Amidst the startling Marvel cancellations on Netflix the past few weeks, fans have become a little uncertain about the future of the Marvel Defenders series. Luke Cage and Iron Fist have been axed, either to disappear into non-existence or to transfer, somehow, onto Disney’s upcoming streaming service. One of the series that lives on, though, is Daredevil. With the third season recently premiering, fans can buzz about that instead of worry about the Netflix Superheroes. And boy is this new dip into Daredevil’s life an interesting reprieve.
Last fans left Daredevil, AKA Matt Murdock, he had a building collapse in on him and his beloved doomed assassin, Elektra. It seemed finally they both got to die as heroes, successfully running from the darkness within them.
Of course, it’s hard for superheroes to stay dead. Against all odds, and never explained, Murdock manages to wash through the sewers and out of the collapse. His suit is destroyed and he’s badly wounded, but he’s alive. Then, he’s found and taken to his childhood home, the church orphanage, and is cared for by the nuns and priest who know him best.
When he wakes up, though, he’s hardly thankful. Murdock feels God has turned a blind eye to him and doesn’t believe that he’s the holy defender he once thought he was. After all, looking back on his life, its hard not to slowly become convinced of God’s ambivalence. Heartbreakingly, while he’s struggling with his faith in God, his best friend Karen Page and Foggy Nelson have unwavering, endless faith in the fact he’ll be back with them again. Something Murdock himself is actively avoiding.
And, of course it all goes to even more shit when Wilson Fisk, AKA Kingpin, is let out of prison.
Daredevil season 3 dares to question the faith in justice that made Murdock such a likable, magnetic hero and stood tall as the central pillar of his character. Yet, that same faith is exactly what has made him so tortured in seasons prior. Its fascinating to watch his story push the boundaries of what it means to be Matt Murdock and Daredevil.
The season excels in exploring on Murdock and who he wants to be. Season 1 solidified Matt’s conviction in becoming a defender of the people. In season 2, he questioned the darkness in him and wavered on what it says about him. Now, he accepts the hero and anger resting in his soul, but questions that final piece: what he believes in. By the end of the season, he’s chosen his path and is now a full-fledged person and hero who knows what he stands for, even if it’s not always perfect.
Daredevil’s dedication to walking Murdock down the line between golden hero and bloody anti-hero was bold and only got bolder when, by the end, he was forced to choose which kind he was. There was no gray.
There are also several, strong themes that litter the season and only make Murdock’s quest of faith and character all the stronger. All characters featured are tested in their beliefs, convictions, and family values. The show’s excellent focus on these three lead to great interactions and flow between character plots and motivations.
Furthermore, bringing back Kingpin as a main adversary was well-done. His clearly malignant yet hypnotizing character is the bad guy you hate to feel bad for, but you do. Somehow, no matter how twisted he gets, the acting, dialogue, and directing invest viewers in his romance with Vanessa, or his desires to change Hell’s Kitchen, or his gentlemanly nature. While watching, its unforgettable what a brutal monster he is. Yet he’s just this unique, charming dichotomy of a character that deserved to return and get more screen-time. After all, there’s no better villain than one that thinks he’s doing the right thing.
Finally, Daredevil season 3, unlike a lot of other Defenders seasons, did a great job at having a consistently interesting and high-stakes plot. While Luke Cage and Iron Fist had great merits to their sophomore seasons, they struggled at times with focus and fascinating stories. While the characters made great strides, the atmosphere was electric, or the directing made masterful visual storytelling, the main plots seemed to suffer.
However, Daredevil has a plot that makes insidious corruption plausible and terrifying. Not wanting to ruin the season, it just keeps everything very focused and covers all its bases. Holes in logic or relevancy are few and far between and because of that the action, intrigue, and danger can take center stage. Let’s just say there’s an insane, yet highly effective prison sequence that could not have worked without this.
But with all its great strides, Daredevil season 3 does have some noticeable flaws.
One of the largest, and most glaring, issues is the complete erasure of Elektra. The Defenders ended so strongly with Elektra and Murdock in each other’s arms, beloved and accepting of their heroic deaths. With Murdock surviving, that means Elektra is either dead and buried or somewhere out there. While it serves little purpose to the plot, it’s jarring that the last time he was awake he was madly in love with her. Now, Murdock isn’t grieving over her death, or trying to find out if maybe she lived, too. Perhaps they’re leaving it for a different season, perhaps she is alive and helped save Matt, but it’s still a stupid oversight in an otherwise fairly tight narrative.
Another problem also involves women and death. This season has Karen brushes up against death a lot, but in these circumstances it’s a little more jarring how she keeps escaping it. One, she was at the site of a mass murder while it was happening. Through mere happenstance it seems, she survives. There is little reason why she would have been spared in the slightest, even though the show does try to give a weak excuse. Later, she’s being thrust into danger again and the one hunting her easily would have had a shot on her. By many other circumstances, the person fails. However, it doesn’t make much sense that they did.
While hardly wishing for Karen Page’s death, her absurd stumbles out of danger are too numerous and almost inexcusable. Luckily, she’s an important part to the plot and her playing chicken with death is minor in comparison to the good she does to the story.
Finally, and very much spoiler-y, the ending was lackluster at best. Though the magnifying glass on Murdock’s character was fascinating and worthwhile, the ending doesn’t show much real consequences of an otherwise gripping season. If you haven’t finished the season, please avert your eyes.
Simply put, the season ends with Karen, Foggy, and Matt exactly where they were circa season 1. The three are teaming up as Nelson, Murdock, and Page to act as lawyers and investigators for good. Daredevil’s journey was a roller coaster during the season, but the end felt too soft and easy. Even the “big reveal” final scene was just Bullseye getting fixed up. Elektra crawling from the depths of rubble, or Luke Cage taking KingPin’s vacuum in Hell’s Kitchen as well as Harlem, or maybe Vanessa/Kingpin plotting to murder Matt would have all been more interesting than that. And even the last one seems too easy, but it’s still better than what we got.
Overall, Daredevil season 3 was very solid. It had great characters, well-woven themes and plots, and satisfying, strong developments. It had its annoying flaws, and even though #JusticeForElektra is very important, the season deserves all the praise it gets.
With Daredevil’s success, hopefully #JusticeForTheDefenders doesn’t need to be a hashtag soon, either. The stories of these four heroes weren’t always perfect, but it would be worth it to see how they evolve into the heroes they’re meant to be. It’s certainly been worth it to see Matt Murdock become the Daredevil that fits him best.