As someone who used to avidly collect Daredevil back in the 80s and early 90s, I have to admit, I’ve never been a fan of Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix. It’s a solid show, but it is so relentlessly dour and one note that I just found it hard to get into. Season Three Daredevil is devoid of “humor” any kind of “lightness” and almost every character is just depressing to watch. Everyone on this show look like they need a psychiatrist as everyone is suffering from some form of PTSD. Netflix made the first 6 episodes available for review and honestly it was a struggle to get through the first three.
If I wrote the review back then I would have savaged it, but I decided to give it a re-watch a few days ago and it works a lot better the 2nd time around. I still have an issue with the overall tone of the show and honestly, I just don’t need another entire season of Wilson Fisk – The Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio). I generally hate when the super villain knows everything and is always 10 steps ahead of everyone. It just makes the rest of the cast seem stupid by comparison.
The first few episodes are all about deconstructing Matt Murdoch (Charlie Cox) but after two seasons of this, I’m hard pressed to figure out what there was to actually deconstruct. Murdoch was never a jovial fellow with this stellar life and tons of friends to destroy. Matt starts the season off convalescing in the Church home that he grew up with. There are a lot of heavy-handed religious overtones in the first few episodes. But the comics always had a deep ying/yang thing with Daredevil vs. Catholicism. He wants to leave Matt behind and start over as a nomad with no ties to anything or anyone. The drug metaphor the show uses isn’t subtle at all. Look, I get it being Daredevil is Matt’s drug.
Karen Paige (Deborah Ann Woll) still annoys me and I don’t know quite why. She’s just another depressing character in this dour tapestry of a world the Netflix Marvel shows wallow in. This season she spends her time in the first few episodes telling Foggy that she thinks Matt’s still alive while working on whatever story comes across her desk. This time she gets a lead that she may be right when she tracks down a young socialite that Matt saved. Karen is sure this is further proof that Matt is back. Its confirmed when Matt shows up in her apartment in Episode 4 asking for her help.
Meanwhile Foggy (Elden Henson) is just Foggy, he doesn’t really know what to make of Matt and is trying to convince Karen that Matt is dead and to give up. Later he finds out how wrong he was and when he finds out the Kingpin is helping the FBI he rightly assumes he’s a target. To help protect himself he decides to run for District Attorney in the hopes that being public Kingpin won’t come after him. Has he been paying attention, Kingpin doesn’t care if you are a public figure.
One of the eventual major subplots is the introduction of popular comic-book villain bullseye. He starts the season off as this no-nonsense, straight laced super-agent named Benjamin ‘Dex’ Poindexter played by Wilson Bethel. My issue with this character was his decent into madness was sudden and done strictly for expedience. I mean sure Episode 5 gives us Dex’s history from Kingpin’s viewpoint and we find out that the guy was a psychopath and had a lifelong struggle to keep his “condition” in check.
There’s a difference between calling him a psychopath in one episode and giving Kingpin the tools to manipulate him to Dex throwing everything that he worked for away. Episode 5 was one giant out of the blue McGuffin, Mary Sue style episode. In Episode 6 Dex isn’t just killing criminals, he goes from being a straight shooter, rigid, FBI agent to straight up murderer after having just one conversation with Kingpin. The turn gave me whiplash. It would have been better if they used a few episodes to show Kingpin slowly manipulating him and him getting further and further sucked into Kingpin’s world. Similar to how Kingpin is working the FBI.
To help save his beloved Vanessa, he convinces ambitious FBI Agent Rahul Nadeem (Jay Ali) that he can be useful as a C.I. As the results of Kingpin’s tips, the FBI gets more and more high-profile busts which sucks Nadeem deeper into Kingpin’s web. Everyone tells him he’s being played but he refuses to listen. Even when Kingpin eventually frame’s Matt, he doesn’t question it. The problem with a plot like this is the audience knows he’s obviously being played and it just makes Nadeem come across as stupid and unsympathetic.
Instead of wasting this screen time on a guy I didn’t care about it should have been used on Dex, that way when he turns evil it would have made more sense. Now I have to watch Dex being psycho for the last 6 episodes without ever having any build up to his turn. The show spends too much time making us think Kingpin is a super Svengali and everyone else on the show look stupid. The slow, languid pacing of D’Onofrio’s acting and the way everything he says is treated as though he’s saying something truly profound gets old after the first 3 episodes.
Ultimately Daredevil fails for me because it’s just so similar to all the other Netflix Marvel shows. There’s a sameness in tone and storytelling. You could just as easily put Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, or Frank Castle into this season and it wouldn’t change anything. They need to lighten up and bit and really start to distinguish all of these characters. Not every character needs to be relentlessly dark and brooding.
Final Grade C-