REVIEW: The Darkest Season of ‘Daredevil’ Yields Spectacular Payoff

In Netflix's most recent "Daredevil" season, Matt Murdock returns to his roots — and storylines get darker.

click to enlarge Netflix's "Daredevil" is a perfect place to journey into the Marvel universe. - Courtesy of Netflix
Courtesy of Netflix
Netflix's "Daredevil" is a perfect place to journey into the Marvel universe.
If you’re not a Marvel buff or a huge action/superhero fan, it’s daunting to try to enter that cinematic universe. Even just considering Netflix’s corner of Marvel — Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Defenders and The Punisher — is a tall order for the uninitiated. (I had to Google the order in which to watch them, as they all intertwine.)

Daredevil is an excellent place to start — not just because its first season comes chronologically first in the timeline, but because it’s a fascinating story with complex characters, super-powers aside.

By day, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) is a blind, Catholic lawyer that aids some of New York’s most vulnerable. By night, he’s Daredevil, a vigilante with his own moral code that uses his heightened senses to beat the shit out of bad guys (but — and this is important — never kills them.)

The show isn’t exactly a loyal follower of the growing web of Marvel series, which presents some challenges. Daredevil’s third season does not simply pick up where the last one left off, but rather after the events of the mashup miniseries The Defenders, which features superheroes from four series including Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage. But it’s easy enough to get up to speed if you’re not wanting to invest hours in related viewing. Matt has been missing since surviving a building explosion in The Defenders. As this season picks up, he’s found lying low and being nursed back to health by a nun at the orphanage he called home as a young boy, kicking off a significantly darker season. Catholicism plays a significant role in the series, and seeing Matt return to his roots and regain his strength slows his story down a bit at first, but it results in revolutionary discoveries about him as a person that explain why he became the “Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.” The clincher this season is that Matt isn’t really the star — and the show doesn’t suffer because of it.

That’s because the show manages to expertly develop supporting characters, like Matt’s friends and former colleagues Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), and supervillain Wilson “Kingpin” Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio). There are new ones, too — including FBI agents Ray Nadeem (Jay Ali) and Benjamin "Dex" Poindexter (Wilson Bethel). Diehard fans might struggle to see the titular crime-fighter take a back seat in several episodes, but this talented cast is suited for the task.

At the top of that list is D’Onofrio, who viewers saw only sparsely in Season 2. A terrifying delight, he was clearly born to play the criminal “Kingpin” (as he’s known in the comics) Fisk. And this season, we get to see Fisk transition from prisoner to a free man once again after he cuts a deal with the FBI. As if this larger-than-life narcissistic tyrant couldn’t get creepier, Fisk gives an utterly Trumpian speech upon his release, blaming the media for spreading fake stories about him, claiming he’s fighting the corrupt system and protecting New York from its true enemy — Daredevil.

In order to advance this narrative that Daredevil is actually a threat to the public and not its protector, Fisk creates a tale of two devils, molding sharpshooting FBI agent Poindexter into a sort of evil twin of the superhero who dons the same suit Matt usually wears (the real Daredevil rocks his original, less fancy digs this season) as he targets Fisk’s enemies, including Karen, Foggy and others close to Matt — all while tarnishing Daredevil’s moral reputation.

And since we are in the Marvel universe, I can’t help but think of the meme with two Spidermen pointing at each other — only this has a whole lot more blood and Parkour. Because while combat typically makes for the least interesting scenes for me (what can I say, I love me some exposition), the fight choreography in this show is breathtaking, on par with that in the John Wick films.

As a few of the related Marvel Netflix shows are getting cancelled — including Iron Fist and Luke Cage — it’s questionable as to whether Daredevil will garner a fourth season. The finale ties up a lot of loose ends in spectacular fashion until, in quintessential comic book fashion, the final frames. In the meantime, it’s safe to start your Marvel journey with this stunner.

Contact Jac Kern: @jackern

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