A year removed from his appearance in ‘The Defenders’ and two and a half years since Daredevil Season Two, Matt Murdock—the devil of Hell’s Kitchen—is back and ready to embrace his moniker in a way he’s never previously done.
SPOILERS! This is part one of a three-part series of Daredevil Season 3. This review will discuss the first four episodes and will undoubtedly contain spoilers. Additionally, this is not a blow-by-blow account of each episode and, in such, will most likely leave out quite a few details. So with that…let’s let the devil out!
Daredevil Season 3, episodes 1-4
- “No Good Deed”
The first images of Episode One, aptly titled “Resurrection”, backtracks to minutes after the Midland Circle explosion that dropped an entire building on Matt and Elektra. The providence of his survival is both disjointed and chaotic—a perfect description of his mindset in the first third of the season. It takes him weeks to fully regain consciousness but once he does, it’s a massive departure from the Matt Murdock we’ve seen through his three seasons in the Marvel Netflix universe. While his physical injuries have taken him weeks to heal, his spirit is a broken thing. Matt’s faith has always been a vital part of his character and that faith is twisted and burned in the fires of loss and his own darkness. It’s as if the events of The Defenders sheared his tether keeping him grounded. He’s angry at everything but focuses that rage and spitefulness towards God. Even Sister Maggie dogged tough love, understanding, and challenge have slowed Matt’s descent into fully embracing his dark side. In fact, based on his frustration at discovering Fisk’s release from prison and the subsequent visions of the crime boss spouting Matt’s own insecurities and guilt, he’s considering the most permanent solution to stopping Fisk. Matt is at the point in a hero’s journey where he’s at the lowest possible point, physically, mentally and spiritually. This uncertainty for the protagonist gives us a darker, more dangerous Daredevil. But whether he’s more a danger to himself or Fisk remains to be seen.
There’s no doubt that Charlie Cox is a primary driver for Daredevil’s success. He delivers a tremendously nuanced performance as a man who’s fought to control his inner devil for years, an inner devil that slithers just below the surface of his Matt Murdock façade. The supporting cast of Deborah Ann Woll (Karen) and Elden Henson (Foggy) have been there since the beginning and their character arcs have been just as important to the success of the series as Matt’s journey. Season three also introduces several pivotal characters in Sister Maggie, and FBI agents Ray Nadeem and Ben Poindexter (“Dex”). And just as no hero can achieve greatness without the foundations created by the emotional connections of family and friends, the most memorable conflicts are predicated most by a memorable antagonist. For Daredevil, that individual is Wilson Fisk.
From the beginning, Fisk has been unique among the pantheon of comic book villains represented in film and television. Though powerful and extremely intelligent, Fisk lacks the charisma and that overflow of confidence most often used in the antagonist’s blueprint. D’onofrio brings us a man that is more of a gifted savant, unsure how to converse with others. His conversations are stilted, with him often seeming as if he doesn’t understand the volume of his voice, and his verbal tics often accompany his interactions. Despite his atypical demeanor for a Kingpin, Fisk is every bit as terrifying and formidable as his physical size.
Imprisoned since the end of Season One, Fisk’s influence, both in the penitentiary and out, continues to grow. One to make the most of things, it appears he has accepted his prison sentence. It’s not until he discovers that Vanessa, the love of his life, is being sought by the government for her role in his rise to power that Fisk moves. His turn to informant against the Albanian gang, Mother Teresa, sets into motion a series of events that lead to him being released from prison and into what equates to high-level house arrest. His motive is Vanessa and though it’s obvious that Fisk loves her more than anything, there’s more behind his actions than to safety of his lover. He’s a tactical genius, always several steps ahead of the good guys and when Matt learns that Fisk staged his own shanking, coupled with Karen’s discovery that the Presidential Hotel, the very same building used for Fisk’s new residence of house-arrest, it’s a frightening realization of his meticulous calculation. While Fisk wants to eliminate Nelson and Murdock in addition to freeing Vanessa from the FBI’s gaze, his end game remains a mystery…for now.
