Marvel and Netflix released the third season of the hit series Daredevil earlier this month, and it’s one of the best things they’ve ever put together.
There’s been a lot of worry about the future of the Marvel series on Netflix recently given the cancellations of Iron Fist and Luke Cage, and Netflix’s repeated comments about not doing a second season Defenders. As of now Netflix is still set to release a second season of The Punisher, and there are plans for a third season of Jessica Jones, but nothing else is guaranteed. Marvel’s Chief of TV, Jeph Loeb, has stated repeatedly that they have long term plans for Daredevil, but Netflix is the one that gets to pull the plug if they are so inclined. Personally, this new season of Daredevil makes me pray that they keep things going.
The best way I can describe the new season of Daredevil is to say that it’s almost the Marvel equivalent of The Dark Knight, and in some ways that entire Batman trilogy. The Dark Knight trilogy focused not just on Batman, but on Bruce Wayne, and who he was with or without the cape and cowl. Daredevil has always done that as well. With a supporting cast that helps further establish a life for Matt Murdock aka Daredevil (Charlie Cox), and situations which make him question who he is and what he does. The first season began to dip into these issues but didn’t beat you over the head with it. The second season felt uneven with a major focus on Punisher, and at times did beat you over the head with the questions posed by what Matt was doing. This third season found a balance and managed to be an amazing character study of the titular hero, while also providing an excellent storyline and great arcs for every supporting character involved.
The season picks up rather quickly after the results of The Defenders, and SPOILER ALERT for The Defenders, Matt Murdock is presumed dead after sacrificing himself to save New York City from the evil organization known as The Hand. Matt somehow survived, making his way through the water ways under the city and is washed up on a shore. He’s then taken to the church he regularly attends in the first two seasons and is taken care of by Father Lantom (Peter McRobbie) the nuns there, specifically Sister Maggie (Joanne Whalley). As he’s recovering he states that he’s giving up on Matt Murdock, that Matt died and all that’s left is Daredevil.
In ways Matt’s decision to reject the life he could have is very similar to what Bruce does in Dark Knight. He could find a happy life outside of the world of being Batman, but he decides to sacrifice that to focus on being the hero the city needs. Matt could find peace now in his life, as he’s been given a second chance, but he feels as if he’s too far gone, and that Daredevil is all that’s left. The core story to Batman will always be that at his core he is no longer Bruce Wayne, that his true identity is the persona in the mask. Daredevil however needs to find that balance because while he is, in so many ways, the persona in the mask, he still has people that make him want to put on the mask and fight as Matt Murdock.
The season also uses it’s supporting cast in strong ways, and not just as help to tell Matt’s story. Each of them are fighting for their lives, through their internal struggles, or for their city, in the same way that the supporting cast of The Dark Knight does. Harvey Dent doesn’t just take on the mob and the Joker because he wants to help Batman and stop crime. He does it because he’s a good man, with darker tendencies at times, but he wants to have a happy life. But when the evil of the city gets to him, and begins to tear him apart piece by piece, he turns to the dark side. This season introduces Benjamin “Dex” Poindexter (Wilson Bethel). Who starts off as a determined and focused FBI Swat agent, and is corrupted by the evil surrounding him until he falls completely to the dark side lurking within him.
The initial slow burn for Dex, and his interactions with Wilson Fisk aka Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio), even feel reminiscent of scenes featuring Harvey Dent’s fall from grace at the end of The Dark Knight. Kingpin plays into Dex’s internal struggles in the same way that Joker does with Dent. And there are scenes that feel as though they could be paired with hospital room scene between Joker and Dent easily. It’s also a testament to the acting on display by Bethel and D’Onofrio. Bethel does a great job at showing the cracks, and the eventual implosion of his character, and D’Onofrio can do no wrong as Kingpin. Every scene he is in, he commands. There’s times where he chews the scenery, but it fits, and it fits really well. It also helps to establish this version of the character, and D’Onofrio’s performance definitively as one of the best performances of any comic book character in any medium.
D’Onofrio is Kingpin. For two seasons we’ve seen him do it without the trademark white suit from the comics. But this season he truly showed that while he may finally have the white suit, he doesn’t need it. He embodies this character to a T. The duplicity, the cunning, the terrifying and intense aspects of the character are all on display here. We also get glimpses of the weakness within him, the cracks that can reveal his humanity. But we see that in the end he is a brutal monster, that can not be stopped. Without a doubt, his performance should be held in the same breath as Heath Ledger’s Joker, and should be studied and remembered for years.
Another returning cast member that gives an award worthy performance this year is Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page. We’ve seen Karen go through some extremely intense and traumatic situations in the past, and after piling on more glossing over what’s come before during the second season, this season brings it all front and center. We also finally learn the true story to Karen’s dark past, in an episode that proves that the minds behind this show can craft any kind of story. And all of it is breathtakingly amazing. Woll carries an immense of weight in her performance and never goes over the top with what the character is experiencing. It’s real, and it’s painful, and your heart breaks for her, and every time things fall apart you yearn to see her win. You want to see her succeed in any way she can. But Karen is constantly trying to fight without letting go of her demons, and without realizing that she deserves to win. She continues to put herself in dangerous situations, because she’s someone who has constantly been destroyed by trauma, and doesn’t know how to live life without it. Again, it’s heartbreaking and gut wrenching, and Woll truly shows this season that she has endless amounts of talent.
The season also features great performances by every single other returning cast members including the aforementioned Peter McRobbie as Father Lantom, Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson, Royce Johnson as Brett Mahoney, Amy Rutberg as Marci Stahl. The three big additions to this season, Whalley, Bethel, and Jay Ali as FBI agent Ray Nadeem also give amazing performances as well. With Nadeem having an incredible arc and perfectly fully fleshed out character that you love very early into the season. There’s also plenty of amazing stunt work in this season as well, including a 50 person, one take, stunt scene in the 4th episode that blows the highly acclaimed hallway scene from episode 2 of season 1 out of the water.
There are so many deeper elements at play here that I can’t begin to go into without spoiling the twists and turns of this season. There are a million different reasons to watch this season of Daredevil. Whether you’re someone who has followed the series or not. I guarantee you that this show, and this season are worth your time. Many of these shows and seasons have had difficulty filling 13 episodes with worthy material, but this season starts off strong and never stops. It’s quite possibly the best season of any show that Marvel and Netflix have put together, and after watching it I not only want to rewatch every single one of its 13 episodes, but I yearn for a fourth season already. Every episode features at least one moment that will make you want to watch this show forever. There are moments in the final three episodes that will make you want to cheer out loud. And it tells a story that means something, which is honestly rare nowadays, especially when that story comes from big corporations trying to make blockbuster style material. Let’s just pray the Netflix keeps going, because until they announce and start production on a fourth season, I’ll be hanging onto the edge of my seat like Matt Murdock on the corner of a rooftop.
All three seasons of Daredevil are currently streaming on Netflix.
One thought on “Daredevil Season 3 Review: Pure Brilliance”