The last time I wrote a lengthy post about a TV show was this past Summer when I wrote about Altered Carbon, which happens to be a Netflix Original Series. Well, this time it’s another series on Netflix which I’ve been a huge fan of since season 1. I’m still reeling from the announcement on Nov. 29 that Netflix had canceled Daredevil, saying ‘… we feel it best to close this chapter on a high note.’ Who knows what the real reason is, most likely it’s due to the fact that Disney is launching its own streaming service, which gives me hope that Matt Murdock and co. would find another home on Disney+ in the future.
I have to say that when my hubby and I decided to binge on Season 3 around Thanksgiving holiday, we actually almost gave up after episode 1. We thought the pacing was a bit too slow and there wasn’t much going on to keep our interest (or so we thought). But we decided to wait until the end of episode 2 to see if we want to continue. Well, before the episode ended, we were hooked once again!
Missing for months, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) reemerges a broken man, putting into question his future as both vigilante Daredevil and lawyer Matthew Murdock. But when his archenemy Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) is released from prison, Matt must choose between hiding from the world, or embracing his destiny as a hero.
I actually did a similar top 10 list for S1 of Jessica Jones, and I find some similarities to that list, though I think I rate this season higher than that one.… in fact I think it’s nothing short of magical. Anyway, without further ado…
Here’s just 10 reasons why I absolutely LOVE Daredevil Season 3:
(of course it goes without saying that this post is riddled with spoilers so if you haven’t seen S3, proceed with caution. Consider yourself warned)
1. The slow-burn, but shrewdly-written script
The season takes place months after the events of The Defenders when a building collapsed with Matt and Elektra trapped inside. Matt survived but naturally he’s pretty banged up. It’s refreshing to see that at the start of a superhero series, we don’t immediately see our hero in action. I was complaining at first about the slow pace, but in the end I appreciate the fact that the pacing gives us an in-depth look at the universe the characters live in. As the hero rethinks his purpose in Hell’s Kitchen, both as Daredevil and as his lawyer alter ego, his arch nemesis strategically puts a plan in motion even from behind bars. It’s such a shrewd setup by new showrunner Erik Oleson and his fantastic team of writers that only get better as the show progresses!
I read that Marvel TV chief Joseph Loeb envisioned Daredevil series as ‘a crime drama first, superhero show second’ from the very beginning. Season 3 definitely delivered on that vision. Oh and this season, the hero doesn’t even put on his iconic red suit at all. But it really doesn’t matter because heroism is defined by one’s action, not what a person wears.
2. The spiritual side of Matt Murdock
We all know from season 1 that Matt Murdock‘s ravaged by his Catholic guilt. I actually appreciate that the show doesn’t shy away from the hero’s deep spiritual side. In this season we see Matt doubting God and question everything he’s known and believed in. As we watch the physically-shattered and emotionally-broken hero mostly bed-ridden inside the church where he grew up, we get to know him so much more as a person. He’s a psychologically-complex and flawed hero we can relate to as opposed to an indestructible fighting machine.
There are plenty of spiritual discussions between him and Father Lantom (Scottish actor Peter McRobbie) are emotionally-charged. For all the talk about God and salvation, the dialog is not preachy because it’s organic to the character. As this season also introduced the enigmatic Sister Maggie (Joanne Whalley), there’s more of that faith dialog going on that gives us even more glimpse Matt’s psyche, if you will.
There’s also scenes between Father Lantom and Sister Maggie with Karen as she too is ravaged by sins of her past. I really appreciate those scenes as well, which bring us closer to the characters we’ve known and love.
3. The returning cast all brought their A-game
I’ve always thought the entire cast of Daredevil is immensely strong. If there’s a Best Ensemble award at the Emmys, they should at least be nominated! I actually met some of the cast at the Wizard World Chicago Comic-Con in 2016.
