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My Review of Daredevil: Season 3 & Reflection on the Current State of the Netflix Marvel Universe

Light Spoilers for Daredevil: Season 3 Below

Like Huey Lewis and his infamous one-sentence review of Michael J. Fox’s band in Back to the Future, I have very little to say about Daredevil: Season 3 other than this: I’m afraid it’s just too darn long. The original Netflix bloat offender is back in all of its contractually-mandated 13-episode glory, and while it’s nice that the cast and crew get the extra time to spread out they’re also stuck telling a story which could have been accomplished far easier in just 10 episodes.

As is, the season, acting as a sequel to both The Defenders and Daredevil: Season 2, primarily concerns itself with Matt Murdock’s rejection of his friends and long-delayed reckoning with Kingpin. Presumed dead after a literal building fell on top of him at the end of The Defenders, we start on Matt being tended to by Sister Maggie, a well-known and lovably gruff figure from the comics who eventually looms large over the season before suddenly going away. She helps to Matt’s his wounds, both physical and psychological, and sends him back to Hell’s Kitchen to put his powers to good use.

So, of course, he begs some goons to simply kill him on his very first night out. Luckily, the cops arrive before the goons can finish him off.

Matt’s in a dark place this season, guy. Super dark.

Meanwhile, Karen and Foggy continue their roles as Matt’s long-suffering emotional punching bags, first quibbling over whether Matt’s really dead and then struggling to know what to do when Matt finally reveals he’s alive but no longer wants anything to do with them. He’s just too dangerous to be around. He’ll only get them kil…blah, blah. Standard brooding vigilante superhero stuff.

He does have a point, though. For example, off the top of your head can you name just how many times Karen has almost died because of either Daredevil or the Punisher? I can’t, but the answer is higher than it should be. Still, there are so many scenes of Foggy and Karen debating what to do about Matt – forget all about him? try even harder to love him? – you remember just how much these two resemble the long-suffering friends of an alcoholic who keeps falling off the wagon.

Before too long both Foggy and Karen branch off into their own storyline together, only occasionally overlapping with Matt’s. Heck, we meet their families this season.

That, of course, is a continuation of the entire arc of Daredevil to this point, which has largely been centered on Matt’s struggle to balance the two halves of his life. Karen and Foggy represent Matt Murdock the side, but Elektra (who is referenced, but unseen this season) the Daredevil side. This season, he stops trying to choose, rejecting both halves and opting instead to be the “Man in Black.” No, that doesn’t mean he starts a country band and falls in love with Reese Witherspoon, although I’d certainly watch that (Sample first album name: Blood, Sweat and Prayers). It means he reverts back to his season 1 persona of just being a dude in black. No superhero name. No fancy costume. Just head-to-toe black and fists of fury.

This creates an opening for a copycat vigilante, and the season finds that in the form of a disgraced, mentally disturbed FBI agent manipulated by Kingpin into becoming a new, far more murderous version of Daredevil. By the halfway point of the season, Matt and fake-Daredevil (who comic book readers know eventually becomes Bullseye) square off in thrilling battle, serving as the visual embodiment of the show’s central struggle – Matt vs. himself. He didn’t even need Richard Pryor and some old junkyard to make it happen, either (you’re welcome, Superman 3 fans).

Incidentally, based on the trailers Arrow is apparently doing this same basic “someone’s out there pretending to be an evil version of me” storyline this season

But then there are flashback episodes. Kingpin, who is again masterminding everything before an eventual “let’s just punch each other” battle in the finale, gets one (his second overall in the series). So does Karen (her first).

Seemingly endless time is devoted to Agent Ray Nadeem’s (Jay Ali) constant-worry face, as the FBI agent responsible for getting Kingpin into protective custody and out of prison takes fooooorrrrrrrever to catch up to the audience in realizing this big ole white-suited teddy bear just might be up to something. Fake-Daredevil, Ben Poindexter (Wilson Bethel), is similarly gifted with an inordinate amount of screen time charting his mental deterioration (it involves a girl he’s stalking and his constant listening to one very specific self-help tape).

The Kingpin-as-Trump parallels are thrown out there even if those dot’s don’t always completely connect.

A newspaper office massacre borders on tasteless given real-world events but ultimately manages to come off as respectfully tragic.

And because this is Daredevil it still all comes down to Matt flirting with whether or not to break his moral code, Kingpin serving as the devil on his shoulder taunting him into it, Karen and Foggy the angel’s crying “Think of your soul!”

It, in short, is pretty much what you’d expect from Daredevil, for better or worse. There’s nothing as compelling as The Punisher or Elektra’s mini-arcs from last season, but that does mean it’s far more focused and determined to reclaim its grittier roots. It’s mostly self-contained, with maybe two, three tops references to the other Defenders. And everyone is forever stuck playing catch-up to Vincent D’onofrio’s Kingpin. It’s just too darn long, but there’s a hallway fight scene to end all hallway fight scenes (all due respect, Atomic Blonde), plenty of Catholic guilt, and Matt’s ongoing struggle to save his neighborhood while also saving his soul. It’s Daredevil.

It also ends with a stinger scene setting up a likely fourth season.

The Uncertain Future of the Netflix Marvel Universe

But will that ever happen? These days, we just don’t know. Disney and Netflix continue to maintain in the press that while Disney’s forthcoming streaming service will offer original Marvel TV shows Netflix will be keeping The Defenders characters. Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s top exec, recently reiterated this point, saying they are free to do whatever they want with the properties. Renew. Cancel. Make another spin-off. Whatever happens, it’s their choice.

