The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to grow by leaps and bounds, with more blockbuster films released each year. But the MCU also has room for smaller, “ground level” stories, and that’s where Marvel’s slate of Netflix series comes in. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist have all launched their own series on the streaming service, and now they’ve come together for The Defenders.
Marvel’s Netflix heroes (and villains) exist in the same world as Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor, but they have yet to interact with their more famous counterparts. There are a number of logistical and creative reasons why that hasn’t happened yet (and why it may never happen), and while that’s a bummer, it makes a certain kind of sense. Most normal people living in the MCU will never catch a glimpse of Thor, let alone meet him, and while the Netflix heroes aren’t really normal, they’re certainly more relatable to your average Netflix viewer than a Thunder God from a distant universe.
But while the Avengers and the Defenders haven’t shared a screen together, the Netflix series are sprinkled with references to the wider MCU. These are the 15 Biggest MCU Connections In Marvel’s Netflix Shows.
15. Hunting Superheroes
Superheroes aren’t always popular. That concept was explored in Captain America: Civil War, in which the Avengers had to come to terms with the collateral damage they had caused around the world and accept (or fight against) government oversight.
Jessica Jones encountered a similar kind of superhero backlash, albeit on a smaller scale. In the episode “AKA 99 Friends”, she is contacted by a woman who enlists her detective services to follow her cheating spouse. That’s just a ruse, however, as the woman lures Jessica into a trip with the intention of killing her. It’s an act of revenge for the death of the woman’s mother during the events of The Avengers, when superheroes and aliens waged a cataclysmic battle in the streets of New York. Of course, Jessica wasn’t even part of those events, but to some people, all superpowered “freaks” are the same.
14. Mocking Your Henchmen
It’s not easy being a gangster in New York City, especially when superheroes are around to thwart your every move.
In the early stages of Daredevil’s first season, “Kingpin” Wilson Fisk and his right hand man Wesley rely on their associates in the Russian mob to deal with the mysterious “man in black” who is interfering with their business. Of course, that darkly clad vigilante is a prototypical Daredevil, and he’s a lot more than your average gangster can handle.
After the Russians try (and fail) to eliminate this threat to Fisk’s criminal empire, Wesley expresses his displeasure with their inability to handle one (presumably) normal guy: “If he had an iron suit or a magic hammer, maybe that would explain why you keep getting your asses handed to you.”
13. Bootleg Avengers
There are three kinds of people you’ll find at the scene of any dangerous situation: those running closer to help, those running away to safety, and those pulling out their phones to film whatever is going on.
It stands to reason that the people of the Marvel Cinematic Universe would be no different. Whenever superheroes are in action, there will always be people who will pull out their phones and film everything they can in the endless pursuit of “likes” and “shares”.
In Civil War, we learned that Spider-Man was a YouTube sensation long before he met Tony Stark. Similarly, in an episode of Luke Cage, the titular hero is walking down the street when he’s accosted by a man hocking raw footage of the Avengers and their battle with the Chitauri: “Tony Stark. The big blond dude with the hammer. The old dude with the shield. The green monster, and I don’t mean Fenway!”
12. Cops Need Magic Hammers
The relationship (and the inherent conflict) between the police and superheroes has always been complicated. Even the most altruistic superheroes are often vigilantes who are taking the law into his or her own hands. Some police officers are able to make peace with that contradiction and work alongside their city’s respective heroes, but others resent them as interlopers and criminals.
Then there are cops like Misty Knight’s jaded (and crooked) partner Rafael Scarfe. He raises an interesting point when he tells Knight that the mere existence of superheroes like the Avengers renders cops completely redundant. “Unless this sidearm that I’m wearing suddenly turns into some kind of magic hammer, this whole job is irrelevant.”
While it’s certainly true that heroes like Thor and the Hulk can do more damage to the forces of evil in a day than a regular cop with a gun could do in a lifetime, that doesn’t make the MCU’s police irrelevant to the public they serve. Still, seeing the police confront this dynamic adds depth to the stories Marvel is telling.