Charlie Cox as Daredevil, Deborah Ann Woll as the fearless Karen (more on this later), Elden Henson as the loyal Foggy and of course, the effortlessly-menacing Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk… they’re all amazing. Hard to pick a favorite among them as they work SO well together. On some shows, whenever the hero isn’t on screen, the energy level would come down a bit, but NOT on this one. The writers have made us care for each of the supporting characters that there’s a consistent dynamic and level of suspense on every episode. I enjoy the Karen or Foggy-centric episodes as much as the Matt Murdock one, and again, it’s because the script just gets better and better and drives the story forward so effectively.
4. The best arch enemy you love to hate
I don’t know about you but I feel that Wilson Fisk just gets even scarier in Season 3. Vincent D’Onofrio is such perfect casting and not only because of his massive size (it’d be interesting to see him go mano a mano with Mike Colter (Luke Cage). But I think what makes him even more frightening is his calm, observant demeanor. As huge as he is, Fisk isn’t all about brute force (though of course there are moments his rage got the best of him), but he’s more of a master manipulator who strategizes on how to up his game. As Matt and Karen would say, Fisk is often a few steps ahead of them, and he’d target the most vulnerable people he can manipulate. Once a person is ‘marked’ by him, there’s practically no escape and he’s able to infiltrate any organization for his own gain, including the FBI.
As the self-imposed ‘ruler’ of Hell’s Kitchen, Fisk is quite mesmerizing as he is menacing. He’s also quite poetic, especially when he’s waxing lyrical about his love Vanessa (Ayelet Zurer), but then he can turn into a freaky beast within seconds. I would never be the one bearing any kind of bad news to him as he’d beat you to a pulp just to release his animalistic rage.
5. Karen is the real ‘(wo)man without fear’
Now, I LOVE that the show features a woman who isn’t just a damsel in distress. Played brilliantly by Deborah Ann Woll, Karen is no femme fatale either. Yet she is beyond ruthless and in this season, she is utterly fearless that even Daredevil himself is in awe of her grand plan to go against Fisk on her own.
I love that Karen gets a dedicated episode (ep. 10) which shows her backstory when she was a drug addict. She’s been haunted by the death of her brother and here we finally knew why. Though she is now hunted by Fisk, she is still willing to risk her own life to expose the truth. I know that her ruthless-ness can also put others at risk, but I admire her sheer determination and fighting spirit that made her very much Matt’s equal. In fact, I think she is even braver than Matt as Karen doesn’t have any superpowers!
6. Terrific new cast members with compelling character arc
Three new cast members are introduced this season. I have mentioned Sister Maggie, who later on is revealed to have a crucial connection with Matt. It took me a bit of time to warm up to the lengthy dialog between Sister Maggie and Matt but as the season progressed, I appreciate them more and more.
The other two are FBI agents Ray Nadeem (Jay Ali) and Benjamin ‘Dex’ Poindexter (Wilson Bethel). Dex has a more explosive introduction while Nadeem’s intro shows him in his family home, struggling with his finances. Their paths inevitably cross with Fisk which will change their lives forever.
Both actors brought their characters to life so beautifully. Apparently Bethel was in the running for Captain America (in fact it was down to him and Chris Evans!), so he obviously has the physicality for the role as the faux Daredevil. I gotta say he looks really good in the red suit that he gives Charlie Cox a run for his money! 😉 He’s a pretty dynamic sub-villain (as Fisk’s lackey) and he’s scary as he can make anything into a weapon. I love that they show his backstory in a couple of episodes, which also makes him more than just a one-dimensional character.
All three new members were given such a strong and emotionally-resonant arc that strengthen the S3 story as a whole.
7. Ray Nadeem – not every hero needs a cape (or red suit in this case)
I feel that Jay Ali‘s Ray Nadeem deserves its own section on this list because you could say he’s the ‘man of the people’ in this season. He’s not a secret superhero (though I’d love to see Jay portray one!), but Nadeem is a family man who just wants to provide for his family and be a hero to his son Sammy. His riveting yet sensitive performance elevated every scene he’s in.
I have never seen Jay Ali in anything before, but the British actor (of Pakistani descent) has certainly got my attention. It’s nice to see such a compelling, nuanced character written for an actor of color, and not just another stereotypical role that you’ve seen time and time again in other shows.
