Spoiler warning: I’m writing this after having watched all thirteen episodes of Marvel’s Daredevil. While I won’t go too far into specifics, I still advice against reading further if you still have a few episodes to go. Full spoilers allowed in the comment section.
Note: I’ve also made some edits to this text since first posting it.
Update: After seeing the season for the second time, I’ve come around completely about Matt’s arc. I really tried to pay attention to it the second time around, and I get it now.
Rather than go back and change something I’ve written, which is unwise, I’ll do another post on just his arc at some point. First though, I’ll get to my individual episode reviews starting tomorrow.
By a “fortunate” combination of a cold that kept me home from work (yes, the cold was real…) and living in a good time zone (the show dropped at 9 AM in most of Western Europe), I have actually finished watching Daredevil season three already. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to go into reviews of individual episodes right away or do a “first thoughts” post, but the mood struck so here we are.
I have mostly positive things to say about his season. In fact, this is the first time I’ve watched a season of Daredevil and felt this good about it right afterwards. You might recall that I only came to love season one after a rewatch and some time to digest the missteps. I’m still not entirely over the last third of season two, despite being impressed with that season’s overall level of quality. Season three of Daredevil, on the other hand, is the best-paced and most satisfying season of anything to come out of the Marvel/Netflix collaboration, topping the first season of The Punisher (yes, even as a Daredevil fan, I rank that above the first two seasons of Daredevil).
In my first comment on Twitter, after finishing the season, I rated it as 96% perfect. Maybe that was a bit of a stretch, but I still mostly stand by that. And I’m curious to see how I feel after rewatching, something which has always heightened my overall appreciation for this show in the past.
There is some fantastic character growth happening this season. Fisk is menacing in a visceral way, and Foggy and Karen come into their own in ways that deserve a standing ovation. Sister Maggie is a fantastic addition to the cast (though I was actually a bit disappointed that they went the “expected” route with her origin after hinting that we wouldn’t). Father Lantom had an insanely strong comeback and both Bullseye and Ray Nadeem were great and fully fleshed-out additions to the cast. Oh, and we got to see more of Jack Murdock and young Matt, respectively. I loved that!
Most of the Marvel/Netflix shows have had issues with pacing, as well as bits and pieces that feel like filler. That is not the case with season three of Daredevil. The eleven hours and change flew by, and I didn’t want it to end.
This season also has a more drawn-out ending than previous seasons, and I mean that in a very good way. Sure, there are climactic things happening in the final episode, but the creative team makes full use of the “long movie” format and seem to realize that the final twenty minutes are not to a very long “movie” what they are to an actual movie that runs for just over two hours.
This is a big step up from earlier productions that have suffered from being forced to sputter along while saving this one major showdown for the finale. In this case, the “sputtering” feels fun and meaningful all the way through.
So far, I haven’t really mentioned Matt, and there’s a reason for that. Charlie Cox does a fanstastic job playing him, as usual, and I honestly can’t imagine anyone else in the role at this point. His arc, however, is by far the least satisfying and this is pretty much the entire reason I’m not calling this a complete home run. After all the talk about confronting one’s fears, I still can’t tell you what Matt’s biggest fear is or exactly how he overcame it. (Unless we’re talking true intimacy, but we already knew that.)
When he finally finds his way back to the metaphorical light at the end, it happens quite suddenly and inexplicably. Again, I can’t pin down any one thing that was done or said to bring that about. And as much as I still deeply care about the Netflix version of the character, he is being pretty much insufferable to the people around him for much of the season with relatively little to explain his sudden maturation near the end. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy every minute of screen time that he got, because I did, and I always want to see more of him. That, and his fight scenes are amazing as well.
There is also a slight issue with his powers that becomes more striking because everything else is so perfect. And it’s not even one my usual complaints (I’m over his random and oddly specific ability to know everything about guns people are firing even from absurd distances), but the way so many of his moves and actions are omitted that bother me. This isn’t actually new to this season, just more obvious because of how grounded the rest of characters are this time around. With most of them, you always know what they know and how they know it because it’s all presented so well and the puzzle pieces so well thought out.
With Matt, that’s not always the case. When he shows up at Nadeem’s house, I’m wondering: “How did he get there? Did he take a cab?” (The place is clearly in the suburbs.) When he meets Karen at the home of the man who shanked Wilson Fisk, in episode six, she is surprised to see him there. I was surprised to not hear him explain how he’d followed her, but that he had instead also found the guy’s address. How? If he knew, he didn’t have to ask Karen for help. And, how did he find out on his own? Did he google it? That would have been fine, but would have required showing us how Matt googles things. There are others scenes and events that have some of the same issues, but I guess I’ll get back to them when I review the individual episodes.
There are complications with this character connected to those of his senses that work really well – and the one that doesn’t work at all – that actually need a little more explaining and exposition. If there’s one thing (okay, two) I’ve been trying to communicate in my ten plus years of writing about this character, it’s this:
1) You don’t have to give up trying to make intellectual sense of his powers, and resort to what comes across as near-magic and deus ex machina appearances, and
2) you don’t need to shy away from showing people his perceptual deficits (and not only when he’s injured, which was done very well, by the way). I’m willing to bet an arm that more people are put off by too little of this than too much. Trust me, it’s okay to have a blind superhero occasionally run into trouble because of it.
For instance: In the final episode, when Matt calls Dex from the phone of Fisk’s fixer, it would have made the scene better if we had been shown how he did that from someone else’s smartphone than omitting that information (it would have taken fifteen seconds, at most). Some of us know that accessibility features can be switched on easily on modern smartphones, but a great many people don’t, and at least some of them must be wondering how he made that call on a phone that wasn’t his. Even Siri would have worked.
Given these last few paragraphs, it might seem like this is a lot more than four percent, but I can assure you that it’s not. There really is so much to love this season, and none of the things that didn’t work for me are things that cannot be addressed and expanded on in future seasons.
Nothing and no one has been “broken” here, and so much of what many of us loved about the teamwork between the core trio has been restored by the end, even though it was a bit quicker and less complicated than it needed to be. Though I don’t expect Matt’s life to be carefree for long when next season inevitably rolls around, I do hope he can lean on his friends instead of pushing them away.