friends - like Claire Temple or Colleen Wing. Stop your war! This city is no place for the Iron Fist! You're a businessman now, and this is the best offer you are ever going to get...
~ Madame Gao tries to make a deal with Danny

Madame Gao is a recurring antagonist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, serving as a supporting antagonist in Daredevil, and later as a major antagonist in the first season of Iron Fist and The Defenders.

She was portrayed by Wai Ching Ho.

Appearance

Despite her small stature and her old age, Gao is a shrewd crime lord and a leader of The Hand. She runs most of the heroin trade in New York City and eventually teams up with Wilson Fisk's criminal empire.

However, after major setbacks by the interference of Daredevil in addition to Fisk losing his nerve due to his love for Vanessa Marianna, Gao and Leland Owlsley, another partner of Fisk's decide to assassinate Vanessa to get Fisk back on track.

After this fails, Gao leaves the country to evade retaliation but returns to her operation after Fisk has been imprisoned. However, this time she is opposed by Danny Rand, the Iron Fist, who wants to clear his company Rand Enterprises from any influence The Hand has.

This puts him at odds with Gao, as the company has strategic value to her.

Personality

Gao is considered to be ruthless and manipulative in her schemes and able to manipulate and inspire people to do her bidding, getting her own subordinates to blind themselves, so they can create her Steel Serpent formula. She made sure that her partners underestimated her by only speaking Mandarin to them for a time, but still desires respect among her peers, including Fisk and Wesley, who respected her and she successively respected them. She is known to be occasionally boastful and grandiloquent, but was still able to intimidate her enemies. Harold Meachum also respected her, so Gao (as a reward) let him see his daughter Hope and even let him kill one of the gangsters known as the "Hatchet Men", who had tried to kill Hope some time before. However, she hated it when Harold started plotting against her and the rest of the Hand, threatening him repeatedly.

Her ruthlessness led her to believe that Fisk, having formed a relationship with an innocent woman named Vanessa, was growing soft and would be a problem for her business later. To keep him on track, she poisoned Vanessa and made him pusillanimous and fearful for his life. She has been known to treat those who oppose her like children, patronizing Fisk and giving him warnings to get back on track: he was truly afraid of her, hinting at her true power. She also has a tendency to speak in riddles, often playing mind games with people she talks to and either confusing them or making them afraid.

Though she despises any obstacle in her mission, people or otherwise, she showed some respect for Daredevil for his intuitiveness, even giving him the location of her rival dealer the Blacksmith when he asked. However, she treated Danny Rand, the new Iron Fist, completely differently, patronizing him repeatedly and saying that other Iron Fists that she met in her life were better than him. While being held captive at Colleen Wing's dojo, she kept mocking Danny, who was really temperamental at the time, simply for fun.

Powers and Abilities

Powers

  • Longevity: Gao, like Alexandra, Sowande, Bakuto and Murakami, has lived long past her original life span through the Hand's mysterious ability to grant immortality to people who are dead, which seemingly also has something to do with her connection to her home of K'un L'un. She claimed that she has lived over 400 years, placing her original period of life around the 17th century. Despite appearing elderly, she is still intimidating to others. The only way to kill someone who has been resurrected by the Hand is by severing their head from their body or by completely-destroying or burning their body before they can return to life, as demonstrated by Nobu and Harold: it is presumed that Gao has this same weakness, but it hasn't been confirmed.
  • Telekinesis: Gao appears to be capable of making people fly off their feet for a moment with only a wave of her hand, as she did to Danny Rand when he tried to intimidate her. Where this power comes from and what its limits are remain unknown, but she presumably gained this power from the Hand.

Abilities

  • Omnilinguilism: Gao is able to speak fluent English, Japanese and Mandarin. When Fisk asked her how many languages she knows, she replied "All of them".
  • Martial Arts: Gao is perfectly capable of defending herself from attackers like Daredevil and Iron Fist through her martial arts experience, presumably learned from the Hand. Her appearance as a frail old woman is typically something that her enemies think they can use to their advantage.
  • Drug Resistance: When Danny Rand, Colleen Wing and Claire Temple tried to use sodium pentathol, a potent truth drug used by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, on her so that she tells them everything she knows about the Hand and the Meachums, the drug had no effect on her. She says that she developed an immunity the same way normal people can take small doses of poison so that the body develops an immunity to said poison.
  • Master Tactician: As a drug lord and leader of the Hand, Gao is clever, cunning and manipulative, carefully strategizing her schemes and predicting an opponent's next move with simplicity. This allowed her to know that poisoning Vanessa would make Fisk return to his work, as well as predict that Danny Rand would try to attack her and eventually release her from her imprisonment in Bakuto's compound.
  • Master Manipulator: Gao has shown little regard for the careful manipulation she performs on her friends and enemies, who all ultimately learn not to underestimate her. This also makes her patronizing towards people she dislikes, such as Danny Rand.

Gallery

Trivia

  • In the original Marvel Comics on which Daredevil and Iron Fist are based, Steel Serpent, the name of the unique heroin she manufactures, is the name of an enemy of Iron Fist. The Serpent's seal is visible on the heroin packets Gao sells.
  • Madame Gao is similar to Gustavo Fring from Breaking Bad: both are prominent drug lords who are known for their master manipulation abilities. They both also show respect for their enemies, but are prone to patronizing and fear-mongering.
  • Similarly to Hive, another antagonist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe who appeared on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Gao dresses in black, has lived for hundreds of years, and can manipulate people to do their bidding. Whereas Hive used mind-control on Inhumans, Gao simply used her words.
  • Madame Gao is the most-recurring antagonist in the Netflix-original Marvel series so far, appearing in both Marvel's Daredevil and Marvel's Iron Fist. She is also the second most-recurring character in all of the series overall, behind Claire Temple.
  • The relationship between Gao and Fisk appears to be similar to that of Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, with both Gao and Snoke seeking to make sure their apprentices (Kylo Ren and Fisk, respectively) stay on their villainous course despite their own emotions getting in the way of that. In addition, both Gao and Snoke are ancient, powerful leaders who have access to an unspecified level of power.

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