Marvel's Daredevil binge recap: Let's talk about season 3
EW's Marvel-Netflix recappers guide you through Matt Murdock's most intense adventure yet
Welcome back, all you devils of Hell’s Kitchen! Coming off his heroic sacrifice in The Defenders, Matt Murdock is ready for his most intense story ever. Luckily, EW’s Chancellor Agard and Christian Holub have teamed up to guide you through all 13 episodes with this handy binge guide. Follow along as you watch!
EPISODE 1: ‘Resurrection’
So here we are, at season 3 of the Marvel/Netflix show that started it all. Daredevil has been around so long (relatively) that this is actually the first time it’s being covered by me and Chancellor Agard, your intrepid Marvel/Netflix recapping duo of recent years. There’s going to be a lot to talk about this time around, considering that this season tackles one of the most iconic Daredevil comic stories of all time: Born Again by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli.
True to that comic’s title, Matt Murdock is certainly in need of a rebirth when we first see him. The episode opens in the immediate aftermath of the climax of The Defenders. In the wake of Midland Circle’s collapse, Matt has ended up floating in a drainage system. He’s eventually dumped out of a sewage pipe, where a cab driver finds him. Matt has just enough strength to give the name and location of his father’s favorite Catholic priest (Father Latom), and the cabbie obliges by dropping him off there.
So this is how Matt ends up in the church bed we glimpsed him in at the end of The Defenders. His friends, of course, assume he must be dead. Karen Page isn’t quite ready to accept the finality of that, though, and has actually taken over Matt’s apartment to keep it for his return. She’s starting to run out of money though, so Foggy Nelson agrees to split the rent for another month. After that, though, he wants Karen to move on. He’s clearly got his own emotions that he’d like to move on from, including his regret about getting Matt the Daredevil suit in the first place.
Matt is given a bed in the church’s laundry room by Sister Maggie, a nun who seems very invested in his health. Of course, she’s also invested in his Catholic faith, which is not in a good place right now. In an emotional scene, Matt summarizes the Book of Job, in which the title character is rewarded for his lifelong loyalty to God by having absolutely everything taken away from him in the most brutal ways possible, mostly in order to resolve a random bet God made with the devil. At the end of the story, Job retains his faith in God — it’s a message about remaining faithful in the face of suffering and adversity. Matt, though, isn’t interested in playing that game anymore. In his words, “Job was a p—y. I suffered willingly…well, not anymore.”
Matt’s attitude cheers up a bit when he realizes he hasn’t gone permanently deaf in his right ear. The fact that the church sits at the intersection of subway lines (and all the accompanying vibrations that come with them) allow Matt to regain some of his senses. This is Matt Murdock we’re talking about and he doesn’t do anything halfway, so he immediately throws himself into vigorous physical exercises. He even has Father Lantom bring in a boxing partner for him, though that doesn’t go super well. Even after getting his clock cleaned, Matt decides to take his old black costume out for a spin. When he hears an assault nearby, he drops down to intervene. He saves a man’s life but also gets the tar beaten out of him by the assailants. At the end, he literally tells them to kill him, but the criminals decide to flee when they hear police sirens. Vigilantism: Still not the most effective way of processing your emotions!
Wilson Fisk isn’t really satisfied with his life at the moment, either. A fantasy of him eating a fancy omelet in a mansion quickly dissolves into the plebeian reality of prison, where he is visited by an FBI agent named Ray Nadeem, the latest person to offer Fisk a deal with the FBI. This time, though, Fisk takes it. Having learned that his wife Vanessa is barred from entering the U.S. lest she be indicted as his criminal accessory, Fisk refuses to accept that and tells the FBI that he’s willing to make a deal. Somehow, I suspect this won’t end well for people who aren’t Wilson Fisk.
- No wonder Karen needed Foggy’s financial help! Trust me, as a working journalist living in New York City, the idea of paying two Manhattan rents a month on a newspaper reporter’s salary is utterly laughable.
— Christian Holub
(click ahead for episode 2)
EPISODE 2: ‘Please’
Matt Murdock is a broken man. That was clear in the season premiere, and even more so in the season’s second episode, which picks up almost immediately after he got his butt handed to him by those muggers. When the episode opens, Matt’s sitting on the floor the church basement crying over his recent defeat, his weakened state, and most importantly, his anger at God. In fact, most of this episode dives into Matt’s relationship with the big man upstairs, which is not in a great place. Matt blames God for his diminished abilities and starts believing that maybe being Daredevil isn’t what God called him to do — but that doesn’t mean he’s going to stop doing it.
“I’m Daredevil. Not even God can stop that now,” he says to Father Lantom.
So, Matt decides to hit the streets and track down the muggers he fought the previous night. He winds up finding them hiding out in an herbal dry cleaner. After confirming he found the right guys, he throws on his black outfit and heads inside to kick some butt. Once the guys are defeated, he calls the police to come pick them up. Little does he know, though, that news of his return is about to reach Karen’s ears.
Ellison assigns Karen to interview the woman who Matt tried to save. Turns out she’s star of some trashy New York-set reality show about heiresses and her father is in a coma following the attack. At first, Karen resists taking the assignment because she wants to focus on another Midland Circle story, but Ellison, like the rest of us, is tired of hearing about Midland Circle and thinks it might be time for her to drop the story.
So Karen visits the hospital, but the reality star refuses to speak to her because she’s worried about the media twisting her words. Taking Ellison’s advice, Karen tries to connect with her by explaining that she can empathize since the town she grew up in turned on her and believed she killed her brother. Those accusations ended up tearing her family apart. This moment of honest vulnerability convinces the heiress to tell Karen what happened to her father and about the man in black who tried to save them. Obviously, Karen immediately tells Foggy that Matt is back, but Mr. Nelson doesn’t believe her.
Meanwhile, things are looking up for Ray and Fisk, well somewhat. With Fisk’s intel, Ray and the FBI are able to pull off a big bust, nailing some Albanians and corrupt government officials in the process. Obviously, Ray wants to continue milking Fisk for intel, but his boss is concerned that his financial problems will make him vulnerable to manipulation. However, she eventually changes her tune.
Fisk gets attacked in prison because he snitched, which raises the FBI’s blood pressure since they don’t want to lose their newest source. So, they decided to make him a deal: he gets to go under super house arrest if he continues feeding them information. Naturally, Fisk agrees because this is the only way to protect Vanessa. “Love is the perfect prison,” he tells Ray on the way to his new safe house. “I am always imprisoned wherever I go. And if these things help me protect Vanessa, then they are nothing to me. I will do whatever I must.”
Alas, Fisk’s monologuing about love is interrupted when the prison convoy is attacked by the Albanians. Every agent bounds out of the car to fire back, leaving Fisk by himself. Instead of showing us the actual gunfight, we watch Fisk squirming in the flipped, claustrophobic car as the action goes on outside, which heightens the tension of the entire sequence and effectively plants us in Fisk’s perspective. At first, it’s clear the FBI is losing, but then a lone gunman comes out of nowhere and stars taking the Albanians out with cold precision. Who is this courageous FBI agent? Well, it’s none other than Wilson Bethel, who is playing Agent Ben Poindexter, soon to be known as Bullseye.
“Convict, don’t move,” he says as Wilson scrambles out of the car once the firefight has ended.
