Finally! After being teased with a glimpse of a certain horned helmet (now gold, rather than deep-red) at the end of She-Hulk: Attorney At Law Episode 5, audiences were left waiting a few weeks while Tatiana Maslany’s Jennifer Walters went to an ill-timed wedding (she even says so herself) and Emil Blonsky’s meditation retreat. But with Episode 8, the wait was over – properly reintroducing us to Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock. Aka Daredevil, aka the best, most handsomely-bespectacled lawyer in all of Hell’s Kitchen.
He had, of course, already popped up briefly in Spider-Man: No Way Home to huge multiplex cheers – getting all charges against Peter Parker dropped and catching a flying brick in the process. But Daredevil’s appearance in She-Hulk was our first prolonged look at the character as he officially enters (or, re-enters?) the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When Kevin Feige and co. made the choice to bring Cox back in the role, fans were thrilled – with casting as spot-on as that, why change it? But given that the multiverse is now an integral part of the MCU’s latest saga, we still don’t really know whether this Earth-616 Daredevil is the same Daredevil we saw in the Netflix-produced series. Is this Matt Murdock, who faced up against She-Hulk in court and saw off Leapfrog’s goons (not henchmen; very important distinction) the same one we saw take down Kingpin, grieve Elektra, and romance Karen Page? Or is he a variant, living in a parallel universe, who just so happens to also have Charlie Cox’s face? There’s plenty of ammunition for each argument.
The first damning piece of evidence that the MCU’s Daredevil is the same one from the so-called ‘Defenders Saga’ (as the former-Netflix series are now labelled on Disney+) is that he is, of course, late. When has Matt Murdock ever shown up to court on time? Or anywhere, for that matter? We love him, but all that serving justice can make him flaky and unreliable – we saw his tardiness affect law partner Franklin ‘Foggy’ Nelson numerous times in Daredevil. And while Elden Henson’s Foggy has not been seen in the MCU so far, there has at least been a brief hint of his existence in She-Hulk: when talking about his practice back in New York, Murdock used “we” when sharing how they take on a lot of pro-bono work – an implication that he’s not running that business alone.
The MCU’s Matt Murdock feels largely consistent with Defenders-Matt when it comes to his law ethos too. In his own show, he wasn’t interested in taking on rich, entitled clients – he wanted to represent the people who really needed it. Even though that approach got Nelson & Murdock into some tricky spots, Matt never wavered. MCU-Matt clearly feels the same, though perhaps with more wiggle room. He talks about the idea of ‘one for them, one for us’ to Jen, and how he balances pro-bono work with paying the bills – but, more importantly, he explains why she is so well-placed to do good (and, as we the audience know, why he is too). “The way I see it,” he says, “Jen Walters can use the law to help people when society fails them, and She-Hulk can help people when the law fails them.” While that attitude that chimes generally with Daredevil as a character, it’s especially consistent with his outlook in Daredevil.
But for all the familiarity, there’s plenty new about this Daredevil. For one, his return comes, of all places, in Los Angeles – and it just doesn’t feel like classic Daredevil without the backdrop of Hell’s Kitchen. There’s an argument either way here: we never saw Matt leave New York in the original series – but, as we hear in his conversation with Jen, this isn’t a permanent relocation or retconning of his home either. The MCU Daredevil still lives in NYC and has only flown over to the West Coast to defend Luke Jacobson, the supersuit specialist and tailor that he and She-Hulk share.
The MCU version of Daredevil might be a little less bloody, but there's still plenty of room for him to be brutal.
The fact that Matt has found a new guy to source his threads from is another interesting wrinkle. In Daredevil, Matt’s suits came from Melvin Potter (Matt Gerald), an inventor that Kingpin forced into creating protective garms. So why would he take his business to the West Coast? Well, chances are, he and Melvin aren’t on the best of terms right now – at the end of Season 3, Potter was carted off into FBI custody after Kingpin made him replicate the Daredevil suit for Poindexter, aka Bullseye, to try and frame our horned hero. Perhaps superheroic sartorial specialists are hard to come by – hence having to go to the other side of the country for Luke’s new comics-inspired “ketchup and mustard” get-up. (And, damn, that new suit looks good.)
Daredevil’s She-Hulk episode also marked a major romantic departure for Matt Murdock, whose relationship with Jen Walters went from adversaries to, er, more than friends, pretty quickly. Can this really be the same Matt who’s surely still hung up on Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll, who also really deserves to come back)? Their will-they-won’t-they connection was a huge part of Daredevil – would he really be bedding big green lawyers if he’s still into Karen? Arguably, that was a while ago now – and if we learned anything else from the Defenders shows, it’s that Matt Murdock, with his devilish (wink) good looks and quietly charming demeanour, is a ladies man. Not only did he get all hot and heavy with Karen, Elektra and Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) throughout his series, but we constantly heard tales from Foggy about him being a hit with the opposite sex. It stands to reason, then, that he would have such tangible chemistry with Jen. Did anyone else’s heartbeat just get a little quicker?
Lateness, locations and love interests aside, the main sticking point for a lot of Marvel fans in reconciling this Matt Murdock with that of Daredevil is how he assimilated with She-Hulk’s light, comedic tone. We’re used to seeing Matt as a brooding, tortured soul, dragged down into darkness and the depths of the criminal underworld. It’s a little jarring to see him, well, smiling so much. But though Daredevil didn’t spend much time laughing in the original series, he always had a sense of humour. What made Matt so engaging was the moments where he was allowed to relax – to be with friends, to focus on something other than Kingpin, to be witty and light-hearted and funny. Think of his date with Karen, or the flashback to his first meeting with Foggy at college. Cox’s Matt Murdock had comedic potential the whole time, and She-Hulk proved an ideal space to bring out that side of him. Plus, Daredevil’s darkness didn’t disappear entirely in this episode – in his solo action sequence, the punchy score, moody blue lighting and heavy hits look like they could have come straight from an episode of the original show. The MCU version of Daredevil might be a little less bloody, but there’s still plenty of room for him to be brutal.
Despite all the new evidence presented in this week’s She-Hulk, the jury is still out on whether he’s the exact same Defenders-saga Daredevil, or a very-close-but-not-quite-identical variant. With more Matt Murdock coming – including his own show, Daredevil: Born Again, and a rumoured role in the Echo series – a more definitive answer surely lies ahead. Perhaps the debate over whether this Matt is the same Matt matters not – what’s really important is that it’s a delight to see the devil of Hell’s Kitchen back on our screen again, with Charlie Cox still in the suit. And, of course, hearing that iconic melody from the original show’s title sequence… Ok, fine, stick that as another plus in the Defenders-is-canon column.