It’s been an interesting year for Marvel shows on Netflix. Jessica Jones had mother issues. Luke Cage dealt with a guy who was stronger than him and wanted revenge against a crooked councilwoman. The Punisher made his debut and tried to exact revenge against military officials who double crossed him. Iron Fist lost his powers, but decided someone else should have them (but got new powers anyway). In all of these cases, the shows had good moments but had some flaws.
However, Daredevil came back from the dead last week with a very good third season that featured a nun, a new bad guy and the return of the Kingpin, Wilson Fisk.
The 13-episode season was paced very well, as it presented a modified version of the “Born Again” story with a dash from the “Guardian Devil” run. Matt Murdoch is still severely injured from a building falling over him at the end of Defenders. That road is difficult, though. He spends most of the season scarred physically, and has lost some of his hearing. The show even reflects his impaired state by muffling sounds and using off-kilter visuals. His emotional state is even worse, though. He’s lost his faith in the law and maybe his ability to help Hell’s Kitchen as Daredevil. He’s not even sure he wants to be Matt, either. As he puts it, “I’d rather die as the Devil than live as Matt Murdoch.”
As the picture below shows, he’s back on duty in a homemade suit because he’s not back all the way.
The real devil, though, is Fisk, played with style and menace by Vincent D’Onofrio. He’s an omnipotent and elegant force of power and evil, a crime god. The way he does it is a thing of dark beauty, too. He gets someone to stab him in prison, then manages to get transferred to very fancy house arrest (in a hotel he bought secretly) if he testifies against other crime lords. He also has cameras literally everywhere. It’s all part of a plan where he controls crime in Hell’s Kitchen and New York by having other crooks pay him protection, or the FBI will come calling.
Not only that, he makes the FBI’s New York office the Fisk B-I. He shows that by targeting agent Ray Nadeem (Jay Ali), who has money problems that have prevented him from advancing. He’s able to be in charge of Fisk’s incarceration, and gets promoted. Slowly, he figures out the truth, just in time to find out even his boss is in Fisk’s pocket.
So how can Daredevil overcome that? He gets help from a nun named Sister Maggie (Joanne Whalley). She knows Matt from way back, and often comments about how he grew up. She also knows full well Matt’s Daredevil, and tells him not to embrace his dark side. She also has a secret connection with Matt, which is revealed when she prays to Matt’s dad.
Yes, Sr. Maggie is Matt’s mom. How he finds out is a surprise, but the show handles the secret pretty well. It also hints she’ll be part of Daredevil’s future, filling the role Claire Temple had.
Meanwhile, Foggy Nelson and Karen Page are mourning Matt until he contacts them separately. He insists their friends stay away from him for their own good, which never winds up that way. In fact, Matt becomes anything but a friend when he steals Foggy’s NY Bar number to sneak into a prison to interview a prisoner, and also puts Karen in danger, too.
Still, they all want to take down Fisk, but in their own way. She uses her job at the Bulletin to prove Fisk was laundering money, while Nelson gets into the race for District Attorney as a way to fight Fisk. He may be a write-in nominee, but he gives the incumbent a run for his money. Nelson has come a long way on the show, proving to be a hero in his own right.
Fisk, though, is tough to beat. He recruits FBI agent Ben Poindexter (or Dex) to do his dirty work. Fisk finds out Dex was a sociopath as a kid, beaning his Little League coach, killing birds and maybe worse. After the FBI investigates Dex for being too aggressive in a shoot-out, and fails to woo an old friend named Julie after stalking her for weeks, he poses as Daredevil and kills a witness that could threaten Fisk’s freedom. The media and FBI are easily fooled, and Matt is unable to beat this guy because Dex never misses. Wilson Bethel plays Dex, and he does a great job as a troubled man who can keep his demons at bay with his structured job at the FBI and listening to old tapes of his therapy sessions when he was a kid, Once he gets rid of the tapes, he really gets out of control. This is especially bad news for Nadeem when he figures out what his partner is doing…and no one will stop him.
The show takes several interesting ways to show the inner conflict of heroes and villains. Matt is taunted by Fisk in full Kingpin mode in his mind., similar to Kilgrave taunting Jessica Jones earlier this year. Fisk dares Matt to release the darkness within, but that he will be responsible for the deaths of Foggy and Karen eventually. As the story progresses, the real Fisk makes sure that happens. Finally, by episode nine, Matt hears the ghost of his dad, telling Matt they were both born with the Devil inside. Then, Dad turns into Ghost Fisk, telling Matt he’s no better than his father, a corrupt boxer who took dives. “You were born from nothing,” Ghost Fisk says, “You are nothing.” That sets Matt off, pounding the devil that has been taunting him. It’s the start of his recovery as Matt Murdoch.
