Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige has said that Avengers: Infinity War is the end-chapter of the current franchise arc - which will have spanned a staggering 19 movies in the space of a decade. There is a clear sense of everything coming together in the debut trailer, which pulls together an insanely large collection of superheroes, and also brings the Avengers back to the city where they first fought off an alien invasion together: New York. With Thanos making his first appearance in a battle-torn midtown Manhattan, it looks like New York is getting leveled again - and that means some tough days ahead for the Defenders.
In the trailer, Peter Parker’s spider-sense is triggered by a large portal appearing in the sky above the city. Aerial shots show buildings on fire while Tony, Banner, Doctor Strange, and Wong stand in a rubble-filled street, defensive but in shock. A battered Loki steps over corpses and reveals a cosmic cube, while standing in what looks to be one of the destroyed buildings. When Thanos finally appears, it’s in a total war zone replete with flaming debris and nearly liquefied ruins. As important as New York is to the Avengers, it’s essentially its own character in the mini-universe of the Defenders - so how will the upcoming seasons of Netflix's six New York-set Marvel series (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Defenders and The Punisher) deal with the fallout?
Each member of the Defenders was influenced in some way by the mass destruction wrought when Loki's Chitauri army invaded New York in The Avengers. There have been numerous references to “The Incident,” and newspaper clippings detailing the damage were seen tacked onto bulletin boards. Iron Man and Captain America were alluded to, though never by name. As time went on, the strings of continuity became thinner and thinner (Avengers Tower is omitted from the New York City skyline in the Marvel/Netflix shows), and despite their close proximity to the action, none of the Defenders are set to cameo in Infinity War. To newer fans, it might even seem that the two exist in their own universes. However, to tell their story completely and correctly, there needs to be consequences to Thanos’ invasion.
Given the scope of the destruction shown in the trailer, the Netflix shows will need to acknowledge the fallout in order to maintain the bare minimum of continuity between the movie and TV sides of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Marvel movies have long struggled to properly convey the consequences of those huge thrilling battles (though Captain America: Civil War touched on them), but the Marvel/Netflix shows are at street-level and therefore arguably have a duty to show what's left behind when the dust clears and the Avengers have scattered again.
However, the exploration of the fallout probably won’t be as large a point as the original incident was. Accessibility is key (look at the X-Men in either comics or film to see how convoluted continuities can lead to problems). The Netflix shows do need to be able to stand on their own merits and have room to tell their own stories. As time goes on, each series will have its own unique complications to work out and may not have the time to supplement another story - nor should they be forced to. A balance will have to be reached in detailing the extent of the damage Thanos does, without completely disrupting the various story ongoing story arcs already in play on Netflix's Marvel shows. If nothing else, this will prove an interesting case study in just how connected - or disconnected - Marvel Studios and Marvel TV have become.
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018