Did ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Just Obliterate the Marvel TV Universe?
Destiny arrived for Marvel’s Avengers, as Infinity War brought with it universe-shattering consequences and shocking deaths. Of course, the TV heroes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Daredevil, Luke Cage and the Runaways were nowhere to be found, but there’s a larger question on fans’ minds: Did Thanos’ murder spree sever any and all links between the MCU branches? Let’s beware of Titan-sized SPOILERS for Avengers: Infinity War, and take a look.
First and foremost — and again, INFINITY SPOILERS from here on out — let’s pour one out for the fallen. Atop an already high body-count that included Heimdall, Loki, Gamora and Vision, Infinity War snapped away the existences of Bucky Barnes, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, Falcon, Groot, Star-Lord, Mantis, Drax, Doctor Strange, Nick Fury, Maria Hill and half the known universe beside them. It was a big deal. People tend to notice things like that.
The question now is whether Marvel chooses to clarify anything after Infinity War’s first weekend, or if July’s Ant-Man and The Wasp acknowledges the worldwide disappearances. Odds are we’ll be waiting for 2019’s Captain Marvel or Avengers 4 to provide some clue, but already-ordered sequels for Spiderman: Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy more-or-less confirm our favorite heroes will have their fates undone. Still, will Avengers 4 reset the universe? Will the MCU even remember half its population being blinked out of existence?
Marvel isn’t going to give up that answer anytime soon, but Thanos’ big snap also raises serious concerns for the ABC, Netflix, Hulu and Freeform TV series. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in particular hinted at Infinity War’s events with Friday’s “Option Two,” as Jake Busey’s Tony Caine referenced “weird stuff happening in New York” before being cut off. The move to Friday airings meant S.H.I.E.L.D. couldn’t expect its audience to have seen the film, but this coming week’s “The One Who Will Save Us All” may yet acknowledge Thanos’ rapture, or even add to the fallen. Equally possible is that Season 5’s remaining three episodes take place chronologically before the snap. There may not even be a sixth season to force the issue, but maybe we’re looking at this the wrong way — maybe Thanos’ snap should sever the movie and TV universes for good.
In a way, S.H.I.E.L.D. already has. The fifth season follows a time loop that dragged its title agents to a future in which Daisy Johnson purportedly quaked the Earth apart, and has since brought them back to break that loop. As you can imagine, there was no room in that time-travel narrative for Thanos to show up, realize his prized stones went kablooey and sulk back to Titan. It’s reasonably safe to say neither Agents nor Infinity War are concerned with one storyline affecting the other. At best, either can claim their respective calamities were reset independently of one another, and thus have no need to interact. Still, showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen have hinted of a possible Season 6 that Infinity War will “open a new playground for us.”
Complicating matters is Clark Gregg’s return to the MCU in next year’s Captain Marvel, the ’90s setting of which belies earlier S.H.I.E.L.D. days and a galactic focus. Gregg’s return is more likely a celebration of Marvel movies past than acknowledgement of his TV spinoff, but it also threatens to upset Agents’ continuity. Captain Marvel also involves the Kree race, which the TV series established as a relatively unknown species that contributed to Coulson’s resurrection (and The Inhumans, but the less said there, the better). Depending how the film handles its alien characters, Captain Marvel may distance Agents further from an already-complex timeline.
The Defenders are even trickier. The Netflix dramas have kept even more distance from the films; only vaguely referencing “The Incident” of 2012’s Avengers, and more recently acknowledging the “Raft” prison established in Captain America: Civil War. And while the timeline of those eight Netflix seasons is more confusing than that of the MCU, it’s safe to say from Luke Cage Season 2 footage that no one is mourning any worldwide rapture. Remember, it was only a few years ago that Infinity War writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely addressed why Daredevil, Luke Cage and the others weren’t likely to join the fight against Thanos:
McFeely: We are open to any of it, although it’s really not our call.
Markus: A lot of it is a pace thing, in that we have to have this thing done so much ahead of time, that they might get all the way through that ‘Defenders’ show before we start shooting, or certainly before anything comes out. So we don’t know where they’re going to be. It’s very hard, even logistically, to keep even the movie characters synced up; it’s nearly impossible, given the speed that TV cranks out changes.
McFeely: The story that they eat up, yeah.
It’s a polite answer that tiptoes around well-documented divisions between Marvel’s TV and movie leadership, but the reality is that either franchise would be worse-off to suddenly pause and introduce new characters and conflicts. The TV universe will only drift further away — Hulu’s Runaways supposedly takes place in the MCU, but incorporates technology unseen in any other branch and otherwise eschews any reference to the larger universe. That trend will probably continue with Freeform’s Cloak and Dagger or New Warriors, the former of which will at least feature the universe-spanning Roxxon Corporation.
Movie and TV writers are hired to tell their own individual stories, and can’t be expected to incorporate aspects of every other franchise. But if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. once served as the poster child for the Marvel universe’s movie and TV connections, Infinity War should end that relationship once and for all. Maybe it’s time some of the TV shows found their own Thanos-level unifier, and stop kowtowing to a movie franchise that steps all over their storylines.
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