I remember pondering most about Nadeem when I finished S3. I identify with his struggles, his pain and his conflicted emotions balancing his life as an FBI agent as a dad/husband. The look on his face when his wife rebukes him, it’s convincingly heartbreaking. He wants to make Hell’s Kitchen a safer place when he made a deal with Fisk, and by the time he realizes the Kingpin has infiltrated the agency, it’s already too late. His redemption comes at a high price, that is his own life, which makes him an unsung hero in my book.
Agent Nadeem is definitely one of the most memorable tv characters I’ve seen. Though he won’t be in the future seasons of Daredevil, I sure hope to see more of Jay Ali in more tv/film projects!
8. The loyal friends that make the hero
Speaking of unsung heroes, one thing I LOVE most about the Daredevil series is the strong bond of friendship between Matt, Karen and Foggy. There is something so genuine about how these characters interact, and this season their friendship is truly tested. Karen is especially loyal to Matt that she still pays his rent despite everyone thinking he’s been buried under a building!
In the later episode, there’s exchange between Nadeem and Matt where Nadeem talked about stepping off the path for a few weeks and it destroyed his life. Yet Daredevil steps on and off the path all the time… but his friends keep coming back. ‘How do you hold on to them?’ Nadeem asked. Matt replied ‘It’s not me. It’s them.’
Karen and Foggy love Matt so much that despite knowing his faults and his secret identity, they still stick by him. In fact, at times they even save Matt from himself. Foggy insists in bringing Fisk back to prison and prevent Matt from killing him not only because he believes in the system, but because he knew it’d destroy Matt to go against something he believes in (killing a human being). Foggy knew that he’d lose his best friend forever if he let Matt kills Fisk and that Matt wouldn’t be able to forgive himself.
I love that S3 ends on a hopeful note with Foggy proposing Nelson, Murdock and Page law office. Oh how I’d love to see the trio working together again like old times!
9. The creative ways for character development, fantastic set pieces and haunting music
One of the most effective scenes utilized in S3 is the flashback sequences that tell the backstory of some of the characters. I especially like the flashbacks of Dex as a troubled child, with Fisk observing young Dex like he’s watching a play unfolding right in front of him. It’s a really creative way for character development, to tell an origin story of a prominent character. The same style is also used when Matt is imagining Fisk is talking to him inside his head.
The set pieces of S3, particularly in the action scenes, are simply beautiful. There’s the swanky luxury hotel where Fisk is housed in, the beautiful Catholic church where Matt grew up in that became a battle ground, the claustrophobic prison scene and of course those iconic shots of Daredevil on the church rooftop next the giant cross. It’s a beautifully-shot series but it’s SO much more than style over substance. The style never overpowers the story or the characters.
I have to give kudos to composer John Paesano for the haunting and electric score which gives just the perfect sound of dread at certain moments. I remember the score playing when Agent Nadeem learned just how deep Fisk’s influence has run within the agency. Paired with Nadeem’s expression of sheer shock it gives me goosebumps!
10. The deftly-choreographed and visceral fight sequences
A great action scene is akin to a fantastic dance sequence. Some would call the fight sequences in Daredevil series a ballet of death. It’s choreographed so expertly and it works perfectly in the space it’s set in. I particularly love the church fight scene between Daredevil and Bullseye (wearing Daredevil’s red suit no less). The color scheme of this whole sequence is just so beautiful and eerie at the same time.
But of course, the fight scene everyone is talking about is the prison hallway scene. As if it wasn’t challenging enough to film it conventionally, the nearly 11-minute scene was done in a single long take, no secret cuts or CGI! You can just watch the prison fight breakdown here by the showrunner himself.
Kudos to the director, fight choreographer and of course Charlie Cox for pulling off such an amazing stunts. It’s crazy how Charlie has to do the fight scene as a blind man, too, his acting in this show is simply amazing!
Like any great roller coaster ride, I immediately felt like watching the show again as soon as I finished it. I have since rewatched parts of it, but I might rewatch the entire thing again in a few weeks as I probably have missed a bunch of details in the beginning.
Well, those are the reasons I absolutely LOVED Daredevil 3. Have you seen it? I’d love to hear what YOU think!