The much anticipated new season of the Marvel Netflix Daredevil is finally here. After the much acclaimed Daredevil Seasons 1 and 2, Season 3 picks up right where the four hero crossover The Defenders left off. Matt Murdock, the blind lawyer who is secretly the vigilante Daredevil, is both physically and psychologically damaged after the events of The Defenders (a skyscraper fell on top of him). Recuperating under the city church where he was fostered, Matt must now regather his strength and return to his crime-fighting career. The only difference is that Matt has made a radical decision, to let go of his identity as Matt Murdock and to instead fully embrace Daredevil, cutting off all ties to his friends. To top it all off, Wilson Fisk, the dreaded crime lord, has cut a deal with the FBI that allows him to be freed from prison and moved to a penthouse in the city under surveillance.
The past few seasons of recent Marvel shows have been disappointing to many, but what many people forget is that Daredevil has been consistently great in its two seasons. This third season is no exception as it manages to bring both the series and the Marvel Netflix universe back to its gritty, crime-filled roots. Everything from the psychological torment of our heroes to the in-depth look at the seedy underbelly of New York City, Season 3 is filled to the brim with realism. This time around, things get real dark, almost too dark to the point where half of the series has our beloved characters experience pure hopelessness. Luckily, the darker turn of this series is just what it needs. Despite some minor bloating, once things get going, they really get going. It’s like a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart once you get into the frenetic action scenes and massive conspiracies. All of this wouldn’t be possible without fantastic writing, wonderful performances from our returning cast members, and some new life and new blood injected into the series.
Charlie Cox is once again masterful as Matt Murdock/Daredevil. He turns in an even more intense performance than ever before. It’s a difficult task since it asks him to turn down his previous likeability and instead act more irrational and unapologetic. Nevertheless, Charlie Cox prevails and manages to portray a fragile and unhinged Matt Murdock. We see some of the difficult decisions that he makes, and the frustrations and anguishes of a man who chooses to walk a lonely path while also feeling abandoned and rejected by the parental figures in his life. There is a clear dichotomy set up between Matt Murdock and the Daredevil persona, and how it comes to play in regards to Matt’s closest friends, Karen Page and Foggy Nelson, is a driving force of the show. Karen Page, portrayed terrifically by Deborah Ann Woll, has really come into her own as one of the stronger characters in the entire Marvel Netflix pantheon. Her role as a journalist propels her alongside the more interesting elements and discoveries of the plot, and her personal demons and past traumas come together to give her character a sense of instability that parallels Matt’s own rashness. Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson serves as a moral balancer in this season, acting as the ultimate by-the-book optimist who believes the best way to beat Fisk is through the system. It’s a refreshing character arc that stops Daredevil from being a show full of moral ambiguity. Among the new cast members, there is Joanne Whalley who plays Sister Maggie, a nun who nurses Matt back to health and may have a deeper past connection with him than is initially let on. The two most interesting new additions, however, are two FBI agents. The first is Benjamin Pointdexter aka Bullseye, played by Wilson Benthal, a sharp shooter and projectiles expert. The second agent is Rahul “Ray” Nadeem, played by Jay Ali. Nadeem is Daredevil’s most human character this season. He’s shown to be the every-man, going through his own struggles to make ends meet and provide a good life for his wife and son. Experiencing his trials and tribulations and seeing his decisions and how he reacts to them creates a sense of relatability that what is happening to him-being in extremely tough no-win situations- could be happening to anyone of us. But, it also gives us hope that we can end up doing the right thing when it counts. He is this season’s most sympathetic character, almost acting as the heart and soul of what this season is all about, good people making hard choices and struggling to be the best versions of themselves. Bullseye is also introduced in a very unique way in the show, and his ability to use anything from a pencil to a baseball in order to efficiently take out targets is incredibly fun to watch. Not only that, Wilson Benthal turns in a chilling performance as a deeply disturbed character that is pushed against a corner and manipulated by Wilson Fisk. What’s remarkable about Daredevil’s cast of characters is that no one character feels like they’re a throwaway or are unnecessary. Another remarkable thing is that no one is shown to be perfect. Every character, from Karen Page, to Foggy Nelson, to Ray Nadeem, to Matt Murdock himself walks a hard line and has questions of morality. Even the traditional old wise characters, like Father Lantom (played by Peter McRobbie), whom Matt has often sought out for guidance in the past, is shown to have made some past mistakes that affect the present. This choice by the showrunners really cements the realism and shows that even the heroes that we look up to will not always be shining beacons of hope, hope is instead found by conquering our everyday struggles and trying to do the right thing, hoping that your decisions will leave a good impact and lasting legacy on those who follow. In the end, we are all just people.