— Chancellor Agard
(click ahead for episode 3)
EPISODE 3: ‘No Good Deed’
When I first watched Bullseye’s (sorry, I mean Special Agent Poindexter’s) dramatic fight-scene debut last episode, I thought for sure Ray Nadeem was dead. I figured all that stuff about him drowning in debt and his fractured family relationships must have just been a classic case of unnecessary Netflix Bloat. Maybe it still will turn out to be that, but for now, Nadeem is indeed alive. He and Wilson Fisk are both fine, and finally, make it to their destination in one piece.
It doesn’t take long for news of Fisk’s transfer to spread. Karen Page and her Bulletin editor both get the news while at an awkward dinner. Ellison warns her to stay away from the story given her prior association with it, but if there’s one thing we all know about Karen Page, it’s that she absolutely is not going to do that. Instead, she shows up at the hotel the very next day, where there’s already a crowd of protesters demanding Fisk be sent back to jail. It’d be nice if protesters loudly demanded the imprisonment of white-collar criminals in real life, but for now, it’s fun to live in the Marvel fantasy world.
Karen isn’t the only character to show up at the hotel, though. Matt is also there, and he’s not alone — he now finds himself haunted by his own apparition of Fisk. This fantasy Fisk follows Matt around and harangues him relentlessly, telling him it was his fault that Elektra died, and it was his fault that his dad died, and it will be his fault when Karen dies too. I really enjoy this dynamic. Clearly the machinations of the plot mean Matt and Fisk won’t actually meet face-to-face for some time, so I’m glad we can still get scenes like this between Charlie Cox and Vincent D’Onofrio that aren’t totally random.
Foggy is also eager to get in on the fight against Fisk’s resurgence, but he takes a different tactic than his old friends. Rather than stalk Fisk or investigate the hotel, Foggy goes straight to the district attorney, demanding that he do everything in his power to get Fisk back behind bars. From the district attorney’s perspective, he’s already done that; he fought the FBI tooth and nail, but they won the battle and he’s ready to move on. Foggy, of course, is not. He starts hatching his own scheme for how to trap Fisk legally and electorally.
Luckily, this episode isn’t just setting up for plot machinations down the road. We also get a fight scene! Matt dons his black costume to interrogate our old Luke Cage friend Ben Donovan, currently putting his fancy lawyer skills to work for Fisk (presumably he needs a new client now that Mariah Dillard has gone to the great big Harlem nightclub in the sky). Perhaps no one in the Marvel/Netflix universe deserves to be garroted to death in their own car more than Donovan does, but Matt decides to make a clean getaway after getting the information he wanted: Fisk is working with the FBI in order to protect Vanessa. Matt is pursued by several FBI agents, none of whom appear to be particularly good at their jobs because they’re quickly beaten into unconsciousness by a blind guy in a parking garage. No wonder those Albanians toasted you guys! Get your head in the game, y’all. Matt’s Fisk ghost is still here, taunting him to “let the devil out,” but after punching one agent in the head a few times, Matt finally relents and flees.
Last episode’s ending was our first introduction to Pointdexter’s unbeatable marksman skills, and this week we get our first introduction to his messed-up psychology. Forced to meet with an FBI therapist after his astounding act of violence, Dex says that he actually has a very healthy system in place for processing the trauma from his job. He gets dinner with his bartender girlfriend Julie every night and they discuss their days over a slice of pizza. He even knows her order: broccoli, sausage, and extra cheese. This is enough for the therapist to sign off on his return to duty. But at the end of the episode, we see that Julie is not actually Dex’s girlfriend at all. He just watches her…from his car…eating the same pizza she does…
We’ll learn more about this creep soon enough, but that is a properly horrific introduction to his mental state, I think.
— Christian Holub
(click ahead for episode 4)
Episode 4: ‘Blindsided’
Daredevil just pulled off the hallway fight scene to end all hallway fight scenes!
In episode 4, Matt Murdock steals Foggy’s identity in order to infiltrate Fisk’s old prison because he wants to find out why Fisk decided to flip on the Albanians. However, he gets far more than he bargained for because Fisk somehow catches wind that he’s there and essentially turns the entire prison against him. As Fisk watches via cameras, Matt has to fight his way out of the prison in a truly epic one-shot fight scene, which confirms Fisk’s suspicions that he’s Daredevil. What drama! The camera follows Matt through the prison’s narrow and poorly lit halls as he battles for his life in his already weakened state. This was truly one of the show’s best set pieces since the one that started it all in season 1.
The entire sequence is thrilling not only because it’s a true one-shot with zero cuts, but because it also heightens the entire storytelling experience. Shooting in one take firmly places us inside Matt’s perspective, and the fight is truly dynamic. It doesn’t just stay at one level; it crescendos and decrescendos when necessary. Furthermore, I love the fact that Matt gets increasingly tired as it goes on, and Charlie Cox deserves some kind of accolades for pulling this off. Because Matt is in civilian mode, the show couldn’t cheat by using a stunt double since there wasn’t mask, so that’s Cox the entire time and he looks fantastic and makes you feel Matt’s exhaustion.
The other thing that makes this 10-minute fight so incredible is how well the prison-set parts of the episode build to it. Iron Fist, Daredevil’s recently departed sibling show, always struggled with building tension; the series just actively struggled to drum any kind of real drama. But that’s not the case here. The stress of the situation starts to rise from the moment one of the police guards starts to escort Matt, who was punched by another inmate, to the infirmary before the amazing action begins. Again, Cox does a fantastic job of conveying that Matt senses that something is amiss even if he’s not entirely sure what it is.
Even though Matt almost dies, the prison trip was definitely worth it because he picks up a new ally and acquires some useful intel. On his way out of the prison, he crosses paths with the Albanians, who tell him that Fisk hired someone named Jasper Evans to shank him so that he could get out of prison. Fisk also arranged for Jasper, who was serving a life sentence, to be released from prison.
Alas, Matt can’t immediately jump on that lead. After making it out of the prison, he jumps in a cab and passes out. By the time he regains consciousness, Fisk’s men have already sent the cab hurtling into the Hudson with Matt still inside. Yay, Daredevil gave us another Born Again moment!
Elsewhere in the episode, a freaked-out Foggy tells Karen that Matt is alive. Karen’s happiness quickly gets overpowered by anger by the fact that Matt let them believe he was dead for so many months, which is a very appropriate response. Instead of lingering on Matt’s whereabouts, Karen continues to throw herself into investigating Fisk and discovers a connection between him and a bank called Red Lion, which he is using to launder money. In the same way that Fisk Fear is driving Matt from his friends, it’s also got Karen on edge. At one point, she pulls a gun on two catcallers she runs into, and she later shows up at woman’s home unannounced because she’s following a lead.
Foggy is also feeling the stress. He’s worried that Fisk is going to come after him, so Marcy suggests he run for D.A. The theory is that Fisk can’t hurt him if he’s in the public eye, and he’ll be able to get people talking about Fisk’s release. So, Foggy makes his way to a police union meeting, takes the stand, and asks for their support. Fisk is a cop killer, so of course, they stand by him.
