The Defenders as a miniseries, and as individual characters, had a nice run on Netflix. But it always felt the characters and their story arcs were a bit disconnected from the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we knew it. It made sense because while Netflix had the right to those properties, and took an admirable shot at having the characters stand in their own worlds, it also felt a bit off because we knew there was a larger Marvel universe out there. That disconnect is set to come to an end with Marvel taking back the rights to the characters, Luke Cage and Iron Fist this month, Daredevil next month, and others as soon as next year.
Netflix slowly brought along the fringe Marvel Defenders characters beginning with Daredevil which premiered back in 2015 and lasted three seasons. Jessica Jones followed shortly after in the same year. Luke Cage came next in 2016 with Iron First the year after. With a number of different crossovers in the series, the storyline converged with the Netflix miniseries The Defenders in 2018. But that was the end of the line for these characters on Netflix with the streaming platform canceling all four series in short order.
The Netflix hold on the Defenders properties is set to expire over the course of the next year and Marvel is getting all of the characters back under the same roof. It’s been Marvel’s slow and steady race to have every character available at their disposal as they continue on through phases of development. The Netflix series would often nod to the Marvel Cinematic Universe without fully being able to go there because of the lack of crossover rights. With Marvel acquiring the rights, the four defenders are set to begin wrapping into the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it.
That being said, it’s still going to be some time until we get the Defenders all on-screen at the same time again. Disney had to put any development of the characters on hold until the Netflix contract had expired. The company was warned by lawyers to not begin anything with the characters or even their likenesses until that sunset happened. So just because Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist are coming back to Disney at the end of the month, it doesn’t mean we’ll get any new shows or movies any time soon.
And even with the characters all under the same umbrella again, there’s some doubt a Daredevil Season 4 even happens. Charlie Cox expressed pessimism over it returning. There’s some reason to think Marvel just hits the reset button and takes the characters in a new direction under a different look and feel. As much as I was a fan of Cox’s Daredevil and Krysten Ritter’s Jessica Jones, we shouldn’t just assume those are the faces going forward.
Even if the Defenders all do return, it would be nice to have some others added to their ranks like Hulk and Namor the Sub-Mariner. But Universal still holds the rights to both those characters. It’s why Hulk was allowed to be in the Avengers movies, but can’t have his own solo run. Namor’s rights are in a similar boat, so to speak. In the original comic books, those two plus Doctor Strange are the originators of the group.
For now, the Defenders are coming back to Marvel in name only, but as they do, more rumors should start hitting the streets on how the company will fold them into the bigger universe.