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First thoughts on Daredevil season three

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.

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.

22 comments

  1. I also think like you. Many things this season have left me uncomfortable. Too much left unanswered
    but it may be only I who feel this way
    the end with nelson murdock and page seemed forced. I really did not like it.
    I just hope it does not take another two years to produce the series.
    I think it would be unfeasible for the actors

  2. Far from finished, taking my time to injest it the full flavor of the candy.. Didn’t read your review, just saw your initial rating.. Guess I guessed right on that good feeling about this!.. Talk soon

  3. “Nothing 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.”

    I think one way they could’ve forced more collaboration between Matt, Karen and Foggy is by having Matt confront Karen when she showed up in the courtyard outside Fisk’s hotel. If that had been Karen’s first interaction with Matt in the present day, then I’m sure that Karen as a voice of reason would’ve summoned Foggy and they’d have worked together more as opposed to running mostly separate investigations until the end.

    Then again, at this point when Matt’s rejecting his Matt Murdock life, he’s also dressed like Stick and basically giving in to Stick’s philosophy, even though you’d think at some point during his recovery that Sister Maggie would make Matt realize Stick was wrong and that Matt NEEDS his friends. (Hell, I’m starting to think it’d be an interesting do-over to the season if Father Lantom had decided to act in what he thought were Matt’s best interests and sent for Karen and Foggy when Matt had recovered enough to fight.)

  4. Yeah… that was freaking awesome.
    There were a few slow moments but, overall phenomenal season. 10/10.

    Charlie Cox was phenomenal as always and his journey was the heart and soul of the show. Thats not to dismiss anyone else in the cast who all brought their A-games as well. Bethel was great as Bullseye. Whaley, who was a godsend, and Cox’s scenes together were some of my favorite of the whole season.

    I know they want to end these things on a suspenseful moment, but I wish the final shot had been Matt, Foggy, and Karen together and happy. They could have shown Bullseye’s fate before. Nitpick.

    The final fight between Murdock, Fisk, and Bullseye was great. All the fights ranged from good to amazing, which cant be said for the other two seasons.

    A rewatch will be the true test, but right now I’d rank it tied with Season 1 as the best Marvel/Netflix has produced.

    1. I think this actually tops season one, by far. I think I will need a rewatch to wrap my head around Matt’s journey. I don’t mind where it begins and where it ends, I just had a hard time following all the steps in between.

      If this is the end of all of these shows, I’m also glad we got to end on a high note. In the case of Daredevil, I really don’t think so, as it’s presumably performing well for Netflix, even when compared to their library as a whole, and supposedly dwarfing the other MCU shows.

      As for the very final scene, I kind of agree with you. It’s an unnecessary bit of foreshadowing. (I also have to laugh at the very comic book handling of his surgery. I mean, it’s not as if you can have two vertebrae pulverized and not sustain damage to the spinal chord, but we’re still going to pretend that it’s the bones that matter…)

  5. Overall, I think this season was very well done and worth the wait. Everyone brought their A game, especially Charlie Cox and Vincent D’Ofrio. Some of the only nit picks I had – around the mid season part, I felt like there were so many stories going on (FBI, Karen, Foggy, et all), and not enough on Matt. He felt too removed from the story at that point.

    I also wasn’t thrilled with what appeared to be a retcon of Matt’s relationship with Father Lantom. He seemed to barely remember him from when he was a young boy in season 1, now it seems he was around during his teenage years. I also have to wonder that if Sister Maggie was a part of Matt’s life, why in the world did she allow Stick to train him and treat him like dirt? I think there’s a lot of unexplained things from Matt’s younger years that the show still hasn’t explained. For example, Stick trained Matt for 6 months-a year when he was 10ish? And then Matt could instantly pick up his ninja moves again 15 years later post-college?

    I was satisfied with the ending. Dex’s surgery ending scene reminded me of the end of the Punisher with Russo clearly alive wrapped in bandages. As sudden as it seemed, I was thrilled with Nelson & Murdock reforming, as I honestly didn’t expect to get that out of this season.

    Hopefully there will be additionally seasons of Daredevil. I’d love to see Matt and Frank team up again.