Meanwhile, Fisk continues to make moves of his own. The FBI starts investigating Dex because his report about the ambush doesn’t match forensic evidence, so a few agents interview Fisk about what happened. Even though Dex has been mistreating him, Fisk still lies to the agents in order to turn Dex. The future Bullseye is clearly aware that Fisk is trying to turn him, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t falling for it.
— Chancellor Agard
(click ahead for episode 5)
EPISODE 5: ‘The Perfect Game’
Wow. So far, my co-recapper is getting all the action-heavy explosion episodes, and I’m getting the exposition/backstory episodes. But I swear I’m not jealous! Especially since this episode comes up with a very creative way of conveying some important backstory.
It’s lucky for us that Dex has become such an interesting conundrum because this episode of Daredevil is almost entirely lacking in Matt Murdock. Like the famous “Doctor-lite” installments of Doctor Who, this episode shuttles the protagonist into just a few minutes of screentime, allowing us to spend more time with the supporting cast.
Karen and Foggy definitely have a lot to deal with that now that Fisk has lied to the FBI about Matt being his loyal fixer. After a perfunctory raid on Matt’s empty apartment, Agent Nadeem approaches the two of them individually to see if he can scare them into telling him something. He finds Karen first and tries asking about that one time in season 1 that Nelson and Murdock accidentally took on a case that was secretly bankrolled by Fisk. Aside from Fisk’s testimony, that’s the only link he’s been able to find between Murdock and the Kingpin. Karen tells him that he’s got it all backward, and should instead be looking into the same story that she’s investigating: That Fisk, through a shell company run by fixer Felix Manning, has now purchased the hotel where he’s being imprisoned. As she tells Nadeem in an awesome moment, she asks better questions than he does. It’s her job, after all.
Never one to take no for an answer, Nadeem next makes a stop at Foggy’s campaign fundraiser. Here, he has another piece of evidence: That Matt used Foggy’s law ID to get into the prison and make contact with the same Albanian gang that recently killed a bunch of FBI agents. Of course, a lot more went on at the prison than just that, so it’s a flimsy leg to stand on, and Foggy truly did not know what Matt’s plan was (or even that he had pickpocketed him). Nadeem suspects Matt lives a double life that led to the dissolution of their law partnership, but obviously, he doesn’t know the half of it. Without any more evidence, Foggy tells him to get lost. Nadeem has screwed up massively and is clearly trying to pass the buck on to other people, so I really enjoyed this episode’s montage of Daredevil supporting characters telling him to eat dirt.
Now let’s talk about the real meat of this episode: Dex’s backstory. After Fisk gets a box of information on this guy, it’s depicted in an interesting visual way. We see young Dex, in black and white, demonstrate his ace marksmanship skills as a baseball pitcher — and we also see him demonstrate his murderous abilities when he bounces a ball off the fence to kill his coach after an argument. Apparently, his parents died even before this, and it doesn’t feel out of line to suspect that Dex may have “accidentally” killed them too. He’s clearly a troubled kid, but luckily he finds himself a good therapist, who teaches him the importance of rigid structure in his life in order to control his emotional outbursts. She dies of cancer after a few years but leaves Dex with tape recordings of every session they ever had so he can listen if he ever needs to calm down.
That opportunity arises soon enough. While getting dinner at the hotel one night, Dex is shocked to discover that Julie works there now. They actually hit it off well, and she agrees to get dinner with him — for real this time! Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for Dex’s obsession to become apparent, and he accidentally divulges information he shouldn’t know, like how Julie worked at the Brooklyn suicide call center for three years (he was only there for one) and how she doesn’t have a dog. She understandably freaks out and leaves, so when Dex gets home that night he destroys his home in a fit of rage until he’s finally able to unearth one of the therapy tapes and calm down.
In a very intentional visual parallel, we end this episode with a flashback to Matt making it home to his apartment the night before, stripping off his clothes in a manner very similar to Dex. The next morning he’s woken up by the sound of Nadeem’s approach and makes his getaway just in time.
- Julie tells Dex that the reason she’s suddenly working at the hotel is because she was offered double her bartender pay if she could switch over immediately. Remember Karen’s suspicion that Fisk has bought control of the hotel? This is definitely part of the Kingpin’s plan, especially now that he wants to manipulate Dex into becoming someone so monstrous it will take the heat off him.
- Because of that, I don’t think things are going to end well for Julie, unfortunately.
— Christian Holub
(click ahead for episode 6)
EPISODE 6: ‘The Devil You Know’
If you would have told me that Daredevil would use an episode to advocate for the power of friendship, I wouldn’t have believed you. And yet, that’s exactly what we got with “The Devil You Know,” which touches on just how important Foggy, Karen, and to some extent Maggie are to Matt.
With the introduction of Dex’s sad backstory in episode 5, Daredevil hinted that it was going to draw a parallel between Matt and Dex, and it starts digging into this in episode 6. As presented, both Matt and Dex are two men who are insecure, at war with themselves, and struggle with their darker impulses. However, the thing that separates them, ultimately, is the people they have (or don’t have) in their lives. Naturally, the show approaches this interesting dynamic in the most obvious way possible.
All season long, Matt has been trying to distance himself from Foggy and Karen because he’s, ironically, driven by a fear of abandonment and believes everyone in his life will leave him. But, he can’t stay away from them too long. He reached out Foggy earlier in the season, and in this episode, he finally turns to Karen for help. He asks Karen to interview Jasper Evans about his role in helping Fisk get out of prison so that they can show the FBI that Fisk is playing them. While their first scene together this season was quite effective in conveying their damaged relationship, it still felt somewhat overwritten. At one point, Matt asks if she’s going to yell at him, and rather than just saying “what for?” because there’s no point to it, she tells this extended story about some neighbor that ends in the same place. It’s an instance where one word could’ve stood in for 10 words, if you get what I mean.
Obviously, Karen’s still pissed off with Matt and is reluctant to help him. Leave it to good old Foggy to persuade her otherwise. Foggy points out that Matt feels like everyone in his life eventually abandons and he doesn’t want to join that list just because that erroneous belief has led Matt to act like a terrible friend. However, the two of them agree that they’ll only help Matt if he turns himself into the FBI, too, which would get them out of hot water. Obviously, Matt says agrees because he still wants to help his friends get out of this thorny legal situation. So while Foggy sets up a meeting with Ray, Matt and Karen track down Jasper Evans. Isn’t friendship grand?
How the episode handles Dex further highlights just how essential Foggy, Karen, and Maggie are to Matt’s life. Unlike Matt, Dex doesn’t have anyone to lean on, which leaves him vulnerable. Sure, Dex’s old therapy recordings and rigid structure help him keep his inner darkness at bay, but those aren’t as tangible as real loved ones who can hold you accountable and support you, and he’ll start to lose his grip the moment one of those things is destabilized. Fisk recognizes this and continues to dismantle his life by arranging for Dex to be suspended. Then, noting Dex’s fear that society will reject him because of his mental illness, Fisk positions himself as the only person who will accept Dex as he is and gives him permission to indulge his violent tendencies. Prior to the season’s debut, showrunner Erik Oleson told my colleague Shirley Li he was using this show to explore how “tyrants manipulate in order to push their own agenda and cause fear and distrust.” That theme comes through very clearly in what happens to Dex.
