The horn-headed crimefighter is back and better than ever with a marvelous third season that proves Daredevil is the uncontested greatest superhero show of all time.
Battered and broken following the events of The Defenders, a recovering Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) wallows in a suicidal depression while in the care of unflinching nun Sister Maggie (Joanne Whaley) as he mourns the loss of the extraordinary superhuman abilities that allowed the blind lawyer to operate as ninja-like vigilante Daredevil.
Meanwhile, an incarcerated and vengeance-seeking Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio), ousted from his cushy position as New York’s de facto Kingpin of Crime, plots to undermine both the lawful efforts of Matt Murdock and the not-so-lawful achievements of hated enemy Daredevil, who Fisk blames for obstructing his prized love with fleeing fiancée Vanessa (Ayelet Zurer).
Turned snitch, the Machiavellian Fisk plots to systematically dismantle and destroy the already-crumbling lives of both Matt Murdock and Daredevil — and when a deal with the FBI sees Fisk freed from prison, it endangers the lives of those closest to Matt: namely estranged best friends Karen (Deborah Ann Well) and Foggy (Elden Henson), now working to expose Fisk and prevent his ascension back to power.
As a reckless and suicidal Matt wrestles with both a loss of faith and the life he once knew — still suiting up and taking to the streets in his stripped-down black vigilante costume despite his impaired capabilities — the grieving superhero becomes a target for his greatest threat yet: a deadly-accurate psychopath (Wilson Bethel) who rarely misses.
The front half of Daredevil Season Three foregoes costumed superhero action in favor of a slow burn that entrenches itself in the complex and engaging character drama that unfolds as Fisk makes his chess moves from behind bars, acting at the top of his game despite being under the watchful eyes of the FBI and in-over-his-head agent Ray Nadeem (Jay Ali).
Daredevil is able to slow things down and dig into its character work because of the development that played out in two preceding seasons of Daredevil and the one-off The Defenders, allowing for this third season to hit its emotional beats early on as it explores the fractured relationship between Matt and Karen, and the strained-but-recovering dynamic between Matt and an aimless Foggy, who decides to strap up and fight Fisk in the political arena.
It’s the payoff in those relationships that keeps Daredevil engaging even when it strays from its sparse action sequences, which are all the more hard-hitting when they break up the police procedural-like drama which, in itself, almost makes you forget you’re watching a superhero drama — in the best way.
A prison-set long take action sequence finds Matt more vulnerable than ever as the jailhouse comes under siege, erupting in a blow-out brawl that’s as cheer-worthy as any of the past standout uncut action scenes that fans have come to anticipate from the TV-MA corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first half-dozen episodes of Daredevil’s third season are lighter on superhero fare, but when those payoffs come — like the first brutal and bloody match up between a black suit-sporting Matt and a proto-Bullseye — Daredevil delivers.
The war between Matt-slash-Daredevil and Fisk anchors Daredevil Season Three, and it’s easily the most compelling the show has ever been: propulsion storytelling pushes each episode into the next with rare lulls, making Daredevil the most binge-worthy Marvel show and essential television viewing.
Like The Dark Knight, which saw Batman in an almost unwinnable battle of ideologies with the Joker, the North Star of Daredevil Season Three is the unpredictable conflict between Matt and the ever dangerous Fisk, who is every bit as captivating and gripping as Heath Ledger’s iconic clown-faced criminal.
For all its heaviness, Daredevil never becomes dour and miserable, even as its sometimes-moping lead hero feels sorry for himself and tells Maggie, “I’d rather die as the devil than live as Matt Murdock.”
Maggie and actress Joanne Whaley are a shining welcome addition to the series and the wider MCU, chastising Matt for his “self-pitying bullshit” while he hides away a story below orphaned and sick children who would be blessed to have the opportunities allowed him in life.
She even evokes the memory of his late boxer father in an attempt to push Matt into rejoining the world and ending his feud with his lighter self, telling him she saw his father go down many times. “But he never stayed down,” she tells him, steering him down from the ledge and acting as the Jiminy Cricket to his angst-ridden Pinocchio.
Another standout in its stacked cast is MCU veteran Deborah Ann Woll, whose big-hearted, do-right reporter Karen Page is simultaneously vulnerable but capable. Woll particularly shines when she has to navigate the complex and emotionally volatile fallout with Matt, leaving her a mix of concerned, furious, hurt, and betrayed — all emotions Woll has no trouble expressing, often at the same time, giving Karen a story as powerful as her leading man counterpart.6comments
Stripped back to the essentials that first made the series a hit, it’s the taut and compelling storytelling tethered by rich characters and even better actors that propels much of Daredevil Season Three, which stands toe-to-toe with any of Marvel Studios’ big screen blockbusters.
All episodes of Daredevil Season Three are now available for streaming exclusively on Netflix.