Summary

  • The Disney+ shows have introduced important elements to the MCU, such as the TVA and the Multiverse, which will have a significant impact on future films.
  • The shows have provided important representation, featuring diverse heroes and exploring themes of racism and identity.
  • The TV shows have allowed for more in-depth character development and storytelling, focusing on compelling narratives that delve into the complexities of the heroes’ journeys.

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) changed in a big way when Phase 4 introduced TV shows to the franchise’s main canon. From 2021’s WandaVision to Echo, the Disney+ shows have introduced or teased many characters and narratives that have set up big changes in the MCU. Throughout the Multiverse Saga, the quality of the films has fluctuated wildly, but the Disney+ shows have generally reviewed well in spite of inconsistent viewership.

Although the Disney+ shows likely contributed to the MCU’s recent poor performance and genre fatigue, they also account for a lot of what the franchise got right in Phases 4 and 5. Compelling character-driven storytelling, origin stories, diverse heroes, and supporting characters have all been hallmarks of these small-screen projects. For better or worse, the television wing of the MCU will have a massive impact on the rest of the Multiverse Saga and beyond.

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10 Loki Introduced The TVA & What It Means For The Multiverse

The TVA Is Set To Play An Important Role In Deadpool 3

Loki

Release Date
June 11, 2021

Seasons
2

The Multiverse Saga began in earnest with Loki, a show that has only gained more importance as the narrative continues. The series introduced the Time Variance Authority (TVA), one of the most powerful entities in the MCU, which monitors the timeline for dangerous branches. It seems that Loki‘s contributions to the narrative remain relevant despite the doubts surrounding the future of the Multiverse Saga as the MCU contends with the controversy around Jonathan Majors, who features prominently in season 2.

The TVA is to be featured in Deadpool & Wolverine, the film expected to bring the biggest multiverse payoffs to the big screen with the long-awaited introduction of Fox characters to the MCU. The concepts established by Loki are clearly instrumental to the franchise at large. It only makes sense for the TVA to gain more prominence as the MCU continues to tap deeper into the multiverse.

9 The Falcon & The Winter Soldier Properly Introduced The MCU’s New Captain America

Sam Wilson’s Captain America Will Finally Appear On The Big Screen In Captain America: Brave New World

Sam Wilson's Captain America with suit and shield in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

When Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) passed on the shield to Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), he could not have foreseen the difficult path ahead for his friend to be truly accepted as Captain America. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier tells a compelling origin story confronting the challenges Sam faces as a Black man in the suit. While Captain America: Brave New World is set to provide the new Cap a proper film debut, FATWS paved the way with its truly important narrative.

The series grapples with the complicated legacy of the shield’s symbolism, including the vital but tragic story of Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly) and the unjust promotion of John Walker (Wyatt Russell) as Captain America over Steve’s choice of Sam. The show manages to address not only the acceptance of the former Falcon in the role of Captain America but Sam’s own mutually reluctant acceptance of the mantle and all it represents. TFATWS allowed the MCU to tell a story that needed to be told as it transitions from the pre-Endgame world, setting up Captain America: Brave New World to continue the narrative while giving the new Cap the heroic film debut he deserves.

8 Moon Knight Brought An Entire Pantheon Of Gods To The MCU

It’s No Longer Just Asgardians

Since the MCU phase 1, the only “gods” depicted were the Asgardians — until Moon Knight brought a whole new pantheon to the party. The entire series is centered around Egyptian deities like Khonshu, god of the moon and vengeance, who serves as the Avatar hosted by the titular hero, with explorations of other gods and mythical realms like Duaat. The implications of this expansion to the mythical side of the MCU are thrilling.

Clearly, the Egyptian gods are very different from the Asgardians, both in their non-human physical forms and the way they operate through human Avatars, unlike Asgardians who exist as an independent culture with Thor’s investment in Earth acting as the exception, not the rule. Between this in-depth exploration of a different set of gods and Thor: Love and Thunder‘s introduction of gods like Zeus, the MCU could be eventually building to the “God Squad” from the comics. Moon Knight‘s entry to MCU lore certainly holds a lot of possibilities for the MCU’s future.

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7 Echo Introduced R-Rated Content To The MCU

Deadpool & Wolverine and Blade Are Set To Be Rated R On The Big Screen

Maya Lopez with her ancestors in Echo's finale

Marvel’s Echo

Release Date
January 9, 2024

Cast
Chaske Spencer , Zahn McClarnon , Graham Greene , Alaqua Cox , Cody Lightning , Charlie Cox , Tantoo Cardinal , Devery Jacobs , Vincent D’Onofrio

Seasons
1

While TV shows don’t get cinematic ratings and Echo is technically TV-MA, it would undoubtedly be rated R on the big screen. Until Echo came out, the Disney-owned franchise kept to relatively family-friendly standards, even with content that pushes the edge of that boundary. All of that changed with the introduction of Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox) and her journey from aligning with villains to becoming a hero.

Since this first adult release, the MCU has more R-rated content set to release with Deadpool & Wolverine and Blade. Despite the return of Netflix’s Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio) having occurred in Hawkeye, the character’s true welcome back is in Echo, which explores the violent, sadistic, complex villain in all his brutality. As such, Echo acts as the first project to cross that boundary for the MCU, replete with violence and mature themes.

