The third season of Marvel’s Daredevil is just around the corner, hitting Netflix on Oct. 19. That announcement came as a welcome surprise to fans, since Netflix has already released three seasons of television set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe this year: Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist each got a second season. Even more surprisingly, all of them have been good — or, at least, none of them have left us feeling like we could do without any more of this.
On the contrary, you’re much more likely to hear fans demanding additional spinoffs. Everyone’s got their favorite character or team-up, and some of those would, admittedly, hold up as the center of a whole new show. After the popularity of the crossover episodes in Luke Cage and Iron Fist, Marvel TV’s Jeph Loeb says he gets asked about a Heroes for Hire or Daughters of the Dragon series on a daily basis. And hey, there’s already a precedent: Frank Castle, played by Jon Bernthal, started out as a recurring character in Daredevil Season 2 and now he’s the lead in The Punisher, which has a second season coming in early 2019.
But Daredevil occupies a special place in the Netflix canon, being the show that kicked it all off and established this corner of the MCU’s mythology. When it first premiered, Marvel fans were just eager to spot references to the movies that we already loved, and to see what the Avengers might look like from the perspective of ordinary New York residents. Then it turned out that Daredevil was worth watching for its own sake, whether or not it would ever deliver more of a connection to the MCU. So when Jessica Jones came around, it was the references to Daredevil that we started looking for. Then Jessica Jones was good in its own right, too, and the pattern kept repeating from there, even before the four original shows temporarily merged into The Defenders limited series.
The franchise has made an effort to stay consistent with its movie-based origins through the occasional namedrop or nod, but the films haven’t reciprocated and, at this point, they don’t really need to. Netflix’s internal crossovers have been interesting enough on their own. Each show keeps a spotlight on its title character, but a subplot in one might be thickened or resolved in another, and supporting characters are free to wander through the shows without necessarily belonging to any of them. Daredevil Season 2 aired in March 2016, leaving a whopping two-and-a-half year gap between seasons, but it worked because the story never came to a complete stop. We saw Matt Murdock “die” in The Defenders, we heard references to his two best friends across almost every other series and we saw Danny Rand carrying out his promise to protect the city in Iron Fist Season 2. Now, as we’re anticipating what comes next for Matt, we also get to hope for appearances from familiar faces who debuted in other Netflix shows.
This fluidity, which has a closer parallel in the movies of the MCU than in anything else that television has done, has gradually become the greatest strength of Marvel’s Netflix lineup. The quality of each series still has to keep its standard, of course, and it’s important that any one of them can be understood without watching the others. But now that we’re past the setup stage, fans feel shortchanged when a full season goes by with minimal reference to the events of the wider universe: The second season of Jessica Jones had its strengths, but left us disappointed when the most significant crossover was a token appearance by Foggy Nelson with no real relevance to the plot.
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