‘Daredevil’ returns to Netflix for a third season with new showrunner Erik Oleson at the helm, and it’s never been better. After a notable dip in quality for Marvel Netflix shows since Daredevil’s sophomore season and the recent cancellations that have hit them (‘Luke Cage’, ‘Iron Fist’) there was a great deal of pressure for Marvel’s flagship show to display a return to form and that certainly happened here.
Charlie Cox is back as Matt Murdock…well sort of. Matt has decided to give up his life as the blind attorney for hire and now solely focuses on being a masked vigilante. Matt is having a crisis of faith when we first see him again, questioning any meaning he previously felt his life had. Cox is exceptional here and it really gives him some strong emotional material to play with across the seasons 13-hour run. That being said, it is the return of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk who firmly steals the show this year. Without a doubt, a strong contender for the best live action marvel villain put to screen; D’Onofrio is pitch perfect. His quiet rage is contained so masterfully behind his microexpressions. The performance stands as the defining example of the Kingpin of Crime across all media. This season is fully Matt vs. Fisk and their ever-evolving game of cat and mouse is simply captivating to watch.
New blood this year includes a poignantly resonant performance from Joanne Whalley as Sister Maggie, and Jay Ali as federal agent Ray Nadeem who for a large part of the season suffers from a typical case of making decisions that serve only to frustrate the audience. The standout, however, is Wilson Bethel’s unhinged performance as famed Daredevil antagonist Bullseye (referred to as Ben ‘Dex’ Poindexter in the show). Bethel is phenomenal in the role, slowly changing from a calm, collected individual to an obsessed psychopath and the transition is always seamless.
I’d be remiss if I did not take a moment to praise the incredible action scenes that take place throughout the season, in particular, those involving Poindexter’s innovative offence and marksmanship. With each year, Daredevil attempts to outdo itself in fight choreography and I think they may have accomplished that here with a clear example being a roughly 10-minute-long, seemingly uninterrupted take featuring Matt trying to fight his way out of a prison. The action is as visceral as it’s ever been and you certainly won’t be disappointed in that department.
It’s not flawless however, minor gripes include something I can only describe as ‘interactive flashbacks’ which just didn’t land well with me and a small but notable collection of scenes that feature Matt talking to an illusory Fisk. I imagine this was mainly done due to the fact Matt spends a surprisingly large amount of time on his own this season but the scenes feel out of place and almost make Matt seem unstable which he certainly is not.
Overall, this season has a sense of dread about it not previously felt on the show, as our main characters struggle to defeat an ostensibly unstoppable foe. It feels more personal than it ever has before and represents the best chapter in the series to date.