Marvel Studios may have created a major Captain America: Civil War plot hole by integrating Netflix’s Defenders Saga into the official timeline of the MCU on Disney+. Marvel Television produced six projects for the Defenders Saga, which released on Netflix between 2015 and 2019, long before Marvel Studios began developing its own TV shows for Disney+. Following the cancelation of the Defenders Saga, its canon status in the MCU was disputed, but Marvel Studios may have now cleared up any doubts by including Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Defenders and The Punisher in the MCU’s official timeline.
Even though Charlie Cox and Vincent D’Onofrio already reprised their Defenders Saga roles of Matt Murdock’s Daredevil and Wilson Fisk’s Kingpin, respectively, in the MCU, and Jon Bernthal has been confirmed to be returning as Frank Castle’s Punisher, many still doubted the idea of the Defenders Saga being MCU canon. While there has been no official comment, however, integrating the Defenders Saga into the Disney+’s MCU timeline implies that it is indeed canon. Details evidently still need to be ironed out, and the Defenders Saga’s placement in the timeline has raised some questions, particularly concerning other projects in the MCU.
Integrating the Defenders Saga into the MCU’s timeline on Disney+ means that Marvel Studios’ Phase 2 and 3 slate has now changed drastically. Daredevil and Jessica Jones have been placed after Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Avengers: Age of Ultron, setting them firmly in 2015. Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Defenders follow them being sandwiched between Ant-Man and Captain America: Civil War, while The Punisher comes later, immediately after Spider-Man: Homecoming. The fact that the core Defenders Saga shows take place prior to 2016’s Civil War, however, means that a major plot hole may have been created.
Captain America: Civil War kicked off the MCU’s Phase 3 with the implementation of the Sokovia Accords and Baron Zemo’s framing of Bucky Barnes dividing the Avengers into two factions: Team Cap and Team Iron Man. Fortunately, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark learned the truth about Zemo’s plans for Bucky, but the revelation that Bucky had killed Stark’s parents during his time as the Winter Soldier drove the Avengers apart even further. While Civil War marked the end of the Avengers team, the film also introduced new heroes to the MCU, but this could have involved a very different roster.
The fact that the Defenders Saga takes place prior to Captain America: Civil War raises the question as to why none of the Defenders were recruited to join the battle. Tony Stark traveled to Queens and brought the young Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man, into the fold, after having seen his friendly neighborhood heroics on YouTube, but vigilante heroes such as Daredevil and Luke Cage were celebrities in their communities. This means they surely would have been much easier to track down, and would have potentially been more helpful in the battle against Team Cap.
When the Defenders Saga was initially in development, there was speculation that the core heroes could cross over into Marvel Studios’ theatrical releases after debuting on Netflix. While this did eventually happen with Charlie Cox’s Daredevil and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin, it would have been great to see them appear in the MCU proper a lot sooner, and potentially build stronger relationships with a wider range of superheroes. Bringing Defenders such as Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones or Iron Fist into Captain America: Civil War would have done this perfectly, so it’s confusing why this didn’t actually happen.
While it might have been easy for Tony Stark to track down the high-profile members of the Defenders and recruit them for his cause, there are clear reasons why he would rather have Spider-Man join his team. Throughout Phase 3, Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark was searching for something of a successor to continue his legacy after he retired or died. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man fit this role, as he was a young superhero with a strong will and a good heart. Iron Man’s legacy would be safe in Parker’s hands, which surely would have convinced Stark to become his mentor.