October 12, 2018
‘Daredevil’ Season 3 Review: The Marvel Netflix Series Goes Back to the Basics
The new season of Daredevil picks up after the events of The Defenders, and finds Matt Murdock in the midst of a spiritual and emotional crisis. The results are mixed. Can the Marvel Netflix show continue to thrive, or is it time to exorcise this series for good? Read our Daredevil season 3 review below.
What’s Going On In Daredevil Season 3?
Daredevil is back for an all-new season of Catholic guilt, hallway fights, and Vincent D’Onofrio stealing every scene he’s in. Daredevil season 3 serves as something of a soft-reboot – Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) was left for dead at the end of spin-off series The Defenders, and a good chunk of season 3 involves the character slowly working his way into being the Man Without Fear yet again.
Matt has also distanced himself from his friends Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), realizing he can no longer keep them safe. As long as he’s Daredevil, their lives are in danger, so it’s better not to have friends at all.
Meanwhile, Wilson Fisk (D’Onofrio), AKA the Kingpin, has plans of his own. He’s been incarcerated since the end of season 1, and he’s come up with an elaborate plan to rat out his criminal associates in exchange for some form of freedom. He strikes a deal with easily fooled agent Rahul “Ray” Nadeem (Jay Ali), and is removed from prison and placed into a fancy hotel.
But Fisk has more up his white suit jacket sleeve than meets the eye. He’s personally coming after Matt Murdock, and to do so, he’s found a new recruit: FBI Agent Dex Poindexter (Wilson Bethel), a sociopath who has a knack for hitting every target he aims at (in other words, he’s the show’s version of Daredevil nemesis Bullseye). Fisk using Bullseye to target Daredevil and destroy his life is, in part, lifted straight from the ‘80s Daredevil comic arc “Born Again”, written by Frank Miller, and drawn by David Mazzucchelli – but don’t expect an entirely faithful adaptation here.
Does Daredevil Season 3 Feature Appearances From Other Marvel Netflix Heroes?
It does not. Daredevil season 3 is the rare standalone season. So don’t expect Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist or even The Punisher to show up anytime soon. Regarding the possibility for crossovers in this season, new showrunner Erik Oleson said:
I wanted it to be standalone, I did not do crossovers this season. I wanted to really get back to these core characters and use the real estate to focus on who they are and really fleshed them out before I introduced external and other elements of the MCU, at least on the Netflix/Marvel side – I really wanted to get back to the core characters and tell a character-driven season.
Is this a problem? I personally would’ve liked to see Frank Castle pop-in for a bit, because the character worked so well in Daredevil season 2. But it’s also nice to have a season of one of these shows try to stand on its own without worrying too much about which familiar face might pop up.
Is Daredevil Season 3 Any Good?
Daredevil has remained one of the more consistent Marvel Netflix shows. The first season was the first Netflix original series set in the MCU, and while it had some pacing problems – problems that would persist in every single Marvel Netflix show to follow – it served as a good introduction into the darker, grittier, more violent side of the Marvel Universe.
Season 2 was a huge improvement. By throwing Frank Castle into the mix, Daredevil found the perfect foil, and the show’s portrayal of the character was the first live-action project to get The Punisher right. Adding Elektra into the show was a plus as well. That said, for everything season 2 did right, it also still succumbed to slog-like pacing issues. And a plotline involving ninjas fell utterly flat.
And what of season 3? It’s a bit of a mixed bag. As mentioned above, Daredevil season 3 attempts to start over in many ways. It even goes so far as to have Matt return to this black suit he wore for almost the entirety of season 1. While the reasoning behind this eventually pays off – Matt has to go up against Bullseye wearing the red Daredevil costume to impersonate and frame him, and having the characters wear different costumes helps the viewer keep track of them – it still has an air of regression to it. We’ve come so far, why go back now?
Charlie Cox does good work playing the emotionally broken Matt Murdock here. He’s no longer idealistic, no longer even positive about his mission. He’s angry, and violent, and is in the midst of a crisis of faith. Catholic guilt has always been a big part of Daredevil’s character, but season 3 plays this to the hilt, having Matt question God’s existence and more.
Where season 3 really shines is its handling of Wilson Fisk. Vincent D’Onofrio made for a wonderfully complex bad guy in season 1, and his limited role in season 2 was certainly noticeable. Here, he’s front and center again. Once again, D’Onofrio commands the screen, making Fisk terrifying yet somehow oddly sympathetic. He’s an awful person who does horrendous things, but D’Onofrio knows just how to play up the character’s vulnerabilities. It makes him seem more human, and, by extension, more relatable.
The same can’t be said of the show’s version of Bullseye. If you’re expecting the corny, wise-cracking Bullseye played by Colin Farrell in the mostly-forgotten Daredevil movie, you should probably temper those expectations immediately. Daredevil season 3 turns Bullseye into a full-blown sociopath – he’s a man who has no problems taking lives, and doesn’t process emotions in any manner that could be considered healthy. In one episode devoted almost entirely to the character, we learn his backstory, and we see how he was trained by a psychiatrist to better fit into society. But under his exterior lurks a dangerous, deadly person. This has all the makings of a potentially gripping character, but the end result doesn’t quite work. Wilson Bethel does fairly well playing up the villain’s unstable emotional state, but as a character, Bullseye never really hits his mark.
The supporting players don’t fair much better. Daredevil season 3 needs to keep inventing subplots for Karen and Foggy, and neither are particularly interesting. Deborah Ann Woll has done excellent work in the previous seasons, but here she’s reduced to sounding as if she’s going to burst into tears every ten seconds. And a plotline about Foggy running for elected office completely fizzles.
And yet, despite all this, Daredevil season 3 is oddly watchable. Again, it suffers from the same tedious pacing that plagues all Marvel Netflix shows – please, make these seasons shorter, I beg of you – but if you’ve stuck with the series this long, you’re bound to find yourself wondering where this is all going. But the real question should be: where does this go from here? Can Daredevil survive a fourth season? Or is it time for the character to hang up his horns for good? Time will tell, but it’s becoming clear that the Marvel Netflix shows are in dire need of new blood.
Daredevil season 3 debuts on Netflix on October 19, 2018.
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