Marvel: A New Complete Guide to the TV Universe

Marvel Defenders 1 cover promo

Wow – what a difference a single year makes.

The last time we did a complete rundown on the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s pantheon of television properties, it was an entirely different landscape. Since the first series had yet to be cancelled due to low ratings, Marvel TV, Disney, and their various broadcast/streaming partners seemed to be more eager to discuss all the possibilities of future projects, no matter how far along (or not) the development process they may have been.

The past several months have changed that. With Agent Carter falling first, it wasn’t long at all before other series also got the plug pulled from them, though all of these were no further than the pilot stage. But it hasn’t been all doom and gloom! In fact, the past several months have seen a string of positive developments, as well, including the announcement of new properties and new season pick-ups of nearly every single pre-existent show.

Given all this, we figured it was well past time we updated and revised our Complete Guide to Marvel TV. How else, after all, can you keep track of all 13 series?

Currently in production

Agents of SHIELD

Agents of SHIELD - Agent May poster

Number of seasons: four

Number of episodes per season: 22

First premiered: 09.24.13

Network: ABC

The first television series to be set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Agents of SHIELD still remains the flagship show, thanks in part to its ever-changing premise and in part to its continual (if one-sided) interaction with the movies, which has made it the very heart of the MCU.

The series follows Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), the only main character to hail from the filmic side of the universe, and his newly-assembled team of top-notch SHIELD agents as they take on some of the most important and sensitive missions for the spy organization – including helping to rebuild it from scratch following its implosion during the events of 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Along the way, a number of familiar faces make appearances - including Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander), and President Matthew Ellis (William Sadler). Also making an appearance are a string of heroes and villains from the comics who would never otherwise get their chance to shine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe sun, such as Deathlok (J. August Richards), Hive (Brett Dalton) and, most recently, Ghost Rider (Gabriel Luna).


Daredevil season 2 - Daredevil, Punisher and Elektra

Number of seasons: two (third picked up)

Number of episodes per season: 13

First premiered: 04.10.15

Network: Netflix

The cluster of six Netflix shows constitute a sort of pocket universe within the larger MCU, focusing on the street-level crime of New York City that such figures as Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans) don’t have time to bother with, thanks to their efforts combating international terrorism and alien invasions and all.

Daredevil is the leader of the gritty pack, following blind-lawyer-by-day Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) who just so happens to double as the vigilante-by-night Daredevil. His struggles with the moral ambiguity of his new chosen profession help to further distance this Netflix corner from the likes of Agents of SHIELD, but so do some of the adversaries he comes across, such as Kingpin (Vincent D'Onofrio), who is arguably the most developed and fascinating Marvel villain of them all, and the Punisher (Jon Bernthal), who ends up becoming an (uneasy) ally in the ongoing war on organized crime.

Daredevil not only establishes this new PG-13 take on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it also, somewhat ironically, starts to sneak in hints of a supernatural threat lurking behind the scenes – one that looks to become an increasingly major component of the Netflix series’ future.

Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones Season 2 Directors

Number of seasons: one (second picked up)

Number of episodes per season: 13

First premiered: 11.20.15

Network: Netflix

The hard-drinking, hard-charging Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is eager to put her past behind her, including her time spent as an emotional, physical, and sexual slave to Kilgrave (David Tennant). She now attempts to focus on her profession of being a private eye and on her newfound boyfriend, Luke Cage (Mike Colter) – despite the fact that his backstory is tragically intertwined with hers.

Despite its shared location of Hell’s Kitchen with its predecessor, Jessica Jones is more character piece than action-adventure, though Jessica’s mysteriously-acquired superpower of increased strength means that there’s typically no shortage of fisticuffs, either. It also establishes how the various Netflix productions can interact, as it features a few guest-star appearances from Daredevil’s main and recurring cast both.

By the completion of the first season, Jessica finds herself something of a celebrity – even if an infamous one in the eyes of the city government – with her Alias Investigations booming and with the inevitable reality of her having to work (and open up) more with other people looming large.

Luke Cage

Mike Colter as Luke Cage in Jessica Jones

Number of seasons: one (second picked up)

Number of episodes per season: 13

First premiered: 09.30.16

Network: Netflix

After seeing his life as he knows it in Hell’s Kitchen completely unravel, Luke Cage decides to pack his bags and head off to Harlem, where he can eke out a new, quiet life for himself. His efforts at remaining anonymous fail here, however, after local gun-runners and drug traffickers take their war into his private corner of the neighborhood. By the time the invincible and super-strong Luke Cage finishes with them, all of Harlem looks to him as the ultimate of superheroes and a source of unbridled inspiration. Unfortunately for Luke, the US Marshals also end up taking notice of him, and they are eager to have him finish serve a prison sentence for a crime that he was wrongly convicted of.

