The most daring season to date

‘Daredevil’ returns better than ever



Spiritually and physically damaged, Matt Murdock continues to fight crime as his vigilante alter ego in season three of “Daredevil.” This season was the most riveting yet, featuring an exciting new villain as well as the return of Wilson Fisk.

After over two years of hiatus, “Daredevil” returns with visible proof that cinematic greatness is achievable on the small screen. Season three is bold, brutal, and endlessly entertaining for anyone who loved the first two installments of what has become Netflix’s best superhero series.

One of Fisk’s newfound henchmen, a dangerous sociopath armed with deadly accuracy, dons the Daredevil suit to attack innocent people this season. This new villain dramatically improves the quality of the show by changing the dynamic of every fight scene he’s in.

I was introduced to “Daredevil” on a cloudy day during spring break in 2015, when I stood in a dirty subway terminal in New York City. I was standing next to a television screen embedded in the wall that was cycling through a series of advertisements. After an ad for the “Book of Mormon” (the musical, not the religious text), an advertisement played that would bury itself in my memory. The NYC skyline appeared, and a man in a suit and tie faded into view. His hair was unkempt and he raised his fists to hold a blind man’s walking stick. His knuckles were red with blood. Across the bottom of the screen appeared the word DAREDEVIL in blood red.

Seeing the ad, I was filled with a combination of childlike wonder and horrified awe. That moment stuck with me because I remember how well the simple ad conveyed the same sense of gritty darkness, almost a mercilessness, that you feel just being in a New York City subway. I knew that whatever “Daredevil” was, I had to check it out.

When I later watched season one of the Netflix series “Daredevil,” I was enthralled. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. The entire show took my feelings from the subway and stretched them out over the course of a thirteen-episode season. Charlie Cox plays Matt Murdock, blind crime-fighting lawyer by day and blind crime-fighting vigilante, known as Daredevil, by night. Aided by his partner Foggy (Elden Henson) and their office manager Karen (Deborah Ann Woll), Matt fights a bloody war against a ruthless criminal organization ruling over Hell’s Kitchen in New York City.

The show was a thrilling introduction into the dark world of vigilantes that Netflix was looking to create. Featuring a new class of villain and hero, fierce and down-to-earth combat, and an uncanny ability to tell a spectacular story, season one was mystifying in its quality. By putting a man with “powers” that scarcely qualify as superhuman up against an incredibly intimidating (but not superpowered) crime lord, season one was a refreshing take on a comic book story that felt incredibly realistic.

“Daredevil” season one introduced Wilson Fisk, The Kingpin, as the lead villain. Fisk sought to “improve” Hell’s Kitchen by forming an agreement between the major criminal factions of the city with himself at its head. Aided by his assistant Wesley, and fueled by his love for his girlfriend Vanessa, Fisk built a criminal empire on innocent blood. To stop him, Matt, Foggy, and Karen, made a case against Fisk using testimony from one of Fisk’s corrupt cops. Fisk was arrested, and Daredevil beat him senseless when he attempted to escape.

The vicious combat, compelling characters, and profound underlying moral themes are still present and as good as they’ve ever been. ”

— A&E Editor Ian Fertig

Much later, the second season built on the precedent of the first, hoping to take the narrative and the show’s theme in new directions and continue developing the characters while introducing new ones. It was a sequel, after all. The first half was about the Punisher, a man steeped so heavily in tragic backstory and played by so talented an actor that he alone made season two absolutely brilliant. The second half focused more on the villainous organization The Hand, an immortal group of ninja mercenaries. It was a little less ridiculous than it sounds.

Daredevil later appeared in “The Defenders” to continue fighting this same evil ninja organization alongside New York’s other Netflix heroes. At the season’s end, Matt disappeared after being crushed in a building collapse and his friends were left unsure if he was dead or alive. The final scene of “The Defenders” revealed that Matt was alive and being cared for by nuns.

And so we arrive at season three of “Daredevil.” At the start, the Kingpin rules over the prison he resides in, owning the guards and the inmates alike. With Matt gone, Foggy continues to practice law with a prestigious law firm, and Karen has become a fantastic journalist with the Daily Bulletin. What begins here is one of the greatest seasons of any show I have had the pleasure to witness.

