Netflix, for the most part, has done a wonderful job with their Marvel Studios shows. The high mark has always been Daredevil. Since Season 1, Daredevil has set the bar for what Netflix can do with Marvel properties. Show creator Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods, Bad Times at the El Royale) perfectly cast Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock/Daredevil and Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin as the leads, and it told a wonderful “man vs. mobster” story. Season 2 saw Daredevil stumble a bit as the forced inclusion of the Hand, which was to build toward The Defenders, took away from the epic battle between Daredevil and the Kingpin, which is the true heart of this series. Now, Daredevil Season 3 put that battle back on the front burner, and for 13 episodes, Netflix has taken the audience on a ride like no other, proving once and for all that Daredevil is still the very best of all the Marvel Studios TV shows, no matter what network they’re on.
Daredevil Season 3 opens with the aftermath of the end of The Defenders. The Midland Circle building came crashing down onto Matt (Cox) and Elektra (Elodie Yung), and miraculously, Matt was flushed from the crumbled skyscraper into the sewers, where he washed up alive, but severely broken. He was able to tell the person who found him to take him back to the Clinton Church where he was raised, and there, Matt begins to heal with the help of Sister Maggie (Joanne Whalley) and Father Lantom (Peter McRobbie). Matt has some issues, as his senses are out of whack after the building collapse, so he essentially has to relearn how to be Matt Murdock. At some point in that lesson, he realizes that “good” Matt Murdock died in that building, and only the darkness known as Daredevil made it out, which sets the tone for the rest of the season.
Back in the world, Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) are still dealing with the loss of their partner and friend, and they each hold out hope that Matt somehow survived. Meanwhile, from his prison cell, Wilson Fisk (D’Onofrio) laments about his situation and he seemingly worries for his love, Vanessa Marianna (Ayelet Zurer), whom he sent away at the end of Season 1 to protect her from prosecution. Fisk makes a deal with FBI agent Rahul Nadeem (Jay Ali) to give up his fellow crime lords as long as the feds drop their hunt for Vanessa.
When the leads start getting results, Fisk is attacked and shanked in the prison and he uses that attack to get himself moved out of the prison and into a penthouse while he helps the FBI track down the other bosses. Agent Nadeem acts as his point of contact, and Agent Ben “Dex” Poindexter (Wilson Bethel) serves as his guardian under the protection detail. But Dex has a secret of his own, a secret that Fisk will soon exploit for his personal gain.
When Matt hears that Fisk is out of prison, he once again adopts the black outfit and returns as Daredevil to try and take out Fisk once and for all. This sets all of the pieces in motion for 13 hours of intense comic book drama as each player is put through the ringer in some form or another, and the master moving the pieces is none other than The Kingpin himself.
Daredevil Season 3 does an amazing job of keeping the story moving forward at all times. Unlike other, now-canceled Marvel Studios Netflix shows, Daredevil is perfectly paced and is seemingly designed for binging as each episode ends with some kind of “cliffhanger” revelation or more. The high point of Daredevil Season 3 is in Episode 4, which, as in previous seasons, contains one contained action sequence that was simply amazing from start to finish. Season 1 had the one-take fight scene in the hallway, and Season 2 had another one-take scene that added staircases.
Daredevil Season 3 makes those previous episodes hold its beer as Episode 4 has a one-take action scene that takes place in prison, and features Matt getting into the prison, getting discovered, fighting prisoners, guards, the Albanians, more guards, and getting out of the locked down prison — all in one take. I’ve never seen anything like it on TV and it is the only episode of ANY Netflix show that I have watched multiple times on purpose.
In fact, Daredevil Season 3 is worthy of watching and rewatching over and over, because, honestly, it is the very best Netflix Marvel show — without peer. Charlie Cox is amazing as Matt Murdock/Daredevil, and his new character ranges — post Midland Circle — and new wrinkles in his life force Cox to act his ass off. On the flip side is Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk. While a highlight of an exceptional Season 1, here, D’Onofrio’s performance moves the Kingpin to the highest echelons of Marvel Studios villains. Essentially, It’s Thanos, then Kingpin, and then everyone else.
This is what the Kingpin should be. He’s manipulative, scary, conniving, dangerous, and yet, you still feel sorry for him. D’Onofrio manipulates the audience with his performance the same way Fisk manipulates New York on the show. This is an absolute masterclass in comic book villainy and D’Onofrio is the teacher. Also deserving praise of Wilson Bethel’s Dex. The man who will one day become Bullseye is perfect as Kingpin’s enforcer, and Bethel is scary on-screen. It helps that the character music for Dex is some of the best of the series. This one-two punch of Fisk and Dex create an obstacle perfectly suited for an iconic Marvel hero like Daredevil, and it was a pleasure seeing it play out on my screen.
While the two leads are very high point of Daredevil Season 3, if there is a low point, it comes from Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen Page. After 13 episodes, I was so incredibly sick of seeing her cry or with red-ringed eyes. The scripts gave her purpose and backstory, as tragic as it was, but for some reason, her main go-to look is teary eyed, and it becomes annoying quickly. Elden Henson’s Foggy also pushes the annoyance with his “we have to trust the law” stance at every step. Daredevil Season 3 takes the time to develop both Karen and Foggy, showing their families and giving them purpose, and to still see Foggy be so steadfast in the law — even when threatened as he is — pushed me to the breaking point. By Episode 11, I was hoping Matt would just punch him in his face. I know I wanted to.
Daredevil Season 3 reinvigorates the Netflix Marvel Studios shows just in time for their possible move to Disney’s new streaming service. Far and away the best of all of the series, Daredevil has set the bar so high that other creative teams should be paying attention. I personally enjoyed Season 2 of Iron Fist, which was recently canceled, and as a life-long Punisher fan, I’m very much looking forward to Season 2 after a stellar Season 1, but even Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) can’t come close to what Drew Goddard and his amazing cast and crew did with Daredevil Season 3.
I hope in my heart of hearts that if this show is moved to Disney’s service, that Disney will also direct all these shows to better fold into the cinematic offerings, because seeing Vincent D’Onofrio battle Tom Holland’s Spider-Man would be truly and simply amazing, and seeing Charlie Cox’s Daredevil suit up next to Tony Stark and Thor and the Avengers would be a dream come true. This show has earned the right to be included in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Daredevil Season 3 is the best example as to why.
Daredevil Season 3 is available now on Netflix. All images courtesy of Netflix.