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From Daredevil to Jessica Jones: How Marvel could weave its Netflix heroes back into the MCU
It's time for the Defenders to return.
A few days ago, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige made a lot of fans happy when he confirmed that, if and when Daredevil returns to a live-action property, the character will be played by none other than Charlie Cox, who embodied the blind superhero and his alter ego Matt Murdock on the Netflix series of the same name for three seasons. Throw in the fan theory that Cox is actually already in the Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer, and rumblings of the Kingpin potentially returning to the MCU via Hawkeye, and everything seems primed for a triumphant revival of the company's street-level heroes who previous took the spotlight on Netflix.
At this point, it's been more than two years since the last season of a Marvel Netflix series -- the third season of Jessica Jones -- hit the streaming service, and until Feige mentioned Cox, there'd be no official word on when any of those characters might return. The series were nominally set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but apart from occasional mentions of the Battle of New York and allusions to "the green guy," the shows largely stuck to their own relatively contained New York City adventures. Still, the nature of the MCU means that could change at any moment, and those characters could come rumbling into the wider MCU. So, with fresh whispers of a revival for some or all of those characters, let's talk about how that could happen.
Let's start with the character on everyone's mind at the moment, and the one who seems most primed to make a return to the MCU, Daredevil. As many fans have already theorized, his easiest entry point could very well be through one of his closest allies in the comics, Spider-Man. It's very easy to imagine Matt Murdock walking into an NYPD precinct where Peter Parker is being held and decided he's going to represent the young hero, as many viewers of the Spider-Man: No Way Home trailers have already pointed out, and even if Murdock is not in No Way Home, that could certainly happen somewhere down the line. But let's just say that it doesn't. Where else does Daredevil fit into the bigger picture.
Well, it's also very easy to imagine Matt Murdock working in a courtroom across from Jennifer Walters in the upcoming She-Hulk series, but it's just as easy to imagine Daredevil stalking New York's rooftops alongside the likes of Moon Knight. But hey, if you're determined to see him on the big-screen, there's hope beyond Spider-Man: Matt Murdock could also show up alongside some of Marvel's other most famous New York City heroes: The Fantastic Four.
Like fellow Marvel Netflix hero Luke Cage, Jessica Jones isn't a costume and alter ego person, even if she might have been once upon a time. That makes it slightly harder to fit her into to certain key aspects of the Marvel Universe, but she's by no means unwelcome in the wider MCU. Her private investigator skills and street smart demeanor would make her a perfect fit in something like Moon Knight, for example, and her exploits with the Defenders could even make her a potential figure of admiration for someone like a young Kamala Khan as she begins her heroic journey.
She-Hulk also feels like a great place where Jessica could come in and offer a more cynical view of the superheroic gig, but given some fairly recent comic book developments, I'm pitching a different notion for Jess: What if we get a second season of Hawkeye focused more deliberately on Kate Bishop's rise as a hero, and emulate the recent Hawkeye Kate Bishop comics run by placing Jess in her life as a kind of mentor figure? It's very easy to see the buddy comedy dynamic at work there.
Of all the Marvel Netflix heroes, Luke Cage is the one who seems like the best fit to walk in just about any world he wants to. He's got powers that make him feel like a formidable part of any team-up, he handles people better than Jess, and he doesn't have to worry about the secret identity stuff like Daredevil. So, where does that place him in the current state of the MCU? There are, of course, obvious contenders like She-Hulk and Moon Knight here, but let's think a little bigger for a second and imagine that Wakanda's ties to America are still a big part of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Whether he's eager or reluctant to join in with the Wakandans, he'd be an interesting part of that sequel, and he'd be just as interesting in a film like Fantastic Four as part of the pre-existing New York reality that the team will have to merge with. Then, of course, there's the even bigger possibility: A Heroes for Hire series that would re-team him with old friends like Danny Rand and Misty Knight, or putting MCU Luke in a position to do what comics Luke did once upon a time, and serve as leader of a New Avengers team.
Iron Fist is a complicated place at the end of his Netflix run, because...well, he's not necessarily Iron Fist anymore. Danny Rand has taken to some globe-traveling adventures of his own, while his girlfriend Colleen Wing has taken up the mantle back home in New York City. That means there are a lot of plenty places for these characters to go, with the most obvious fit being a pairing of some kind with Shang-Chi and his world of martial arts.
Barring that, there's of course the possibility of a Heroes for Hire show, one or both of the Danny/Colleen pairing turning up in Moon Knight or She-Hulk, or even a New Avengers team. My personal favorite possibility: Leave Danny out of things for a little while, get Colleen and Misty together again, and do a New York-set Daughters of the Dragon series.
So, this is by far the trickiest integration to make among the Netflix heroes, because The Punisher's whole deal makes him complicated amid the MCU's stories of redemption, triumphant heroes, and overcoming pain to serve the greater good. Though he occasionally does team up with other heroes in the world of Marvel Comics, The Punisher isn't really concerned with being heroic. He's concerned with...well, punishing people, and Jon Bernthal himself has noted that he's in no way interested in a new adaptation that would take away the character's edge.
There's a good reason for that: Frank Castle himself would tell you that he's not a hero, that he's not meant to be emulated, and that he carries a pain and a rage within him that he wouldn't wish on anyone. With that in mind, there's an argument to be made that The Punisher shouldn't return to live-action at all. If he does, though, he deserves to be able to do it on true Frank Castle terms, standing alone, in a series of film that allows the full darkness and pain of the character to come through. If you're going to do The Punisher, it's better if it works as an all-or-nothing deal.