If the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe rumours are to be believed, it’s out with the old and in with the *erm* old – because Netflix’s often-sidelined slate of superhero shows could be about to get a new lease of life.
A few years ago, as the MCU found its stride on the silver screen Netflix tried to build its own shared universe of shows with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Punisher, and a crossover miniseries called The Defenders (working with Marvel TV rather than Marvel Studios, who make the movies). Unfortunately, these vigilantes were kept at arm’s length by main MCU canon and the various shows started to slip into the realms of rotten reviews and cancellation question marks.
Now that the MCU is heading into its next chapter, the growing world of heroes and villains is charting pastures new with its own impressive line-up of Marvel Studios shows on Disney+. And inevitably, the reinvigorated roster of familiar faces and newcomers has led to speculation about whether Daredevil and co. could suit up once again. Speaking to Deadline, MCU overlord Kevin Feige commented “never say never” when asked about the old Defenders being resurrected under the franchise’s ever-expanding umbrella.
Whether there would be an appetite for such a revival is less clear – because while some of the Netflix series were popular, others were less beloved. For two examples, Iron Fist limped through two seasons and The Defenders bowed out after just one as the least-watched Marvel show on Netflix, meaning giving either of them another run of episodes would be a gamble at best.
However, Marvel’s shining jewel in the crown was Daredevil, and given season three’s overwhelmingly positive reception (97 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes), it was a genuine shock when Daredevil was axed. If any show was going to live again, Daredevil is a no-brainer, with the Krysten Ritter-starring Jessica Jones close behind.
Still, even if Marvel just brought back the more popular heroes it’s not just as simple as slotting them back into the pack and hoping everything will be hunky-dory. Things kicked off with Daredevil in 2015 and quickly set the tone for a more adult slate of Marvel stories, and despite the MCU having its own macabre moments, the Netflix shows were a million miles away from the candy-coated world of Avengers we’re used to.
Thankfully, there’s a potential solution in the form of Disney+’s Star brand – a platform with a specific focus on adult-orientated content that already hosts fairly gritty shows like 24. Feige’s recent tease that Deadpool 3 is on the way as an R-rated addition to the MCU also gives hope to the Defenders finding a new home on Star. It’s easy to see the Netflix shows sitting pretty alongside the foul-mouthed Deadpool 3 as part of Star’s adult-orientated big hitters.
But would this potential new home cause even more problems for Marvel’s “street-level” TV series?
For some, the Netflix shows were already a little too grounded and didn’t cross over enough with the sometimes fanciful world of the MCU. Then again, the Captain America movies have always been pretty realistic (comparatively) and Disney+’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier looks like it will follow suit. So, what makes the Netflix shows special and why would they have to be confined to Star instead of being with their brothers and sisters in arms on Disney+? Segregating the shows and characters would once again lead to the biggest problem Daredevil and the rest had – they just didn’t feel like MCU shows. Even Agents of SHIELD managed to nab Nick Fury and Lady Sif in the early days, while it eventually bowed out with Agent Carter’s Daniel Sousa as part of its cast.
An altogether more simple idea would be to pepper the characters from the Netflix shows throughout the series already coming to Disney+ to test the waters. Over the years, stars like Charlie Cox and Jon Bernthal have expressed an interest in suiting up once more, with hopeful reports suggesting Cox will be back as Matt Murdock for Jon Watts’ Spider-Man 3. while the latest whispers claim Krysten Ritter could reprise her role as Jessica Jones for the Tatiana Maslany-led She-Hulk.
By giving the Netflix shows a second chance in the form of cameos and larger parts in Disney+ shows/MCU movies, it’s a compromise to keep everyone happy.
Take Finn Jones’ Danny Rand/Iron Fist – hardly the best-loved member of the group, the ratings spoke for themselves, but nevertheless, it would be weird not to have him around if his fellow Defenders returned. The odd mention, or Danny popping over to Hell’s Kitchen for a cup of tea, could appease everyone. Importantly, the Defenders are all located in New York, meaning it’s easy to put any/all of them back into their own outings or a number of crossovers. Let’s also remember that the Big Apple is home to both Spider-Man and Doctor Strange.
If any of the above return castings are true, it means the MCU is already well on the way to amalgamating the Defenders back into the family. That being said, it’s a far cry from giving Daredevil season 4 the green light. Will Star become the new home of the Netflix outcasts, will the Defenders be welcomed to Disney+, or (much like their shows) are these characters destined to be left out in the cold like Edward Norton’s Hulk?
For now it’s unclear – though fans should note that a bunch of shows that were known as being niche are unlikely to be top of Feige’s to-do list. He reiterated that the shows already announced are a top priority when he told Deadline, “Well, certainly you’ve seen what we announced at Comic-Con a year and a half ago and on Disney Investor Day a few weeks ago, so that’s our focus.”
In other words, fans shouldn’t hold their breath to see the Defenders back in action in force – even if reports of their untimely ends may have been a little exaggerated after all.
Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, The Punisher and The Defenders are streaming on Netflix. Want something else to watch? Check out our full TV Guide.