From 2015 to 2018, Marvel’s Daredevil had cemented its case for being some of the best TV that the comic book/superhero genre has ever produced. The show captured the essence of writer Frank Miller’s crime-noir reinvention of the Man Without Fear in the early 1980s while blending it with the grit of a crime series you might find on HBO. Fans were disappointed once Netflix canceled it due to the impending arrival of Disney+ as a direct competitor, but this past December’s Spider-Man: No Way Home and the streamer’s Hawkeye series have brought both Matt Murdock and the Kingpin back into the MCU fold.
The show’s seen a resurgence in popularity since being indirectly put back under the spotlight, with reports also now swirling of actors Charlie Cox (Kin) and Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket) appearing in other MCU projects before a rumored new solo series for Disney+. Getting into debates on canonicity can be as confusing as it is annoying and petty, though, it seems like Cox and co.’s revival will be in the form of a soft reboot. Marvel Studios will likely keep the same general continuity of the original show’s story while simultaneously serving as a fresh jumping-on point — much like a new comic book run on a character with a new writer/artist team. But even with a soft reboot, the ghosts of Daredevil’s past, from complex love triangles to bitter arch-nemeses, can come back to haunt (or grace) the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen on Disney+.
A different kind of grudge match
Although the Kingpin of Crime started as a Spider-Man villain in the comics, he’s branched out into becoming the main antagonist in Daredevil’s life. That vitriolic dynamic was masterfully translated to the screen, with Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk’s bitter rivalry feeling palpably visceral and immensely cathartic throughout the show’s three seasons. That being said, round three of Daredevil versus Kingpin can afford to wait.
Despite Netflix cutting the series criminally short, Daredevil still managed to end on a fairly satisfying note. Almost every plot thread closed in a tidy fashion, which (for now) includes the brooding superhero’s blood feud with Kingpin. Aside from the physically and mentally imposing Fisk, Bullseye is the next contender for having given Matt and his loved ones their tailor-made hell on earth. The expert marksman can turn even the most benign everyday objects into lethal projectile weapons thrown with pinpoint accuracy, and Wilson Bethel’s portrayal of a more grounded and ominously traumatized version of the villain doesn’t get praised enough.
Bethel and the writing team did an expert job at playing Bullseye as a supporting antagonist in season 3, with the supervillain getting his deserved share of the spotlight while also being supplementary to the main antagonist — Kingpin. The depiction of his origin story in a black-and-white filter through Fisk’s perspective was also a brilliant take on an origin story. Likewise, peeling back the sadistic layers of Ben Poindexter’s warped psyche until his dark evolution was as compelling as Harvey Dent’s descent into madness as Two-Face in The Dark Knight opposite the Joker.
One of the two major loose ends that Daredevil didn’t — or couldn’t get the chance to — tie up was Bullseye’s teased return at the end of season 3, episode 13. The vicious three-way brawl between Daredevil, Bullseye, and Kingpin was anxiety-inducing in the best possible way, with the marksman having his back broken mercilessly by Fisk. But in his final scene of the series, doctors can be seen performing experimental surgery on Poindexter’s spine, with the villain suddenly waking in the middle of it with an eerie bullseye in his eye.
His supporting role in season 3 was intricately balanced to show he won’t steal Kingpin’s spotlight without wasting his own character in the process. Plenty of time has passed between season 3’s finale and the new MCU as we know it (both in-universe and literally), and Bullseye has been perfectly teed up well to be Daredevil’s next headlining matchup in a successor series without any confusion.
Seasons 1 and 3 are essentially stand-alone when it comes to story, with season 2 largely building up The Defenders crossover miniseries. Daredevil‘s sophomore effort managed a solid reception in its own right but was admittedly dwarfed by the giants that the other two were. However, Élodie Yung’s casting as Elektra was a strong pick.
Her dynamic with Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock was equal parts fun, tense, and electric, with her future being another easy iteration of an iconic Daredevil character to pick back up without a fuss. Elektra’s death at the end of season 2 felt somewhat anticlimactic, partly due to her only being recently revealed and Nobu not being a very emotionally investing villain compared to others Daredevil has faced. Similarly, being revived as The Hand’s weapon in The Defenders seemed like even more of a waste considering this corner of the MCU is partially in limbo.
And though that last point is outside any of the creative teams’ control, it still seems like a missed opportunity. Of course, having Elektra’s body be conveniently missing after a building crashed on her and Matt by the time season 3 starts is a free pass to course correct this. As in the comic book material itself, assume no one is dead if there’s no visible corpse — and sometimes even that isn’t enough to definitively prove a character has truly died.
There’s plenty of space to flesh Elektra out in a return that practically writes itself. Having her and Daredevil team up against Bullseye would make for a gripping story arc that echoes Marvel’s comics on top of rekindling that complicated, yet enticing, romance.
Born Again Daredevil
Season 3’s ending was also a milestone for Matt Murdock’s character arc. He spent the first two seasons grappling with his faith as a Catholic and the seemingly insurmountable gray area that the vilest of villains succeed in operating in. The Daredevil we saw until the final episode of season 3 was a dark evolution of his own making, becoming something grimmer that exists to satiate his hatred and drive for vengeance.
He’s put further through the emotional wringer when having to see his symbol publicly tainted and slandered when Bullseye impersonates him, bringing Matt’s crisis of faith to a boiling point. Episode 13 was Daredevil born again, much like in Miller’s comic arc of the same name, reclaiming his symbol for Hell’s Kitchen and what makes him human. Cancellation aside, this is a perfect launchpad for a soft-rebooted Daredevil that’s more comfortable and has mastered himself.
Should the rumors prove to be true, Daredevil’s appearances in She-Hulk and his and Kingpin’s supporting roles in next year’s Echo series on Disney+ could easily pave the way for these stories and characters to be set up in the hero’s next solo outing.
Daredevil is available to stream now on Disney+.