Netflix Marvel Retrospective – Daredevil Season 3

At this point in Netflix Marvel’s history, both Iron Fist and Luke Cage had been cancelled and the remaining seasons of Daredevil, Punisher, and Jessica Jones were being released almost a month from one another. I recall the build-up to Daredevil’s third season having almost no promotion from Netflix, which made me think the whole franchise was on the chopping block. After all, Daredevil was probably the most popular of the bunch so one would expect a great deal of fanfare. Unfortunately, the franchise was, indeed, coming to an end. As I’ve said before and likely far too many times, Daredevil was the best show in the franchise and probably the best comic-based show ever. The third season was a decent send-off to the series, although a fourth season on Disney+ seems to be in the works. At any rate, let’s go over the final chapter of the Netflix Daredevil series, spoilers and all.

Back In Black

The third season saw the series getting yet another showrunner. It’s interesting because the other series had the same showrunners for every season except for Iron Fist and that was mostly due to the poor reception of the first one. Daredevil had a different showrunner each season for a variety of reasons and not only maintained the same level of quality but also maintained the same tone. Unless someone took a look at the credits, they would have believed the same creative force was behind the series every step of the way. It helps that many of the same writers and directors were working on the show throughout its run, however.

As expected, most of the cast returned with a few new faces. Everyone did a spectacular job, particularly Wilson Bethel as Bullseye. He was a very intense and deranged villain. While the Netflix shows often gave the villains some sympathetic twist, I liked that Bullseye was pretty much pure evil. Even in flashbacks to his childhood and his therapy sessions, he wasn’t really depicted as anything but a psychopath; and yet, childhood flashbacks and therapy sessions are normally a good way to earn some sympathy from the audience. Bullseye was having none of that this season. I liked that he wore Daredevil’s red armor as it seemed to be a nod to an old Bullseye/Daredevil story (and seems to be a bit of an Easter egg to a similar subplot in the Born Again saga, which this season mostly adapts) but I do wish that he wore some version of his traditional costume by the time all was said and done. Obviously, Netflix didn’t like costumes or codenames but I figured since they already went to the trouble of giving him a suit, he could have at least painted it black for the final fight and looked more the part. Another great addition was Sister Maggie, Matt Murdoch’s mom, played by Joanne Whalley.

The fight scenes were great this season as well, especially the fights between Bullseye and Daredevil and, as always, we got the usual Daredevil traditions. As I’ve said before, Netflix Marvel shows were known for having at least one hallway fight in every season of every show and Daredevil always upped the ante by having at least one hallway fight be shot in one take (or at least had the appearance of it). This season blew all those past one-take hallway fights out of the water. It’s actually a sequence that runs about 11 minutes: it starts off as a fist fight in a prison examination room, spills out into the cell block as the prisoners escape, turns into an exposition scene where Matt learns some important information from an inmate, then becomes an escape scene as Matt avoids the massive prison riot, goes outside, and gets into the back of a cab. This was all in one take. It should also be mentioned that Matt was in his civilian clothes for this one so hiding his stunt double was more challenging. Here’s the first part of the sequence (I think the whole thing is up on youtube but separated into multiple clips). What I love about this is that at one point, two actors seemingly pick up Charlie Cox and slam him head first into a wall. Going back and re-watching the fight, you can see where Cox likely stepped out of frame, was replaced by his stunt double for a while, then stepped back into frame while the double snuck away. It’s still impressive, though, since it almost looked as if the show damn near gave its main actor a concussion, which added to the brutality of the scene. The fact that, in-universe, Matt was drugged and still recovering from his injuries in The Defenders added to the sense of danger in this sequence. The whole thing is just beautiful to see.

Tying Up Loose Ends

While other Netflix shows were left with cliffhangers, the final season of this show mostly tidied everything up. As I’ve mentioned in the past, watching The Defenders is essential to make sense of the Daredevil series. The very first scene in the first episode showed how he survived the destruction of Midland Circle and found his way to Sister Maggie’s convent. Later in the season, it’s revealed (for those who haven’t read a comic or don’t use google) that Maggie was Matt’s long lost mother, so we also got a resolution to that subplot, which had been hinted at in previous seasons. Anyway, going back to Daredevil’s supposed death, all the members of the main cast slowly realize Matt is back and react accordingly. I love that Matt started off this season even more cynical and unhinged than he already was, which culminated in him letting Foggy know he was alive ONLY because he needed to steal his wallet/identity. It was such a dick move but also a great way to show Matt was kinda out of his mind for a while there. Seeing Matt recover both mentally and physically while also dealing with Fisk and Bullseye gave the season plenty of drama.

