By Harry Peate
Marvel’s most successful foray into the streaming world comes in the form of the comic book adaptation of Daredevil, the man without fear, who upholds the high standard of realism and gleeful brutality established back in 2015’s season one.
Episode one opens with Matt Murdoch (Charlie Cox) and the supporting cast reeling from the events of The Defenders, a Netflix mini-series created in 2017. It starts showing Matt Murdoch, who has barely survived the destruction of a building around him while his friends try to move on from his apparent death.
The series progresses with Murdoch’s return to health and his life as the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen just in time to combat the malicious rise of an old foe, Wilson Fisk (aka the Kingpin) and his new implement of chaos, Agent Poindexter – aka Bullseye.
As a superhero show, Daredevil will naturally live or die by the quality of the fight choreography, something clear in the poorly received and poorly choreographed Marvel series Iron Fist. Thankfully, the martial arts on display in season 3 even surpasses the excellence in previous seasons.
Most notable is another old-school style one-shot corridor fight in episode 4 that has become a welcome theme of the Marvel Netflix shows. It surpasses all expectations with what seems like a solid fifteen-minute, unbroken shot through a prison as the blind lawyer bloodies his fists and wrings information out of inmates. Such an achievement by director Alex Lopez should be commended as an equal to similar efforts seen in Children of Men and Goodfellas.
Bullseye also provides a new dynamic to the action of the series. His laser accuracy with any nearby object forces Daredevil to close the gap or suffer the ‘pen piercing’ results reminiscent of a Bourne scene.
One of the series’ highlights is a sequence in episode 5 dedicated to the characters’ disturbed past. It is displayed cinematically in black and white, with all notable events recreated in Fisk’s penthouse as he walks through them. Here the ambition of the show pays off by successfully exploring Bullseye’s psychotic beginnings through recordings of therapy sessions.
It is also an incredibly entertaining way of fleshing out one of the main villains, showing his depth, tender side, and barely hidden psychosis without the need for a Machiavellian monologue.
Other characters get a similarly in-depth treatment to great effect. Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), Daredevil’s friend and occasional love interest, finally gets a backstory to lift the fog of intrigue that had surrounded her nature in past seasons. The lovable Foggy Nelson returns as a more legal foil to Fisk’s plans and best friend to Matt, though while his role as comic relief is welcome, it does reveal an unfortunate shortcoming in the writing of the series.
The benefit of being a later season shows as writers can spend more time fleshing out minor characters. These include an FBI agent who unknowingly facilitates Fisk’s dastardly plans, who in a lesser superhero show would be one dimensional and without exceptional motivational.
So, it is clear Daredevil season 3 can surpass all other comic book shows at their own game, with better action, villains, and character development. Yet it also brings a unique theme to the table — following Matt Murdoch’s struggle with his faith adds a new dynamic that deeply humanises his struggle. Coupled with the grizzled street-level gangster warfare, this transforms the show into something near a small screen effort by Martin Scorsese.
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