[The following contains spoilers for Disney+’s Hawkeye series and Spider-Man: No Way Home]
From the moment Disney+’s Hawkeye series started teasing an eventual appearance from classic Marvel villain Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. the Kingpin—and not just any Kingpin, but Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin from Netflix’s excellent Daredevil series—fans have wondered whether or not that means the Netflix shows are officially part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon. Those series always had a tenuous relationship with the movies, clearly taking place in a world where the alien invasion seen in The Avengers did happen, but anything beyond that was never directly explained.
The fact that nobody in the Spider-Man movies ever mentioned a guy running around Hell’s Kitchen in a devil mask or the Netflix shows’ annoying refusal to put Stark Tower in wide shots of the New York skyline seemingly indicated that they existed in some kind of offshoot of the MCU that didn’t really “count.” Throw in the fact that they were produced by the now-defunct Marvel Television studio and not Marvel Studios itself, and yeah, it seems like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and the others aren’t strictly meant to be part of the MCU canon.
But then D’Onofrio’s Fisk showed up on Hawkeye and threw everything into disarray. He’s the same actor playing the same character, but is he the same guy who lived through everything that happened on Daredevil? Did he crush a dude’s skull with a car door? Did he give that speech about being the “ill intent” in the story of the Good Samaritan? Did his criminal empire collapse because of the work of blind attorney Matt Murdock and his lovable friends? Was he just waiting in the shadows during the rise of the Avengers and Thanos’ snap and the appearance of Sam Wilson as Captain America, biding his time until he could put on his white coat and start kingpinning again?
Surely the finale of Hawkeye, in which Fisk plays a stunningly prominent role, would answer those questions, right? Actually, no. Not at all. All we know about this Kingpin is that he runs a criminal empire (one that seems a tad low-rent), he’s a boiling bucket of rage just waiting for any excuse to explode, and he owns one white suit and possibly two shirts (both of which are nods to different comic book looks). Oh, also, he can weirdly take a beating like nobody else, having no problem getting hit by a car or blasted with a handful of trick arrows.
There’s no mention of him having a grudge against a certain blind attorney and his lovable friends; there’s no recollection of him getting his ass kicked by Daredevil on multiple occasions; and other than forming a relationship with Alaqua Cox’s Maya, there’s no indication of what he’s been doing in the past decade or so of MCU history. Hell, if not for the fact that he’s clearly been around for Maya’s whole life, you might think he was… just plucked out of the multiverse.
You know, like in Spider-Man: No Way Home. In that movie, a magical mishap involving Spidey and Doctor Strange results in Spider-Man villains from the multiverse suddenly finding themselves in the regular MCU reality, even ones who never directly fought a Spider-Man, like Tom Hardy’s Venom. That would’ve been an easy explanation for how Fisk got to the MCU’s New York without making much of an impact until now, but it wouldn’t make sense because of the other person who meets Spidey in No Way Home: Matt Murdock, a.k.a. Daredevil, played by Charlie Cox from the Netflix show.
But is he Daredevil? He doesn’t wear his horns in No Way Home, even if he does show off his “radar sense” abilities, and, again, nobody in the MCU has ever mentioned that a guy in a devil mask regularly assaults criminals a few blocks north of Doctor Strange’s house. So what has he been doing for the past 10 years? Did he fight Fisk? Did he and his college girlfriend face an army of immortal ninjas with the Punisher?
The temptation is to treat the Netflix shows like the old Star Wars Expanded Universe, which is to say that they’re all canon unless they’re explicitly overwritten by something in the movies, but too much of Daredevil doesn’t fit that mold. For instance, the show’s final episode ended with Daredevil making a deal with Fisk that he won’t go after the Kingpin’s wife for her complicity in his crimes if Fisk agrees not to go after Daredevil’s friends—with Daredevil even taking off his mask to prove that he’s serious.
Fisk goes to prison after that, so if Daredevil is canon, that means he got out of prison and went right back to running a criminal empire (and is so famous that dudes like Hawkeye know him as “the Kingpin”). But Daredevil never felt the need to grab his billy clubs and start putting members of the Tracksuit Mafia in the hospital?
The Hawkeye finale even has Maya shooting Fisk at point-blank range, and if he’s actually dead (never make assumptions in a comic book show), it would mean we might never get answers to any of these questions. It’s always nice to see Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk again, a sentiment that Marvel clearly agrees with, but it would be even nicer to know if the trauma and emotional baggage they built up in Daredevil still mattered.
Otherwise, it’s not a tribute to the Robert Downey Jr.-level iconic performances that D’Onofrio and Cox gave in the Netflix show; it’s just another comic book Easter egg meant to toy with the fans.