Over the past few days, social media has been ablaze with leaks and speculation about Daredevil: Born Again, the much-anticipated sequel show to the one that began the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s foray into television back in 2015, Netflix’s Daredevil. Fans of the Man Without Fear have been holding out since the original show’s cancellation after its third and final season in 2018. The #SaveDaredevil petition came together to campaign for the show’s revival, and well, they did it. Despite Netflix’s so-so handling of their street-level, Avengers-style team known as the Defenders, it looks like Disney will allow Daredevil and his friends to return to our TVs very soon.
Getting the full scope of the situation requires a discussion of Daredevil’s history as well as that of modern Marvel television. Born Again has had a troubled development, to say the least. A short chronicle of it begins with the original 2022 announcement, which told audiences to expect a bloated 18-episode affair which, while bringing back Charlie Cox’s Daredevil and Vincent D’onofrio’s Kingpin would have little to no ties to the original show, effectively rebooting the franchise. Deborah Ann Woll and Elden Henson, who play Daredevil’s supporting cast members Karen Page and Foggy Nelson, were confirmed to not be involved with Born Again’s initial conception. So close, yet so far from what any Daredevil fan really wanted.
Daredevil was the flagship show amongst its cohort of street-level superhero programming. Jessica Jones (2015), Luke Cage (2016), Iron Fist (2017), The Punisher (2017), and finally, their culmination in The Defenders (2017), were wildly inconsistent in quality. Daredevil and Jessica Jones towered over the likes of Iron Fist, leaving Luke Cage lost in mediocrity. (Meanwhile, Hulu’s Runaways and Freeform’s Cloak and Dagger, while having their fans, would have little impact.) Oh, and The Punisher managed to squeak out two good seasons. However, under the Disney+ regime, Marvel television would reap the benefits of canonicity and being much higher profile, but would never quite escape the shadow of the Defenders. Hawkeye (2021) brought Kingpin back into the fold while She-Hulk: Attorney At Law (2022), with an assist from Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021), did the same for the Man without Fear.
Post-cancellation, the entire slate of Defenders-verse shows had been effectively de-canonized, relegating the street-level heroes to the realm of theorycraft and headcanon as to how they fit into the MCU. All of this is to spell out how bad things were before Echo (2024). Introduced in Hawkeye, the Deaf Choctaw superhero known as Echo has single-handedly revived the Defenders suite and may be the reason why Born Again has finally shaped up into what it always should have been.
Echo directly deals with the title character’s relationship with Kingpin, whose past, the specific backstory created for the Defenders-verse version of the character, is referenced explicitly. The success of Echo as a show, which has a short appearance by Daredevil in episode one, resulted in a bump in viewership for the rest of the Defenders-verse shows, prompting their reinstatement into the MCU canon. Money talks. After Echo, the Born Again creative team have finally righted the ship. In what seemed like a matter of mere days, the core cast members of the original show were mounted and already filming, producing a flurry of set leaks which confirm appearances by returning characters Karen, Foggy, and the classic DD villain Bullseye.
Of course, I won’t bite the hand that feeds me more Daredevil, but it’s clear that Born Again was in free fall before Echo’s success gave them the go-ahead to dust off the Daredevil season 4 scripts they had in the vaults. Still, I can’t help but think it’s too good to be true. I want to think the evil money people in charge of green-lighting these shows threw up their hands and let the actual creatives make the best show they can. However, I’m too jaded from the MCU to really believe that. Marvel’s television efforts have yielded spotty results. I endured WandaVision (2021), Twitter hates Moon Knight (2022) and my mom likes Hawkeye. That’s the clearest critical consensus I, or anyone else, has to offer on the subject. Nevertheless, Daredevil, in print and in television, has an exceptional track record in terms of critical and fan reception.
What made the original show so successful was that it was a drama before it was anything else. DD was doing his superhero business in black pajamas for a whole season before we got to see his supersuit. We saw every wound he suffered and knew that he’d have to show up at the law office the next day with a flimsy excuse. Every midnight outing as the devil had consequences for its plot and characters. While Disney’s shows will never beat the “6 episode movie” allegations, Daredevil was paced like actual television programming. Hour long episodes and efficient character work allowed the audience to instantly care for Matt, Karen, and Foggy as if they were real people. Far and away, the best character writing in the MCU lies in the offices of Nelson and Murdock, not Avengers Tower.
I can only hope Disney allows Daredevil to return to the character’s darker, bloodier roots despite sharing the same streaming platform as Bluey (2018) and What If…? (2021). While the odds—now—seem to be in Born Again’s favor, let’s not forget how dire things could have been. Right now, we stand a probable chance of Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and the Punisher returning to the MCU to fill out its frankly barren ranks, (seriously, we have no Avengers), as well as the full fledged resurrection of one of the best superhero shows to ever do it. About a year ago, we would get Daredevil and Kingpin back, yes, but without the rest of their street-level universe that they fit so well into.
If Variety’s article is anything to go by, Marvel needs an easy slam dunk right now. Between losing their next big bad in Kang, not being able to get a Blade movie off the ground, and generally not knowing where to go or what to do next, the answer is clear: taking it to the streets. The Defenders have reached “internet revisionist history” status, meaning that nostalgia has finally sunk in and the children are longing for Luke Cage and Iron Fist to hang out again. Not only could Born Again revitalize Marvel’s failed TV empire, but it could revitalize interest in the MCU wholesale.
It all comes down to this: Daredevil is my favorite superhero, and it was Charlie Cox’s performance that endeared me so much to this character, a common experience for fans of the show. The blind, Catholic, vigilante ninja lawyer deserves the respect that the Born Again creative team is showing him and his supporting cast. Not only are the actors and the source material being respected, but so is the audience. The #SaveDaredevil campaign, as well as those who simply love the show and the character, were heard and seen when the right decision was made to bring back the Man Without Fear just as we remember him; just as he should be.