TV Review: Marvel's Daredevil - Season 3

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SYNOPSIS:  When Wilson Fisk is released from prison, Matt Murdock must decide between hiding from the world or embracing his life as a hero vigilante. Meanwhile, Fisk enacts a plan that will turn New York against the Devil of Hell's Kitchen and witness the rise of a new villain.

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REVIEW: Just last month, Netflix debuted the much improved second season of Iron Fist, bringing each of The Defenders to two runs each. Now, we get to see the return of Matt Murdock as Daredevil for the third season of the series that started it all. Regardless of what you think of any of the series that followed it, Daredevil still ranks as the overall best realization of these characters to date. Even though the second season may not have been as memorable as the first, it did bring us Frank Castle. After the events of The Defenders event series, everyone presumes that Matt Murdock is dead but we know from that final scene that he made it out alive. What season three tries to tackle is how will Matt cope with the loss of both Stick and Elektra and where will he go from here. The good news is that new showrunner Erik Oleson (Unforgettable, Arrow) has crafted a gripping and damn fine season that is heavily influenced by the iconic comic book storyline "Born Again". For those unfamiliar with the arc, I suggest you seek it out. The rest of you, know that while inspired by that series, this season of Daredevil is an original take that will drive Daredevil to grittier and darker places than it has ever gone.

Having seen the first six episodes of season three, I can say that anyone who has felt underwhelmed by Marvel and Netflix's offerings in recent years is in for a treat. Unlike the sophomore seasons of the other Defenders characters, Daredevil's third season is directly impacted by the ending of last year's event series. Assumed dead by his friends and fellow heroes, Matt Murdock was shown in a hospital bed, alive but barely. At the outset of this season, we know that this will not be the same Matt Murdock we have seen before. Broken and forced to live after his love has died, Matt has a death wish and decides to live life as Daredevil rather than continue as Matt Murdock. This, of course, puts Karen Page and Foggy Nelson in the unfortunate position of carrying on their goal to defend the helpless citizens of Hell's Kitchen while mourning their friend. It also means that the first episodes of this season are more focused on the supporting cast, especially Wilson Fisk and brand new characters like FBI agent Benjamin Poindexter.

Vincent D'Onofrio's layered performance as Fisk in the first season of Daredevil was one of the highlights of the series and one of the best villains yet in any franchise in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But, while the name Kingpin was tossed around, this season he embraces his villainous persona openly as he plots to reclaim his stranglehold on New York while taking down Matt Murdock. You see, Murdock threatened Fisk's girlfriend Vanessa and Fisk never forgot that. That means that Fisk needs to destroy everything about the Daredevil persona which requires the aid of Benjamin Poindexter. Played by Wilson Bethel, Poindexter's evolution into Daredevil's nemesis, Bullseye, is one of the most well executed origin on a Netflix/MCU series since Frank Castle became The Punisher. Bethel will make you forget Colin Farrell's pulpy Irish assassin and instead give you a character that is disturbed and disturbingly scary.

This season is also a departure for Charlie Cox's performance as Matt Murdock. In the first two seasons, Murdock wrestled with balancing the masks he wore as his blind lawyer and vigilante personas were at odds. After losing Elektra in The Defenders, Matt is shattered, physical and mentally, and borders on having a death wish. Instead, he pours every ounce of motivation he has back into stopping Wilson Fisk and, eventually, Bullseye. But, because of what he now carries in himself, Matt's faith is tested and his actions become all the more brutal. The edge this brings to Cox's performance has the most energy ever seen in the character and brings it closest to anything we have seen from the comics. It also means that we see a lot less of the red armored look as Matt returns to the black sweatsuit and mask from season one. You may be disappointed by this, but I found it to create a strong separation between who we know as Daredevil and the darker Devil of Hell's Kitchen.

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As always, the supporting cast pull equal weight with the stars which is a challenge when you have performances as imposing as that of Vincent D'Onofrio. Elden Henson continues to imbue Foggy Nelson with the optimism and good humor we have come to expect while simultaneously becoming more of the white knight that Matt never was able to. Deborah Ann Woll continues to be a beacon for justice as she carries the mantle of both Matt and her mentor, reporter Ben Urich. Karen can sometimes border on annoying, but her instincts usually tend to be right. My favorite new addition to the cast is Jay Ali as FBI Agent Ray Nadeem. At first, you may not understand why there is so much focus on the embattled agent, but he becomes central to the plot and anchors the story perfectly. All together, there are no weak spots in this season's roster of talent but over the episodes I reviewed, the absence of Rosario Dawson's Claire Temple made me miss her connection to the other MCU/Netflix series.

If there is one weakness for the third season of Daredevil it is that it doesn't always flow the way it should. I have no problem with deliberately paces narratives, but this season speeds up and slows down in odd ways that make you question the point of some subplots. Without getting into specifics, it sometimes comes across that Matt's life-threatening injuries from The Defenders are used to service the story and increase or decrease in severity depending on the needs of the story. This is a minor quibble along with the fact that I wanted to see more Daredevil than we got. This season definitely puts more time out of vigilante mode than in it, but I still have half of the season to watch. Overall, I am beyond happy that my complaints are as minor as they are as this story is the closest any MCU property has come to capturing the essence of an iconic comic book storyline while still making significant changes. Between Kingpin and Bullseye, this is the best pair of bad guys Marvel has delivered and proves that of any of the Netflix series, this is the one that could make the jump to the big screen. Daredevil is back and kicking ass and you will not leave your seat until you finish this stellar run. 

The third season of Marvel's Daredevil premieres October 19th on Netflix.

Source: JoBlo.com



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