What makes Luke Cage such a unique part of the MCU is its strong cultural and ethnic identity, ranging from its cast to its shooting locations to, most enjoyably of all, its music. And in the show’s biggest surprise, it’s the single Netflix season that has the most connections to all the rest of its overarching universe, from references to Justin Hammer’s (Sam Rockwell) ongoing weapons development to sharing a main cast member with Daredevil in the form of Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson).

Iron Fist

Iron Fist Netlix Series

Number of seasons: one

Number of episodes per season: 13

First premiered: 03.17.2017

Network: Netflix

The fourth and final of the main Netflix superheroes, Iron Fist follows Danny Rand (Finn Jones), a young man who has spent the past 15 years overseas training in the mystical ways of the Iron Fist, which allows him to channel and focus his chi to devastating effect. The series opens with Danny making his long-awaited return to New York to reclaim his family business, but he quickly realizes that he will need to put his nearly-superhuman martial-arts abilities to work in order to save the city from a looming threat.

Though not yet released, Iron Fist has already demonstrated the prime spot it will play in the Netflix shows’ ever-growing mythology; not only will a number of other characters from all three previous series make an appearance (most notably Claire Temple, who once again will become a main member of the cast), it will also serve as the direct precursor to The Defenders, much as the original Thor teed up The Avengers.

The Defenders

Marvel's The Defenders team

Number of seasons: one

Number of episodes per season: eight

First premiered: summer 2017

Network: Netflix

The Defenders is the culmination of Netflix’s carefully-orchestrated plans, the TV version of the Avengers crossover films which sees Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist all joining forces and forging a new team.

The premise looks a little something like this: now that the four separate New York superheroes have each been established, and now that the true nature of the (supernatural) threat that is due to descend on the city has been sufficiently uncovered, each of them will need to come together and learn how to work as a team in order to save millions of innocent lives. Along the way, a huge number of characters from the five previous seasons will join in to lend a helping hand – including, if we’re not mistaken, the lone-wolf Punisher himself.

The Defenders promises to be the most exciting chapter of Marvel TV, and it just might even end up going down in history as the most ambitious superhero television project yet.

The Inhumans

Inhumans Royal Family

Number of seasons: one

Number of episodes per season: eight

First premiered: 09.04.17 (IMAX), 09.26.17 (television)

Network: ABC

After several years of Marvel Studios attempting to develop its increasingly-important Inhumans property as a film, the surprise announcement came last November that it would be making the transition over to the small screen – well, sort of. It turns out that the first two episodes of the new series will debut first in IMAX, marking the first time that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has expanded to the biggest screen of them all – or the first time that IMAX has worked out this type of coordinated schedule with a television production.

While the Inhumans themselves have been steadfastly established and developed over the past four years on Agents of SHIELD, making them into a globally-known (and highly controversial) presence, that show has stayed resolutely away from the part-aliens’/part-humans’ Royal Family, an eccentric group of enhanced individuals who rule from an ancient, secret city. The Inhumans will follow these characters, although we don’t yet know where on the Marvel timeline the show will fall, or how closely – if at all – it will cross over with SHIELD.

The Punisher

Marvel's The Punisher TV show casting

Number of seasons: one

Number of episodes per season: 13

First premiered: TBA 2017

Network: Netflix

Though not part of the original Defenders game plan, executives at Marvel, Disney, and Netflix were so impressed with Jon Bernthal’s performance as the anti-hero Frank Castle, they were already getting the paperwork ready for a spinoff series before Daredevil’s second season premiered. Once fan reactions corroborated their own excitement, it didn’t take long at all for the trigger to be pulled (no pun intended).

Not much is known just yet about how, exactly, The Punisher will play out, but we do know that yet another major character will be shared between the Netflix series – in this case, Daredevil’s Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), who has already proven herself to be Castle’s most devoted friend and ally.

A few more important points to remember: this series marks the first time that the streaming service will debut three Marvel seasons in one year (Punisher will probably bow sometime in November), making it mirror the new movie release schedule, and perhaps making it the template for all subsequent years. Additionally, this could be considered the first entry of Netflix’s “Phase II,” marking the next round of series/seasons that will eventually culminate in another Defenders miniseries.

Cloak and Dagger

Cloak & Dagger - Underrated Marvel Netflix

Number of seasons: one

Number of episodes per season: N/A

First premiered: TBA 2018

Network: Freeform

Much like The Inhumans, the initial announcement for Cloak and Dagger was a lightning bolt out of nowhere. And not just because of the property itself – this marks the first Marvel production for Freeform, the channel that was, until just recently, known as ABC Family.

Unlike Inhumans, however, Cloak and Dagger has encountered nothing but delays and uncertainties in the nine months since it was announced. The good news is that this patch of bad luck might be coming to an end, as Freeform and Marvel have finally landed a showrunner and should start casting soon.

