The Marvel Television Universe

Agents of SHIELD (2013 -     )
Agent Carter (2015 - 2016) Daredevil (2015 -     )
The Defenders (2017 -     )
The Inhumans (2017)
Jessica Jones (2015 -     )
Luke Cage (2016 -     )
Iron Fist (2017) The Punisher (2017 -     )
Type: Shared Universe
Group 2

    This could easily be a dozen or more pages detailing each show's connection to each other show. But some of the shows are so emmeshed with the others rather than a single crossover...and others are only distantly related with no immediate connection to the others that it just seem simpler to sort the whole mess out in one go.

    It all starts with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel created an Iron Man movie which led to ten years and going of interconnected superhero movies. If you are unaware of this you must live in a cave...that gets the internet. The movies were so successful Marvel decided to expand their movie universe to TV. First up was Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

    Agent Phil Coulson had been a recurring character in the Marvel movies starting with Iron Man and going through the first Avengers movie, where he was killed off. His death was an important moment bonding the heroic Avengers together. But the one thing that can defeat death on TV is the possibility of successful TV spin off. Just ask the Bionic Woman. Marvel wanted to do a show about the spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. and so Couslon was resurrected to lead a team of young spies on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. His resurrection was never mention in the films so you have to wonder if The Avengers ever learned their buddy un-died (given the amount of people the next Avengers movie has to un-kill, Phil will soon be in good company). Airing on ABC, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been a bit of a mixed bag. The early seasons could be a little flat an often had to write their plots to jive with what was happening in the movies. But as time went on, the show generally got better and developed an identity of its own. It also nearly had a spin off of its own with two characters being written off with the intent of them being spun off. Instead with the spin off nixed those actors just ended up out of work. The show also ended up a good place for Marvel to bring to the screen a number of comic book characters who otherwise might never have left the pages of the comics.

Agent Carter

    ABC continued their Marvel spy universe with another spin off directly from the movies. Captain America: The First Avenger told the origin story of Captain America in World War 2 and introduced the character of American secret agent Peggy Carter, who was also Cap's love interest. At the end of the movie Cap ends up in modern day America. Peggy was left to live out her days in the past. Agent Carter would tell her story. It was unique in that it was one of the few female-led "superhero" properties, even though technically Peggy was a spy and not a superhero. Additionally, being set in the 40s it allowed the show to play up the sexism Peggy had to stand up to so that she could help save the world. As with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. the show also allowed Marvel to introduce many characters that might otherwise not have been used in the movies.

The Inhumans

    ABC's third Marvel series was actually supposed to be a Marvel movie. The Inhumans was about a superpowered race living on the moon. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had indirectly set this series up. In Marvel Comics, mutants, people born with powers, was a big thing. However as far as the Marvel Cinematic Universe went, they could not use mutants because Marvel had given other movie studios the rights to use their mutant characters. To replace mutants Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. used Inhumans. See, Inhumans were regular people until exposed to the mysterious Terrigen Mists at which point, if you were at all Inhuman, you got powers. If you weren't, you died horribly. So on S.H.I.E.L.D. they had a long running plot with people coming into contact with the mists and getting super powers...or dying horribly. The Inhumans show dealt with the original Inhuman society. It started with them living hidden on the moon and the royal family facing a coup that caused them to be transported to Earth where the fun began. And by fun I mean a mess of a show.

    Again, The Inhumans was supposed to be a movie. I assumed S.H.I.E.L.D. talked them up to raise awareness of the brand but maybe it just pissed off the film division and caused them to pawn The Inhumans off on TV. Whatever the case demotion from movie to TV wasn't a good sign. With a lower budget they had to make concessions to save money. For instance, the king of the Inhumans Blackbolt, whose merest whisper was loud enough to deafen you, had a wife named Medusa. Medusa's power was a long mane of prehensile hair. Her hair acted like an extra limb that could reach out and grab things. Prehensile hair equals a lot of special effects money. So very quickly the villains chopped all her hair off. Because if you're doing a Hulk TV show, the first thing fans want is to see David Banner put on mood stabilizer so you never see The Hulk. Additionally, as I recall, in the comics they established that cutting off Medusa's hair would be the painful equivalent of someone having a limb hacked off. But screw it, cut her hair off. That haircut though kind of symbolizes though the show itself: they had something amazing and almost magical, they hacked it down for practical reasons and instead of amazing magic we got a confused sad bald-chick of a TV show. It was not well received and lasted a single season.

