The MCU has always been a bold undertaking, especially in the early days. But nowadays the MCU is fit to burst, with a smorgasbord of new movies, TV shows and previously inaccessible characters that can cameo.
That includes Daredevil: Born Again, which sees the Man Without Fear return for a solo outing for the first time since being unceremoniously dumped by Netflix in 2018. The problem is, like so many MCU-adjacent shows from the 2010s, the canonicity of Daredevil is in question.
But after D23 Expo, it sounds like there may be some resolution to the debate — and that Netflix’s Daredevil is not going to play a huge role in this upcoming Marvel series. In fact, it might not even be canonical.
And frankly, as much as I love that three-season stint into Hell’s Kitchen, that is for the best.
Wait, Daredevil isn’t canon? How do you know that?
Don't jump the gun here. We have no official confirmation that Daredevil: Born Again erases Netflix’s Daredevil non-canon into that forgotten realm where the Star Wars Legends extended universe lives. However there is an interview with Matt Murdock actor Charlie Cox that seems to suggest this might be the case.
Speaking to Extra (opens in new tab) following the D23 Expo, Cox confirms that Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige told him that Born Again is not Daredevil season 4. “It is a Season 1, it is not Season 4, so it is a whole new thing,” Cox said “Which I think is the way to go. If you are going to do it again, do it differently.”
Cox confirmed he doesn’t actually know anything more than us, since he hasn’t seen a script or anything of that sort. But he sees it as a brand new beginning, and not just doing the same thing on a different platform. That suggests, at least in Cox’s mind and based on what he’s been told by Marvel, that the old show will be a separate thing.
Contrary reports have previously emerged
Of course we’ve had conflicting comments about this in the past, namely from Kingpin actor Vincent D’Onofrio. Following his appearance in Hawkeye at the end of last year, D’Onofrio has been doing a lot of talking about his return to the role and where it sits in the MCU. Which makes sense given how vocal he was about seeing Kingpin and Daredevil return to live action.
Speaking to our sister site Gamesradar (opens in new tab), D’Onofrio claimed that both versions of the Kingpin are the same — suggesting Daredevil could be canon, up to a point. "They’re trying their best to keep Daredevil as part of the canon," D’Onofrio says. "Hawkeye is part of the canon of what we did at Daredevil."
That said, D’Onofrio notes that not everything is going to fit together seamlessly, saying that “He continues, "It’s not always going to be 100 percent. There’s a lot of connecting the dots which Marvel is really good at. There’s certain things we can and can’t [do], especially if we make changes to his strength like we have. I’m approaching it as if it’s after the Blip, everybody’s returned, and it’s the same emotionally and character-wise. I play him exactly the way he was in Daredevil."
Nothing either actor said puts an end to the debate, and without a determinate answer from producers at Marvel, it likely never will. Heck, MCU fans can and do argue that Agents of SHIELD is still canon in the mainline MCU, despite all evidence to the contrary from season 5 onwards.
In any case it’s probably a good thing for Marvel Studios to leave the old stuff behind, and use Born Again to start afresh. Literally have the show born again, so to speak.
Why would Marvel erase Netflix's Daredevil from the canon?
There have been countless live action Marvel TV shows over the years, but Marvel Studios didn’t have a hand in any of them until the launch of Disney Plus. Every other show, including those tangentially related to MCU movies, was made by someone else.
In the case of everything broadcast after The Avengers (2012), the work was done by Marvel Television. Despite the similarity in their names, the two were separate entities doing their own thing. That gap only widened with time, particularly when Marvel Studios split from Marvel proper and fell under the purview of Disney’s movie division.
In short, despite rules that meant they couldn’t infringe on what the movies were doing, Marvel TV was doing its own thing with little to no oversight from the movie division. It’s why the TV shows constantly referenced the movie, but the movies never returned the favor.
Marvel TV is now defunct, and all Marvel movies and programming fall under the remit of Marvel Studios — even those seemingly unrelated to the MCU itself, like X-Men '97.
With that in mind you can understand Marvel Studios may not want to be beholden to content developed by someone else, even if there were rules on what they could and could not do.
