This post contains references to teaser trailers and promos, as well as interviews with people associated with the show. Read at your own risk.
I have to admit that I’m really excited for season three. Probably more excited than I should be. In fact, I’m reminded of the days when much more of my time revolved around Daredevil: Thinking about the character, reading the comics, planning what to write about and then putting those thoughts into words for all of you to read.
At times like these, I’m also reminded of the downside to getting this passionately involved in anything. The risk of disappointment is obviously proportionately related to the level of emotional investment. I’m currently re-watching seasons one and two of Daredevil, and my feelings about the tail end of season two will always be mixed. It’s good stuff throughout, but watching Matt’s self-sabotage during the final half of the season can be rough.
Going into season three, I probably should be more terrified than I am. All the teasers are indicating that we’re going darker than dark. (And it’s not as if the first two seasons were all fun and games.) But that’s paradoxically part of the reason I feel a sense of calm. A “fight for Matt Murdock’s soul” is quite obviously not going to end with his soul being lost. Teasers tell you where things begin and hint at where the journey will lead you, not usually where it actually ends. Or else we’ll have thirteen episodes of going in circles, taking us right back to the beginning with no ground covered in terms of character growth. That’s clearly not what’s going to happen.
But I will admit that I’m interested in where Matt begins his journey this season, something I mentioned in my last post that I wanted to get back to. From the Entertainment Weekly interview with season three showrunner Erik Oleson:
“Matt goes to pretty much the darkest place you can,” Oleson says. “When he realizes that he’s incapable of being Daredevil, he would rather just end it than go forward in his life without abilities. He’s decided to set aside his Matt Murdock persona and just be the Devil, to isolate the lighter part of himself.”
So, Matt will find his powers reduced. Incidentally, he’ll apparently still go out as Daredevil (which we have seen before in a story from the Miller run, I mention it in A history of the radar sense #5 – Frank Miller part 2). Then again, if you’re feeling suicidal, thoughts of your own safety might go out the window. If you’re Matt Murdock, the impulse to stay safe from harm was not strong to begin with.
What this all reminds me of is a an observation I’ve occasionally made about this character before: He’s got a very skewed sense of self-worth.
Without being overly dramatic, I’d say that I can personally relate to Matt’s tendency to base his self-esteem on his accomplishments (only). In theory, he knows that the concern he feels for other people (sure he’ll screw over Foggy professionally, but would lay down his life before allowing any real harm to come to any of his friends), should apply to himself as well. You could also argue on religious grounds that he should know that the sanctity of human life includes his own. But, at the end of the day, he looks at himself as a tool first. And a tool has no real value apart from its usefulness in doing work or solving problems.
That’s not to say that Matt doesn’t have a hedonistic side that thoroughly enjoys going out as Daredevil. The way I see it, there are two sides to this. First of all, being an adrenaline junkie is a basic part of his personality (something I coincidentally co-wrote a chapter about for the book Daredevil Psychology: The Devil You Know). Even if he never developed heightened senses from the accident, he would have found outlets for this distinct trait. Secondly, being Daredevil allows him a physical freedom his civilian life doesn’t, and that becomes a goal in and of itself. If he feels his capacity in this respect suddenly reduced, it is natural that this would be deeply traumatic, the way it would be for anyone.
Added to this, though, is this idea that being Daredevil gives him a sense of purpose. I would think that this would be even more important to Matt in light of his nighttime habit also being something of a compulsion (see above). If, on top of a genuine concern for other people’s safety – that his heightened senses won’t let him ignore – he is also able to put his darker side to work for the higher good, what’s not to love about that?
A third thing to consider is that being Daredevil also makes his childhood accident, his point of origin as a superhero, meaningful. I remember that Mark Waid often spoke about this, and pointed out that being able to go out as Daredevil brings a sense of justice and purpose to something that was, in other ways, fundamentally unfair. In committing a good and heroic deed, a young boy loses his sight for life. It’s a textbook case of “no good deed goes unpunished.” If he also gets special abilities as a result, is that not God’s way of giving someone a higher purpose? If you’re Matt Murdock, you may very well interpret it this way.
If Matt believes his ability to be Daredevil has been taken away from him (and of course, we all know he’ll recover) it takes away all of the things I’ve mentioned above. And aside from the normal and very human grief someone would experience at a time of such crisis, it also shines a light on how little Matt thinks of his own worth without these things. Always ready to shield others from harm, and never judging them by their level of power (physical or otherwise), Matt is not nearly as good at showing himself that same level of kindness and respect.
Just looking at the Netflix show, it’s not difficult to understand where this might be coming from. The first person to come along, after the loss of his father at a very young age, is Stick. Despite the fact that Stick evidently develops deeper feelings for young Matt than he intended to, he still views Matt primarily as a tool, a “soldier” to fight alongside him in the coming war. And again, Matt is of use to him because of his heightened senses and physical prowess. If he were just some random unfortunate blind orphan, he never would have received a visit in the first place. Stick also stresses the importance of secrecy, as well as the need for Matt to isolate himself socially from people who might want to get close to him. No wonder Elektra’s brand of intimacy, authentic as it might be, is the one he is best equipped to wrap his brain around.
So, I guess what I’m getting at is that I’m actually looking forward to seeing Matt’s deeper issues dealt with. He needs to understand that his worth as a human being goes deeper than his gifts. Only then can he see them for what they are, as opposed to an obligation to do more, a debt to be repaid, a source of arrogance, or a reason to keep the people who can see through it all out of his life.