The season also featured the backstories of Dex and Karen. Much of episode five showed Fisk reading over “sealed” filed of Dex’s psychiatric history and recordings of his sessions. We see Dex’s past while Fisk looks on, showing again his omnipotence.
Karen’s past also took up much of episode ten. Fans learned she was stuck in a town she hated, snorting cocaine and hanging around with a terrible boyfriend. Still, she refused to accept a chance to study at Georgetown. It also showed how she caused an auto accident that killed her brother, forcing her to leave. Also, she admitted to Foggy she killed James Wesley, Fisk’s cruel minion from season one, and she was worried the FBI would find out when it thought Matt was a crooked lawyer because Fisk said so. Karen Page has a lot of secrets, but one secret she refused to reveal–the identity of Daredevil–forced her to leave the Bulletin.
The fight scenes, though, make the difference. The first major one occurs in the second episode, and it shows Matt holding his own when he’s battling some of Fisk’s goons at a dry cleaners store even if his powers are severely impaired. It was a wise move to show this scene in darkness.
The major highlight is in episode four, which features an amazing eleven-minute fight where Matt clobbers inmates and guards under Fisk’s payroll as he tries to get info from some Albanian inmates about why Fisk is after them. This is also where Matt finds out Fisk got himself stabbed to set up the FBI.
A close second, but more tragic, is episode ten, when DexDevil (Dex as the fake Daredevil) heads to the Clinton Church to kill Karen because she threatened to print a story to accuse Fisk of killing hid dad (which he did). Actually, Fisk wants her killed because she confessed she killed Wesley and hoped he’d attack her. Dex does his best to fool everyone while Matt battles him and again comes up short. In fact, this ruins his image even more. Karen does her best to get everyone out and keep DexDevil from killing Matt. However, the fight ends in tragedy as Fr. Lathom (Peter McRobbie) gets stabbed to death next to her.
There were still some holes. There was a great scene between D’Onofrio and Lesley Ann Warren as they were discussing who really owns a painting called “Rabbit In A Snowstorm.” He lets her keep it, but in the next episode he gets it back. There’s no explanation how, but it’s hinted Dex took severe measures. The show should have been more clear about that.
Then there’s Vanessa (Ayalet Zurer), the love of Fisk’s life. Although he claims “love is a prison”, he did a lot to keep her out of prison. Her quick decision to back Fisk’s evil ways was a bit of a jolt. There should have been more time to develop her character.
After keeping Matt apart from Foggy and Karen for so long, they were finally united at the end of episode ten. They try to talk Matt into not killing Fisk, and let the law actually work. It seems that it does when Nadeem agrees to testify against Fisk, but the grand jury has been paid off to not indict him. Karen’s efforts to clear Daredevil’s name also fall flat.
So, by the final episode, Matt thinks Fisk must die. He tells Dex Fisk had killed off Julie, the girl he tried to woo. It seems it’s the end for Fisk one way or another. Too bad the execution stumbled a bit.
First, why is Fisk’s ultimate triumph a wedding ceremony with Vanessa, with several crime bosses required to attend if they want to escape the law? It may be a distraction while he still tries to kill Foggy, Karen and Matt, but it looks like a special edition of The Bachelor.
This leads to an ultimate showdown between Dex, Matt and Fisk, but the fight wasn’t organized very well. Eventually, Matt comes out on top, telling Fisk he’s going back behind bars, and leaves Foggy and Karen alone. Vanessa, meanwhile, will still be protected. Matt even takes off his mask, which is insane even if Fisk knows who he is anyway. Fisk, his face in a bloody mess, agrees. It’s a good climax but should have been done better.
However, Nadeem was able to record his grand jury testimony on his cell and send it to Foggy and Karen, who then deliver it to Fisk’s wedding guests and everywhere else. Since he did this just before Dex killed him, and knew it was coming, the testimony holds up in court. That was done very well.
In the end, Matt, Foggy and Karen are back together in a new firm and the future is a little brighter.
Elsewhere in another hospital, someone is fixing Dex’s back. He also has a “Bullseye” in his eyes. It’s safe to say what he’ll become if there’s a fourth season.
The third season of Daredevil was a very good end to the Marvel showcase on Netflix. There’s still some doubt on what will happen next. Jessica Jones and the Punisher are certain to return, while Iron Fist and Luke Cage’s stories have ended for now. Having Matt Murdoch come back with a new purpose and hopefully a new suit wouldn’t be out of the question. If he’s also cancelled, though, it could mean Netflix’s piece of the MCU could be gone, but only until Disney starts its own streaming service from scratch or takes over Hulu.
In any case, the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen will still be around, being a guardian angel patrolling in the dark.