Being an adaptation of an established video game franchise that's been around for over 25 years, there's already plenty of lore out there surrounding the character and world that Mackie will embody. Even though the narrative the Twisted Metal show is going to explore has been described as being unlike anything seen in the franchise before, there's still a few important things fans should be aware of regarding the enigmatic John Doe.
Two characters have carried the moniker of John Doe within the Twisted Metal franchise, with the first popping up in the PS2's Twisted Metal: Black, as the driver of the iconic Roadkill muscle car. Like his designation suggests, John is plagued by amnesia, with his personality dominated by the fury he feels that his true name and past have been lost to him.
Finding himself trapped in Blackfield Asylum at the start of the game for crimes he can't remember committing, the character embarks on a quest to reclaim his identity via the devil-inspired Calypso. In traditional Twisted Metal fashion, if John can beat the shadowy figure's car combat-based contest, his heart's desire will be granted.
Over the course of the game, John subsequently sets out to eliminate his competition, gaining vague clues to his past along the way before claiming his ultimate victory. During one final confrontation with Calypso, John learns that he was once an undercover FBI agent sent to stop a cult that was about to destroy the world. Successfully scuppering one of the gang's bomb plots was the act that left John with his amnesia, and the knock-on inability to clear his own name of wrongdoing.
Considering Calypso only grants wishes in a monkey paw-style fashion, it's not a surprise that John's restored memories come with devilish strings attached. The character's celebrations are cut short via the realization that Calypso is the FBI's second most wanted fugitive. Drawing a gun on his champion, the Twisted Metal contest's creator thanks John for his participation before shooting him several times in the chest. In typical tragic franchise fashion, John's dying moments are then flooded with the restored memories of his wife and children.
Despite its enduring popularity, Twisted Metal: Black arguably contains the franchise's most complicated narrative. That's because even though the individual stories that play out for each character seemingly work standalone, many fans have speculated that they all actually take place within Sweet Tooth's mind. While it's highly likely that the TV adaptation will only adopt elements from the games, it could be worth it for fans to keep this idea in the back of their minds when they sit down to watch the show.
In this alternative look at Twisted Metal: Black, John Doe is the manifestation of Sweet Tooth's pessimism and the idea that everything the character has tried to do has always been for nothing. Even if the creative minds behind the live action adaptation choose to ignore this concept, there's still a chance that clown's adage of "no good deed goes unpunished" could still end up factoring into Mackie's characterization and eventual fate.
In Twisted Metal: Lost, a bonus mode found within Twisted Metal: Head-On Extra Twisted Edition, a second John Doe makes an appearance. Being an uncompleted extra feature ensures that the story behind this version of the character is never fully explored. Despite this, it's established that a whole team carrying the John Doe moniker have been created within the Twisted Metal universe, all with the express mission of hunting down and ending Calypso's reign of terror. While it remains to be seen just how the demonic figure inevitably ties into the show, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Mackie's interpretation of John could be motivated by a similar desire.
From the brief snippets that have been revealed about the Twisted Metal TV show's narrative, it appears that Anthony Mackie's John Doe will offer a fresh new spin on the character. This incarnation is said to be a wise-cracking milkman, tasked with traversing a post-apocalyptic landscape on a quest to deliver a package. While there's no mention of the amnesia, troubled personality, or FBI occupation that defines his video game incarnations, the live action John's quest appears similarly driven by the promise of a better life.
That sounds suspiciously like a run-in with Calypso could be in store if he can make it through the hordes of outrageously dressed marauders, and the flame-haired Sweet Tooth, that have all been confirmed to be stalking the wastelands. If that turns out to be the case when the show airs, there's a chance that some of the character's more tragic traits from the games might still cut through the comedic tones that have so far been advertised.
Twisted Metal is in development at PlayStation Productions.