The six-show Netflix extension of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a brief and fascinating moment for fans who wanted to see underutilized Marvel heroes kick butt on the small screen.
Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Defenders, and The Punisher may have varied in quality during their reign on the streaming service, but most of the characters were missed when Netflix unilaterally cancelled all of their Marvel projects in advance of Disney coming to collect its intellectual property.
Part of Netflix’s deal with Disney dictated that the characters seen in the Netflix MCU shows were off limits for adaptation for a period of two years after cancellation. At the time, two years seemed like forever, but while that clock was ticking Disney released its own streaming service and proved it could make high-quality, fully canon Marvel television shows on its own (hello, WandaVision).
Daredevil was the first character to become legally usable in the MCU — as the first Marvel Netflix show to get cancelled, his rights reverted in November 2020. Luke Cage and Iron Fist followed shortly afterward. Now, as of February 2021, Jessica Jones and The Punisher are back in the fold and ready to show up in any Marvel movie or TV show Disney feels fit to slot them.
There’s no evidence that Marvel Entertainment has plans to sprinkle the prodigal Defenders all over its many, many upcoming Disney+ streaming shows, but it would be satisfying to see some of the old gang back in full MCU form. Some of the old gang. As in, most of them wouldn’t work at all and we should probably just let people forget them. For example:
Danny Rand, a.k.a. Iron Fist
Don’t need him, didn’t like him, and frankly there’s no room for him in the modern MCU.
His “rich white guy goes to Asia, learns mystical stuff, and becomes the strongest/best practitioner of his craft” sums up the plot of Doctor Strange and his martial arts angle will be redundant once Shang-Chi comes out.
What might work instead: Iron Fist ended with Colleen Wing gaining the power of the Iron Fist but in a sword. A Colleen cameo would be cool, maybe in the Hawkeye show or something.
You know what? Maybe. His show wasn’t the best but Luke’s positioning as the new underground power in MCU’s Harlem means he could pop up later on as an ally or an obstacle to New York–based heroes. Avengers and Avengers-adjacent heroes are always ruining things for New Yorkers, so a plot where the people on the street have a hero of their own to push back could be neat.
What can’t work, but would be funny: Mahershala Ali played Luke’s nemesis Cottonmouth in Season 1 of Luke Cage. He is also cast as Blade in the upcoming MCU Blade movie. It’ll never happen, but if Luke Cage pops up in Blade there’s gotta be a moment of “Wait…aren’t you? Never mind” recognition.
Yes please. She’s a super-powered private investigator, she can fit in anywhere. Make her one of She-Hulk’s clients. Make her spy on Hawkeye and Kate Bishop. Give her an awkward stakeout meetup with Kamala Khan. The woman leaps buildings in a single bound, she can keep up with the big leagues.
What won’t work at all: Jessica Jones would have no patience for Spider-Man and if she’s going to be mean to Spider-Man she can stay away from his movies.
Matt Murdock a.k.a Daredevil
First lost, first regained — if Disney doesn’t already have plans for Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock in the MCU then it’s just wasting time. Extremely speculative rumors say he’s showing up in the third Spider-Man movie, but considering Matt Murdock is a lawyer (rather, an avocado at law) he’d also make sense as a peer to She-Hulk in her Disney+ show. Bonus points if he brings Foggy and Karen along.
Why this totally works: I mean, if there’s one member of the legal profession who won’t be freaked out when an eight foot tall green woman in a pantsuit shows up in court, it’s going to be the blind defense attorney, right?
We love Frank, but we’re good on his whole thing right now.
When he can come back: Around the same time people on the internet start demonstrating reading comprehension skills hitherto undreamt of.