Fear and self-loathing in Hell’s Kitchen

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.

Matt holding his Daredevil mask, from the Netflix show

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.

Christine Hanefalk

Christine Hanefalk

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Christine is a die-hard Daredevil fan who launched The Other Murdock Papers in 2007 to share her passion for Matt Murdock and his friends with other fans.

16 comments

  1. “The risk of disappointment is obviously proportionately related to the level of emotional investment.”

    Yes! This is exactly how I’m feeling!

  2. I’ve lowered my expectations because I know I’ll want a different story in a lot of ways. That being said, I’m hoping that I can judge the story on its own merits. If I do that, the early reports of critical reaction is that this season will blow me away. So I’m in a weird limbo where I’m oddly hyped but actively lowering expectations.

    For example, do I think we’re getting comic book accurate Bullseye? Not at all, even though I think his costume is one of the easier ones to adapt. I’m not even convinced we’ll get a comics accurate Daredevil outfit this season.

  3. I don’t think I could be more excited. Of course, I’ve been a bigger fan of the directions they’ve taken Matt in his series and The Defenders than some others. I agree with most of what you’ve said here about his self worth and can relate on many levels. I expect Maggie will set Matt straight.

    1. @Tate: Yeah, I’m very interested to see what they’re going to do with Sister Maggie. I expect her to be a fairly unconventional nun who will turn out to have a lot in common with Matt. They have both, at some point, decided to deal with their problems (assuming Matt and Jack was hers) by throwing themselves wholeheartedly into a calling that goes beyond what most people would even contemplate. Of course, you also have to wonder how Matt might feel learning that he was abandoned by his mother.

  4. I’ve been wondering how Matt is pulled back from the brink. Because that has to happen, right? I would like to see Foggy or Karen or both play a role in that. This is not to suggest they should give him a pass on his bad behavior. Far from it. But if they know he’s in crisis (that’s a big “if,” given his secretiveness), I hope they won’t turn their backs on him.

  5. @Martha: I think it’s more likely to be Karen. I personally get the impression Matt will be spending a lot of time working with her to investigate Fisk on this round, given they were the two main drivers of the original Fisk case in season 1. Plus, I think that Karen has seen this darkness that Matt is going through, as it’s all too familiar to what she was like after her brother died.

    1. @Donald and Martha:

      Let’s also not forget Sister Maggie in all of this. While there’s been no confirmation that she really is Matt’s mother in the show (though we have to assume they’re going that way), she may also be able to provide guidance. On the other hand, there is much we don’t know about why she abandoned him in the first place. Being ditched by your own mother probably isn’t great for someone’s beliefs about their own worth.

  6. First, nice new layout !
    Secondly, thanks for putting my fears down in this article with actual words, and reassuring me. Indeed if there is a battle for Matt’s soul, it has to be won at the end, right ?
    I was just really not happy to see him ditch “Matt Murdock” entirely in the trailer…

    1. @scienceoftheidiot: Thank you! Noticed how it also has nesting comments now? 🙂

      As for the story in season three, I can’t imagine that this season will end with Matt’s civilian persona becoming even more marginalized than it already is. The pendulum has been swinging this way since season one, bringing Matt out of balance. There is only so much more you can do with that before the rebuilding begins.

  7. Several, rather spoilery articles were published today. Links to them can be found on TOMP’s Facebook page. Another one was published on “Screen Rant” and includes the following, which sum up what I hope for in season 3:

    “In addition to Fisk, Daredevil season 3 will focus back in on the show’s core characters: Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson and Karen Page.”

    “Further, instead of introducing characters like Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) and Elektra (Élodie Yung) who were key to Daredevil spinoff shows The Punisher and The Defenders, everything in Daredevil season 3 will service the show’s story.”

    I hope they’re accurate.

    @Christine: I, too, would like to see Maggie play a role in pulling Matt back from the brink (assuming that happens). But after reading the articles published today, I don’t think we can assume she is Matt’s mother. It’s one possibility, but not the only one.

  8. “In addition to Fisk, Daredevil season 3 will focus back in on the show’s core characters: Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson and Karen Page.”

    @Martha: The big thing that worries some of us here is that Charlie Cox’s interview suggested Karen, Matt and Foggy spend a lot of the season apart. Which is a real concern when the last time Matt, Karen and Foggy were all in a scene together was when Reyes died in 2×10. I think I speak for a lot of us when I say we want the gang to have some happiness. The show revolves around this core trio. What’s the point if they don’t get to have some happiness or get to work together?

    This “brooding Matt” thing better not last too long. It’d be much more rewarding if we got to have something like a very large amount of Matt and Karen teaming up to go after Fisk. (Karen knows by episode 6 at the latest; and I want to imagine she learns he’s alive maybe around the same time Foggy learns, and Foggy learns in episode 3; and as the ones with the most to lose with Fisk out of jail, I think that it’d make more sense writing-wise for Matt and Karen to work together to investigate Fisk this season rather than have them work separately. Especially since Matt learning about what Karen did to Wesley and what happened in her past would do wonders for their relationship. But maybe the writers will surprise us.)

  9. There were also some photos from a CBR writer that show Matt will eventually end up back in his signature corner apartment, though probably not until later in the season.

  10. @Donald: I, too, would like to see Nelson, Murdock, and Page together again. I am simply hoping that it happens – if it happens – in a way that is true to the characters and the story. What that might be, I have no idea. But at least we don’t have too much longer to wait, before we find out.

  11. @Donald: I totally agree with everything you wrote. In some of the articles they described a scene where Matt is yelling at Karen – a scene I am NOT looking forward to see – and in her interview Deborah Ann Woll said that they don’t meet until mid-season. But on the plus side – definitely no ninjas :-). Hopefully there is some collaboration in the second half of the season.

  12. @Nora: Some of us think Deborah Ann Woll was probably exaggerating a smidge. Karen knows he’s alive by [redacted], based on some set photos. I think the latest she learns could be episode 4 (because from that set photo, I get the impression she’d been reunited with Matt for at least one or two episodes by that point). We know from other set photos that Foggy knows Matt’s alive by [redacted].

    As for the Matt/Karen argument being described in the articles, Charlie Cox seemed to be suggesting that they filmed a version of the scene with a lot of screaming and swearing to get the emotionality they wanted for the characters, but they also filmed a more restrained version, and at the time of this interview, he wasn’t sure which version would be used in the final cut.

  13. Thank you for the information 🙂

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