Just when we thought Daredevil's Netflix series was canon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), a new report has cast doubt on those claims.
How so? According to The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab) (THR), Daredevil: Born Again – the superhero's forthcoming MCU TV series – has reportedly added Jon Bernthal to its casting ranks. Bernthal, who played Frank Castle/The Punisher in Netflix's Defenders-Verse, is due to reprise his role as the bloodthirsty vigilante in Daredevil's Disney Plus show, which is slated to arrive in late 2024.
We previously reported that Bernthal was coming to the MCU as part of Marvel Phase 5, so we're delighted to see that The Walking Dead alumnus is gearing up to play the fan-favorite character again.
Pleasing as Bernthal's return is, though, it raises big questions about how Netflix's Defenders-Verse is being incorporated into the MCU (if at all); whether the MCU's Daredevil is the same one we've seen before; and what this all means for Marvel if it decides to integrate other non-MCU TV shows into its colossal cinematic universe.
Let's start with Daredevil's MCU canonicity. Marvel announced that a Daredevil MCU TV show was in development during its Comic-Con panel in July 2022, confirming that Charlie Cox and Vincent D'Onofrio would reprise their roles as Matt Murdock/Daredevil and Wilson Fisk from Netflix's Marvel TV universe.
Immediately, fans began theorizing if the pair would be the same characters we saw in Netflix's Daredevil TV show. Following their cameo and supporting roles in Spider-Man: No Way Home and Hawkeye, viewers were none the wiser as to whether this was the case.
However, Daredevil's supporting role in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law appeared to confirm that this iteration of the superhero was the same one we'd seen in Netflix's Daredevil series. It was She-Hulk episode 8 that all but confirmed Daredevil's Netflix series was canon in the MCU, which seemingly put an end to the confusion.
The return of Bernthal's Punisher, though, casts doubt on that. For starters, The Punisher is a far more violent character than Daredevil, doling out deadly *ahem* punishment by the blood-filled bucketload in the comics and in his recent live-action appearances.
If the MCU's Punisher is the same version as the one Bernthal portrayed in Daredevil season 2 and his standalone series on Netflix, Marvel will have to rein in his brutality, which reduces his effectiveness as a juxtaposed character to Daredevil.
Charlie Cox exclusively told TechRadar that Daredevil: Born Again won't be fully R-rated, so it won't be as violent as Netflix's Daredevil series was anyway. Even so, the best part of Bernthal's Punisher was his raw, uncompromising, and vicious crusade against the criminal underworld. Removing that R-rated aspect from the character dilutes him down and, in the eyes of some fans, might make The Punisher too Disney-fied to be viewed as the same individual we've seen before.
Then there's the other elephant in the room: the absence of Elden Henson's Foggy Nelson and Deborah Ann Woll's Karen Page.
Daredevil season 3 ended with Foggy, Page, and Murdock teaming up once more to form a new law firm called Murdock, Nelson, and Page. However, THR suggests that Woll and Henson haven't been asked to return as their characters for Born Again, noting that it's unclear if they've been recast or aren't part of the series at all.
If the MCU's Daredevil, Fisk, and The Punisher are the same character iterations from Netflix's Daredevil, would it not make sense to bring Matt Murdock's business partners – not to mention extremely loyal friends – back? Foggy and Page are as integral to Daredevil's comic book and live-action journeys as anyone else, if not more so.
Sidelining these characters – particularly the versions played with such emotional gravitas by Woll and Henson – for Born Again indicates that Daredevil's Netflix show might not be completely canon in the MCU after all. Equally, it posits the question as to whether Born Again would address their absence. If it doesn't, audiences may see this as Marvel simply picking and choosing what elements it wants to carry over from Netflix's TV adaptation.
The studio has previous form for cherrypicking what content and characters carry over from its non-MCU productions, too.
Agent Carter, a Marvel TV show that aired on ABC and was set after Captain America: The First Avenger, isn't technically an MCU project. However, Marvel took bits and pieces of that show, such as Howard Stark's butler Edwin Jarvis, and incorporated them into Avengers: Endgame. Anson Mount reprised his role as Black Bolt from another ABC Marvel show – Inhumans – in Doctor Strange 2, albeit in a cameo capacity.
Lastly, there's speculation that Chloe Bennet's Daisy Johnson/Quake, first seen in ABC's Agents of SHIELD, will appear in Secret Invasion later this year. Marvel's decision to include certain characters and subplots from non-MCU projects in its cinematic universe, then, only muddies the waters further over what's canon.
Unlike its sibling shows, though, it seemed that Daredevil's Netflix series was being fully incorporated into the MCU. The inclusion of The Punisher, plus the distinct lack of other key characters from Netflix's TV adaptation, suggests this may no longer be the case.
Of course, there's still time for the pendulum to swing in the opposite direction. Marvel has already confirmed that Deadpool 3 will be its first fully R-rated movie, so there's always the potential that Born Again could be the first TV-MA/18-plus MCU TV series. Page and Henson could also appear in cameo roles, too, despite what THR reported.
Marvel, Cox, and company might simply be trying to throw us all off the scent in a bid to preserve some surprises for when the show begins airing. In an era where fans are ravenous for every morsel of information about forthcoming Marvel projects, holding those secrets back until launch date would make for a welcome change.
Right now, though, it seems a single character's return has blown our theories – about Netflix's Daredevil being canon in the MCU – out of the water. With principal photography on the series due to begin shortly, here's hoping Marvel provides confirmation as to whether Born Again is a full continuation of Netflix's TV series.
For more Marvel coverage, find out how to watch the Marvel movies in order. Additionally, see which MCU TV series made it onto our best Disney Plus shows list and how we've ranked every Marvel movie so far.