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6 Hawkeye & Echo Brought Back Kingpin & Daredevil & Joined Marvel’s Netflix Shows To The MCU

Other Defenders Saga Characters Could Rejoin The MCU Soon

Hawkeye

Release Date
November 24, 2021

Cast
Zahn McClarnon , Fra Fee , Brian D’Arcy James , Hailee Steinfield , Alaqua Cox , Vera Farmiga , Jeremy Renner , Tony Dalton

Seasons
1

As mentioned earlier, the MCU has been slowly re-introducing its Netflix characters, embracing darker, grittier portrayals. The franchise’s relationship with the canon-status of the Netflix shows was iffy until the studio made the bold decision to bring Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin back in Hawkeye. Kingpin’s return in itself could potentially have a huge impact on the MCU, given the crime-lord’s build-up to potentially become a Thanos-level villain.

Meanwhile, Daredevil (Charlie Cox) appears in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law with a costume change, before making a brief cameo in Echo, battling Maya Lopez. These appearances of Daredevil in cameos and supporting roles come ahead of his true upcoming return in Daredevil: Reborn, which will further the reintroduction of Marvel’s Netflix characters by bringing back Jon Bernthal’s The Punisher and Wilson Bethel’s Bullseye, along with several beloved supporting characters. While heroes of the other Marvel-Netflix shows, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, have yet to be announced, it appears that the MCU is committed to bringing the best parts of the “Defendersverse.”

5 Many MCU Shows Brought Important Representation To The Franchise

The MCU Has Improved Representation Franchise-Wide

Wanda Sam Jenn and Nick Fury in MCU TV shows

Some of the MCU’s best-handled representation of minority and marginalized communities comes from Disney+ shows — and it’s not even close. Most recently, Echo has made waves for its portrayal of the first Native American superhero in the MCU, as well as the first deaf and first paraplegic hero. Meanwhile, Ms. Marvel brought the first South Asian and Muslim American hero to the screen with Iman Vellani’s Kamala Khan, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier navigates the pitfalls of racism and national identity. Moon Knight brings the first Egyptian superhero to the screen with Layla El-Faouly’s (May Calamwy) Scarlet Scarab.

4 Several MCU Shows Have Set Up The Young Avengers

A Young Avengers Movie Or Show Seems To Be Coming

A split image showing White Vision, the Wasp, Ms Marvel, young Loki, Wiccan, Kate Bishop, and Elijah Bradley

The leader of the MCU’s burgeoning Young Avengers, Ms. Marvel, got her start in a Disney+ show. The young hero’s first recruit, Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), also made her debut on the streaming platform. While the next confirmed hero to join the Young Avengers seems to be Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton), daughter of Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), the rest of the roster remains unconfirmed. Top picks for Phase 6’s youthful come from Disney+ shows, like Billy (Julian Hilliard) and Tommy (Jett Klyne) Maximoff, Kid Loki, Eli Bradley (Elijah Richardson) from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Skaar.

3 Disney+ Shows Have Expanded The MCU Beyond Movies

TV Shows Open New Narrative Possibilities

A split image of Moon Knight, She-Hulk, and Kate Bishop in the MCU

From a purely format or media standpoint, the Disney+ shows have marked a change in how the MCU tells stories. Marvel Studios dabbled in television before Phase 4’s introduction of the Disney+ shows, with series like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, and Inhumans on one end, and the Netflix collaboration on Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Punisher, and The Defenders, on the other. However, the shows existed as tangential to the main MCU narrative, and their canon was not officially recognized. All this changed when WandaVision dropped, exploring a narrative deeply tied to and affecting the MCU.

2 What If…? Brought Almost Impossible Multiversal Stories To The MCU’s Forefront

What If…? May Crossover With The Main MCU Eventually

What If…?

Release Date
August 11, 2021

Cast
Samuel L. Jackson , Stanley Tucci , Michael Douglas , Sean Gunn , Mark Ruffalo , Karen Gillan , Tom Hiddleston , Jeffrey Wright , Michael B. Jordan , Toby Jones , Sebastian Stan , Paul Rudd , David Dastmalchian , Natalie Portman , Josh Brolin , Dominic Cooper , Jeff Goldblum , Hayley Atwell , Djimon Hounsou , Chadwick Boseman , Taika Waititi , Chris Hemsworth , Neil McDonaugh , Jeremy Renner , Michael Rooker

Seasons
2

Marvel’s animated anthology series, What If…?, has been an interesting endeavor, telling stories from the multiverse that haven’t yet affected the main MCU canon. The premise explores hypothetical events that deviate from the main timeline through the eyes of the Watcher (Jeffrey Wright), an extraterrestrial observer of the multiverse sworn to non-interference. What If…? explores the heart of the title question with scenarios where Ultron wins against the Avengers, or Peggy Carter becomes the First Avenger. A lot of the scenarios, however, are much further removed from the main MCU canon and wouldn’t work on the big screen.

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1 MCU’s Disney+ Shows Refocused The Franchise On Character-Driven Narratives

TV Shows Have More Time To Dig Into Characters And Relationships Than Movies

A split image of Scarlet Witch, Moon Knight, and Loki in their MCU TV shows

In spite of the mixed response to the inclusion of television shows in the MCU, the Disney+ series have done an excellent job in refocusing the franchise on more character-driven storytelling. WandaVision set things off with a heart-wrenching exploration of grief and a phenomenal performance from Elizabeth Olsen. The most risk-taking example is Moon Knight‘s character study of a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), and the most successful is undoubtedly Tom Hiddleston’s return to playing the trickster god in Loki.

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