    While ABC was having mixed success with its Marvel shows, the online streaming service was having much better success with its roster of Marvel shows. While ABC focused on international spies and extra terrestrial royalty, Netflix focused on the gritty street level heroes of Marvel's New York City. They were less reliant on insane special effects and more about bone crunching action.


    First out of the gate was Daredevil. Matt Murdoch as a boy was blinded when toxic chemicals splashed in his eyes, as often happens. The chemicals in addition to blinding him gifted him with a radar sense allowing him to "see" with sound. The mysterious man Stick then trained Matt in the martial arts. As an adult, Matt Murdoch split his time between being a blind lawyer and taking to the streets of Hell's Kitchen as the vigilante Daredevil. Instead of impressing with effects, the show impressed with real well choreographed fight action. In the first season they borrowed a move from the John Woo movie Hard Boiled, staging a long action sequence with Daredevil battling his way through a building against an insane amount of foes with no cuts. So choreographed or not, the actor really had to do all that fighting in real time with none of the players making a mistake. It was amazing and exhausting.

    Daredevil established that it was for sure part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe by making oblique references to events in films like The Avengers, with people making references to "the incident" meaning the alien invasion of New York as well as characters like Captain America. At the same time it set the stage for the shared world of the Netflix Marvel shows by introducing characters that would pop up in the other shows. Hospital nurse Claire Temple is so ubiquitous in all the shows that you could almost consider all the shows as one series telling Claire Temple's story.

Jessica Jones

    Daredevil was followed up by Jessica Jones. It was based on the comic series Alias but the series couldn't be called that because there had already been a series called Alias about a kick ass heroine. In the comics, Jessica Jones was a former superheroine who quit being a costumed hero due to some traumatic event. She instead became a cynical, jaded private detective. That likewise became the premise of the series. The comic book's initial run ended with the reveal of the traumatic event changed Jessica's life. The Netflix series started with that reveal. As a hero Jessica fell victim to the villain Kilgrave, aka The Purple Man, who had the power to control people's minds and make them do his will. Kilgrave had taken control of Jessica Jones and turned her into his love slave, destroying her sense of self and security. Season 1 featured Jessica dealing with the return of her tormentor. Also paralleling the comics, it introduced the character of Luke Cage, aka Power Man, as her love interest. Nurse Claire Temple was also part of the show, acting much like she did in Daredevil as the heroes' go-to medical help. Jessica Jones first season nailed it as a follow up to Daredevil.

Luke Cage

    Following his introduction in Jessica Jones, the series Luke Cage followed the black hero in his continuing adventures. His origin story had Luke imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit and allowing himself to be subjected to scientific experiments to gain an early release. Those experiments gave him invulnerable skin and super strength. In the comics he became the hero Power Man. The Netflix series left him simply named Luke Cage. The show did reference his original comic book look of metal head gear and a yellow shirt while detailing his origin story, with the metal head gear becoming part of the science equipment used on him and him then stealing a yellow shirt while on the run. The series.

    Luke Cage was maybe the first really great superhero series to focus on a black action hero. Black Panther might be the first major black movie hero (where's the love for Shaq's movie Steel?) but Luke Cage owned the small screen. The show dove into Luke's past while also dropping him into a mob war in New York between various powerful black villains. While Jessica Jones did not make the leap to Luke's new show (he had moved to a different area of the city), Claire Temple was there again as sidekick and medic. Luke Cage was awesome.

Iron Fist

    Now, in the comics, Luke Cage ends up forming a business called Heroes For Hire with another hero named Iron Fist. Iron Fist was Netflix next series and it was their first clunker. The series was not good.

    Iron Fist was Danny Rand, a rich, blonde, New York white guy. As a young boy Danny is lost and stranded in the mystical city of K'un L'un. Raised there, he learns the inhabitants' seemingly magical martial arts style eventually earning the title of being their protector, The Iron Fist. But, of course, he ends up heading back to New York, reclaiming his place at the head of his family's company, and beating up bad guys.