    1. In regards to Stick’s training of Matt and Matt keeping those ninja skills after he left, in season one Matt explains that he continued to train on his own after Stick left. You could argue he took what Stick showed him and matured it as best as he could. Foggy told him that for him to keep training, Matt would have had to know that he would one day do something like becoming Daredevil.

      Durimg this season, when it showed him as teen twirling his stick with patience and skill, and Lantom saying he wins all the fights he gets into, its clear he was able to hone whatever Stick did with him. Also, I dont think the nuns (like Maggie) were aware of the real “help” Stick was providing Matt. Matt would’ve kept the intimate details of his relationship with Stick secret.

  6. Daredevil season 3 is the Dark Knight of comic book television. Such a brutal beautiful masterpiece. As a devoted and hardcore Daredevil fan I was so impressed.

    Also, they weren’t dumb enough to kill of Fisk. Than k you. My point is even 3 seasons in & now 26 episodes total of Matt vs Fisk, you are still as interested as you were from the start. They’ve developed into one of the best rivalries in comic book media that we haven’t seen. Sure we saw Loki be good & we see Magneto flip flop around but with Matt & Fisk, here are 2 guys who hate each other & want nothing more than to kill each other & destroy each other’s lives & that feeling isn’t ending anytime soon

  7. Just finished. i loved it and will definitely be rewatching.
    It was 100% mystical ninja free! Plus has so many other things I hoped to see!

  8. I just finished the season and hopped straight onto your website to read your thoughts. I look forward to reading the proposed post on Matt’s arc.
    I enjoyed the season, but i really wanted to see more Foggy and Karen and Matt interaction. Matt isolating himself was a big part of the story, I know, but it dragged on a bit long for my liking. I got a bit sick of his self-indulgent martyr act after awhile. I’m thrilled with the napkin proposal at the end though.
    One thing that annoyed me in season 1 and continued to irritate all through season 3 was the terrible art (although I laughed out loud when I saw the fake Rothko).
    Lastly, that last fight with Matt, Bullseye and Fisk was terrific. But I don’t understand how Matt was just able to walk out of Fisk’s penthouse once the police arrived, particularly after Brett blatantly pointed him out.

  9. I was very apprehensive with the direction of Matt Murdock as I was watching it. I don’t think either previous showrunner quite got the character and it seemed this was going in the same direction. The final episode changed my mind entirely. I think Erik Oleson really does get the character. You can see it in how Foggy talks about Matt. You can also see it with how the final episode turned out.

    The comic story of Born Again takes Matt to a very dark place but it’s ultimately a reaffirming story of Matt as a person. I think this season ultimately did the same thing and I’m very happy for it.

  10. One thing that hit me is that aside from the Bullseye tease, that last episode works as a series finale. Now of course we’d all like this to continue, but with Netflix and Marvel canceling Cage and Fist, I worry about the future of all these characters.

    If this does turn out to be the last season of Daredevil, we should count ourselves lucky that we have a complete, epic, and brilliant story of Matt Murdock, Karen, Foggy, and even Fisk. If the Netflix universe is imploding the fans of Danny and Luke are getting the shaft.

    Lots are assuming these characters will find a new home on Disney’s streaming service if they all end up cancelled. They may, but I’m not that confident. These shows are essentially R rated and with Disney getting back all the characters of the X-men and Fantastic Four catalogs, combined with all the Marvel characters yet to see live action, they have countless stories to tell. They could dump all the “Defenders” and their supporting casts and not see any dip in their profit margins.

    1. Yeah, I’ve been thinking that exact thing. I do still lean toward us getting at least one more season out of Daredevil on Netflix. Daredevil is the Defenders crown jewel, Netflix marketed the shit out of this (waaaaay more than Iron Fist, for instance), and even though Disney/Marvel may resent leaving it on Netflix, messing with it by cancelling or moving is risky (and it’s not something they can do single-handedly under their deal). Netflix probably are willing to spend money on something they don’t own when that something is still a feather in their hat and likely more profitable than most things they put out. Iron Fist, and even Luke Cage, doesn’t have the same pull. As you point out, Daredevil and the others are not necessarily a good fit for Disney’s streaming service, but I don’t think that Marvel/Disney can single-handedly cancel Daredvil due to the terms of their deal. As one of the higher ups at Netflix said the other week, “these shows are ours to cancel.” From what I’ve heard, that drew som ire from Marvel/Disney, but he is probably technically correct. Daredevil may be the one property they are willing to fight for.

