After years of confusion, Marvel Studios has confirmed that shows like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Agents of SHIELD are not part of mainstream MCU continuity — something that is at once utterly unsurprising, and at odds with the way that some of these projects were promoted (and, indeed, made) originally. Remember when ABC and Marvel TV promoted Agents of SHIELD by promising that “everything is connected”? Turns out, not so much.
There’s more going on here than Marvel Studios’ head Kevin Feige being overly possessive about MCU canon, however; although Marvel Studios’ output is by no means insignificant — here’s a watch order to emphasize that fact — the collective works of Marvel TV is similarly massive, consisting of more than 30 seasons of programming with varying degrees of connection to the canonical MCU. Remember, Agents of SHIELD started as a direct spin-off of the first Avengers movie, complete with two long running MCU characters showing up in that first season; at the same time, there are other Marvel TV shows that are in some way part of Fox’s X-Men universe, or at least thematically connected to it.
Taken as a whole, Marvel TV’s output across its eight-year existence is a treasure trove of Marvel-adjacent concepts, characters, and storytelling that touches on, and in some cases, utterly contradicts MCU canon (Good luck trying to make the Kree thing work between Captain Marvel and Agents of SHIELD); for a studio that’s struggling with keeping its own official canon straight — how many years after Avengers did that Spider-Man movie happen? — and also trying not to burn through material too quickly, it only makes sense that Marvel Studios is in no rush to keep the Marvel TV shows in continuity. Who needs that hassle?
That’s not to say that Marvel is completely ignoring them, as the appearances of both Vincent D’Onofrio and Charlie Cox as Wilson Fisk and Matt Murdock, respectively, demonstrate. While it might not be exactly the same version of the characters audiences had earlier grown attached to, Marvel’s willingness to take what works from other people’s efforts and simply transport it over wholesale is almost admirably blunt, and a sign that fans need not be too upset at their favorites not being transported over to the core MCU timeline just yet.
Yes, I said “just yet” — because that’s the other piece of this puzzle that needs to be acknowledged: the very concept of MCU canon is a very malleable one right now, thanks to the multiverse of things. Movies like Spider-Man: No Way Home and The Marvels have demonstrated ably that Marvel’s “canon” now includes… basically anything and everything it wants to, thanks to the existence of alternate realities and timelines. Sony’s two different Spider-Men? Done. Fox’s X-Men movies? Sure! Why not?
As we get closer to the heart of The Multiverse Saga, and Kang’s plans continue to come to fruition, it feels almost impossible that characters from the Marvel TV shows will not make some kind of reappearance, at least for a brief cameo — and, who knows? Maybe they’ll get to crossover between realities and stick around, as tends to be the case in many multiverses stories. Maybe fans shouldn’t be too worried about whether or not any Marvel TV series are canonical for awhile. Let’s check back in and see if that’s still the case after Avengers: Secret Wars hits theaters.
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