Firmly trapped in Fisk’s clutches, Dex dons Daredevil’s red suit and attacks the New York Bulletin, which is where Karen was preparing to interview Jasper Evans and where Matt was planning to turn himself into the FBI. Of course, Matt throws on his black suit and confronts Dex in the middle of the newsroom — and thus Matt’s own struggle with his Daredevil persona becomes very literal. It’s very on the nose, but it ends up being effective because the fight is freaking amazing. Hand-to-hand, Matt clearly has the upper-hand, but Dex quickly switches up his strategy and starts playing to his strengths by throwing projectiles at Matt. Dex turns every office supply into a weapon, which is something that Matt isn’t prepared for, and it’s very cool to watch Matt struggle in such a way. At the same time, however, I found Dex’s assault on the newsroom pretty disturbing because it reminded me of real-life attacks on journalists and recent mass shootings in general.
Dex eventually traps Matt under some shelves, murders key-witness Jasper in front of Karen and Ellison, and tells Karen it’s nice to see her again just so people truly believe that Daredevil was responsible for this latest atrocity. Furthermore, now Matt is doubly screwed because now both of his identities are wanted by the FBI.
- Here’s another interesting little detail: As Matt abandons his red devil costume, Fisk embraces his comic-book-mandated all-white suit in this episode.
- I love how Karen brings up the rent money twice in her first interaction with Matt in the episode.
- “Did you just make a joke?” I’m really enjoying Maggie’s dynamic with Matthew.
— Chancellor Agard
(Click through for episode 7)
EPISODE 7: ‘Aftermath’
In the wake of that traumatic attack on the Bulletin, everyone is reeling. Well, okay, Fisk is only down because his hotel room doesn’t yet have a painting he wants, but since they’ve been able to supply him with dozens of his favorite white suit he probably shouldn’t complain too much. Matt is feeling actually down, like he’s finally been beaten by Fisk. Fisk didn’t just find any old psychopath to dress up in the Daredevil suit and discredit him; he found someone even stronger and faster than Matt.
At first Matt isn’t interested in talking about the attack with Sister Maggie, but eventually, she asks a very good question: How could Fisk even get the Daredevil suit? This leads Matt to the source: Melvin Potter, the guy who made his own suit. Much like how Thanos bullied the dwarf Eitir into making him the Infinity Gauntlet in Avengers: Infinity War, Fisk bullied Melvin into making him an exact replica of the Daredevil suit by threatening Melvin’s girlfriend/parole officer Betsy. Matt tries to shame Melvin by telling him that many people died because of his actions, and at first, it seems Melvin is sorry enough to lead Matt to his new workshop. But even that was part of Fisk’s plan all along. Melvin didn’t just make one new Daredevil suit, he made two suits — and now he’s locked Matt in with it, so that the approaching FBI agents will catch him and kill him for Dex’s attack.
Luckily, Matt is resourceful. He grabs a nearby pair of pliers and breaks out of his cage in time to give Melvin a well-deserved beatdown. Seriously, this guy’s only drive was protecting his girlfriend, but he did some really bad stuff. At first, he helps Matt fight off the FBI agents, but then Matt rightfully sneaks away and abandons Melvin to the FBI for some proper comeuppance. Before he goes down, Melvin does divulge a very important piece of information: The guy Fisk wanted the suit for is in the FBI.
Foggy, meanwhile, copes in a different way. While his best friend is dealing with his trauma by getting into fistfights and stressful near-misses, Foggy settles for hot look-I-survived sex with his girlfriend. This does end up resounding to everyone’s benefit, though. After their hook-up, Foggy picks up some legal documents they knocked loose. When his girlfriend arrives home hours later, she finds Foggy on the ground, with the floor covered in stacks of papers. Foggy thinks he’s finally figured out Fisk’s master plan.
Karen Page, meanwhile, is falling apart. Who wouldn’t after seeing a desk filled with her dead co-workers’ cellphones in evidence bags, buzzing with desperate “are you okay?” texts from loved ones…truly a horrifying and way-too-real tableau. When she goes to meet Ellison in the hospital (he, happily, is not dead, just temporarily crippled by Dex’s attack), she reveals that she knows it wasn’t the real Daredevil who committed the attack. That begs an obvious question: Who is the real Daredevil, then? When Karen refuses to answer, Ellison screams at her that if she doesn’t want to help him and her co-workers after being so brutally attacked in their own office, she can pack up her desk.
It’s tough for Ray Nadeem to come to terms with the fact that Fisk has been manipulating him all along, but eventually, the evidence is too strong. When Nadeem visits Fisk in his hotel room and asks him point-blank if he got Jasper Evans out of jail as a thank-you for shanking him, the Kingpin refuses to answer.
A clearly shook Nadeem goes home, where he’s greeted by a very unexpected visitor: Matt! They don’t get along at first (as you might expect from an FBI agent talking to a guy who just broke into his house), but then Matt reveals his tip that the Bulletin attacker was an FBI agent. Nadeem is finally ready to listen.
- Can I just say that I found Bullseye’s attack on the Bulletin particularly unsettling in our age of mass shootings? Especially since several attacks have been committed against journalists? Reminds me of the attack from season 1 of Black Lightning that legitimately echoed school shootings. If superhero shows want credit for being “realistic,” I think they should definitely evoke real-life fears like this.
— Christian Holub
(click ahead for episode 8)
EPISODE 8: ‘Upstairs/Downstairs’
I’m struggling with “Upstairs/Downstairs.” On the one hand, it features one of the show’s finest and tensest scenes ever and displays some surprising momentum in Nadeem and Matt’s investigation into Dex. On the other hand, it also retreads a story from earlier in the series, and it’s far less effective this time around.
Let’s start with the good: After Foggy figures out Fisk’s plan — he’s eliminating his competition so he can take over and continue bribing government officials — he decides bring them out in public by confronting his opponent for D.A. at some dinner. He asks Karen to attend so she can report on his accusations. But Karen has another plan in mind. She skips the dinner and makes a surprise visit to Fisk’s penthouse. She lies about writing a piece about his mother, which gets her through the door and leads to, again, one of the show’s best scenes.
Karen and Fisk’s ensuing conversation is a showcase for both Deborah Ann Woll and Vincent D’Onofrio; her cool boldness perfectly complements D’Onofrio’s restrained performance. Karen begins poking at Fisk’s armor by bringing up her interview with his mother and the fact that he murdered his father. As the tension in the scene escalates, Fisk tries to keep his cool the entire time, and eventually, he gains the upper hand by asking her how long she’s know about Matt’s extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, her face betrays her and she re-confirms that Matt is Daredevil for Fisk. However, she doesn’t back down. Instead, she swerves and taunts Fisk with the revelation that she killed his right-hand man, James Wesley. That’s when Fisk loses it, but the FBI and Foggy barge in and pull Karen out of there before Fisk attacks her, ruining her plan. See, Karen thought pushing Fisk to attack her would help get him put away. Alas, that plan failed.
I not only loved Woll’s performance in the scene, but I also liked what the scene meant for her character. Karen is typically saddled with some of the show’s most boring material or is stuck being a damsel in distress. But here she goes rogue, stands up for herself, and fights back in an interesting way that makes her a very active part of the story. It’s nice to see Karen take charge.
