A half-dozen Lokis, including a woman, an old man, a child, one that looks just like Tom Hiddleston, and an alligator. Four Doctors Strange, including a zombie with a ponytail. Three Spider-Men. Three Peggy Carters. Two Kangs so far, including one referred to as a “warrior”, with more to come. Two Gamoras. Two Nebulas. Two Thanoses. Two Christine Palmers. And two Mordos and two Maria Rambeaus who hang out with three guys who have never before been seen in the MCU’s 616-universe. The Marvel Cinematic Multiverse is full of Variants and is sure to see more enter it as the Multiverse Saga continues over the next 4 years. So why is it, that in this vast multiverse, Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk are expected to be the genuine Netflix articles when probability would dictate they probably aren’t?
The rules of the Multiverse, as created by Michael Waldron and explained in Loki by Miss Minutes, allow for a tremendous amount of room in the creation of Variants. Nearly any event, no matter how great or small, from “creating an uprising” to just being “late for work” causes a Nexus Event which creates a branch from the Sacred Timeline. As Miss Minutes explained, one Nexus Event could “branch off into madness” creating an almost infinite number of Variants and the potential for a multiversal war. That multiversal war is coming in Avengers: Secret Wars, but it’s the more mundane sort of multiversal madness that’s relevant here. Given the relative ease with which a Variant can be created and the fact that the death of He Who Remains allowed the multiverse to branch off into madness, it’s statistically more likely that the Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk who are on track to meet in Echo are Variants of the ones who appeared in the Netflix Defenders-verse shows.
In addition to the relative ease with which the MCU can explain away the Variant nature of the two characters, according to Charlie Cox, it seems like that is the plan. Cox has been clear that he and Kevin Feige think of Daredevil: Born Again as Season 1, not Season 4, and recently called it “a whole new deal” that gave the studio a chance to start from scratch in some instances.
What’s great about that is that we potentially get to tell some of the stories over and over again, in the same way that they do in the comics. Every now and then they start back in the beginning of Murdock’s journey as a little boy and they tell the whole origin story again, so maybe we’ll get to do that. I don’t know.Charlie Cox
Herein lies the brilliance inherent in the simplicity of the multiversal rules. The MCU’s Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk only need to be a little different from their Netflix counterparts in order to allow Feige, the Marvel Studios Parliament, and the creative teams of Echo and Daredevil: Born Again to keep much of what fans loved about the characters they met on Daredevil while also telling their MCU stories on their terms. And they never have to tell anyone how it happened. Just simply let it unfold on-screen.
An infinite multiverse means infinite possible Variants of the characters. That means a Matt Murdock who can see, a Kingpin who never killed his father and any other version you can imagine exists somewhere. But in order for Marvel Studios to tell their version of the story, they don’t have to erase all those key points in the development of the character. Vincent D’Onofrio has spoken at length about how he’s playing Fisk as the same character and that makes perfect sense because all of the tragedy and abuse that he suffered when he “was a boy” can still be the backstory for the character.
I mean, obviously, my character in Hawkeye is physically stronger and can take a lot more physical abuse. But my approach to him is exactly the same approach that I did on Daredevil. He is an emotional human being, he is a child and a monster simultaneously. The same things that are going on inside me when I’m playing the character, the events that I use, whether the joyful ones or sad ones or frustrating ones or angry ones, the events that I use from my life are the same ones that I used in Daredevil that I used to portray Fisk. So it’s connected, for sure. In my mind, for sure.Vincent D’Onofrio
The rules of the multiverse absolutely allow for everything D’Onofrio said about the Fisk that showed up in Hawkeye to be true AND for the character to be different from the Defenders-verse character. How simple is it? Incredibly simple. If being late for work can create a Nexus Event and a new branch of the multiverse, any number of events could be used to explain how a Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk who are nearly identical to the ones from Daredevil are co-existing in the MCU’s Hell’s Kitchen but have never met one another, much less become archenemies. Why would they do this? To give the MCU’s creatives a chance to tell the story of these two characters on their own terms rather than be forced to accept someone else’s interpretation. As Cox explained, it gives them the opportunity to retell stories as often happens in the comics when new authors take over.
What would this mean for the MCU? It would mean that to audiences, the characters would seem to be exactly the same, only a little different. Ketchup and mustard Daredevil seems to be, for the most part, the same as black mask Daredevil, except he’s a little different. His fighting style isn’t quite the same, he’s a bit more flippy and he doesn’t seem to hate being alive and is rather quite the ladies’ man. Hawaiin shirt Kingpin seems to be, for the most part, the same as stare-at-the-wall Fisk, except he’s a little different. He works out of a garage in relative anonymity and seems to be a walking tank.
Using Variants provides the people who worked on Echo and are working on Daredevil: Born Again a tremendous amount of creative freedom. You like the way the story with Stick training Matt as a boy worked? Keep it. It happened before the Nexus Event. You don’t like the fact that Ben Urich is dead? Get rid of it. It happened after the Nexus Event that created this MCU Variant Daredevil. Characters can seemingly be brought back from the dead without ever having died. Don’t like the way the Hand storyline played out in Daredevil? Retell it. It happened after the Nexus Event that created this Variant. Giving the writers working on Echo and Daredevil: Born Again that type of flexibility will ultimately allow for a better final product. There are some hoops to jump through to ensure the chosen point for the Nexus Event follows continuity (so you don’t go the route of Fox’s X-Men films) but it can be done.
At the end of the day, if fans can accept alligator Loki and are looking forward to seeing Jonathan Majors mold himself into multiple versions of Kang, it doesn’t seem as though it’s asking much to accept that in an infinite multiverse, other versions of their favorite characters can and do exist. Is this a definitive statement that these characters are NOT the Defenders-verse ones? Of course not. Only Marvel Studios can make that statement; however, they are better served in never making it, allowing the debate around the characters to carry on until their decision is revealed on screen, whether large or small.
You want to believe these guys are your guys? Go for it, probability be damned. You want to believe these guys are Variants? Go for it, the evidence suggests they are. At the end of the day, these are stories meant to be enjoyed by audiences and much of that is determined by what you carry with you in your own mind and if you believe in it strongly enough, not even the multiverse can take it away from you.