Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) is in many ways the key to connecting all facets of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He's been a part of the franchise since it began with Iron Man and while he "died" helping assemble The Avengers at the end of Phase 1, he lives on in Marvel TV's ABC programming, headlining Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..
With season 3 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. delving deep into stories involving enhanced (super-powered) individuals and introducing Inhumans into the MCU, it's becoming increasingly necessary that some of the films and new television shows start to directly connect to one another. Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige says it's "inevitable" that the films will eventually reference the happenings of the TV series, but both he and Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb agree that first they must establish their new characters and properties before crossing them over.
At New York Comic-Con, before the Agent Carter/Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. panel yesterday, Forbes asked Loeb and Gregg about whether or not the advent of super-powered vigilantes showing up in Hell's Kitchen, New York will earn Marvel's Netflix characters a visit from Coulson.
Jeph Loeb: #ItsAllConnected. The reality is we’ve made comments in the Netflix world. We’ve certainly acknowledged things like Iron Man, Captain America, and Tony Stark. So we know that’s the world we’re in, in the Netflix shows. Then, we have done our first cross already. If you’re a careful viewer, you do see one of the fights that Matt Murdock’s father fought was Carl “Crusher” Creel – say that five times fast. That character turned up in S.H.I.E.L.D, obviously. We spent a lot of time sort of figuring out the math of, “OK. Was he a fighter down there and then did he turn into this guy?”
One of the secret joys of that was, that idea of making him into a boxer comes from Daredevil Yellow, which I was lucky enough to be able to write and tell the story with Tim Sale.
If you get to put those little, we’ve come to call them Easter eggs, then it’s great fun. Now, having said all that, I think what we want to be able to do in the Netflix shows is make sure they land and the people get to know them. They get to know those characters on their own. We’ve been very careful about even just within those shows crossing into each other. I’m not ready yet for Matt Murdock to be walking around in somebody else’s show. But that doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. Thanks to Clark’s rampant enthusiasm, I certainly can see a world where his childhood dream of meeting Iron Fist could happen. But it may be way down the road.
Again, the messaging is clear from every department at Marvel. TV characters will meet other TV characters and film characters way later, maybe even the end of Phase 3 if Avengers: Infinity War (and the three mystery movies coming after) are aiming to deliver something bigger than we currently know. The Iron Fist mention and fun jab about Clark Gregg's enthusiasm about his role in the MCU come from a May 2014 interview Gregg had with MoviePilot where long before Daredevil even aired on Netflix, Gregg expressed his desire to make an appearance in that and Iron Fist:
"I’d be really disappointed if I don’t get to show up in New York for Daredevil, or Iron Fist was a huge favorite of mind in comic books as a kid. I’ve had more than my share so I shouldn’t be greedy but it would be a huge geekout moment for me if I got to meet Daniel Rand."
Back to present day, Gregg continues from what Loeb said, explaining that "Just because you can parade Coulson through that world, or Daredevil, or Jessica Jones through ours doesn’t mean you should. That would get old really quickly if you’re just kind of waiting for the next Easter egg to go walking by. It’s got to really be something that helps the story."
Clark Gregg: You’ve got to establish that. What I love so much about Daredevil, the way it was a version of an origin story that felt so stripped down that you kinda went, “Oh yeah. This is what you call a kind of righteous vigilante.” The costume seemed really just, “I’ve got to keep people from knowing who I am when I walk around the street.” It felt like it was so barebones. It felt like a different world than ours in a way. At some point later, maybe there’ll be more kind of a world that meshes.
The current season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. sees Coulson's team still operating in secret while the very public, government-sanctioned ATCU (Advanced Threat Containment Unit) attempts to detain powered individuals which is where you'd think Jessica Jones would naturally crossover. Coulson is attempting to protect and recruit powered people so maybe Marvel TV can use him to aid in the formation of The Defenders on Netflix down the road, a miniseries that will connect all of the Marvel Netflix characters.
The bigger issue though is the question of when The Avengers are going to learn that Coulson (and S.H.I.E.L.D.) are still alive and active, and could that be a doorway to tying the show into next summer's Captain America: Civil War?
Daredevil season one is currently available on Netflix. Jessica Jones releases November 20, 2015, followed by Luke Cage and Daredevil season 2 in 2016. Iron Fist and The Defenders will arrive sometime thereafter.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season 3 airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m E.T on ABC.