What happened between Nadeem and Matt was also a welcome development in the episode. I’ll be honest, I was surprised when Matt showed up at Nadeem’s home in the last episode because I expected the show to delay their inevitable team-up for as long as possible, since Marvel-Netflix shows love glacial pacing. But that doesn’t happen here. Instead, we find Nadeem and Matt working together in this episode. In fact, the two of them break into Dex’s apartment to look for evidence that he’s the Fakedevil. They don’t find the red suit, but Matt does steal his therapy tapes. Dex comes home while the two guys are still there and tries to kill them with projectiles as they try to escape.
But before we get to the cool fight sequence, we have to suffer through some plot retread. After the newsroom massacre, Dex starts to lose it again and decides to reach out to Julie. Somehow, he manages to convince her to sit down with him since he needs someone to talk to. I kept yelling, “Girl, run the other way!” during their entire coffee conversation. But Julie ignored me and agreed to talk to him, which ends up being the wrong move because Fisk has her murdered after the chat in order to destabilize Dex. Pretending to be Julie, one of Fisk’s henchmen tells Dex to stay away when he texts her for help after he finds out he’ll be out of a job for six months. Thus, Dex goes off the rails once more and right back into Fisk’s arms, literally, in a needless retread of the plot we got a few episodes ago, except this time the show threw in some fridging for good measure.
The episode ends by giving us one more big reveal: As Matt’s busy training and listening to Dex’s therapy tapes, he overhears Sister Maggie refer to him as her son while she’s praying to Jack. Obviously, this comes as a shock to Matt, and this will probably destabilize him for the rest of the season.
- I laughed when Karen referred to herself as a trained journalist when she and Ben Urich interviewed Fisk’s mother in season 1. That’s some aggressive revisionism.
- I loved the moment when Karen asked Fisk if she could call him Wilson.
- Karen accidentally confirming Fisk’s Daredevil suspicions is another nod to Born Again, in which comic book Karen Page gives up Matt’s secret identity for drugs.
— Chancellor Agard
(click ahead for episode 9)
EPISODE 9: ‘Revelations’
That episode title isn’t just for show; a lot of characters learn a lot of things in this episode! After accidentally overhearing Sister Maggie confess to being his mother, Matt’s first priority is to confirm the truth. He finds Father Lantom in a pool hall (which feels like a relatively harmless way for a priest to blow off steam) and wonders why the man who helped him so much throughout his life never told him the one piece of information that could have changed everything for him. Lantom says he was waiting for Maggie to tell Matt, and he’s not the only one passing this buck. With this episode, Matt starts talking to a spectral vision of his father (between him and Fisk, it’s becoming quite a ghost entourage over here). Since Jack Murdock died years ago, he feels it was more Maggie’s responsibility to fill Matt in at some point. But Matt’s not letting his dad off the hook; not only could he have told the truth anytime before he died, he also didn’t even have to die if he had just taken the fall. Jack likes to think of it as an honorable sacrifice, but Matt is getting pretty tired of sacrifices. Jack died and Matt suffered for the former’s code of honor, and Matt doesn’t want anyone else to suffer for the sake of his own code of honor. What that means is: If and when he finds Fisk, he intends to kill him.
Because the adults (both alive and dead) in Matt’s life are so cagey, we find out more of his parents’ backstory through a montage of flashbacks. This season has done a remarkable job of showing rather than telling, of conveying important background information in an entertaining visual way. This is something that Daredevil’s peer shows (like the now-canceled Iron Fist) too often failed to do. We see Maggie as a young nun-in-training attending one of Jack’s fights. He sees her in the crowd and is transfixed, begging her to come into his corner of the ring and support him. Despite warnings from her fellow nuns, she does so, and the relationship clearly doesn’t stop there. Later on, we see a vision of her and Jack smiling and kissing in a sunlit kitchen. Unfortunately, the happiness didn’t last. Sometime after Matt is born, we see a terrified Maggie staring in horror at a crucifix on the wall. Lantom and other nuns come to collect her and bring her back to the church, thus leaving infant Matt alone in his father’s arms.
This is all quite a change from Born Again, where the only confirmation we got as to the Maggie/Matt relationship was her heart skipping a beat in response to him asking if she’s his mother. A lot of the Marvel/Netflix shows have felt bloated, as if the story had to be expanded with unnecessary padding in order to fill a 13-episode order. But season 3 of Daredevil has been able to expand the story of Born Again in actually interesting ways. Maggie has become way more of a character, and Matt isn’t the only person caught in the Kingpin’s soul-crushing web. Speaking of which…
Matt is far from the only person learning new things about himself and the people around him. When Ray Nadeem tries to tell his boss Tammy Hattley about his theory that Fisk has manipulated the FBI and used Dex to attack the Bulletin, she reveals…that she already knows all that. She shoots another FBI agent and tells Nadeem in no uncertain terms that she’s not his boss anymore — Wilson Fisk is. It turns out pretty much everyone in New York City has some weak link that Fisk can target. Tammy’s already lost both of her children to Fisk, apparently, and had to divorce her husband in an attempt to keep him somewhat safe. But since Nadeem’s wife and son are still very much alive, what can he do but along with Fisk’s every order, including feeding bogus information to Matt in an attempt to lure him into a trap? Even Foggy Nelson is caught in Fisk’s crosshairs. Years ago, Fisk manipulated various suppliers into cutting off business with the Nelson deli, forcing them to make a shady loan application in order to stay afloat. Now, unless Foggy calls off his insurgent anti-Fisk campaign for DA, various regulatory agencies will start looking at that loan application, which would probably result in jail time for both Foggy’s brother and father.
Matt isn’t quite playing into Fisk’s hands, though. Rather than show up at the address Nadeem gave him, he sneaks into the hotel, hoping to catch the Kingpin unawares upon his return. But then he overhears someone on FBI radio saying that they’ve located Karen Page at the church and have warned the NYPD to stay away so Karen can be killed according to Fisk’s orders. Somehow, I don’t think Matt will be staying at that hotel much longer…
- FBI basically stands for Fisk Bureau of Investigation now. Foggy was right about his master plan; Fisk has used the FBI to bring in all of his criminal rivals and offer to protect them from federal investigation forever as long as they give him 20 percent of everything they make. Hmm, I wonder what the new owner of Harlem’s Paradise would think of this situation…?
- The potential of a Maggie/Karen friendship is pretty interesting. In Born Again, both those characters exist only in relation to Matt, so it’s cool to see them working with each other to deal with their problems — though they probably will need Matt to save them from this Kingpin ambush.
- I was kind of disappointed to see Matt whale on his fantasy version of Fisk like that, because it probably means a for-real version won’t be happening anytime soon.
— Christian Holub
(click ahead for episode 10)
EPISODE 10: ‘Karen’
The best way for me to describe the grim, flashback-heavy, Karen-centric 10th episode of Daredevil’s third season is that it’s like a top-heavy essay where the writer begins with so much background information and takes forever to get to their thesis instead of making their point at the top and sprinkling the background out as they support the thesis. “Karen” spends the first 30 minutes of its 46-minute runtime on an extended flashback to the tragedy that shaped Karen’s life before following up on episode 9’s dramatic cliffhanger, which definitely halted the momentum of the season. It makes for a fairly lopsided episode that left me wishing the show had placed the flashbacks elsewhere in the season or had spread them throughout the episode.
