Daredevil - Season 3 - Review
There are a lot of superhero properties that have been adapted in movies and TV shows. The market is flooded with them. There are ones that do it better than others. The third season of Daredevil is back to form for the show, and it is the standard by which all other superhero shows should strive for.
Former Arrow producer Erik Oleson was in charge of this season, and that just proves my theory that Arrow could be the best superhero show on TV if they did not have to make 23 episodes a year. But that is a conversation for another day.
The show went back to basics. The third season threw out what didn't work, and doubled down on what did. That is why you get a more personal story for all 3 main characters. That is why you get a villain you are familiar with, who is a formidable match. That is why you get tighter stories, and way less filler.
The Marvel Netflix shows have a formula. For better or for worse, they stick to that. The season usually stumbles around episode 8 and 9, and limps into an anti-climactic finale. That is of course, after the advertised villain isn't the real villain.
Almost none of that happened here. We knew we were getting Kingpin and we knew we were getting a Daredevil imposter. Both were integral the entire show. Fisk was the catalyst that drove the story forward. He wasn't a scapegoat for a plot twist.
The way the show deals with identity is very smart. Identity is tackled through Matt Murdock fighting someone in his Daredevil suit - a metaphor for the internal conflict within him. It is also dealt with in the way his conscience appears. Sometimes it is someone he loved, like his father, and other times (most of the time) it was Fisk, the very person who drove him to be what he had become.
There is a great revelation at the end of episode 8, which no one would see coming if they hadn't done it in the comics already. The story line they adapted had that very twist, but it was done very well here.
Instead of stumbling in the later half of the season, Oleson and his team made sure there was enough story to go around. Whether it was Ray Nadeem's family, Dex's history, or Foggy's journey, every bit was compelling. But none more so than episode 10 - a episode dedicated to Karen (Deborah Ann Woll), that was three seasons in the making. It was a departure to anything Daredevil had done before, and it worked very well. They subverted expectations though, and the death at the end of the episode goes the other way.
Woll does masterful work throughout the entire serason, and it needs to be noted because it is often overshadowed by Vincent D'Onofrio's portrayal of Wilson Fisk.
D'Onofrio might give one of the best villain performances in all of the MCU. Kilgrave (David Tennant) from Jessica Jones is a close second when it comes to Netflix foes. Mariah Stokes (Alfre Woodard) from Luke Cage is worth noting too, but D'Onofrio can hold his own against the likes of Loki, Killmonger, and Adrian Toomes from the movie side. It doesn't look like it will ever happen, and that is a shame, but D'Onofrio's Kingpin needs to be in a Spider-Man movie. It is one of the biggest losses of the divide between the movie and TV properties.
I'd be remiss not to mention the tragic story of Ray Nadeem. Jay Ali gives a layered performance of a very flawed man. He does some despicable things, but you still root for him to do the right thing. When his redemption starts, it feels earned, and the motivations of it make sense. It is really a great addition that could have gone wrong. Going in, the smart play would have been to see the characters we know and love. To introduce someone new, who is much lower caliber than someone like Frank Castle (The Punisher), and make us care about them right off the bat was risky. But the way it was intertwined, and the way it was paid off, made it one of the highlights of the season.
The nun who helps Matt, played by Joanne Whalley, was great. We don't often see a flawed nun with depth on TV. They are all usually one dimensional cookie-cutters. To see the human being behind the nun, and not the robotic stereotype was a great move. She has some very powerful moments throughout the season, and the show is better for it.
The other villain, Benjamin Poindexter, played by Wilson Bethel, was a great addition as well. Bethel looks a ton like his MCU counterpart Sebastian Stan, who plays Bucky Barnes in the Captain America movies. Dex is a psychopath - one that you will come to know as Bullseye in the future. But he's not quite there yet. He gets manipulated by Fisk, and while he is the season's second villain, it wasn't in the common way that the Netflix Marvel shows usually introduce a second villain. Both Fisk and Dex were important, and both could return, to wreak havoc later. With Iron Fist and Luke Cage having been cancelled, and the impeding arrival of the Disney Play app, the future of the Netflix corner of the Marvel universe seems uncertain. But if we never see a fully formed Bullseye performance from Wilson Bethel, then that will be a real shame.
One criticism that I have is that the build up to the climax was way bigger than the climax itself. The face off between Dex, Matt, and Fisk was much more intimate than they were building it up to be. There is nothing wrong with an intimate fight, but the build up just didn't lend itself to that.
Overall though, the season was one of the strongest Marvel seasons Netflix has ever had. I don't know if there will be a fourth season, but if there is, the bar is set very high.
The third season of Daredevil is now streaming, exclusively on Netflix.