Warning: Spoilers for previous seasons of Daredevil and The Defenders ahead.
It has been over three years since the debut of Marvel’s Daredevil, a show which perfectly captured the hellish world of blind lawyer Matt Murdock as depicted when comics legend Frank Miller reinvented the character during the 80s. It may not have been perfect, especially when the show took a slight quality dip during the second season, but it’s still arguably the best superhero show ever produced.
Two years have passed since his last solo outing and after participating in the crossover miniseries The Defenders, of which the final image sets up an inquiry/theme from one of the character’s most famous comic arcs; will the Man Without Fear be, shall we say, be born again? Following the battle against the Hand and the death of his enemy/lover Elektra, Matt is left shattered physically and spiritually as he rethinks his purpose and place in Hell’s Kitchen. Meanwhile, behind bars, Wilson Fisk puts a plan in motion that will once again shake up the city.
From the start of this season where we see our flawed hero going through a crisis in faith and finding a temporary home under his neighborhood church, the story takes influence from Born Again by Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli, a storyline that is steeped in Catholic redemption and how Matt struggles to build a new life for himself. However, like the previous two seasons, as well as the majority of the MCU movies, the filmmakers aren’t bound to stick to the source material and even when there are sequences that reflect the iconography of certain comics, the show subverts our expectations. This might upset the hardcore fanbase, but as we learned from the likes of The Last Jedi, sometimes it’s better to not know where the story goes.
Bringing back some elements from the initial season such as Matt donning back the black patchwork suit, such as the return of Wilson Fisk as the main antagonist; Fisk, played by Vincent D’Onofrio, is so menacing while still maintaining his calm presence, you constantly worry and dread when he’s going to burst out like a violent man-child. Fisk’s plan from his prison release to his manipulation of the FBI shakes the core of not only Murdock, who is determined to kill him, but also motivates Foggy Nelson and Karen Page, both of whom are trying to reconnect with Matt.
Throughout the season, everyone is challenged over their morality from the heroes looking back at their past mistakes often involving family, to villains who come from psychologically traumatic childhoods and how those experiences can be used for them to embrace the dark side. Speaking of the latter, Bullseye makes his MCU debut, whilst going through a reinvention as FBI agent Benjamin “Dex” Poindexter. Played by Wilson Bethel, his origin is built on some form of tragic evil and even though he doesn’t don the comics costume (despite a clever and subtle visual clue to his logo), the writers give him more layers than just making him a psychopathic killer who never misses his mark.
Although the Netflix shows are intended to present a gritty and grounded side to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they never negate their comic book origins and this season feels the most comic book-y Daredevil has ever been, given the earlier appearances of red ninjas. One of Murdock’s signature traits in the comics is his internal monologue as he wrestles with his own flaws. In some of the episodes, they try to replicate this with Matt mentally talking to characters, living or dead. As corny as that sounds, Charlie Cox embodies that internal struggle is known for, even though he can be emo at times.
The recurring problem with these shows is their justification for the length of thirteen episodes and this season is no different as the pacing can be slow in places, most notably Foggy’s subplot with his family and sudden rise in politics, which never goes anywhere. What has always succeeded from the beginning, is the impressive fight sequences as the choreography mixes martial arts and street brawling, which are brutal and sloppy. One action sequence in the fourth episode takes place in a prison; it’s a breathtaking highlight as it’s done in a single take that lasts for eleven minutes and so much happens in this scene that your jaw will remain on the floor.