That being said, I do respect the episode for a couple of reasons. First, the fact that the writers even attempted to flesh out Karen’s backstory is commendable. This show has had a different showrunner every season and there have been many hints, so it couldn’t have been easy coming up with something that made sense. Secondly, the Karen we meet in the flashbacks is a complex and a interesting contradiction, but still makes sense for who the character is in the present. Finally, Deborah Ann Woll more than deserved her own spotlight episode to show off just how much she brings to the role.
The episode begins in Vermont and reveals the double life Karen used to lead. By night, she and her boyfriend Todd dealt drugs at college parties and got high, and by day, she was the responsible daughter who worked at her family’s diner with her father, Paxton, and brother, Kevin. Sure, she showed up to work late and still high, but it’s clear that she knew what she was doing when it came to running the business. For example, she’s justifiably concerned when Paxton buys a new stove they can’t possibly afford. All in all, there’s a refreshing complexity here that you wouldn’t expect from a show like this. Typically, a show would use these flashbacks to focus exclusively on Karen’s partying side in order to highlight how much she has changed, but Daredevil avoids that and gives us something that feels a bit more realistic, since most people aren’t just all one thing.
Unfortunately, things do take a dramatic turn for the worse on this particular day. Kevin takes it upon himself to enroll her in college after she deferred twice because he firmly believes that she needs to leave Vermont. Her father throws a celebratory dinner at the diner that quickly goes south because Karen says she can’t think about leaving because he would bankrupt the diner without her there. From there, Paxton calls his daughter out on her relationship with Todd, and Karen retaliates by saying some hurtful yet believably true things about how much her mother wanted to leave him and Vermont before her death.
In the aftermath of the fight, Karen runs with Todd and proceeds to get high and drunk. By the time they make it back to his trailer, Kevin has already set it on fire. Yes, this episode escalates very quickly, and I’m not sure I totally believe that this idealized younger brother would do something so extreme. Todd, who was also initially presented as pretty reasonable, starts whaling on Kevin with a tire iron, leaving Karen no option but to shoot him in the arm to get him to stop. Then she helps Todd into a car and speeds off to get him help. Of course, tragedy befalls the Page family again, and Karen, who was both high and drunk, gets in a car accident that kills her brother. The irony is painful: She killed him while trying to get him help. In the wake of her brother’s death, Paxton asks his daughter to leave in an emotionally gutting scene.
Now the episode jumps back to the present, where we find Karen still at the church. She wonders whether or not she’s beyond redemption for the things that she’s done, and Father Lantom assures her that you can always be redeemed and convinces her to join him for mass upstairs.
Based on where the last episode ended, you can probably guess what happens next: Dex, on Fisk’s orders, shows up and attacks the congregation in yet another action set piece that effectively and uncomfortably evokes real-life tragedies. Obviously, Matt shows up, but he isn’t able to prevent another tragedy in his life as Father Lantom dies saving Karen from Dex’s thrown baton. From there, Karen helps the congregation escape and then returns to save Matt by knocking Dex off the church balcony with a cross, which might be one of the character’s best moments. Somehow, Dex manages walk away after his big fall, though, and “Karen” ends with Karen cradling a wounded Matt in her arms, an image that evokes a panel of Sister Maggie holding Matt in Born Again, and thus also the Pietà.
- “Matthew, please forgive us,” whispered Father Lantom with his dying breath in yet another heartbreaking moment.
- One moment I didn’t buy was when Fisk said James Wesley was like a son to him. I don’t remember their relationship that well, but that felt like some revisionist history.
- How come Matt gets tired in every fight, yet Dex never seems fazed at all?
— Chancellor Agard
(click ahead for episode 11)
EPISODE 11: ‘Reunion’
As we rapidly approach the end, season 3 of Daredevil confronts a familiar problem: how to adequately space out the climactic scenes of the story across the final episodes. Coming off the big church fight from the last episode, this one mostly spends its time treading water so the real action can wait for the final two installments.
We open with Maggie returning from a late-night walk to the worst news imaginable. Her church is now a crime scene, and Father Lantom is dead. Her arrival does allow her to glimpse Fakedevil leaving the scene, which will end up being important. We follow Fakedevil/Dex just long enough to see that the dude is clearly losing his mind. Enraged by his failure to kill Karen, he walks into an alley and just randomly kills two people. Let me just say that I’m getting pretty tired of Dex’s invulnerability. I’m sure this will change in the eventual final fight, but it’s kind of silly how Dex can just rampage through this show, beating up everyone and everything, without ever taking a scratch himself. It’s one thing to be young, strong, and full of rage; it’s another to watch Matt punch this guy in the head upward of 20 times and not dent his perfect aim one bit. It’s getting boring.
Despite his physical prowess, Dex is actually pretty easy to outsmart as long as you have allies and courage. He tries to get the FBI to commandeer the crime scene from the NYPD, but Maggie’s testimony that she already saw Fakedevil leaving the scene weakens his case. Other eyewitnesses also saw Fakedevil trying to kill Karen Page, which doesn’t fit with the FBI narrative that she’s wanted as his accomplice (especially since being an accomplice to murder is a state-level crime, not federal). After Matt summons Foggy to the scene, he and Maggie help Karen surrender… to the NYPD, not the FBI. Nadeem tells Detective Mahoney from the NYPD in no uncertain terms that if Karen is allowed to leave with the FBI, she won’t survive long. Mahoney takes the hint and shuttles Karen and Foggy to safety, much to Dex’s rage.
The Fisk scenes in this episode mostly feel like a waste of time. First he calls a press conference to announce that the Department of Justice has dropped all charges against him. When protesters start booing him, Fisk responds with standard-issue Trump parody stuff about the “lying news media” and all that. Later, he tries to get his favorite painting back, but now it’s in the hands of the woman whose family originally owned it before it was stolen by the Nazis. She refuses to give it to him, saying that Fisk is exactly the kind of “wolf” who took her family from her.
Elsewhere, debate rages about what exactly to do with this particular wolf. After Mahoney releases Karen and Foggy into the wild (telling the latter he has the wide support of the police in his anti-Fisk crusade), they are finally reunited with Matt. Foggy learns that Matt intends to kill Fisk, igniting a classic superhero debate about whether or not killing villains is morally acceptable. Foggy argues that playing by the rules and building a legal case against Fisk is the only way to take him down for real, but I confess I’m sympathetic to Matt’s counter-argument. After all, they already put Fisk in jail, and look what happened. He runs the FBI now! His network is so wide that if anyone who pisses him off has any loved ones at all, he can find a way to ensnare them to do his bidding. Yes, killing is wrong, but sometimes that’s just the game you’re playing. It reminds me of the season 3 finale of Sherlock, when Benedict Cumberbatch’s Great Detective faced off against a villain who knew everyone’s vulnerabilities. He manned an impressive network of blackmail and influence, but he himself was the singular lynchpin. So Sherlock killed him, and it ended the threat immediately. But since this is a superhero show, we’re probably going with Foggy’s way. In order for that plan to work, though, they need a witness who can testify to the magnitude of Fisk’s manipulation.