11. Fight Night In Harlem
The Incredible Hulk is a somewhat forgotten (and arguably underrated) entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Starring Edward Norton as Bruce Banner (before Mark Ruffalo took over the role for The Avengers), it has been referenced sparingly in later films. But it can’t be completely forgotten. After all, long before the Avengers battled aliens in New York, the Hulk and Abomination almost broke Harlem in half with their titanic battle.
Harlem, of course, is where Luke Cage hangs his hat. Granted, the damage the Hulk and his rival made has long since been repaired (as has any left by the Avengers), but the memories of the big green guy are still fresh in the mind of the locals. After all, you never forget the sight of a giant monster throwing cars around like they’re paperweights.
10. Roxxon Corporation
Roxxon Corporation is like the bad penny of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: they just keep turning up. In the MCU (and in the comics that inspire it) Roxxon Corp. is basically your standard evil conglomerate that will steamroll anyone and anything in the pursuit of profits.
Roxxon has appeared in a number of MCU projects, from every film in the Iron Man trilogy to Agent Carter. Elektra engages in some corporate espionage at Roxxon’s expense during Daredevil’s second season. We also know that the company has dealings with The Hand.
The most interesting bit of Roxxon backstory, though, is that Matt Murdock and his partner Foggy Nelson became disenfranchised with life at a big law firm while representing the conglomerate. Forced to defend the interests of Roxxon against a single aggrieved employee, they decided to quit and start their own firm in Hell’s Kitchen. And the rest is history…
9. Crusher Creel
Like a lot of superheroes, Daredevil suffered the tragedy of losing his parents at a young age. His mother abandoned their family and eventually became a nun, while his father was a boxer who was murdered after he refused to throw a fight.
In “Cut Man”, we learned that fight was against a young boxer by the name of Carl “Crusher” Creel. He’s not glimpsed on screen, but fans of the other MCU televised property, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., have seen him before. On that show (which is set in the present day, long after his fight with Murdock) Creel has appeared as the Absorbing Man, a villain with the power to transform his skin into any substance he touches.
8. Seagate Prison
It’s not quite the Arkham Asylum of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Seagate Prison is close. It’s where Luke Cage (or Carl Lucas, if you prefer) was sent for a crime he didn’t commit, and it’s also where he received his powers thanks to botched experimentation by Dr. Noah Burstein. While he’s there, he meets rivals Shades and Comanche, but there are more notable names elsewhere in the prison.
In the MCU short film All Hail The King, we see that “The Mandarin” from Iron Man 3, aka actor Trevor Slattery, is imprisoned at Seagate, as is Iron Man 2 villain Justin Hammer. We don’t see them in Luke’s prison flashbacks, and it’s unclear whether they were at the prison before or after him.
It’s a pretty big prison, so it’s conceivable that they never ran into each other. Still, it’s fun to think of all of the MCU’s vanquished criminals hanging out in Seagate, and who knows, maybe we’ll see that one day.
7. Hammer Tech
Justin Hammer was a thorn in Tony Stark’s side in Iron Man 2, but the cocky arms dealer ended up in jail and hasn’t been heard from since (except to mock his fellow Seagate inmate Trevor). His company is still making weapons though, and just like in the comics, they’re happy to outfit Marvel villains with the latest and deadliest.
There are a number of references to Hammer Tech in Luke Cage, with both Cottonmouth and Diamondback utilizing the company’s latest technology. The Judas bullets that are capable of piercing Luke’s unbreakable skin are a Hammer product, as is the suit Diamondback wears in his climactic battle with his old rival.
6. Trish Talk
Jessica Jones spends a lot of time with her best friend Trish Walker. A former child star, Trish is now a popular talk show host who constantly encourages Jessica to use her gifts to help people, all while preparing for her own heroic career (she’s Hellcat in the comics).