      On the other hand, if this is indeed the last we see of these guys, I really couldn’t have wished for a better ending. We have the trio back together (all alive!), and Matt is at the end of a road he’s been on since season one of somewhat successfully reconciling all parts of himself into a functional whole.

  11. That. Fight. Scene!

    The prison fight was brutally bananas. It should win an Emmy, a Nobel Prize, and the Tour de France. And I freaking love Dex and the Kingpin. Such a psycho mind game with those two.

  12. A few random thoughts after watching and re-watching season 3:

    I feel very sorry for any actor not named Charlie Cox who attempts to play the role of Matt Murdock/Daredevil in the future. I, too, can’t imagine anyone else in the role; Cox totally owns it. His performance in season three was brilliant.

    I fell in love with Foggy when he told Karen he wasn’t going to turn his back on Matt. We should all have a friend like him.

    The conversation between Matt and Father Lantom in the pool hall was heartbreaking.

    The scenes where Matt is “passing” as sighted (when he’s not Daredevil) were intriguing. Then there was the scene where he’s escorting Nadeem to the courthouse and doesn’t even pretend to be an average blind guy, despite being out in public.

    There seemed to be fewer acrobatic moves in the fight scenes. The style seemed more “street fighter” than “ninja.” This might be because there was a new stunt coordinator for this season. But it could also have been story related and intentional, showing that Matt was recovering from his injuries for most of the season and wasn’t able to do the flashy moves. There were a few of the more acrobatic moves in the fights in the last couple of episodes.

  13. If you haven’t, listen to the first episodes with a good headset. The audio work that has been done to reflect Matt’s injured earing, is top notch. I am blind, I should know 😉

  14. @Tate @ Christine: don’t you think that they just cancelled Iron Fist and Luke Cage in order to announce heros for hire in a couple of days?
    Season 3 was brilliant.
    @ André: I noticed that too and it was extremely well executed. In addition to the sound in mono they filmed the scenes from Matt’s point of view completely blurred.

  15. “I enjoyed the season, but i really wanted to see more Foggy and Karen and Matt interaction. Matt isolating himself was a big part of the story, I know, but it dragged on a bit long for my liking.”

    @Lucy: Yeah, I kinda agree. Matt’s idea to give up “Matt Murdock” didn’t really feel like a loss, because we have barely seen him being Matt from the get go. If do-overs were possible, I’d retool the season to where Matt has already reunited with Karen and Foggy and started rebuilding his civilian life, and THEN Fisk starts making moves against them. Maybe also see Matt try to use the legal system first before trying to do things as Daredevil. (I’m sure they could find a way to do this without downplaying or cutting out Sister Maggie’s role in the narrative)

    I think they also should have addressed Matt’s legal status properly. In The Defenders, Matt was implied to be declared missing. At the start of this season, Karen is paying Matt’s bills and rent which leads the landlord to believe he’s alive. Meanwhile, Foggy’s family and Marci all talk about Matt as if he’s dead and not missing. When Fisk tries to frame Matt as an accomplice, Nadeem’s team just goes straight to Matt’s apartment without so much as a “he must have faked his death” and since they went to his apartment first, it shows that they didn’t pay much attention to his status as a missing person. Later, Matt and Foggy sit down with DA Tower to represent Nadeem as if Matt had been practicing law all this time. Tower never mentions Matt being a fugitive, dead, or missing. With all this weirdness, one would think that Matt should be under scrutiny to find out just what is going on. It’s even more strange that Matt is hanging out at the end with Foggy’s family with no apparent story to tell them or Marci or anyone else as to where he’s been all this time.

  16. The only other thing that I felt needed to be resolved at the end of season 3 was: who eats a burger with a spork?

  17. It would probably depend on how the 20th Century Fox deal times out, but a great character to introduce in a potential Season 4 would be Lady Deathstrike. They had her father in that final moment with Bullseye. Borrow some ideas from Denny ONeil’s run and throw in a little techno thriller aspects into the crime noir feel of the show.