Enter Ray Nadeem, desperately returning home to make sure the FBI hasn’t killed his family yet. A broken vase gives him a scare, but he finds his wife and son safe upstairs. He tries to get them outside, but that’s when a Fisk hit team arrives. Telling his loved ones to hide in the bathroom, Nadeem tries fighting off his assailants, and actually manages to shoot down a few of them. Luckily, Matt shows up to take care of the rest. As a gesture of goodwill to Nadeem, who has lately found himself unable to trust anyone, Matt even takes off his mask.
- Detective Mahoney gets the line of the episode when Foggy asks if he fears FBI retaliation for helping them: “They can kiss my damn blue ass.”
- Shout out to Matt and Karen hiding from the FBI in a literal coffin during a season that landed in October. It’s vampire season!
— Christian Holub
(click ahead for episode 12)
Episode 12: ‘One Last Shot’
And thus, we’ve reached the end of the road of Agent Ray Nadeem. Thankfully, the well-intentioned agent was able to regain some of his dignity before met his demise. Let’s dive in.
Following up on “Reunion,” “One Last Shot” begins with Matt and Foggy helping Ray’s family hideout at Detective Mahoney’s home before they revive Nelson and Murdock in order to represent the FBI agent. Foggy convinces D.A. Tower to hear Ray’s testimony by promising to drop out of the race, which he was already planning on doing since he didn’t want to risk winning because Fisk is blackmailing his parents. But the meeting with Tower doesn’t go as planned and Tower refuses to give Ray immunity because of all of the crimes he committed and watched happen. Instead, he offers him five years for every charge. This isn’t the outcome Matt and Foggy wanted, but surprisingly, Ray accepts it because he realizes that he did wrong and he’s more concerned with setting an example for his son. That’s a particularly powerful turn for this character.
So Tower keeps the grand jury impaneled and it’s up to Matt to ensure that Ray makes it to the courthouse in one piece to testify. Of course, Felix Manning catches wind of the grand jury and has his men attempt to take Ray out on the way to the courthouse, which leads to a pretty cool scene where Matt uses his abilities to help Ray take the men out while pretending to be a helpless blind man. I’m really enjoying the way the show uses Matt’s abilities this season. Like, I also liked the moment in episode 10 when Karen whispers to Matt under her breath, knowing that he can hear her.
Anyway, Matt and Ray make it to the courthouse, and Ray heads in to testify. Foggy, feeling pretty good about everything, asks Matt for the second time if it feels good to be working together again. Both times Matt’s reluctant to answer, but hey, I feel completely fine saying yes, it does feel good to see the entire team back together. I didn’t realize how much I missed seeing Matt with Foggy and Karen in the last episode, and it was great watching Matt and Foggy team-up as lawyers to help Ray here. Unfortunately, their plan goes sideways because somehow Fisk and Felix manage to blackmail the grand jury into ruling against indicting Fisk. At this point in the season, it’s starting to feel like Fisk truly is way to powerful for the system to handle him, and for the show, to be honest. Is there anything he can’t do?
Speaking of Fisk: He spends the episode celebrating Vanessa’s return to New York City. When she arrives, Vanessa remains pretty quiet as she takes in the penthouse, and I found Fisk nervously trying to fill the silence incredibly compelling because it was just so human. Fisk clearly knows something’s up, but can’t figure it out. It takes a while, but Vanessa tells him that the only way for them to truly be together is if he stops keeping at arms length from his criminal enterprises. “I don’t want to admire your world. I want to live inside of it with you,” she says in particularly powerful moment.
So, Fisk gives her what she wants and shows her his evil Watchtower. Felix arrives and informs them that Ray managed to escape, which means he’s still a dangerous loose end. Fisk thinks discrediting him in the media will work, but Vanessa disagrees and order Felix to have Dex kill him, which is a very interesting development and probably shatters Fisk’s belief that Vanessa was just this innocent thing.
After ditching Matt and Foggy, Ray makes his way home and prepares to die. When Dex shows up at his home, he’s already waiting for him outside by the hole that was supposed to be their pool. Ray tries to change Dex’s mind, but it’s no use and Dex still ends up killing him right there. Honestly, Ray’s death hit me more than I thought it would because I truly thought he would just be a symptom of Netflix bloat when he was first introduced at the beginning of the season. I’m pleasantly surprised that didn’t turn out to be a case and that the show managed to turn him into a tragic example of what happens when you let fear drive you. In this case, Ray’s pride and worry about his son “seeing him as just an average federal employee” is what made him vulnerable to Fisk and now he paid the price for that.
Upon hearing the news of Ray’s death, Matt storms out of the gym intent on handling this his way (read: with fists). And with what, it’s time for me to turn it over to my co-recapper Christian, who will bring us in for a landing with his review of the finale.
Desperate to regain Fisk’s approval after his failure, Dex murders the woman we saw a few episodes back and steals the white painting as a gift for Vanessa.
“But your friends just keep coming back.” Well, everyone except for Claire Temple.
— Chancellor Agard
(click ahead for episode 13)
Episode 13: ‘A New Napkin’
In the wake of Nadeem’s death, it seems like Wilson Fisk has gotten everything he ever wanted. This is the Kingpin’s moment of triumph: His accusers are discredited or dead, the press is on his side, and the FBI has become nothing more than his personal lapdog. And now, to top it all off, Fisk is going to marry Vanessa in a surprise ceremony where all New York City’s criminal power players will be forced to pay homage to him.
However, in the words of Born Again, Matt Murdock is now ready to prove that “a man without hope is a man without fear.” With his back against the wall, Matt is finally ready to let the devil out. This episode is only on for a few minutes before Felix Manning is getting dangled off a rooftop by his feet. A character we have only seen until now as an impossibly suave and merciless British-accented fixer is reduced to a blubbering child by these Batman-worthy interrogation tactics, to the point that he gives Matt two critical pieces of information: First, that it was Vanessa (not Wilson) who ordered the hit on Nadeem, and second, that Wilson did order a hit on a woman named Julie Barnes.
Once Matt figures out who Barnes is, he wastes no time in calling Dex — from Manning’s phone, of course (always a grade-A intimidation tactic). Matt directs Dex to an address for a freezer where Manning’s people stored bodies, and though Dex doesn’t want to believe his foe at first, it’s impossible to deny the frozen, dead visage of Julie. After that horror, it doesn’t take much for Matt to persuade Dex that Wilson Fisk doesn’t deserve a romantic happy ending either. Let’s pour one out for Julie Barnes, the latest woman to get thrown in a refrigerator in order to motivate male characters. This latest example of the unfortunately time-honored “women in refrigerators” trope is so on-the-nose it vaguely feels like parody, but the trope is played too straight to undermine its sexist mechanics. Sigh.
He may have bent all of New York City to his will, but Fisk still gets wedding nerves. After agonizing over what to wear to the ceremony, he also manages to flub his lines during the vows. Vanessa manages to guide him through it, and together they sanctify their union. But it doesn’t take long for things to turn sour. While Fisk and Vanessa are in the middle of their wedding dance, everyone’s phones start buzzing. It turns out that before Nadeem died, he recorded one last message to his wife in which he confessed everything about Fisk’s schemes, named names, and divulged important details. Since it was his “dying declaration,” Foggy’s able to admit it as legal evidence, and Karen gets the Bulletin to spread it far and wide. As if that wasn’t enough, Dex arrives in full Daredevil regalia saying he’d like to give a toast, and that “me and Julie wish you the best” (he literally drove up to the venue with Julie’s corpse riding shotgun). Then all hell breaks loose.