Yes, this is a good thing
From what Cox said, Kevin Feige wants Daredevil: Born Again to be a fresh start. A “new beginning” as he put it when talking to Extra. The way I see it, starting afresh has plenty of benefits compared to continuing on with a Daredevil season 4.
The first is that Born Again can slide firmly into the existing continuity of the mainline MCU. It may not be another origin story, but the idea that masked vigilantes already exist and just never came up is fairly easy to work around. Certainly compared to huge plot points that have far-reaching consequences — like the fact Daredevil season 3 saw Kingpin exposed as a mobster, rather than a rich and somewhat-reclusive philanthropic businessman.
It’s hard to reconcile the fact that Fisk was suddenly incognito by the time he appeared in Hawkeye, or that certain characters have either died or gone through significant life-changing events. Ben Urich, a prominent side character in Marvel comics, is a good example, having been murdered by Kingpin at the end of Daredevil’s first season.
The Netflix Marvel shows also come with plenty of baggage. Iron Fist is a great example, given that its first season was terrible and its second was average at best. Definitively placing those shows as their own thing, in their own corner of the multiverse, removes all that and gives Marvel Studios a chance for a do-over.
Of course, as we’ve seen with Cox and D’Onofrio’s return, there’s always the opportunity to cherry pick the old shows and decide what’s worth keeping and what isn’t.
It’s all connected, except when it’s not
As anyone who watched Daredevil recently can attest, the Netflix Marvel shows seemed as though they didn’t want to reference the MCU as a whole. In fact they seemed to come up with increasingly creative ways to allude to the MCU without saying anything outright.
The use of the phrase “The Incident” was particularly common, referring to Loki’s invasion in The Avengers without referencing any of the key characters or events from that movie. Beyond aliens invading from the sky that is. The closest we get is Ben Urich’s front page story about “The Battle of New York” that sort of has an image of a crushed Chitauri leviathan.
Tony Stark gets name-dropped in Luke Cage, with a man selling bootleg footage of the invasion. He then goes on to refer to “The big blond dude with the hammer. The old dude with the shield. The green monster.” Other episodes reference “the big green dude and his crew”, “the flag waver” and “the incredible green guy.” And the list goes on.
It was all supposed to be connected, but it felt as though the Netflix shows really didn't want to be. Almost as if they were suiking because Robert Downey Jr wasn’t going to show up as a guest star, and acting out in retaliation.
Starting afresh gives Daredevil more life than Netflix could offer
Marvel does get criticised for its emphasis on linking shows and movies together to the extent that it does. The Netflix shows didn’t do that, and it made them feel like true stand-alone stories that didn’t require extensive homework every time a new instalment arrived.
But as She-Hulk showed, embracing the interconnectedness of the MCU doesn’t have to prevent something from standing alone on its own two feet. You know She-Hulk is part of something greater, but each episode works by itself. Much like issues of a comic book, in fact.
Starting clean with Daredevil: Born again means that this is a brand new Daredevil that is firmly part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After all, we've already seen him in Spider-Man: No Way Home, and he’s set to show up again in a future episode of She-Hulk. No more silly euphemisms that toe the line of actual referencing, alongside the potential for other Marvel heroes to show up — not just the ones with their own semi-related show.
The fact that Charlie Cox and Vincent D’Onofrio are both back, playing those characters the same way as they did before, doesn’t matter in the slightest. Certainly now that audiences have seen multiverse variants, in Loki and Dr Strange 2, that can look like actors they know and love (or not, in some cases).
No matter what happens, and whether or not the Netflix Marvel shows are wiped from the canon, it doesn’t change the fact that they exist. More to the point it doesn’t negate the fact that people really loved Daredevil, myself included.
Of course the canon topic is going to come up as Born Again hits Disney Plus and progresses through each subsequent season. The longer it goes on, and the more episodes there are, the better the odds are that it’s going to contradict what came before in some meaningful way.
Marvel is better off wiping its hands with the previous show and starting over. It’s not what some people might want, but it is best for the show. Not only does it offer more freedom, it also means making the darn thing a lot less complex. And that’s only going to make it a better show.