    When the series was first announced, a lot of people were upset that the character was being left as a blonde white guy. With so many white heroes already out there and the black community getting black heroes, why not make Iron Fist an Asian character? I do understand the point but I actually think having Iron Fist remain white actually allows the dramatization of these very concerns. Part of the DNA of the character is that this white boy was not supposed to be The Iron Fist. He grows up in this hidden city with a ton of other kids who are all Asian, who all dream of growing up to be The Iron Fist, and this pretty white guy shows up and steals that dream from them, causing resentment and anger from friends he had grown up with in K'un L'un. Part of the series is one of those friends trying to decide whether to remain friends with him or kill him. His being white could serve as an excellent way to dig into and explore some racial issues.


    The sad thing is you don't have to go to him being white for a reason to have a problem with the show. It sucks regardless. Quite frankly Asian actors should be glad they dodged the bullet of being this hero. My reason for not liking the show is that this version of Iron Fist is annoying. A big dull dud. The show tells the story of Danny's return to New York and battling old friends to regain control of the Rand Corporation. He has been missing and presumed dead so no one believes he IS Danny Rand. Meanwhile, he's also Iron Fist and having to fight the mysterious Hand organization (also a Daredevil foe).

    The show's action is not as on point as Daredevil and, oddly for a martial arts show, not every episode was action-packed. There is an episode where Danny's corporate enemies have him drugged and locked in an asylum and for a whole episode we watch him doped up and locked up. So slow.

    For me, the interpretation of Danny Rand is biggest problem. In the comics, Danny is charming. Maybe Netflix felt that was too much. He's already super rich and super powered. Maybe they felt making him charismatic would be too much. Like he needed a flaw. So they made him a bit dark, depressed, and introspective. All it did was make him insufferable. Find another way to flaw him, man. What they did is actually the exact opposite of what the movies did with the Marvel characters. The movies took the dark edge OFF characters. Tony Stark was an angry drunk in the comics. Dr. Strange as guardian of the mystic arts was very serious. The movies have both of them charming and quippy like Spider-Man. Hank Pym, aka Ant-Man, was a wife abuser so they used a whole different guy as Ant-Man who was troubled yet charming. But for some reason, Danny Rand who was fun to start with had to bee made into an energy sucking bummer.

    So much wrong with this. Like Danny Rand, Iron Fist should have been fun but instead was a bummer.

The Defenders

    Just as the movies introduced Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye to then join them into one team in The Avengers, Netflix decided to make the same move with their heroes, bringing together Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist to form the Marvel hero team The Defenders. People were pumped for this, especially with the news that fantasy/sci-fi queen Sigourney Weaver would appear in the series as one of the major villains. The end results were...okay. I mean, of course it was fun seeing all the heroes together. That said, I think this is where the Netflix model hits a snag. Alone, the heroes could be on adventures not requiring too epic of a look and feel. The whole point is they are street level heroes fighting in the real world. However the only reason to gather heroes together is to fight a bigger, more epic threat. The show does put forth a bigger story with New York in peril and giant magical creatures buried beneath the city and possibly stirring. But while the story had a more epic scale the look and execution didn't feel bigger. It felt like the other shows. It needed to feel bigger. Not a complete failure but the results were such that a second season of The Defenders seems unlikely.

The Punisher

    I'm a bit more blind on this one. I have yet to watch the Punisher Netflix series.

    The Punisher is a hugely popular Marvel character. Frank Castle was a military veteran whose family was accidentally killed in a mob conflict that also put a bullet in Frank's head. Frank became the vigilante The Punisher. Wearing a skull emblem on his chest, Frank began hunting down and killing those responsible for his family's death. Following this set up in the second season of Daredevil, The Punisher was spun off into his own series. Again, have yet to see it but I'm betting it involves shady criminals who have bullety punishing inflicted on them. The Punisher is also the first series not to feature Claire Temple as a regular.

    What lies ahead for Marvel Cinematic Universe shows? We'll see. There are actually a number of other Marvel shows on the air but it's still in question whether some of these are part of the MCU or not. Hulu's The Runaways could be part of it but no specific connection has been shown. The upcoming Cloak & Dagger also may or may not tie in. The problem is, again, that the mutant section of Marvel at the moment is still its own separate universe. So the mutant-based Legion and The Gifted are both likely not in the MCU. Actually Cloak & Dagger at times were tied into the mutant part of Marvel Comics so I'm not sure in terms of rights which Marvel media world they fall under.

Other Marvel TV/Cinematic World Crossovers
Arrested Development and Avengers: Infinity War

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