For too long Disney and Marvel Studios teased the return of Charlie Cox’s Daredevil to our screens, but the day is finally here. Matt Murdock (who cameoed in 2021’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home”) and his superhero alter ego Daredevil appears in “She-Hulk” Episode 8, “Ribbit and Rip it,” and what a comeback it is.
Daredevil’s return was no secret, teased as early as in trailers and several episodes prior when the camera zoomed in on his red and gold suit at a special superhero tailor shop. Matt Murdock is a lawyer just like Jen Walters a.k.a. She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany), so there was always the possibility of them crossing paths professionally as they do in Episode 8. Sparks fly almost instantly, and these two lawyers become partners.
“She-Hulk” has had plenty of storylines around dating and relationships so far, including Jen’s struggle to find matches as herself versus as her intimidating green alter ego. Matt Murdock is the second man so far to be attracted to Jen herself, to her very human mind and vocation as opposed — or in addition — to her superpowers. The conversation is easy, the chemistry straight out of a rom-com. Though Matt had various romantic storylines on Netflix’s canceled “Daredevil” series, the show was known for dark drama, with most of the love stories ending in heartbreak or tragedy. In “She-Hulk,” Cox gets to giggle, and it is adorable.
Marvel isn’t known for particularly exceptional romance, let alone sex. The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most hallowed relationships were between Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) and Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Steve (Chris Evans) and Peggy (Hayley Atwell), all of whom exited the franchise after “Avengers: Endgame” in 2019. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Jane’s (Natalie Portman) tepid love story got a resurgence in 2022’s “Love & Thunder,” and “WandaVision” proved to be a worthwhile experiment, but Phase 4 has otherwise continued the MCU tradition of shoehorned or absent partnerships.
But Daredevil’s return makes a strong case for why the MCU should do more sex and romance, whether implicit or explicit. Disney’s conservative family values are arguably hurting its storytelling, like with the glaring lack of queer characters across most of its major franchises. The same goes for pulling back on romance when the TV and film climate is more open and diverse than ever. 25 million viewers watched a woman marry her uncle last week — they can handle two people in supersuits kissing. Letting characters have romantic and physical relationships — including a range of sexualities — opens up rich and entertaining storytelling possibilities for the MCU, if Marvel and Disney would only embrace them.
The flirty tone holds throughout Matt and Jen’s interactions, including when they team up as superheroes. They keep up the banter while trying to beat each other up, which is nothing if not the superhero version of romance’s beloved enemies-to-lovers trope. When she unmasks Daredevil, Jen pokes fun at Matt’s brooding person, a meta move that only “She-Hulk” can pull, and he points out that her heartbeat is elevated, which is hot.
Hopped up on adrenaline from vigilanteism, the pair decides they don’t need to wait for a formal dinner before getting to the next part. They end up back at Jen’s quicker than you can say “Hell’s Kitchen,” where every piece of that shiny new Daredevil suit comes off. Matt’s walk of shame the next morning — in a full Daredevil suit, shoes in hand — is one of the show’s funniest visual gags so far.
Matt and Jen might not be the next Marvel power couple, but Maslany and Cox make a compelling pair both in physical chemistry and with their easy rapport. “She-Hulk” is a show that acknowledges and encourages sex, so the relationship can be explicit in a way that many PG-13 blockbusters can’t; the adult lead has already dealt with casual dating, one-night stands, and ghosting, so whatever happens moving forward won’t be glossed over.
With only one “She-Hulk” episode remaining, it may be the last we see of Matt Murdock in this for some time, but a new Daredevil series is officially on the MCU slate for 2024. Between this and “No Way Home” and the original “Marvel’s Daredevil” on Netflix, one thing Marvel can now bank on is Daredevil’s versatility within the MCU and that the character fits into film, television, and varying genres. A year and change is a long time to wait for more Daredevil, but hopefully he returns sooner rather than later, and his hiatus doesn’t take romance away from the MCU. Just because it rarely works doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a shot.
“She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” and “Marvel’s Daredevil” are both streaming on Disney+.