If you felt like the second season of Daredevil lost its way under a tidal wave of ninjas and the introduction of The Hand, you’ll be very pleased to hear that Season Three, which picks up shortly after the end of Defenders, sees the Man Without Fear going back to basics. Under the stewardship of new showrunner Erik Oleson, Daredevil has refocused and reprioritized, going back to what worked in the first season and emerging all the better for it.
We’ve seen the first six episodes and there’s a strong mix of introducing fan favourites, giving Karen and Foggy more to do, and bringing Vincent D’Onofrio’s magnificent Wilson Fisk back into the centre of things. Having decided that he’s languished behind bars for quite long enough, New York’s Kingpin strikes a deal with the FBI to turn informant, but he’s got much more on his mind than simply moving some troublesome competition off the chessboard. No, he’s got his eye on his old penthouse and settling a score with Matt Murdock…
Matt, meanwhile, is recuperating in the tough love care of Sister Maggie (Joanne Whalley), and watching him get back on his feet and back on the street is one of the first half of the season’s strongest elements. Charlie Cox sinks his teeth into the character’s crisis of faith and determination to go it alone, ditching the red suit for the black mask and cutting everyone out of his life for as long as possible. As for Foggy and Karen, they’re both struggling to deal with the fact that their friend is almost definitely at the bottom of a giant pile of rubble but they’ve also got their own arcs, with the former questioning whether he’s doing the right thing by abandoning the family butcher business for the law game and the latter chasing the real stories and refusing to compromise. Pushing them in their own direction is a strong choice and Deborah Ann Woll in particular continues to do excellent work.
It’s also great to see just how much drama is derived from the reappearance of Fisk. Events that took place in the first season resurface with a vengeance and their terror at the prospect of such a monster coming back into their lives is palpable. Fisk’s return also allows for a lot more interaction between Cox and D’Onofrio and their high-stakes cat and mouse game is as thrilling as it ever was.
In addition to Sister Maggie, the season’s other high-profile classic comics character is Bullseye, who we meet as an FBI sharpshooter named Benjamin Poindexter (Wilson Bethel). As introduced, he’s some distance from his comics incarnation (rather like Ben Barnes’ Billy Russo in The Punisher), but over the course of the opening half the dark sides of his personality are slowly teased out, mostly by Wilson Fisk…We won’t say more than that, but D’Onofrio is clearly having a blast playing manipulator and Bethel has a livewire energy that works very well.
Fisk is also a key figure in the life of the other new lawman, FBI agent Rahul Nadeem (Jay Ali). Deeply broke and yearning for advancement, this family man is in a similarly precarious position when Fisk enters his life, and the character is nicely unpredictable force as the plot unfolds.
And then there’s the action. Much like the reintroduction of Kingpin, there’s a sense of the show playing to its strengths as Matt works his way up from backstreet brawls to some truly epic fight sequences. There’s an impressive attempt to top the acclaimed first season corridor fight with a majestic, bone-crunching and at times joyfully clumsy lengthy set piece in episode four.
There’s obviously a lot of questions still to be answered and it remains to be seen whether Daredevil Season Three can conquer the Marvel Netflix shows’ persistent second half problem, but on the basis of the first six episodes, fans should be very happy.
Daredevil is streaming on Netflix now. Keep up with the latest genre news with the new issue of SciFiNow.