Matthew Murdock is in a strange place by the end of The Defenders, but the final moments of the show—and even actor Charlie Cox—indicate that Daredevil’s third season will adapt one of the character’s most iconic comic book stories. Here’s what you need to know about it.
The Defenders ends with Daredevil and the reborn Elektra embracing each other as the Hand’s Midland Circle headquarters come crashing down upon them, the ruins plummeting into the cavernous depths beneath the building to destroy the skeletal remains of a great dragon buried there along with “the Substance” that allowed Elektra and the Hand founders to cheat death..
While his fellow Defenders and friends believe Matt was killed in the collapse, the closing moments of the very last episode reveal that Matt survived the ordeal (and maybe even Elektra did too, although Élodie Yung is just as uncertain about that as we are), and is being patched up by a convent of nuns. Many fans took the scene as a confirmation that the next season of Daredevil would be adapting the seminal 1986 comic book storyline Born Again—something that was basically confirmed by Charlie Cox himself, although with the caveat it would be a very loose adaptation.
Written by Frank Miller—returning to the Daredevil book since he first turned Daredevil into one of Marvel’s biggest comics in the early ‘80s—and with art by David Mazzucchelli and Christie Scheele (credited as Max Scheele), Born Again ran between issues #227 and 233 over the course of 1986, and charted the fall and rise of Daredevil after one of his greatest foes, the Kingpin, discovers his alter ego.
Kingpin gets that info from an unlikely source: Matt Murdock’s former love interest Karen Page, who previously left the law firm of Nelson and Murdock. Karen—now living in Mexico after a nascent acting career leads to her becoming a heroin addict filming porn flicks to pay for her drugs—sells the truth behind Daredevil’s secret identity for more drug money, and the information eventually makes its way up the criminal hierarchy to the Kingpin.
The crimelord then uses it to begin a six-month campaign to drive Murdock insane. Matt’s bank accounts are frozen, his apartment is foreclosed, and Kingpin pays off an NYPD officer to testify that Matt attempted to pay off a witness in one of his cases. Matt gets disbarred, but not jailed, thanks to Foggy wrangling his friend out of serving time. In retaliation, Kingpin simply decides to burn his apartment down, leaving his costume in the ruins as a message that Kingpin knows that he’s Daredevil.
Homeless and ceaselessly tracked by the Kingpin’s henchmen, Matt slides into paranoia and insanity, unable to trust anyone around him now that his identity is known. Matt eventually attempts to confront Kingpin one on one, only to be beaten within an inch of his life and dumped in the East River—which, being a remarkably resilient guy, Matt manages to escape and drag his broken body back to Hell’s Kitchen. There, he’s found by his mother, absent from his life since he was a child, and nursed back to health at the church she has spent her life working in.
It’s not just Matt who gets a bit obsessively loopy in the storyline. Becoming more and more obsessed with destroying Murdock, Kingpin realizes that Matt escaped being dumped in the river, so begins using his henchmen to kill off the loose ends of his failed plan to land Matt in jail—including Karen, who evades Kingpin’s men and returns to New York, having realized who her information eventually wound up with. After re-uniting with Matt and revealing what she did, the two reconcile; Matt announces he’s moved on from the life Kingpin destroyed, and they settle down in an apartment together, hiding from Kingpin’s men while Matt works at a diner to help Karen recover from heroin withdrawal.
Eventually Kingpin recruits the deranged super-soldier Nuke to draw Matt out of hiding with a killing spree outside the diner, leading to Matt donning the Daredevil costume again for the first time since Kingpin destroyed his old life. After the two fight, the Avengers intervene. While Kingpin manages to get Nuke killed before he can reveal his involvement, Captain America eventually discovers his subterfuge, ruining to Kingpin’s reputation as an “honest” businessman as a flurry of lawsuits are filed against him, even if he avoids jail time. Meanwhile, despite still being disbarred, Matt finds himself recommitted to his role as Hell’s Kitchen’s protector, while living with and helping Karen while returning to the Daredevil mantle.
A lot of the groundwork for adapting Born Again has actually already been covered, thanks to the final episodes of Daredevil’s second season and the finale of The Defenders. Even a loose adaptation of the story—Daredevil’s secret identity being exposed and Matt going through hell, only to get a fresh chance at life—would make sense for where Matt Murdock is after The Defenders, and serve as a way to “reset” the character after the wild events of Elektra’s re-appearance and the Hand’s arrival in New York. The show may even include Murdock getting disbarred for his actions in The Defenders, which would truly wipe the character’s slate clean for future seasons. Defenders already tackled the idea of how dangerous the blurring of Matt’s personal and superhero lives are to both himself and the people around him, so a season dedicated to that problem would make sense.
A Born Again adaption could also mean some familiar faces from the Marvel Netflix-verse woll be back in season three. Given that the Hand are now mostly dealt with thanks to the events of The Defenders, it would also make sense if Daredevil ended up bringing back Vincent D’Onofrio’s beloved take on Kingpin for the adaptation of storyline. After all, when we last saw him in jail in Daredevil’s second season, he was already pretty obsessed with destroying both Matt and Foggy’s lives for putting him there in the first place—and it was heavily hinted that he’d started suspecting that Daredevil and Murdock were one and the same. While it’s unlikely the Avengers would show up in the Netflix version of this story, given that Nuke already appeared in Jessica Jones’ first season—tweaked into Wil Traval’s former cop-turned-drugged-up maniac Will Simpson—there’s a chance that character could return here as one of the Kingpin’s main henchmen, too.
An adaptation of the comic also means that we’ll likely finally meet Matt’s estranged mother, who left her husband when Matt was still young to join the Catholic church. She played a major role in Born Again, meeting her son again out of chance for the first time since she left for the Church, and nursing him back to health. The final scene of Defenders all but confirms this, considering the Nun looking over Matt tells someone to “Get Maggie” when he wakes up— Maggie being the name of his mother in the comics.
I’m willing to bet the part where poor Karen Page becomes a heroin-addicted sex worker is probably not going to happen on the show, however. Maybe the events of Born Again will reconcile her doubts about Matt being a vigilante and see the two get romantically connected again. Although it’s just as likely they could finally push Karen out of his life altogether.