Author’s note: Six of the thirteen episodes were provided for review. There are no spoilers outside of hints of overall themes.
The third season of Daredevil, returning to Netflix on October 19th, brings an absolution to its consequences. Previous seasons focused on aspects of this, the weight of God and its effects on Matt Murdock’s soul, but in the opening hours of the third season, it is at a fever pitch, not waiting to explode, but already detonating.
Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox) is a more tortured character this season, his very core at odds with his code as he struggles with the events that led him to this moment in time. Cox plays Murdock with such devastation and loss, an aggressively large step up from previous seasons and The Defenders. This leads to the character being at the forefront, propelling the story elements forward rather than the story propelling the characters. It’s a wiser move when there is so much internal struggle and goes down some fascinating paths. It’s still a physical performance, both with Murdock’s disability and with the immense punishment he faces and delivers. But it’s in the quieter human moments where Cox is able to deliver his more powerful hits.
Every character faces the actions of their consequences. It may not always be physical, but it is certainly mental or emotional. The scars in the minds of Matt, Fisk, Karen, and Foggy have left them at odds with their current lives, and it is an incredibly compelling way to shore up the through-line. And this is not only in the returning characters but in the show’s new characters as well. Newcomers Jay Ali as FBI Agent Ray Nadeem and Wilson Bethel as Agent Benjamin Poindexter are given the time and care needed to really add to what has become a true ensemble work. The fifth episode in particular drives a large backstory, told in a unique style which helps evoke the mind of its subject in a way that brings everything before and especially after in sharp focus for that character.
It is in this ensemble where most of the cast is given room to shine. Vincent D’Onofrio’s return to the forefront as Wilson Fisk is just as foreboding and layered as before, his pained glances full of observation and the knowledge that he is in control, not the other way around. He is more puppetmaster than engaged player in the action of these six episodes, but his presence is a fantastic driving force that D’Onofrio perfects with every scene. Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen Page is out for the truth, Woll playing Karen with a sharpened determinism and a darker turn which gives her a lot to work with. Elden Henson as Foggy this season is more of a middleman to other characters, but as the episodes continue, Henson is able to solidify his use of humor and good guy charm into something that really works to sell his concern and frustration. Joanne Whalley joins the cast in the third season as Sister Maggie, who holds deep meaning for Murdock and is a shoulder for him to lean on in his darkest hour. Whalley plays Maggie with a stern care, where her kindness is blunt but fair, making Sister Maggie an easy favorite for the front half.
The production continues to be top notch. The action is sparingly used, but when it happens, it packs a hell of a punch. The classic one-shot fight scene makes a return, directed by Alex Garcia Lopez; it’s bigger, longer and more ruthless than those before it. It’s even set in a fun location, giving the odds a tactile and vicious feel. This is across all action this time, where people take damage and feel that damage, and the make-up department, acting and direction really helps sell the toll taken on these people.
In its third season, Daredevil captures the heart and soul of Matt Murdock and Daredevil and combine them into something truly powerful. It’s more crime drama than superhero action in these six episodes, one where the good guys don’t always win and get horribly torn down in the process. But faith becomes an important tool, one that this season has garnered a lot of in its grand ascension from two good seasons, to now the beginnings of a fantastic season. There is almost a sense of finality in the movements being made in the story which gives everything a heightened level of tension, where things can’t possibly be the same again. Daredevil has cemented itself as one of the year’s best, and showrunner Erik Oleson and crew have created something spectacular.