Dex is a killing machine, and the thing about such machines is they can be turned on anyone, good or bad. After so many episodes of Dex killing innocent journalists and well-meaning FBI agents, he finally turns his aim on people who deserve it: Fisk’s whole crew of corrupt FBI flunkies. They go down one and by one, and though at first it seems like Special Agent-In-Charge Tammy Hattley might be spared by Dex running out of bullets, on second thought he just throws the empty gun at her (with a behind-the-back shot, no less). It works just as well.
Dex makes it to Fisk and Vanessa’s safe room at the same time Matt does. I’ll admit I was a bit confused why Matt sent Dex to the wedding with the intent to kill Fisk only to immediately step in and try to stop him, but the result is a very fun three-way fight. The dynamics at play — Matt and Dex want to kill Fisk, but Dex also wants to kill Vanessa, whom Matt and Fisk want to protect, while Fisk and Matt both want to beat Dex bloody — are translated very well to physical blows. Every time one contender is knocked down for a second, the other two go at it for a while. We haven’t gotten to see Fisk fight much this season, and I’m very impressed by how well Vincent D’Onofrio is able to channel the brute-force physicality of comic-book Kingpin. Matt said it earlier in the season: Dex is unstoppable from range, but if you get close enough you can do damage, and nobody does damage like the Kingpin. After several beatdowns, Fisk ultimately ends Dex’s role in the fight by shoving his former pet against a wall so hard it shatters his spine. That leaves just Matt and Fisk, and though the vigilante beats his archenemy’s face to a bloody pulp, he ultimately refuses to kill him. Such a murder would, after all, be the Kingpin’s final victory: destroying everything that Daredevil stands for. Instead, Matt makes a deal with him: Fisk must never tell anyone his secret identity, nor can he pursue Foggy or Karen. If he does any of those things, then Matt will reveal that Vanessa ordered the murder of an FBI agent, and she’ll spend the rest of her life in cage. Fisk takes the deal.
Thanks so much for reading our Daredevil binge recap! Since this is the last installment, I’d like to wrap up with some final thoughts on the season as a whole. Overall, Daredevil season 3 is definitely one of the most impressive seasons of TV produced by the Marvel/Netflix partnership. Almost every such season has suffered from pacing problems, but Daredevil season 3 used the 13-episode order to its advantage. While using the classic Miller/Mazzucchelli comic storyline Born Again as its jumping-off point, this season also expanded the scope of the original story. Here, it wasn’t just Matt Murdock who found his whole life turned upside down by Wilson Fisk; it was also Karen Page, Foggy Nelson, and Ray Nadeem.
Since the show killed off Ben Urich in season 1, Nadeem took on Urich’s role in Born Again as the non-vigilante character who nonetheless finds himself morally compromised (and his loved ones made fatally vulnerable) by his connection to Fisk and Murdock. Nadeem is on quite a Catholic journey here. After striking a deal with the devil out of desperation in episode 1, Nadeem gradually gets more and more tortured by guilt for the rest of the season, until ultimately redeeming himself (and everyone else) with a Christ-like sacrificial death. It was a compelling performance by Jay Ali in a season that might as well have been subtitled “The Passion of Ray Nadeem.”
Karen’s storyline also got a significant upgrade from Born Again, for the better. In that comic, she’s become a heroin-addicted porn actress who sells Matt’s identity for drugs. The show found a way to make her similarly haggard and desperate, but making the drug addiction an element of her backstory was much more believable, as was her giving Matt’s identity to Fisk in a desperate attempt to one-up him. I also much prefer the way this season depicted Matt, Foggy, and Karen as a trio of best friends who support one another, rather than a love triangle I never really connected with. The show’s unironic use of the women-in-refrigerators trope on Julie was shameful, but at least Karen became a fully fleshed-out character with real agency in the story. Giving Deborah Ann Woll her own focus episode was a smart move too.
Obviously, this season’s most notable addition to the Daredevil TV canon was the introduction of Wilson Bethel as Bullseye (though he was never referred to by that name). Bullseye is typically depicted as a psycho killer who just likes murder and is really good at hitting targets, so it would be weird to give him a sad, empathetic backstory. Thankfully, that’s not what the show did here. Instead, it added texture to his madness and made him an overall more interesting villain. Seeing Dex obsess over Julie and ultimately confide in her corpse didn’t make me understand him, it just made me even more terrified of him, though it’s a shame a female character had to be thrown in a refrigerator to do it. I still wish he could’ve taken a few more licks in those fights too, just to make it seem fair. The Marvel/Netflix shows have not done a great job of creating compelling villains other than D’Onofrio’s Kingpin and David Tennant’s Kilgrave, so Dex is a welcome addition, even if using him as a replacement for the psychotic patriot supervillain Nuke does dilute some of Born Again’s political punch (namely, that the financial and legal powers Fisk musters against Murdock, when challenged, will always ultimately turn to the deadly U.S. military violence usually reserved for communist insurgents in the jungles of Vietnam and Nicaragua).
This season definitely had some weak episodes, and struggled with a strange tension. In order to build Fisk up as an apocalyptic threat, the show had him take over the FBI and pretty much the entire judicial system… only to also pose that same judicial system as the only possible solution to Fisk’s evil. It doesn’t quite track, even with the use of Vanessa as a hostage to make Fisk finally play fair. Then again, this is an intrinsic problem to many superhero stories, especially ones like Born Again in which a line is crossed in terms of the villain learning critical information about the hero, because the hero can’t kill the villain if they’re going to remain a hero (and Marvel, Disney, and Netflix need the hero to remain a hero in order to keep making money off him). So it’s hard to blame the Daredevil show too much for ultimately failing to come up with a truly satisfying answer to this tension.
I’m interested to see where the Marvel/Netflix universe goes from here. Unlike that other iconic Frank Miller superhero comic The Dark Knight Returns, Born Again is not an end for its hero, but a true rebirth. True to form, at the end of episode 13, we see Matt back on his feet, ready to resume his Daredevil duties while also bringing in Karen as a full-fledged partner at Nelson & Murdock. They seem like they have a bright future ahead of them, and yet while this season was airing, news broke that both Iron Fist and Luke Cage had been canceled. Jessica Jones is set to return for a third season, but other than that it’s unclear how the Marvel/Netflix universe will go on, especially with Disney’s own streaming service on the horizon. But whatever happens next — please say it’s a Daughters of the Dragon show starring Simone Missick and Jessica Henwick! — rest assured that my co-recapper, Chancellor Agard, and I will be here to talk you through it. Until next time!
- Thank God everyone in this season finally just referred to him as Daredevil rather than the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. What’s the point of a nickname if it’s longer and clunkier than the original? It’s like how saying “WWW” out loud actually takes longer than just saying “worldwide web.”
- The last shot of the season finds Dex going under the knife for some experimental surgery to fix his paralysis. If there’s more in store for this show, it sounds like it might next take a bite out of the more recent Mark Waid/Chris Samnee Daredevil comics (personal favorites of mine), in which an injured Bullseye reorients himself as a master manipulator despite being trapped in an Iron Maiden-like device.
— Christian Holub
Finale grade: B-
Overall season grade: B+