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Marvel Studios is known for their secrecy, from keeping major spoilers under wraps until the last possible moment to monitoring what their stars say and, sometimes, even altering trailer footage to avoid giving away a key piece of intel. It's hard enough to keep all this stuff secret from an audience that's eager for every little detail, but it's perhaps even harder to keep surprises in check when you're dealing with multiple creative leads working on several series and feature films at once.
Somehow, though, Marvel usually pulls it off, and we know that because the creators of one of the studio's streaming series had no idea that they'd share an intriguing connection with a new Marvel film, even though the big moments were revealed just days apart.
**Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Spider-Man: No Way Home and the season finale of Hawkeye.**
As the penultimate episode of Hawkeye teased, and as fans long suspected, the Disney+ streaming series turned out to feature the stealth return of Vincent D'Onofrio as The Kingpin, marking his official entry into the wider MCU after three seasons of work on Netflix's Daredevil and seemingly setting the stage for more adventures for the iconic supervillain. Wilson Fisk made his full return last week in the Hawkeye season finale, battling Kate Bishop and confronting Maya Lopez for a game-changing final moment that has major implications for the upcoming Echo spinoff series. The Kingpin reveal feels, in hindsight, like something Hawkeye was building to from the beginning, and for fans of the Netflix series who've been waiting to see more connective tissue with the wider MCU for those characters, it felt long overdue. But it wasn't the only big Netflix-related reveal of the month.
Just days before the Hawkeye season finale, Spider-Man: No Way Home premiered and featured another long-suspected, long-hoped for return. With Peter Parker in legal hot water, his Aunt May called in none other than Hell's Kitchen's own Matt Murdock, bringing Charlie Cox back to the role he filled on Daredevil and even showing off the character's enhanced reflexes. The scene was brief, but it filled fans with hope that the Devil of Hell's Kitchen will be around more often in the future.
So, we had a Daredevil return in Hawkeye and a Daredevil return in No Way Home, just days apart. Clearly Marvel Studios had a plan there, and clearly that plan was kept secret from fans until the reveals paid off, but obviously the creators involved in both stories knew that they were coordinating these reveals. Right?
Not necessarily. Speaking to Variety about his work on the series, Hawkeye director Rhys Thomas explained that, while Marvel executives did clue him in on The Kingpin reveal as it became clear that's where the show was headed, he had no idea that it would coincide with a Daredevil cameo on the big screen.
"The Kingpin of it all was not on the cusp when I started the show, but I feel like his presence was never far," Thomas said. "Like, we were always circling this other 'big bad guy,' but there was a moment when a Marvel executive came over and said, 'You know, this is what we’re gonna do about that.' As far as a larger plan and a crossover with Spider-Man: No Way Home, I did not know that they would do that. They do a wonderful job at Marvel of keeping everybody quite siloed, and I think they do this for your own security. People seem to sort of assume that there is this room where everything is all mapped out, but, no, they keep you kind of focused on your own show and only give you the information that they feel they need to give."
Like Marvel Comics, Marvel Studios has become a vast entity dealing with numerous intertwining stories at the same time, while also juggling various creative teams responsible for trying to tell the most satisfying standalone stories possible. So, of course, sometimes there are bits of information that are on a need-to-know basis, and since Daredevil was nowhere near the action of Hawkeye (that we know of), it makes sense that Team Hawkeye was kept in the dark, just to reduce the chance of someone letting information slip. As for how that works in terms of being a storyteller in a larger continuity, Thomas just looked at it as an exercise in staying in the moment.
"The wonderful team at Marvel helps keep you honest on that front," Thomas said. "I learned early on that the best thing I could do about that was not to worry too much about it and just try to keep doing what I could with Kate, Clint, Yelena and all of those characters to do them justice on their own show and to treat it as such. These events are only happening for them at this moment at Christmas time. Luckily, I could keep that in focus, and when the legacy stuff or the multiverse stuff needed to come in you always had someone at Marvel to help out or to at least keep an eye on it."
Of course, as Marvel rolls out more and more streaming series to exist alongside its films, and as the multiverse rears its head in stories like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the MCU continuity will only get more complicated, so maybe it's for the best that everyone just focuses on their individual characters.