  18. I really enjoyed this season.

    The 11 minute one-take fight scene from prison infirmary through the riot and into the cab was just… epic. Amazing, awesome, and epic.

    Vincent D’Onofrio as the Kingpin was superb – you were almost convinced at first he was turning over a new leaf if only for the sake of Vanessa, but as the series went on you really learned what sort of a chessmaster Kingpin really is. And his character had such an emotional moment when he discovers that he does NOT have to keep things from Vanessa, she really does accept all of him and is a willing partner. Think about it – Vanessa is probably the ONLY person ever to truly love Wilson unconditionally, not shrinking or repulsed by his dark side. I am really happy about the arc for this villain who is shown not only being ruthless, but having odd moments of compassion (such as when he leaves “Rabbit in a Snowstorm” with the Holocaust survivor), the fact that he combines both an animal brutality and a refined, intellectual appreciation for the arts, for good food, and fine things. He is the opposite of a cardboard villain. I don’t like him as a person, but he is a fully developed person in this narrative.

    Matt’s change in regards to shutting people out/letting them in didn’t bother me – I read it as Matt finally realizing that pushing people away doesn’t work. It wasn’t so much one singular moment as circumstances wearing away at him. Matt’s teamwork with the Defenders, and in this series, I think has convinced the loner that sometimes, yes, even he needs help and someone at his back. That, and he learns his friends aren’t helpless – after all, Karen killed James Weasely. She’s not a boxer, but as Matt said to her, she can clearly take care of herself, she’s not helpless and she is as brave as Matt in her own way.

    I kind of like that they touched on part-partum depression when addressing Maggie’s backstory. My own mother was hospitalized when I was an infant due to attempting to kill herself during a bought of post-partum depression, it can be VERY serious, and Maggie really might have been a danger to herself and her child when she left. She might have had a lifetime of struggling with mental health issues and it could be that that, and guilt, kept her from Matt. She might have really believed he was better off without her, especially with his father doing a reasonably competent job of raising Matt.

    I was angry about Father Lantom’s death, but that’s part of what makes this series interesting – people you care about can and do die. It’s part of what draws you in, makes you care about characters and the story.

    I did think it was interesting when Matt was getting Nadeem to the grand jury – at that point Nadeem knows Matt isn’t an ordinary human being and Matt can really just be who he is: a blind guy with enhanced senses who is an extraordinary warrior. Nadeem rolls with it, trusting Matt’s senses, but I also loved the quip when they go up to the cab and Nadeem says “I’d better drive”. Because that’s something Matt can’t do.

    Also, that three-way fight between Dex, Kingpin, and Matt was another amazing scene. In this series I’m really starting to think Wilson Fisk is also another “minor super” – sure, he’s a big guy and he pumps iron, but his level of strength seems just a bit too much for a baseline human.

    Finally, I’ll note a parallel between Daredevil and Kingpin – they’re both very physical, very brutal fighters but they are also both highly intelligent, educated, and intellectual men as well. That’s one of the reasons they make for such a good story. They’re not just thugs, they’re not just chessmasters, they’re both and thus fight on multiple levels.

    I do wonder if Brett Mahoney is starting to suspect Matt Murdock is Daredevil… it wouldn’t surprise me. I suspect a LOT of people wonder about that, and it’s mainly Matt being blind that deflects their suspicions.

  19. I really enjoyed this season! Perhaps I was a little lost at the beginning, mostly becouse I didn’t completly watched the Defenders series (it was rather dull), but I was soon engaged into it. After a long, dark journey, Matt Murdock (not only Daredevil but Matt) come backs to life, back to his friends. Kingpin is amazing as ever, intense, menacing, omnipotent. Perhaps a little too much (the scene with the grand jury was exagerated: wasn’t a judge there, when the juries said they were being intimidated?). And I think I appreciate more now Foggy and Karen than in previous seasons.
    Bullseye was a surprise. Marvel comics always lacked in giving him an origen. There we have a perfect one. And his fights with DD are perfectly coreographied.
    Daredevil is the best superheroes in TV right now, and I hope it keeps this way.

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