As for Kingpin, the last time we saw him, he was on the verge of discovering Matt’s secret identity while also trying to reconnect with Venessa. He managed to do both this time around and the conclusion was very satisfying as Matt and Fisk had a sort of Mutually Assured Destruction situation going on. I also liked that Venessa was revealed to be almost as bad as Fisk since the first season was appropriately vague about her in that regard. And hey, they finally start calling Fisk the Kingpin (seriously Netflix, why are you so embarrassed by this sort of thing?).

Speaking of Wilson Fisk, we managed to get a resolution to Karen Page killing Wesley in the first season. It was great seeing both Fisk and Matt react to that news. We also learn about Karen’s past, which had been alluded to in previous seasons. Her arc came to a very nice conclusion even if some of it was a little predictable. I especially liked that her knowledge of Matt’s identity got her fired as it finally showed how hanging out with a vigilante would have repercussions without going for the cliched girl-in-a-fridge trope.

Another bit of closure we got this season dealt with Melvin Potter (aka Gladiator). I haven’t mentioned him much as his role in previous seasons was mostly to provide Matt with weapons and armor. He always talked about his parole officer named Betsy who we finally got to see this season after Matt sent Melvin to prison. I liked that Melvin took a brief return to villainy/working for Fisk as it showed just how bad things had gotten for Matt, particularly since he no longer had any gear. While Melvin did what he had to do to survive, I felt bad for him and Betsy.

Minor Qualms

As far as season rankings go, this one was a close second to the first. That said, there were a few minor bugaboos such as Matt’s legal status throughout the season. In The Defenders, Matt Murdoch was implied to be legally declared missing during the Midland Circle explosion with his allies believing he was dead but unable to say anything for several reasons, yet at the start of this season, Karen was paying Matt’s bills and rent to make his landlady believe he was still alive. Meanwhile, Foggy’s family and his girlfriend Marci all talk about Matt as if he were dead while having no idea he was Daredevil or what happened at Midland Circle. Things got weirder once Fisk framed Matt for a crime even though, as far as he knew at the time, Matt was dead or missing. What’s more is that the feds immediately began searching for Matt and never mentioned his status as a person who was supposed to be dead or missing. Towards the end of the season, Matt and Foggy spoke with the DA to represent Nadeem (an FBI agent willing to testify against Fisk) as if Matt had been practicing law all this time. No one had anything to say about Matt being a criminal suspect or his status as a dead man/missing person. The writers never quite resolved any of this.

The season also made me miss a few familiar faces. Stick, Elektra, and Madame Gao were all killed off during The Defenders so they obviously didn’t return. Additionally, Rosario Dawson was still gone from Netflix at the time. While she wasn’t all that important to Iron Fist or Jessica Jones, her absence was felt here as she had almost as large of a role as she had on Luke Cage. It’s also weird that Turk didn’t show up since he debuted in this series and had appeared in the previous two seasons, as well as every other Marvel Netflix series at least once.

When it came to the finale, as much as I liked the final three-way battle between Fisk, Matt, and Bullseye, it bugged me that Fisk was the one to ultimately put Bullseye out of commission by breaking his spine. Daredevil never got the chance to win a single battle against Bullseye as their previous confrontations ended with Matt either unconscious, injured, or forced to flee. Granted, the final scene involved Bullseye getting an operation on his broken spine, hinting that he would have returned as a villain for the fourth season (the one little subplot left unresolved) but it would have been nice to see Matt get a win before the series closed.

Oh, and there were flashbacks to Matt’s parents in regards to how they met and separated, which were fine in and of themselves, but the casting got weird. They had a young actress in place of Joanne Whalley, which made sense, but his dad was played by the same guy who played Matt’s dad in the flashbacks of the first season. The actor was clearly middle aged but was supposed to be playing some young 20-something dating a girl who was barely legal (and looked it). The actor was fine when we were given flashbacks to Matt as a ten year-old but not for this point in the timeline. Like I said, it wasn’t a huge issue but it was noticeable.

Final Verdict

Like I said, I loved this season and I loved this series. Thankfully, both Daredevil and Kingpin returned in recent MCU products with rumors that they will have many more appearances to come. Supposedly, a fourth season of Daredevil is also slated, which I’m looking forward to. Up next: Punisher season two.

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