Season three of “Daredevil” was a magnificent success because it keeps the best aspects of the show at the forefront while bringing enough original content that it didn’t feel like a redo of season one. The vicious combat, compelling characters, and profound underlying moral themes are still present and as good as they’ve ever been. The stakes are high, and the danger is realer than ever for the hero and his allies. This thirteen-episode season is a must-see.

The building collapse left Matt’s body and spirit broken. Saved by the nuns and priest who cared for him as a boy, Matt begins the season questioning his purpose in life and his relationship with God. His entire worldview has been shattered by all he has experienced and lost, and he chooses to remain hidden from his friends as a way to spare them and sever his emotional ties that “make him weak.” Plagued by these demons, Matt only chooses to keep living his life once he discovers Wilson Fisk has returned.

To sustain the show, Daredevil needs to face a villain who is dangerous, ruthless, and audience-captivating. The perfect character to do the job was and is Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk. In season one, Fisk provided the perfect opponent for Matt/Daredevil to face. Fisk has a calm, quiet exterior and ruthless rage hiding beneath it. He gives off a palpable feeling of danger. His manipulative power as the Kingpin and his physical power as a man make him horribly formidable. D’Onofrio is as relentless in his acting as his character is on screen. After the Kingpin was arrested at the end of season one, his few appearances in season two were riveting, and they promised that his character’s return (when it came) would be more brutal and phenomenal than anything we had seen before.

Without spoiling too much, it was. Season three was carried in part by nothing less than Vincent D’Onofrio and Charlie Cox flawlessly acting out their roles as archenemies. Fisk was more fearsome than ever, and season three continually amplifies the feelings of hopelessness as he amasses more and more power. Fisk is the perfect villain — he always plans ten steps ahead. He can’t be stopped through the law because he controls the judges and the juries. No one who can expose him for his criminal acts lives very long. Having him back after his absence during season two feels like coming home, if home is like a deadly criminal mastermind.

Wilson Fisk returns this season as the Kingpin of crime and Daredevil’s greatest enemy. Fisk manipulates his way out of prison, hell-bent on destroying the lives of everyone who has wronged him.

Joining Fisk this season in the fight against Matt and his allies is another one of Daredevil’s greatest comic book enemies: Bullseye. Although he is never explicitly called by his comic book name, he arrives in the show and wrecks havoc on Hell’s Kitchen. An ex-military sniper and a heartless sociopath, Bullseye is capable of shooting and throwing anything with deadshot accuracy. It sounds a bit ridiculous in words, but in the show it makes him a dangerous adversary. Having a character who can ricochet bullets off walls to hit his targets and throw any object as a lethal projectile dramatically improves the quality of fight scenes in “Daredevil.”

But the season is more than the entertainment on the surface. This season heavily explores religion, with Matt’s theological pessimism constantly balanced by the optimism of Father Callahan and the nuns who take care of Matt.

Redemption is also a pivotal theme of the season. Matt refuses to kill anyone as Daredevil, but more and more he realizes killing Fisk may be the only way to stop him. The obvious question that arises: Is it justified? Will killing a man, even a murderous criminal, leave Matt’s soul untarnished? When Matt believes killing is an option, there’s always a character with the voice of reason to argue that it isn’t. What makes the season so captivating is that all the evidence supports that Fisk needs to die, and a clean conscience may need to be sacrificed to save Hell’s Kitchen.

Throughout the series, the supporting characters have always been critical to the show. This season, Karen and Foggy take center stage alongside Matt in their shared war on Fisk. Their families, backstories, and personal struggles are explored more than ever this time around, making their roles more significant. The most intense moment of the entire season comes thanks to Karen, who gets an entire episode dedicated to her in the back half of the season.

Joining the good guys this season is FBI Special Agent Ray Nadeem, whose life is upended after he is unknowingly dragged into Fisk’s plan. Played by Jay Ali, this new character was a worthy addition to the show. Ali is equal to the daunting task of joining such a talented cast, and his performance is excellent.

“Daredevil” season three is a flawless capstone to a series built on excellence. Hopefully it won’t be the last, because this is a show that’s perfected its own dark take on the superhero genre.