Marvel's Defenders universe on Netflix was ultimately canceled by February 2019, but rumors emerged that some of its characters would return to the MCU, thus giving hope that they could be restored. The group of small-screen heroes consists of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Punisher while also featuring villains such as The Hand and Wilson Fisk's Kingpin.
WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Episode 5 of Hawkeye.
Despite not having large ties to the larger MCU, the group known as the Defenders have thrilling and more personal adventures in New York, but the show's abrupt end left fans wanting more. Given that the character's rights are now back to Marvel Studios, speculation began on when the MCU will use the street-level heroes.
Charlie Cox's Daredevil was the first hero to make headlines due to his rumored involvement in Spider-Man: No Way Home, but the actor consistently denied his involvement. However, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige confirmed that Cox will eventually return as the Devil of Hell's Kitchen at some point.
Vincent D'Onofrio's Kingpin was the second character to receive serious rumor talk for a Marvel Studios revival. The Marvel project that is closely tied to the actor's comeback is Hawkeye, and the latest Disney+ series already presented major evidence about his involvement.
Now, in the recent episode of the series, Marvel confirmed D'Onofrio's return through a brief yet impactful cameo.
Kingpin's Brief Hawkeye Cameo Explained
Hawkeye Episode 5's ending finally showcased D'onofrio's inclusion as Wilson Fisk a.k.a. Kingpin.
At the tail-end of the latest installment, Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova sent a text to Hailee Steinfeld's Kate Bishop to let her know that she was able to find out who hired her to take out Clint Barton. Yelena reveals that it was Kate's mother, Eleanor, who hired her to go after Clint.
Alongside the reveal, the Black Widow agent also sent her a picture of her mom with Fisk. Kate asks Clint about the identity of the man alongside her mom. The bow-wielding Avenger casually mentioned that it's the guy he's been worried about this whole time, who is none other than Kingpin.
"Well that's the guy I've been worried about this whole time. Kingpin."
What This Means for Netflix's Marvel Heroes
Kingpin's MCU debut presents massive ramifications for the superhero franchise while also showcasing opportunities for other Marvel heroes under the Netflix banner.
Feige previously mentioned that Netflix's Defenders characters are on the board for potential MCU return, with him praising the stellar cast of the streaming shows:
"Everything is on the board. That's one of the fun things about the comics is that characters would appear and disappear and come and go. All of it is inspiration for the future. There are some great characters and actors from those shows."
Given that Kingpin is now part of the larger MCU, it's safe to assume that other Defenders characters could wind up appearing in upcoming projects sooner rather than later.
Aside from Cox and D'Onofrio, other Marvel actors from Netflix have also expressed interest about joining the MCU.
In a previous interview, Mike Colter, who played Luke Cage, shared that Marvel Studios has yet to contact him about reprising his previous role, but he admited that he is open to return if asked. Daredevil actress Deborah Ann Woll, who portrayed Karen Page, also expressed a hopeful message on Twitter about a potential return.
These comments should serve as a positive sign for the other Defenders characters moving forward, but how could they fit into the MCU's larger world?
How Marvel Studios Will Utilize the Defenders
One of the lingering questions from fans is Marvel Studios' approach in bringing back characters from the Netflix's Defenders shows, but Hawkeye already proved that a seamless transition is possible.
Cox mentioned that a "reimagining" of the character would be done if he returns, and many would agree that this is the best route.
"So, if there was to be an opportunity for me to come back as Daredevil, whatever that would look like, I imagine it would be a reimagining of the character and the show. If they choose me to do it, there's going to be some elements of that are of course the same."
Kingpin is introduced as a shadowy figure in New York who seemingly rose to power undetected. The character's backstory is already an opposite of what Netflix's Daredevil presented since Fisk is shown to be a public figure.
This serves as evidence that this Kingpin is not from the Daredevil show. Instead, it is a whole new character played by the same actor.
This development could serve as precedent for characters like Luke Cage, Punisher, and Jessica Jones, but when could each hero show up?
Luke Cage's street-level roots allow him to appear in shows like Echo, the rumored Daredevil series, and even Secret Invasion. It's possible that he is already an established crimefighter during his MCU debut, which could decrease the possibility of recounting his origin story.
At the end of Netflix's Luke Cage, the Marvel hero remained on Harlem's Paradise to fight crime from the inside. It's unknown if the MCU will connect its storyline to its interconnected narrative, but there's a chance that a fresh start would be in the cards.
Luke could still be based in Harlem during his debut, thus presenting the opportunity for MCU heroes to easily crossover when the time comes. For example, Echo could end up in Harlem after an intense showdown with Fisk or a Skrull sighting would happen in the location that could prompt Luke to investigate.
The ending of Netflix's Jessica Jones proved that the titular hero couldn't escape her crime-fighting activities despite the tragedies that she faced, and this arc could be the same for the MCU.
Of all the upcoming Disney+ shows, Jessica Jones seems poised to debut in She-Hulk. Jennifer Walters could end up seeking the assistance of Jones for a case, with the latter using her connections. A powerful team-up could also be in the cards for both heroes in the future.
In addition, Moon Knight could also serve as an avenue for Jones' MCU arrival. Many would agree that the interactions between Marc Spector and Jones would be a sight to see, and this is combined with the prospect of seeing them together during a fight sequence.
Netflix's The Punisher ended with the titular character accepting his vigilante status. If the MCU decides to continue this storyline, then this would mean that the Punisher is already active, allowing easy crossovers with the rest of the heroes.
Armor Wars could be a great introduction for Punisher into the larger MCU. It's possible that Punisher will be in pursuit of some criminals who are in possession of Tony Stark's technology, meaning that he could cross paths with Don Cheadle's James Rhodes as well. The two heroes could team-up, forming an alliance that could pay off in a future Marvel film.
Another possible project where Punisher could appear is Captain America 4. Frank Castle's brutal justice combined with Sam Wilson's honest form of heroism presents numerous story opportunites that would be compelling if adapted on-screen.
The already-confirmed Shang-Chi sequel would be the best bet for Danny Rand a.k.a Iron Fist to make his presence felt in the MCU. Shang-Chi and Iron Fist's love for martial arts could lead to exciting action sequences while their shared dragon mythology offers endless story possibilities.
Other MCU projects that could set the stage for Rand's arrival could be Blade, Echo, and Moon Knight. Rand's return to New York after his experience in K'un L'un could lead him to cross paths with Maya Lopez and Kingpin. His comeback trip could be cut short by Marc Spector's arrival or Blade could seek him out for assistance due to his knowledge of K'un L'un.
The latest episode of Hawkeye is now streaming on Disney+.