Whereas Fisk and Murdock are the two headliners in the battle for Hell’s Kitchen, Karen and Foggy have their own stories which appear to be more relevant than either of the first two seasons. Though Karen continues her rise as a reporter, she’s not yet ready to let Matt go. She believes Matt is still alive and though she inevitably finds out that he is, what should be a joyous feeling turns to anger, betrayal, and disappointment. Matt’s all-out rejection of his two best friends pushes Karen to a precipice, one that fuels her already aggressive pursuit of taking Fisk down. It’s a mindset that, while admirable, may prove foolish, especially considering Fisk’s incredible reach.
If there is one character that has come the farthest since Season One, it’d have to be Foggy. Throughout the schism between him and Matt, Matt’s subsequent “death” and then return, Foggy has continued forward, gaining more and more confidence. There are glimpses of the same awkward and unsure character that uses humor in the face of adversity but his confidence is much greater this time around. So when Matt tells him to stay out of things, not only does Foggy refuse but, thanks to Marci’s advice, he decides the one way to combat the realization that he is most likely a target of Fisk is the take the initiative. He takes to a write-in campaign for his election as DA on the platform that he will do everything in his power to take Fisk down.
The story structure wouldn’t be complete without the Feds. At the forefront is Ray Nadeem, a good agent and family man who, do to unfortunate circumstances is having financial issues that drive him to be in the spotlight. It’s by sheer luck that he’s tasked with questioning Fisk but the information helps them take down the Albanian ring, quite possibly propelling Nadeem to not only settle his life, but help make the streets safer. All he needed to do was make a deal with the devil.
The major newcomer is Benjamin ‘Dex’ Poindexter. His otherworldly gun skills provide one of the most brilliant action sequences in the show’s history and it not only saves Fisk’s life but draws the ever watchful eye of Fisk. He sees Dex’s potential and most likely senses the agent’s unbalanced nature. When Fisk backs Dex’s report that every shooting he made was justified, it’s the first step of Fisk turning what could be an invaluable weapon to his side. Couple Fisk’s watchful gaze with the undertones of Dex being not wholly stable and it’s a recipe that plays perfectly into Fisk’s plans.
Thus far, Season Three of ‘Daredevil’ has brought the familiar flavors we’ve come to expect from the series and introducing pockets of newness that enhance the experience without overwhelming us or losing the all-important tone. It may only be four episodes, but there’s enough bang to believe that this may be shaping up to be the best Marvel Netflix season to date.
- It’s not ‘Daredevil’ without some sort of hallway fight scene and what better place to have it than in a prison? A drugged and battered Matt is targeted by Fisk henchmen and, while not containing the brutality of Frank Castle’s cell block brawl, it’s an amazing display of choreography and camera work. Blood, concussions, and WWE slams abound in the brutal fight that is soon followed by a similarly chaotic journey through the fire and smoke of a full-scale prison riot. The good news is that Matt gets the meeting and proof that Fisk orchestrated his own stabbing but the bad news…? Well, after making it to the cab, Matt wakes up to find himself heading for the river.
- After Fisk is “attacked” and the Feds move him to a safe house, the Albanian ambush against Fisk’s FBI convoy is a kinetic and brutal shootout reminiscent of the classic After the FBI agents are mowed down, it looks as if Fisk has no other recourse but to die. We get our first glimpse of Special Agent Poindexter whose marksmanship would make Tombstone’s Doc Holliday proud. A wonderful introduction to one of Daredevil’s longest standing foils—Bullseye.
- To say that Matt is having a crisis of faith would be shortchanging the spiritual fracture he’s experiencing. It comes as no surprise that after hearing of Fisk’s release, all those emotions, scattered and blackened within, manifest in the form of a white suit-wearing Wilson Fisk. All the turmoil he’s felt is vocalized by an out of focus Fisk that remains in the background, threatening to be that final shove that pushes him over the edge.