The show will follow the titular superheroes Cloak (who can teleport and make objects intangible) and Dagger (who can create light daggers and heal individuals) in a coming-of-age love story. This premise is the reason why Freeform was selected as the venue over traditional ABC; what remains unknown is if it’ll feature heavy cross-pollination with Agents of SHIELD or whether it’ll go the Netflix route and stick mainly to its own narrative guns.


Agent Carter

Hayley Atwell wants an Agent Carter season 3

Number of seasons: two

Number of episodes per season: eight to 10

First premiered: 01.06.15

Date cancelled: 05.12.16

Network: ABC

Agent Carter was meant as a follow-up to 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, following SSR Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) as she not only attempts to get over the loss of the love of her life, Captain Steve Rogers, but also as she tries to assimilate into a post-World War II male-dominated society.

The series intended to show the eventual transition from the wartime SSR to the modern-day SHIELD, and Carter’s own evolution from mere field agent to co-director. Though it never made it that far, it did manage to plant a number of other MCU elements that would blossom in the present, such as tracing the beginnings of the Black Widow and Winter Soldier programs and marking the first chronological interaction with alternate dimensions, something which Doctor Strange has recently capitalized on.

Given all the lose story threads – including a cliffhanger ending in which one of the major characters may or may not be dead – fans are hopeful that an Agent Carter miniseries or telefilm will be produced, to air either on ABC or on Disney’s newest close business partner, Netflix.

Most Wanted

Marvel's Most Wanted Logo Art & More Casting Revealed

Number of seasons: N/A

Number of episodes per season: N/A

First premiered: N/A

Date cancelleld: 05.12.16

Network: ABC

Originally introduced as main players in Agents of SHIELD’s second season, the characters of Agent Bobbi Morse (played by Adrianne Palicki and known as the Avenger Mockingbird in the comics) and mercenary-for-hire Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) were written off of that series in the third season so that they could carry their very own spinoff. (This was a move that wasn’t done lightly; the two extremely popular characters were in talks to star in their own show for at least a full year beforehand.)

Now out of SHIELD’s employ, the divorced-but-on-again lovers would have been forced to seek refuge from all their many enemies who are now freely able to come after them – hence the title of Most Wanted – by attaching themselves to the rogue adventurer Dominic Fortune (Delroy Lindo). In addition to the tight banter and romantic tension between the two leads, the thrust of the show would have revolved around the moral dubiousness of Bob and Hunter’s new position and of Mr. Fortune’s enigmatic agenda.

After ordering a pilot, ABC eventually declined to move forward to a series commitment, perhaps unsure of the spinoff’s rather undefined premise or turned off by Agent Carter’s abysmal ratings (or, just perhaps, because of a change in ABC’s executive leadership).

Trapped in development hell

Damage Control

Damage Control TV Series

Number of seasons: N/A

Number of episodes per season: N/A

First premiered: N/A

Network: ABC

The first of what would have been two proposed half-hour sitcoms set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (no, we have no idea what the other series would have been about, so please don’t ask), Damage Control would’ve marked brand-new territory for the MCU, but not for the Marvel comics universe: Damage Control is actually a slew of miniseries that follow a construction company that is sent in to clean up the mess that all the various superpowered battles leave in their wake. (The latest volume was specifically set after the comics’ version of Civil War, which would’ve made the TV counterpart perfectly timed last summer, after the third Captain America film dropped.)

As if the premise weren’t inherently humorous enough, the pedigree of the writer-producers that Marvel and ABC had already accumulated would’ve been more than sufficient to send this one over the top – the showrunner on tap was none other than Ben Karlin, who has served on both Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and ABC’s own Modern Family. Here’s to hoping that the studio can still pull this one together – and soon.


John Ridley Marvel

Number of seasons: N/A

Number of episodes per season: N/A

First premiered: N/A

Network: ABC

What is easily Marvel’s most mysterious project, either on the big or small screen, is also potentially its most interesting and ambitious.

Created by John Ridley, the writer of 12 Years a Slave and the main creative force behind ABC’s American Crime, this untitled series follows a pre-existing character (or team) from the comic book source material who represents a space, according to Ridley, that all the other shows and movies don’t currently occupy. Other than these vague-but-intriguing tidbits, all that we know is that the project will take up a perspective on the superhero sub-genre that will make it socially relevant or otherwise timely.

Ridley’s prospective show was originally announced some two years ago and has, for half that time, been completely off the radar. However, word just broke this past week that the writer-producer is busy rewriting his material in the wake of all the latest MCU developments and additions, hoping to keep it strong and fresh. Hopefully this means that some type of real, concrete information is just on the horizon.

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