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The ‘Daredevil’ Renaissance Has Arrived

After the returns of Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk in ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ and ‘Hawkeye,’ respectively, the canceled Netflix series ‘Daredevil’ suddenly seems central to the MCU

Netflix/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

When Daredevil premiered on Netflix in April 2015, the series quickly became a fan favorite for offering a refreshing change of pace from Marvel Studios’ high-stakes big-screen spectacles. While the Avengers dealt with extraterrestrial invaders that threatened to wipe out all of New York City, Daredevil focused on street-level crime in Hell’s Kitchen and a blind lawyer who wore an all-black suit better fit for a burglar than a superhero. Its action was more realistic, its violence more brutal. The Avengers had featured a super-soldier and a hulking green monster who could destroy an alien warship with a single punch; Daredevil had a hero who was beaten and bloodied about as often as his superpowerless enemies.

Daredevil headlined an earlier era of Marvel small-screen storytelling that already seems far removed from today’s. Before Marvel Studios started creating its own TV shows to populate Disney+, Marvel’s television enterprises were scattered across a disconnected multiverse of their own, offering a wide variety of storytelling to equally varied returns. Under the leadership of Jeph Loeb, Marvel Television collaborated with 20th Century Fox to produce series such as Legion and The Gifted and with Hulu on titles like Runaways, while Disney-owned ABC hosted MCU-related projects including Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, and Inhumans. Its most ambitious undertaking, however, was its partnership with Netflix, as Marvel Television introduced a team of New York City heroes across four series—Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist—for its street-level take on the Avengers, which culminated in the crossover series The Defenders.

For three seasons, Daredevil never broke its stride, even as series such as Iron Fist and The Defenders failed to find their footing. Much of the credit for Daredevil’s consistent quality belonged to the show’s two stars, Charlie Cox (as titular morally ambiguous hero Matt Murdock) and Vincent D’Onofrio (as Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. Kingpin), whose on-screen rivalry and war over New York City helped redefine two classic characters from Marvel comics. But by November 2018, Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist were canceled, and the rest of Netflix’s Marvel TV shows soon followed them into oblivion as viewership declined and Disney cleared the way for its own streaming service. When Cox was asked if he thought Daredevil could find a new home on Disney+ in 2020, he told Comicbook.com that he didn’t envision it ever happening. “I don’t feel that way, no. And, I don’t know why I don’t feel that way,” Cox said. “But I haven’t been given any reason to believe that. And from a cynical point of view, it just feels like maybe I’m trying to protect myself, ‘cause I’d love nothing more than to do it again.”

Now, over three years after the cancellation of Daredevil, Cox’s Murdock and D’Onofrio’s Fisk have both been resurfaced in the MCU within the span of a week by making guest appearances in Spider-Man: No Way Home and Hawkeye, respectively. And those cameos could be preludes to more substantial recurring roles.

Fisk’s arrival in Hawkeye seemed imminent as early as the show’s third episode, when characters started referring to a crime boss as “Uncle” or simply as “the Big Guy.” A grainy photo confirmed D’Onofrio’s return as the Kingpin of Crime in the fifth episode, and by the season finale, Fisk was back and as menacing as ever. That says a lot when the man was rocking a comics-inspired outfit like this:

Disney+

Although Fisk essentially serves as the main villain in Hawkeye, the series devotes little time to reestablishing his background or explaining whether this Fisk is the same character who took control of New York City’s underworld in Daredevil—and by the end of the finale, he’s already presumed dead. (Well, presumed dead by any extra-credulous viewers who haven’t read the comics, which contain a similar supposed death scene that Kingpin survives.) However, D’Onofrio recently spoke to EW to confirm that this version of Fisk is intended to be one and the same. “It’s tough to connect all the dots, but they connected as many as they could and that he had lost a bit of his power because of the Blip,” D’Onofrio explained. “The idea [was] to bring him into Hawkeye, to have him be that same character that he was in the earlier show, and play him like that.”

