All things considered, the MCU‘s timeline isn’t as messy as it could be. Sure, not everything makes sense, but overall you can explain away a lot of incongruities thanks to the multiverse. That said, Kevin Feige has now clarified which televisual escapades are totally canon and which aren’t.
In the MCU, advising someone on how to watch the Marvel movies in order has been pretty easy since Iron Man in 2008. Essentially, if it’s made by Marvel Studios, it holds some relevance, if not, then it probably won’t impact the MCU. For the last decade, that’s been made even simpler since Disney acquired Marvel, creating a ubiquity.
The Marvel series, on the other hand, are a different story. Before Disney Plus, there was some amount of chaos to these. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and The Defenders were among the best Netflix series, but are they strictly part of the MCU? What about Cloak and Dagger, Agents of SHIELD, and Legion? Feige has finally set the record straight.
“We recognize that there are stories – movies and series – that are canonical to Marvel but were created by different storytellers during different periods in Marvel’s history,” Feige writes in The Marvel Cinematic Universe: An Official Timeline. “The timeline presented in this book is specific to the MCU’s Sacred Timeline through Phase 4.”
In other words, what’s in that book is what has material relevance to the storytelling in Marvel Phase 5 and beyond. Everything else? Probably great, but not to be considered pertinent to upcoming Marvel movies and Disney Plus shows. We don’t actually know yet what’s listed in the book – it comes out October 26 – but we’re especially curious now that Feige has said that.
My bet is everything that’s been made for Disney Plus, Cloak and Dagger, and Agents of SHIELD makes the cut. After that, anything that’s brought over, like Daredevil, should be considered a soft reboot of the Marvel character and not strictly the same version.
Yes, that cuts out a lot of great storytelling, but Feige and Marvel have to draw a line somewhere. Including all the Netflix projects and whatever else would mean they’re beholden to a raft of choices they didn’t make. That’s a tricky place to be when you’re steering the biggest franchise in the world.
I’m OK with it, because the multiverse means anyone could technically return anyway, and I don’t necessarily want the MCU to be completely all-encompassing. The Punisher with Jon Bernthal can just be a great interpretation of the character rather than something that has to echo for years.
One thing I will say, though – Agents of SHIELD always deserved better. FitzSimmons forever! Loki season 2 is currently ongoing, and you can expect that to some damage to the timeline in some way, shape, or form. Have a look at our guide to The Marvels for what’s coming to the MCU next, and we have a list of the best TV series if you’d like to move away from the heroics.