But even amongst the imperfect characters, there is also the pure evil, and that is where Vincent D’Onofrio once again shines as Wilson Fisk, the greatest Marvel villain ever put to screen. Last time we saw Fisk, he was plotting his return from prison, but in the first season, Fisk was portrayed more sympathetically as a man damaged by his abusive past and inability to connect with other human beings. That all changes this season. We finally get to see Wilson Fisk become the true evil criminal mastermind and live up to the name of the Kingpin, a name which he finally officially receives this season. We see Fisk spread his influence and create waves of terror in maniacal ways, predicting and planning every possibility, and constantly being one step ahead of the heroes. There’s no more relatability or sympathy, you know who he is at this point and so does he. This makes Kingpin a completely relentless and unhinged character, fully aware of the fact that he is the “ill intent”. What’s also great is Kingpin’s relationship with Bullseye, and how he is able to manipulate and guide this tortured soul under his wing. There is an especially gorgeous sequence that is set up like a stage play in black and white where Fisk explores Bullseye’s past. Instead of going into a complete flashback, the scene remains in Fisk’s penthouse but shows Fisk observing Bullseye’s past experiences, giving us these views from Fisk’s perspective. Bullseye is a personification of Matt’s inner demons; he is everything that Matt could have become if he had gone down the wrong path. During their confrontations, it’s especially clear that Matt is fighting a version of himself which makes it thrilling not only in terms of fight choreography but also in terms of stakes as it makes Matt realize who he could end up becoming if he doesn’t curb his rage.
Speaking of fight choreography, the action in this season is taken to a whole new level. More like the first season rather than all of the ninja fights in the second season, it manages to keep things gritty and in close quarters. The camera always hovers closely and lower to the ground, and the set pieces are in claustrophobic rooms or cramped corridors, emanating a sense of tension and uneasiness. Two fights scenes are particularly awe-inspiring, one being an extremely long 11-minute one take scene, and another being a fight between Daredevil and Bullseye. Bullseye’s expert aim comes into play as a new danger for Matt, as he can turn anything from pencils to prayer beads into deadly projectiles. It’s necessary to give real credit to the showrunners and choreographers, since in a time where CW shows and superhero shows in general (including the Marvel Netflix shows) are continuously pumping out subpar fight sequences, Daredevil always attempts to find unique ways to depict their action, and the result is cinematic quality fighting with a television budget.
Overall, Daredevil Season 3 succeeds with flying colors. Daredevil as a series is head and shoulders above the majority of superhero shows, in fact, it is likely the best superhero shows ever and one of the best shows on TV right now. It flourishes as both an elaborate crime thriller and a dark and personal look into a damaged hero. The show starts off a little slow but never drags too much, and by taking its time instead of starting off swinging, it avoids the common Netflix issue of the midseason drag where around episode 6 of a season, the show starts to lose stamina. There are several reminders as to how our societal systems are a work in progress, and how someone with enough money and power can avoid every aspect of the law and can exist above the system. Kingpin, though still a genius, can also be a sadistic child that believes he can get away with anything, and he pretty much can. Luckily, it’s seeing how our heroes persevere against such overwhelming power while trying to stay true to their character that makes Daredevil so enthralling a series. Though not perfect, Daredevil continues to prove time and time again that it is a consistently thrilling series with riveting action, a relatively concise plot, and brilliant characters portrayed by brilliant actors. Charlie Cox’s performance as Matthew Murdock is deserving of Emmy recognition at this point.