(Warning: If you’re not caught up on the latest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but you want to remain unspoiled, you might want to bookmark this story and come back to it after you’ve watched “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and Disney+’s “Hawkeye.")
You can’t keep a classic superhero down for long, apparently.
This past weekend, the Netflix-Disney (NFLX) - Get Netflix, Inc. Report (DIS) - Get Walt Disney Company Report series “Daredevil” ranked No. 8 on Nielsen’s weekly U.S. streaming chart of originals for the period of Dec. 20-26, according to Deadline. While “Marvel film or TV show is popular” is basically the dog-bites-man of the entertainment news industry, the surge of interest in “Daredevil” is noteworthy, because the series was canceled back in 2018.
What Is “Daredevil?”
Let's back up a bit, shall we?
First introduced in 1964 and created by Stan Lee and artist Bill Everett, Daredevil has long been one of Marvel Comics' most popular characters. For those that have never stepped into a comic store in their life, Daredevil is a crime-fighting-vigilante by night, and a crusading lawyer named Matt Murdock by day. He’s blind, but he has super-powered senses that make up for that, and over the years superstar creators such as Frank Miller, Kevin Smith, and Brian Michael Bendis have written acclaimed runs on the character that have expanded the idea of what a superhero comic can do.
In 2003, right as “Spider-Man’ and “X-Men” were making the cineplex safe for superhero movies again, 20th Century Fox released a film based on the character, with Ben Affleck in the lead role. The film did well enough at the box office, but fans and critics were unimpressed.
After various attempts by Fox to reboot the franchise, eventually, the rights of the character reverted back to Marvel. Before Marvel became the world-conquering titan we all know, in the late ’90s the company had barely survived bankruptcy and licensed its most popular characters to studios such as Fox and Sony, the latter of which could have bought the entire Marvel Universe for $25 million, but executives didn’t think anyone would care about any characters beyond Spider-Man.
In 2015, “Daredevil” premiered as the first entry in an alliance between Marvel and Netflix, which would see the two companies tell stories about street-level superheroes, as a contrast to the world-saving exploits of “The Avengers” franchise.
Though the Netflix series would prove to be uneven, as was also the case for the shows Marvel made for Hulu and other outlets, “Daredevil” proved to be a fan and critic favorite. Starring Charlie Cox in the titular role and Vincent D'Onofrio as his nemesis Wilson Fisk, aka the crime boss known as Kingpin, the series was acclaimed for top-notch acting and intense action-scenes, as every season had a lengthy fight scene that was shot in one-take.
“Daredevil” was canceled in 2018, along with other Netflix-Marvel partnership shows such as “Jessica Jones” (another fan favorite) “The Punisher” and “Luke Cage” (both of which have a more mixed reputation) and “Iron Fist” (let’s not get into it). While Netflix famously doesn’t give out ratings information, there was no indication that “Daredevil” had lost popularity, as its third season was critically acclaimed.
But while some of the other shows were rumored to have lost viewer interest, the likely reason is that once Disney announced plans to launch its own streaming service with Disney+, Netflix didn’t feel the need to continue working with a future competitor. The move caught fans and everyone else by surprise, as D'Onofrio said plans were already underway for a fourth season.
So Why Is “Daredevil” Trending?
As part of the Netflix deal, Marvel couldn’t use any of the Netflix characters until two years after the shows were canceled.
But once those two years were up, rumors began flying in fan communities about when the characters re-emerge. In the same week in December, Cox had a cameo as “a very good lawyer” who helped out Peter Parker in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and D'Onofrio reprised his role as Fisk, who proved to be the ultimate big bad of “Hawkeye.”
This was enough to awaken the fan communities, as #Daredevil began trending on Twitter the entire month of December. It was also apparently enough to get them to revisit the “Daredevil” show, and perhaps Marvel aficionados who missed the show the first time around were convinced to check it out.
Will “Daredevil” Return?
One of the main complaints about the Marvel TV shows, and likely the reason for their uneven executions, is that they were all produced by Marvel’s television branch, and thus weren't really all that connected to the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But with the advent of Disney+ and the release of well-received Marvel shows such as “Loki” and “WandaVision,” all of Marvel’s TV shows are now being overseen by Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, which likely explains the overall notable uptick in quality.
Feige has stated that Cox will be playing Daredevil in any future Marvel project, and D'Onofrio has never been shy, especially on Twitter, about his desire to return to the role. But so far, there’s been no further news on where the character might end up, even as it's clear that the demand is there. Though there are a few fan theories.
One of the main antagonists of “Hawkeye” was the character Echo (played by Alaqua Cox), a deaf martial artist who started as a Daredevil foe with close ties to Fisk. An “Echo” series is in production for Disney+, and including either Fisk or Murdock seems likely.
Additionally, Disney+ has the series “She-Hulk” on the way. Played by actress Tatiana Maslany, She-Hulk is both the super-powered cousin to Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk, and an attorney, and rumors have been flying that both Murdock and the private investigator Jessica Jones (who has previously worked for various MCU attorneys) could appear.
Also, in the comic books, Daredevil and Spider-Man have long been allies, and Kingpin was originally a Spider-Man villain, so perhaps they’ll both appear in the inevitable fourth “Spider-Man” film?
While the Daredevil fanbase would likely be pleased with any of these developments, what they no doubt want is more of the “Daredevil” show. But is that likely to happen?
Marvel now has the rights back and owns its own very high-profile streaming service, so in theory, it just has to work out some contracts and “Daredevil” will be back in business.
But the hitch is that the Marvel shows were violent and often a bit sexy, landing in a PG-13 to R zone, while the Disney+ shows have been geared towards a general audience, more in the PG to light PG-13 realm. Jon Bernthal has stated that he’d like to reprise his role as The Punisher, but isn’t sure if Marvel would let the show be as violent as it needs to be, as he wouldn’t want to play a “water-down” version of the character.
But there are signs of wiggle-room. The recent trailer for the upcoming Disney+ show “Moon Knight,” featuring Oscar Isaac as a former a former soldier and mercenary turned violent vigilante, looked much darker and more intense than most Disney+ Marvel offerings, earning comparisons to the Netflix shows. So, maybe the service is willing to experiment.
It’s also been proven that Disney+ can bend its own rules, as director Peter Jackson reportedly put his foot down that his hit Beatles documentary “Get Back,” would include scenes of the Fab Four smoking and cursing, much to the Mouse’s dismay.
But if Disney+ just won’t let “Daredevil” be “Daredevil,” well, Marvel could always consider moving it over to Hulu, one of the other streaming services the House of Mouse owns.
Ultimately, Marvel has never shown any hesitation about giving the people what they want, so while it’s not clear when or where “Daredevil” will show up, at this point another 10-minute long single-take fight scene seems inevitable.