Though all of Marvel's films and television offerings technically exist within the same connected universe, there's a clear divide between the two mediums in terms of scope and tone. Comparing the somber, graphic content of Daredevil to the fantastic spectacle of Avengers: Age of Ultron makes the differences abundantly clear. If the details of its second season are any indication, Daredevil (and the rest of Marvel's Netflix series) will continue to move further from what fans see in the films.
The idea behind the Netflix deal was to introduce viewers to the street level of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In doing so, the shows will inevitably take the expectations currently associated with superhero properties and flip them on their heads. It's a smart move that allows Marvel to expand its existing fanbase while still nominally tying the properties to the incredibly successful films.
In an interview with IGN, Joe Quesada (Marvel's Chief Creative Officer) explained that though the scope differs between the two mediums, the stakes are just as important in the television series as the films.
"... It is the smaller, darker part of the Marvel Universe. The Avengers are about saving the world. Daredevil, Jessica Jones and all those other characters, they're about saving a neighborhood. They're about saving a block; they're about saving an apartment complex. So it's smaller, but the stakes still feel the same because they're just as important. To the people living in Hell's Kitchen, saving their neighborhood is as important to the people in Manhattan when aliens start coming out of a portal in the sky and the Avengers came to save them."
It's hard to deny the success of this approach in the first season of Daredevil. Matt Murdock's crusade might not have worldwide implications, but it feels just as important in terms of the show's setting.
Quesada went on to emphasize the nature of Matt Murdock's struggle and how the platform affects the show's direction.
"Daredevil lives in Hell's Kitchen so it's very, very personal. Through the Netflix platform, we're able to explore a much darker sensibility, a more adult sensibility."
Fans can expect those adult sensibilities to continue in Jessica Jones, the next Marvel Netflix series to be released. The Marvel Netflix series seem to be forming their own microcosm that will deal with problems specifically in Hell's Kitchen. While Quesada didn't outright deny that the characters could cross over into the films eventually, fans shouldn't expect to see it anytime soon.
It's interesting to note the difference between the television branches of the MCU, specifically between Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Daredevil. Agents is more directly connected to the film continuity, and Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon has previously stated that this has needlessly complicated the universe. Whether that's due to potential infighting between the two separate branches or just an inevitable part of orchestrating such a complex universe isn't entirely clear, but it has caused a bit of a strain on the MCU.
Daredevil's approach to the shared continuity is far more subtle and the show's success speaks to that decision's importance. By changing the stakes and narrowing the focus, the series is able to tell a strong story that doesn't suffer from contradictions with the films. It loosens the reins of continuity and benefits from more creator freedom than is possible for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Regardless of your preferred entries in the MCU, the shared universe has something to offer almost everyone. From self-contained character pieces to giant ensemble blockbusters, Marvel is focused on making the stakes feel real to the viewers - regardless of the medium.
Captain America: Civil War – May 6, 2016; Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man reboot – July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Black Panther – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – November 2, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019.