He said that a mere week after canceling Iron Fist. Now, just a couple of days after he said that Luke Cage has been canceled. This means two of the four Defenders no longer have their own shows. Add on top of that the following: The Defenders, as an actual team-up series, is reportedly unlikely to ever get a sequel, and Jessica Jones’ mastermind Melissa Rosenberg has already announced she’s leaving after that show’s third season to develop programs for Warner Bros. Television.

Now, Netflix drops Daredevil’s third season in-between the far more hyped The Haunting of Hill House and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and in the middle of one of the most Halloween-programming heavy Octobers in recent memory. (Also dropping this weekend: Amazon’s new season of Lore and Blumhouse’s new Halloween movie).

It does beg the question of what kind of future the Netflix Marvel universe has. Are they lying to us in the press about what’s really going on, distracting from an obvious wind down of contractual obligations? Or is this just a natural thinning-the-herd process? Luke Cage and Iron Fist make sense as cancellation targets considering their lack of critical fanfare compared to the other shows. Why not just repackage them into a new Heroes for Hire series, as long expected? And we still have new seasons of The Punisher and Jessica Jones on the way. The ongoing formula of having each Defender separate from their loved ones is getting old, but is it so broken as to want them to call the whole thing off? Not yet. That is if we actually have a choice in the matter.

Whatever happens, though, I do have one suggestion. Above anything else, it’s the one thing Iron Fist: Season 2 got right: cut these things down to 10 episodes. Please.

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8 comments

  1. The Ironic thing is that I actually don’t care for a third season of Jessica Jones after they botched the last one so badly, but I was REALLY hyped for more Iron Fist. Especially if more Iron Fist involved Danny and Ward having crazy adventures.

    I actually liked this season of Daredevil better than the the first two (though notable, it was at its best when Matt WASN’T on screen), but yes, it could have used three episodes less. Above all, they could have removed half of the peep talk scenes.

    Random observation: If I were a police office in MCU New York, I would have a rule to NEVER let a prisoner do a dramatic monologue during a transport. It doesn’t end well.

    1. “If I were a police office in MCU New York, I would have a rule to NEVER let a prisoner do a dramatic monologue during a transport. It doesn’t end well.”

      LOL!

      Feels odd that we’d have to offer that kind of common sense wisdom, yet Ray Radeem is nothing if not forever in need of obvious career advice.

  2. How did you binge 13 hours of this show? You must literally have Adam Sandler’s remote control from Click. I don’t know why this show is 13 episodes rather than 10 lik the others. Last season I got it. It introduced Electra AND Punisher so it needed to spread out a bit to do both characters justice while squeezing in Kingpin also. I don’t see that here with this season and I have to admit I was watching Daredevil for contrast with Punisher. So all my money is on Jessica Jones and her tight jeans and casual sex attitude from now on. The other shows don’t cut it. I think JJ will cancel also now that they have milked the Killinger character as much as they can which was far more interesting than the rest. I think they should give these shows a rest then visit them years later like they did with Prison Break or Rosanne. There is no strike while the iron is hot. Plenty of other comics to pick up tv shows for. Howard the Duck anyone?

    1. “How did you binge 13 hours of this show? You must literally have Adam Sandler’s remote control from Click.”

      The short answer is insomnia. The long answer is with the 31 Days of Halloween thing we’re doing, new Halloween movie opening, AND a film festival happening in my time this weekend (not to mention IRL stuff to worry about) I chose to just stay up and stream the freakin’ season starting the minute it dropped and get it out of the way so I could have it watched and reviewed by Saturday morning and move on. I don’t know if I will ever do that again.

      As for Daredevil and the Marvel Netflix universe as a whole, I think it’s kind of running its course now. I watch more out of fan obligation than true enjoyment and anticipation now, and if the shows all go away I honestly won’t care anymore (pending what I see from Punisher: Season 2, of course). I feel like, at this point, we’ve pretty much seen all these shows have to offer, and with no real promise of change or dramatic advancement on the horizon nor any hope of integration into the larger MCU due to Marvel Studios vs. Marvel TV civil war they only continue to exist for the enjoyment of the hardcore and bitter-enders.

      1. I feel for you biddy but do you think the lack of sleep, binge watching plus other distractions may have biased your review negatively?

      2. Oh, 100%. But it’s done. And I’ve moved on at this point. Daredevil Season 3 was a thing that I watched. Some of it was good, some of it was bad. Now, it’s over. If they do another season, it will be nice to see Murdock, Nelson & Page back together for the first time in literally years. If not, oh well.

    1. Sorry if the prior comment was snarky or curt. In the middle of writing tomorrow’s 31 Days of Halloween. Truth is, I tried to keep out any “why do I have to watch this?” bias out of my view of the new season, but it might have seeped in there. I’ve seen other reviewers were more generous and VOX sure seemed incredibly over the moon with the season’s Kingpin-as-Trump parallels. But, to me, this season was good whenever Foggy, Matt, and Karen were on screen together. Everywhere else, it was less successful. I don’t really feel we gained any more insight into Kingpin that we didn’t already possess. It was mostly just the joy of watching his plan come together until it didn’t at almost literally the last minute. But they spent so, so, so much time with Ray Radeem to establish his career ambitions and gaping blindspot to Kingpin’s obvious corruption. Same goes for Dex and his obsession over the girl. All of that is necessary to the story, but not to the extent they indulged it.

      I have seen others agree with me and argue elsewhere that at the very least the season could have easily been shorter. So, I’m comfortable saying that. But, please don’t make me re-watch the DD movie. Life is too short to re-experience that pain.

      It does serve a larger good to the universe, I guess: Affleck and Garner’s kids forever have a document of when their parents fell in love. It might be bittersweet now, what with the divorce and rehab and all that tabloid drama, but there is at least an obvious spark between those two, terrible playground fight scene and all.

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