Season 3 of Daredevil isn’t just the best season of Daredevil—it is the best Netflix MCU season period. Which makes sense, I suppose, since season 1 of Daredevil was previously the best Netflix MCU season. What is more remarkable is that season 3 not only exceeds it, but significantly so.
What makes it so great? The action set pieces, a carefully crafted plot, and the best villain of them all.
Season 3 opens with Daredevil very badly injured. He winds up back with the same priest and nun who raised him. The Defenders will tell you why Daredevil is so badly injured at the beginning of the season, but all you really need to watch beforehand is season 1 of Daredevil. He thinks that his days as Daredevil are over. He can barely walk and he is deaf in one ear. His reticence to play the role of Daredevil, in one form or another, doesn’t last long when he begins to heal. His reticence to play the role of devout Catholic and the role of Matt Murdock, on the other hand, takes much longer to overcome. He doesn’t even want to let Foggy and Karen know he is alive.
Daredevil is drawn out by the return of the Kingpin. Ostensibly, Fisk is driven by his need to protect Vanessa. In reality, it is the next play in an extraordinarily complicated gambit. Things are (visibly to us) set into motion when Fisk informs his FBI handler of the month, Agent Nadeem, that he is ready to start cooperating with the Feds by snitching on his competition dangerous criminals. Agent Nadeem will play a central role in the plot going forward.
As I mentioned above, the plot is a major selling point for the season, and it is largely driven by Fisk’s machinations. The writers carefully and cannily peel back more and more layers to the plot. The season is almost over by the time we get the full picture, and, more impressively, none of the revelations diminish that which came before it. This is Fisk’s world, and everyone else is reacting. Frequently, that reaction forces characters to consider just how far they are willing to go and exactly how much they are willing to sacrifice in order to do what is right, or what is sometimes called moral peril.
It is immensely satisfying then that a turning point in the plot comes when a key character explains their change of heart: “I hurt people. My pride hurt people. And I need to make that right again.”
Foggy, by the way, is probably here the most effective moral voice used as a foil through the entire Netflix MCU. As befits a show centered on a devoutly Catholic superhero, confessions (in the more colloquial sense) repeatedly play an important role in the plot.
If you’ve seen the trailers for season 3, you know that Fisk produces an imposter Daredevil. And if you’ve seen the trailers and are familiar with the comics, you will know who that imposter Daredevil is.
The last two Netflix MCU seasons I watched prior to Daredevil season 3 were season 1 and 2 of Iron Fist. The much maligned fight scenes from season 1 of Iron Fist are much improved upon in season 2. But they don’t even begin to hold a candle to fight scenes here. There is a phenomenal set piece in a parking garage early in the season in which Daredevil spends as much time evading FBI agents as fighting them. The first set piece with the imposter Daredevil is tremendous as well, and is one of the more horrific set pieces from season as the imposter brutally carves his way through a newsroom. There is a long set piece in a prison that aims to exceed the famed hallway fight from season 1, and the final fight may top them all.
Why is it that Daredevil is so much better made than the other Netflix MCU shows? It is better in almost every way, really. It may be the only season that really justifies a full 13 episodes. There are a lot of little touches, like a scene with a bunch of phones in evidence bags buzzing with messages asking if the owners are safe.
D’Onofrio is again magnetic as the Kingpin. The Kingpin is the best villain by far in the Netflix MCU. Including himself in season 1 of Daredevil. And the imposter Daredevil makes for a very effective secondary villain. Not that the season commits the usual Netflix sin of having the hero fight someone with the same powers. There are important differences between their abilities that force both to attempt to engage the other on their own terms.
Even things that would be flaws in any other show manage to add, not subtract, from the season. I am allergic to visions of absent characters. It’s a lazy writer’s out, telling rather than showing. But it is hard to go wrong giving D’Onofrio more screen time. And, yeah, devoting over half an episode to a flashback delving into a character’s backstory brings things to a screeching halt, but also lets the writers ratchet things back up in a hurry (and it could have been worse—it could have been the entire episode).
Now it just remains to be seen what the future of the Netflix MCU shows is with Disney starting its own streaming service.
5 of 5 Stars.