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Netflix’s Marvel shows have always been part of the MCU canon


At some point over the past decade or so, fans of Netflix’s old live-action Marvel series like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage somehow convinced themselves that the shows weren’t a part of the MCU’s canon. Echo, Marvel’s newest live-action series, reintroduces a couple of major characters from the studio’s Netflix days, and in a new interview, star Vincent D’Onofrio essentially confirms this is all one big interconnected story.

But as glad as many viewers might be to hear all of this, it isn’t exactly news because it was fairly obvious if you either watched the Netflix shows, or listened to the words coming out of Kevin Feige’s mouth. In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter about the behind-the-scenes creative team drama impacting Disney Plus’ forthcoming Daredevil: Born Again series, D’Onofrio — who first portrayed Wilson Fisk / Kingpin in Netflix’s Daredevil — confirmed that the new show will be “directly connected to the original Daredevil.” 

According to D’Onofrio, the choice to lean into the canonical connections between the two shows came as Marvel was scrambling to regroup following the sudden dismissals of Born Again’s original head writers Chris Ord and Matt Corman. Though Born Again will very much be its own show, D’Onofrio emphasized that Marvel wants to do these characters justice by homing in on the right tone to tell their stories and embracing the already-established canon.

“The most we can do is be very savvy when it comes to the canon of these characters, Daredevil and Kingpin,” D’Onofrio said. “It’s different from the other stuff. Neither of us have superpowers, and we’re not from outer space. We’re character-driven story characters. That’s the way we were presented originally, and that’s the idea now.”

Judging from the way D’Onofrio’s comments are being reported on and talked about, one could easily get the impression the actor revealed a shocking surprise that Marvel had somehow managed to keep under wraps. But what’s really been revealed this week — if anything — is just how good a job some Marvel obsessives have done at convincing people to believe in a curious bit of fandom apocrypha.

In its very first episode, Echo brings both Wilson Fisk / Kingpin (D’Onofrio) and Matt Murdock / Daredevil (Charlie Cox) back into the picture as supporting characters in Maya Lopez’s (Alaqua Cox) story. Following D’Onofrio’s brief appearance as Kingpin in the penultimate episode of Hawkeye’s first season, it felt safe to assume that other characters from Marvel’s Netflix era might pop up in newer MCU projects. That assumption was quickly borne out by Charlie Cox’s cameo as Daredevil in Spider-Man: No Way Home (which hit theaters that same week) and has since been reflected in other series like She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.

But as abundantly clear as it has been that Marvel Studios can bring back characters from its pre-Disney Plus days, there has been an inordinate amount of debate (read: nerds fussing at one another online) about whether Daredevil and Kingpin “joining” the MCU means that the events of Netflix’s Marvel series are now considered canon.

It’s hard to pinpoint when, exactly, the idea that Netflix’s Marvel shows were not canonical with the MCU proper began to gain traction, but it was the sort of factoid that sounded at least somewhat plausible in 2019 when the two studios announced that their yearslong collaborative process was coming to an end. At that point, Jessica Jones was in its third season, The Punisher was in its second, and a number of Netflix’s other Marvel series had closed out with storylines that felt unfinished and left many questions unanswered.

Given the way that — aside from a couple folks from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — none of Marvel’s TV-based heroes from that time ever jumped to the big screen, it was easy for people to believe that Netflix’s shows had been siloed off from the MCU canon. But as tidy an explanation as that was, it… never really made all that much sense if you actually paid attention to all of the ways Netflix’s Marvel shows — Daredevil especially — established their existence in the MCU by explicitly referencing some of the biggest previous events to take place in it.

Though it always felt a little clunky when Netflix’s street-level heroes referred to the Chitauri invasion of New York City as “the Incident” or “the battle of NYC,” they were quite literally talking about the time Captain America and his friends stood in a circle and saved the city from a swarm of aliens.

Sure, it might have sounded kind of funny how Jessica Jones only ever talked about seeing the “flag waver” rather than just using Steve Rogers’ widely known government name, but it was no sillier than a grown woman calling someone “Captain America” with a straight face. The larger point was that those shows’ writers trusted audiences to be able to understand context clues without being spoon fed beat-by-beat explanations of what things meant.

To be fair, considering how much of a hit Daredevil was, it was rather interesting to see Marvel Studios — which didn’t begin producing its own episodic series in-house until 2018 — pass up on opportunities to parlay the show’s success into hype elsewhere by letting him hang out with the Avengers. But part of what made the prospect of the Defenders cameoing in big crossover events like Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame sound like something that could happen was the fact that Kevin Feige basically said it himself in 2015.

Back then, there was no way of knowing just how largely Disney Plus was ultimately going to feature in Disney’s plans for the MCU. But Feige’s assertion that stronger connections between the studio’s films and TV series were “inevitable” was a very clear sign that, eventually, all of these projects were intended to be understood as one interconnected story much in the same way that the comics they’re based on are.

There are any number of reasons why Marvel Studios wound up deciding to leave the Defenders and co. (not to mention the characters from Hulu’s Marvel shows) on the sidelines for cinematic events built to bring as many characters together as possible at once. Looking at the way the studio immediately started flooding Disney Plus with Marvel series, though, it feels very likely that the old perceived MCU / Netflix division had more to do with who was producing the series, and where they streamed, rather than Marvel wanting its street levelers stuck in a non-canonical box.

Even though Disney’s stated that it plans to ease up on the number of Marvel shows it plans to greenlight for Disney Plus, the platform’s reached a level of maturity and prominence as part of the larger brand. So it makes sense for Marvel to be mapping out Daredevil and Kingpin’s futures with episodic plans that it can share with the public. But with the studio now making things crystal clear (at a time when it seems like all of the old Marvel-owned characters are back in play), the biggest takeaway here is that fans might want to chill out a bit and actually engage with the text instead of rushing headlong into feverish frenzies.



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