A lot of New Yorkers are skeptical and even afraid of the incredibly powerful heroes in their midst, but Trish uses her pulpit to stand up for these larger than life figures. She often fields calls from people complaining about the mess heroes leave behind (yes, it’s another reference to The Avengers), but she always tries to show them the positive side of what heroes like Captain America and Thor (and more locally, Daredevil and Luke Cage) are doing.
5. Talking Superheroes
With all of the Netflix shows based in New York, it’s only natural that the Avengers are a popular topic of conversation. Their headquarters dominates the skyline, after all.
What’s odd (and a little grating at times) is the refusal to reference those famous characters by name. Whether Luke is talking to Jessica about “the big green dude and his crew” or she’s muttering an aside about “the flag-waver“, their actual names are never used.
It’s hard to believe that there’s some rights issue preventing names like Captain America and Hulk from being used on the Netflix properties. It’s all Marvel product, after all. And if it’s simply a creative choice, it’s an odd one.
4. Crazy Powerful
When Iron Fist begins, Danny Rand is returning to New York City for the first time since he was a kid. He doesn’t get the welcome he expects, though. Since Danny and his parents were declared dead years ago, his old friends assume he’s just some crazy homeless guy and have him thrown in a psych ward.
While Danny’s there, he has an interesting conversation with the doctor assigned to treat him. Danny tells everyone who will listen that he’s the Immortal Iron Fist, sworn enemy of The Hand, and he’s got this awesome glowing fist.
The audience knows he’s not crazy, but the doctor doesn’t. In fact, the psychiatrist explains that ever since the emergence of Iron Man, crazy people have been coming out of the woodwork to claim that they too have superpowers.
3. Stan Lee Is Watching
Stan (The Man) Lee is everywhere in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The legendary comic book writer has a cameo in almost every Marvel-related film and television project, and the Netflix shows are no different. He hasn’t appeared in person, but instead has been spotted as a policeman in photos and posters around the city.
Of these Netflix “cameos”, the most notable might be the “See A Crime? Report It!” poster that can be seen on the streets of Harlem in Luke Cage. What makes it notable? Well, if you stayed until the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, you saw Stan Lee’s cameo as a particularly long-winded member of The Watchers, an alien species that, well, watches history unfold from the sidelines.
2. Ben Urich’s Bylines
Ben Urich is a fairly notable character in Marvel lore, at least as far as reporters go. Vondie Curtis-Hall was great as Urich in Daredevil’s first season, and it was a shame to see him get killed off. We glimpsed his tenacity and dedication as an investigative reporter as he and Karen Page pursued the story of Wilson Fisk’s corruption (a story that ultimately got him killed).
His office at the New York Bulletin was filled with references to some of the biggest stories he covered throughout his long career, and a couple of them are especially notable. Unsurprisingly, Urich was on the scene when the Avengers and Loki’s Chitauri forces clashed in New York. That’s not the only time he risked his life to get a superhero story, though: he also reported on the “Harlem Horror” that was the Hulk’s fight with Abomination.
1. “The Incident”
The MCU moves in real time (or close to it), which means it’s been at least five years since the Chitauri invasion of New York. Most of the city’s visible scars have healed in that time, but an alien invasion that kills thousands isn’t something that anyone ever forgets.
“The Incident” is the accepted in-universe term for the events of The Avengers, and it’s referenced constantly in all of the Netflix shows: and not just by name, either. We’re constantly seeing examples of the fallout from the Avengers battle to save the city and the world.
Many New Yorkers are as afraid of the heroes who saved them as they were of the alien invaders. Those with powers are often viewed with mistrust and even hatred.
The physical toll that the Chitauri attack had on the city also had some interesting consequences. Most notably, it devastated Hell’s Kitchen, allowing Wilson Fisk to ramp up his campaign to gentrify the neighborhood (and spread his influence).
Did we miss any other MCU connections in the Marvel Netflix shows? Let us know in the comments!
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