By JD Phillips
I’m a huge Daredevil fan, so when I heard that the television show was adapting my favorite Daredevil story, Frank Miller’s seminal “Born Again”, I was both excited and nervous. Never once did I consider that the Netflix series would actually surpass its source material. Not only is season 3 better than “Born Again”, it may be the best Daredevil story ever told.
The season picks up right after last year’s climactic “Defenders” finale. We find Matt spiritually and physically broken as he tries to recover from a building falling on top of him and Elektra. Matt is completely lost but luckily for him, the people in his life refuse to give up on him. In the comics, Matt’s recovery mostly stems from his renewed faith in Catholicism.
In the show, however, it is the amazing people in his life who bring him back from the brink. (Well that and Catholicism.) This is a much stronger choice as it brings the entire cast in on his emotional journey.
It’s no secret that the supporting characters in the Netflix Marvel shows are often the weak link. (Anybody remember the episode of “Jessica Jones” where Malcolm and Robyn spend the whole episode looking for her dead brother? I loved that season, but god was that terrible!)
I’ve always thought “Daredevil” stood apart from its sister shows in this regard. I’ve always loved Foggie and Karen. It’s great that they’ve both turned up in other shows as well. While I like the characters, I have to admit that I would still be frequently annoyed that their stories were standing in the way of more awesome superhero antics.
This season though, their stories were perfectly integrated into the plot. Scenes where Foggie decides to run for D.A. and Karen’s extended backstory were so strong (and expertly acted) that they were just as powerful as Matt’s journey.
Matt also pulls ahead of his Netflix counterparts yet again. Between the retraining of his battered body, his struggles with identity and morality, his parental revelations, and his increasingly difficult superheroics, Matt truly goes through the ringer. And boy does Charlie Cox bring it.
He commits one hundred percent to the brutality and intensity that defines Matt as he goes through extraordinary changes. Of course, we haven’t even talked about the perfect catalyst for those changes. Wilson Freakin’ Fisk.
Marvel’s “Infinity War” earlier this year introduced such an amazing and complex villain that I thought it would be years before someone topped it. It turns out all I had to do was wait a few months. Fisk is undoubtedly the best villain Marvel has ever created.
He doesn’t need an Infinity Gauntlet to be formidable. Instead, he is a master manipulator who bends the entire government to his will. The show decides to hide a lot of his power from us through most of the season. Slowly though, we start to realize the true scope of Fisk’s influence and it is overwhelming.
He seemed like a huge threat in season one but that threat has been pushed to the max here. The show uses “Born Again” as a jumping off point for the character. That story shows Fisk’s manipulative abilities better than any comic has but I think the tv show has it beat. This is the most terrifying version of Kingpin that has ever existed.
And yes, he is the Kingpin this year. He not only goes by the nickname but also dresses in those iconic white suits. It feels like the spiritual successor to how long it took Matt to don the red suit in season one.
The character isn’t just brutal though. In fact, his entire motivation for all of his acts isn’t to take over New York or destroy Daredevil. His motivation is to get Vanessa back and keep her safe. There are moments of such incredible vulnerability that you just want to run up to him and give him a hug.
The man who towers over everyone in New York somehow seems small when he is around her. Every action he does is in service to giving the two of them their happily ever after as Kingpin and...Queenpin(?) of New York.
We all knew Fisk was going to be amazing though. He wasn’t the villain that was the big surprise here. Benjamin “Dex” Poindexter continues the trend of wonderfully flawed Marvel Netflix baddies. The episode with his backstory is as sympathetic as Fisk’s was but it never loses its creep factor. You feel sorry for young Dex, but you definitely don’t want to give him a hug.
While he never goes 100% into his Bullseye alter-ego (Judging from the Fisk to Kingpin transition, it may take some time before he dons his black and white costume) he provides an enormous threat to Matt. Not only is he physically intimidating, he’s also extremely unstable.In fact, his theme music sounds like wasps buzzing louder and louder. It’s reminiscent of the ominous tone used for the Joker in “The Dark Knight”.
The character is a wonderful addition and adds new layers to the fight scenes that will probably only get better as the show (hopefully) progresses.
And boy are the fight scenes amazing this year. The show seems determined to up its fight scene game every season and I’m happy to report that it does not disappoint. The obligatory hallway fight scene this year is roughly eleven minutes long.
Matt is also back in his black costume which brings back the gritty realism of the season one fights. No matter how many punches Matt lands, he still seems as though he could die any second. That’s especially true when he fights Bullseye.
The show perfectly understands the dynamic between the two foes and shows it perfectly. Bullseye is unbeatable from a distance while Matt is a hand to hand master. I would be happy to watch the two of them spar for years to come.
The best fight of the year comes at the very end. All three of the principal characters of the show duke it out with each other in bloody glory. The show’s philosophy of focusing on character just as much as choreography continues to be the reason why it is remembered for its action sequences.
This season of “Daredevil” may very well be the peak of the series, the character, and superhero television. It’s truly a masterpiece for the genre. If the show goes the way of “Iron Fist” and “Luke Cage”, it will be heartbreaking to see it go but what a perfect ending it would be.