After a slew of underwhelming sequel seasons within Netflix’s Marvel Universe, Daredevil season 3 is a successful return to form. The gritty superhero drama has long been the crown jewel of the Netflix Universe (sorry Jessica Jones), but the Man Without Fear’s triumphant return is easily the best season of the shared universe thanks to strong performances from the cast, great cinematography, and a focused, sustained storyline.
Season 3 of Marvel’s Daredevil is the Best Yet
It has been over two years since Daredevil’s second season and a year since we saw Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) seemingly die in The Defenders. Days before the new Daredevil season, fellow original shows Luke Cage and Iron Fist were canceled. While The Punisher was a solid debut, season 2 of Jessica Jones wasn’t as acclaimed as its inaugural season. There are a lot of questions of the future of Marvel’s Netflix Universe, but Matt Murdock’s rebirth was much much needed.
Throughout the season, Matt Murdock struggles with his faith, identity, and mortality as he once again confronts the threat of the Kingpin, Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio). Reporter Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) and lawyer Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) find themselves trying to help Murdock while getting themselves trapped in Fisk’s sights. The emergence of Bullseye, FBI Agent Ben “Dex” Poindexter (Wilson Bethel) only complicates things for our heroes.
So here we are with a lot of moving parts in the story. Other series (looking at you Iron Fist) seem to get stuck with having too much happening at once. The second season of Daredevil struggled with this after a hot start, but the story’s pacing is not an issue for the third season. Every episode is its own self-contained story with a proper build-up to the next episode. Some episodes focus on Murdock’s own existential crisis; Murdock embraces the devil but doesn’t don his red tights. Others focus on Karen Page’s demons coming back to haunt her while she seems to just keep challenging Fisk while Foggy has to juggle being a righteous person who believes in the judicial system.
Throughout each of these instances, the story doesn’t falter. Some may consider the pacing to be a bit slow at the beginning, but it builds up to a strong, sustained storyline that is much needed for a 13 part series. The adaptation of the iconic “Born Again” and “Guardian Devil” comic book storylines are masterfully done to give the audience a unique story that works perfectly for the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.
Fantastic Performances Abound
The writing of the show is phenomenal, but the combined talent of the cast is a treat. Charlie Cox once again produces a signature performance as Matt Murdock. While his stand out performances as the titular hero are expected, there was a lot more nuance this season. One episode centered around Murdock pretending to be Foggy Nelson as Murdock infiltrates a prison to retrieve some information on Fisk. Cox plays a blind man so well that it might be easy to forget that the actor isn’t visually impaired. In this episode, he plays a blind man pretending to be able to see which is a credit to his acting chops. Even then, his overall broodiness throughout the season brings out the duality of his character. Cox does everything this season; from an angst-ridden Murdock, to a mild-mannered lawyer, to a conflicted hero, to a bloodthirsty vigilante, this is a performance for the ages.
Once again, Deborah Ann Woll knocks out her role as the tortured Karen Page, also bound for vengeance against Fisk. Sometimes calm, sometimes intimidating, Woll’s performance encapsulates the theme of duality throughout this season. Some of her best moments are when Page is alongside Nelson. In past seasons, Henson was simply a comic relief character with little to no depth who seemed to chug along with the story. Season 3 demands more from Foggy, and Henson delivers in a big way. Henson lets his charisma and charm shine as the loveable lawyer navigates his way through the gritty story.
Of course, the villains make the heroes, and D’Onofrio once again brings a strong performance to the Fisk character. While D’Onofrio had to play a threatening villain balancing his own humanity, his performance this season is all menace. D’Onofrio balances his tender moments for his love Vanessa (Ayelet Zurer) with truly cunning and vile outbursts throughout the season. Wilson Bethel has a standout performance as the psychotic (and soon to be iconic villain Bullseye) Agent Poindexter, who steals every scene he’s a part of.
Production on Point
I’m not much of a cinematography nut, but the production of the show is leagues above what it had been in previous seasons and far above the other series in the Netflix Universe. Season 2 of Daredevil had was criticized for some issues with production, namely the horde of ninjas gearing up to face Daredevil and Elektra in the conclusion of the series only for like ten of them to show up.
But from the opening, beautiful CGI shot of the Midland Circle building being demolished, the production of the show is just as important as the writing and performances from the cast. There are more action sequences throughout the season with strong fighting choreography than in previous outings. Daredevil has made a name for it’s innovative “hallway fights” and one-camera fighting scenes. The eleven-minute prison riot scene was captured in one shot and flawlessly done. The final fight scene was easily one of the best multi-part action sequences in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is something that we’ll hopefully see again.
But even the smaller stuff is done well too. If you watch the show with headphones in, you’ll notice little details in the sound engineering. As Daredevil is deafened, so is the audience. When his hearing is muffled, so are we. The audience can hear along as Murdock cracks a safe. Even the already fantastic score from John Paesano elevates each scene.
Speaking of gorgeous, the actual shots in the film are perfect. Catholicism has always been a major focal point of Murdock’s dealings with his religion as he beats people to a pulp. As comic books are often known for their color, the Daredevil books focus on the balance of the hero and his dark surroundings with the stained glass of Catholic churches and strong religious imagery, the scenes in Daredevil are rampant with gorgeous color and imagery.
Last Word on Marvel’s Daredevil Season 3
As a diehard fan of all things Daredevil, I can talk about this show for a long time. Season 3 is near perfect; yes there are some questionable instances, but they aren’t enough to detract from an amazing season. If you can suspend your disbelief that this is a show about a blind lawyer who is also a ninja taking down corruption in Hell’s Kitchen, I don’t know what to tell you. What I do know is this show is a blast and a truly amazing outing for Daredevil, the Man Without Fear.
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