With each passing year, the MCU‘s output manages to wildly exceed audience expectations. The studio’s projects continue to grow in scope and spectacle, leaving little room for criticism or kickback from the fan community. Having finally got round to addressing their long-standing villain issue, perhaps the most consistent criticism that can now be leveled at the company is their ongoing resistance to uniting the quite separate TV and movie arms of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Well, Ant-Man and The Wasp just went to great lengths to emphasize the connections between the two departments – and it involves and Randall Park as Jimmy Woo.
Whilst it’s fairly easy enough to tie the ABC Marvel shows to the MCU movies, with cameos from various heroes (Fury, Dum Dum, Sif) and villains (HYDRA, the Chitauri) from the films, its a much harder ask in the case of the Netflix shows. Other than vague references to the principal Avengers roster, and repeated use of the term ‘The Incident’ to describe The Battle Of New York, the Netflix shows might as well be a part of the DCEU for all the interactions they have with the wider MCU. And they certainly contain a similar body count…
A lot of this is due to the much tighter time-frame and geography that is needed to tie together the 5 separate Defenders shows. The events of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can merrily play out over the course of a number of MCU months and years (or even longer after the mind-bending antics of a Season 5), whereas the average Netflix series occurs largely during a couple of days or a week tops. The net result of this is that the Netflix storylines are running roughly two to three years behind what’s happening in the movies. So you can forget seeing Karen Page of Claire Temple turning to dust anytime soon, we’re way off that yet.
It’s a forgone conclusion that the two worlds will eventually achieve an onscreen crossover, Disney’s acquisition of Fox only makes this even more likely. And the hilarious inclusion of Randall Park as a comedic antagonist in Ant-Man 2 is a crafty way of keeping some workable links between the TV shows and the films. How, you ask? Because Park’s character, Agent Jimmy Woo, is a direct reference to the consequences and after effects of Civil War, and a future mechanism to unite the ABC/Netflix shows with the movies.
In the comics, the Agents of Atlas leader was a former FBI agent who joined S.H.I.E.L.D, and Ant-Man 2 chooses to flip that narrative, having Woo leaving the disbanded agency to join the FBI. This is important, because it’s the first time that the Marvel movies have addressed the fact that SHIELD isn’t around anymore. Sure, the ABC show has gone to great lengths to deal with that, but the movies have plowed on into outer space without depicting the additional strain that other homeland security agencies are now facing back on earth.
Woo is a direct link to the Agents Of SHIELD show. He was referenced way back in a season 2 episode (Face My Enemy), and has an established relationship with Ming Na Wen’s character Melinda May, which will almost certainly be the means for introducing the ABC characters into a future MCU movie. The fact that he’s an FBI agent is also key. We know from casting notes that Daredevil will be facing off against a team of FBI opponents in his upcoming Season 3, as the agency will be stepping in to try and stem the wave of violence affecting Hell’s Kitchen.
It’s not just Woo’s FBI status that makes him key to uniting the shows though, his slavish devotion to the Sokovia accords is also a key factor. Again, their existence is something the MCU has largely elected to ignore between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. Using Woo to demonstrate their practical application drags the minds of MCU viewers back to Civil War. The fact he mentions The Raft onscreen is also key. The wonderfully adapted prison was included in the MCU to deal with vigilante and nonconformist heroes as well as just villains, and was also referenced recently in season 2 of Jessica Jones.
This again provides a working link between the two shows and the movie series, and sets up a worrying immediate future for Matt Murdock and his fellow Defenders. Because the US government will no longer tolerate the actions in the light of the accords.
So far from being a touch of light relief, Park’s performance is actually a very clever and determined bridge for the two different universes to crossover in the not too distant future. Which is cool. Very cool…