As for Cox’s Murdock, his appearance in No Way Home plays a much smaller part in a plot that pits Spider-Man against five villains who are visiting from alternate universes. Murdock is present for a single scene, serving as a lawyer—a really good one—who offers his legal services to Peter Parker, Aunt May, and Happy Hogan. But he sticks around long enough to show off his uncanny hearing and reflexes as he snags a brick from the air before it can hit Peter, teasing fans that the Man Without Fear will be back for more soon enough.

Without much screen time to go on, it’s hard to say when Murdock will appear next now that he’s been reintroduced to the MCU. With Murdock and Fisk both back, though, it seems inevitable that the two will face off again in a future project—whether it be a new series on Disney+ or the first Daredevil movie since the pair were portrayed by Ben Affleck and Michael Clarke Duncan in 2003’s Daredevil. But it feels more likely that Murdock could return even sooner than that, potentially joining another famous lawyer-superhero in the upcoming She-Hulk series.

She-Hulk is expected to premiere on Disney+ in 2022 with Tatiana Maslany starring as Jennifer Walters, an attorney who specializes in superhuman-related legal cases and who also happens to be the cousin of the famously green and angry Avenger. Murdock and Walters have never appeared opposite each other in court in the comics, but there is some precedent for She-Hulk seeking out Daredevil for legal advice in She-Hulk no. 4 (2014):

Marvel Comics

Fisk, meanwhile, was seemingly shot down by Maya Lopez near the end of the Hawkeye finale, but the show made sure to leave his fate ambiguous by panning the camera away from Fisk and Lopez as the sounds of a gunshot and a crashing body can be heard. The scene is a close re-creation of a near-fatal confrontation between the two in the comics, which costs Fisk his sight (temporarily), but not his life. That moment arrived at the end of a story line called “Parts of a Hole” in David Mack and Joe Quesada’s Daredevil run in 1999, which gave Maya her comics debut as the adopted daughter of Kingpin. The deaf superhero, who has the ability to perfectly re-create others’ movements and fighting styles, is already set to return for a Disney+ show of her own, Echo, with Alaqua Cox reprising her Hawkeye role. And though there is no confirmation of D’Onofrio’s casting in Echo, Hawkeye sets up a potential story line that follows the fallout between Lopez and Fisk—with plenty of room to include Cox’s Daredevil, too, should the show draw further inspiration from the trio’s connections in the comics.

The dual returns of Daredevil’s two biggest stars open up the possibility of even more characters being reinstated to the MCU from other Marvel-adjacent projects that were previously out of Disney’s control. And thanks to Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox and the end of its Marvel-centric relationship with Netflix, that’s a lot of characters to choose from.

The architects of the MCU are busy rebuilding its character roster after the conclusion of the Infinity Saga, and while that leaves plenty of room for new heroes like Shang-Chi or Kate Bishop to emerge, it also opens the door for Marvel Studios to pluck some fan favorites from its recently added properties, such as Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, or Iron Fist’s Colleen Wing. (Our first taste of this potential came in WandaVision, when Evan Peters’s Quicksilver showed up at Wanda’s front door—though that turned out to be more of a misdirect that used viewers’ awareness of Fox’s X-Men franchise against them.) The continued use of the multiverse in Phase 4 has already brought back a host of familiar faces from across Sony’s Spider-Verse in No Way Home. Similarly, the divisive-yet-tantalizing concept of variant versions of existing characters allows Marvel to solve any number of continuity issues that could arise in porting their preferred actors from various properties while recasting others.

As for the Daredevil fans who have been holding out hope for a fourth season, chances are looking a lot better these days, and as D’Onofrio recently told EW, he’s right there with them. “Just so they all know, my hope is that we continue,” D’Onofrio said. “We’re just going to have to see what happens. I keep thinking about Daredevil having ended and having to walk away from that. So that’s on my mind too. Maybe it is all over. But I can only hope it’s not.”