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While Daredevil’s inaugural season is widely and deservedly regarded as one of the highlights of Marvel’s Netflix output thus far, its sophomore outing was a bit of a mixed bag — a poorly paced plot involving Elektra and The Hand ultimately undoing a strong, Punisher-focused start. It’s little surprise then that with all of the ninjas now out of the picture this third season reaps the benefits. New showrunner Erik Oleson (Arrow) ups the ante for all our characters while taking the show back to its roots.
We pick up where we left off, with a Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox, modulating his performance perfectly) who’s a little worse for wear. Not only does he start off the season with his heightened senses on the fritz but, more worryingly, he’s also suffering a crisis of faith. The latter has always been an important element of Daredevil’s mythos, but while previously Matt’s introspection has at times felt mundane, here it’s the most engaging it’s ever been. That’s in large part due to the dynamic between Matt and Sister Maggie (Joanne Whalley) — a key figure from his past — whose brand of tough love smoothly offsets our hero’s bouts of self-pity.
It’s with the action sequences that Daredevil Season 3 truly outdoes itself.
The other fulcrum around which Daredevil revolves is Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio). The highlight of Season 1, he was in prison off screen for much of Season 2 but still managed to make his presence felt in a far too brief appearance. In Season 3 the white-suited villain is back to the fore, and back at his manipulative best, sowing just enough seeds of doubt into the people he wishes to control before letting their minds do the rest of the work.
It’s not just the core duo who are compelling. With Agent Poindexter, better known to comic book fans as Bullseye, we get an accelerated, but no less effective version of the treatment Fisk got in the first season — with poignant flashbacks doing an exceptional job of getting us into his headspace — and Wilson Bethel does a great job in acting out his inner turmoil. And, in what is refreshing casting given the Asian stereotyping Daredevil has been guilty of in the past, Jay Ali’s Rahul Nadeem, an FBI agent and devoted family man, is a well-rounded character who we still want to root for even as Fisk pushes his buttons.
Still, it’s with the action sequences that Daredevil’s latest season truly outdoes itself. From a continually escalating 11-minute-long take — an homage to season 1’s memorable corridor sequence — to a mano-a-mano showdown guaranteed to have comic book aficionados salivating and more, the fisticuffs have rarely been more impressive or visceral. Combine that with the tight, purposeful storytelling on display thus far and, if it sticks the landing, it could be a new high for the Marvel/Netflix universe.