Marvel, like DC (obviously), has struggled with creating a TV-based superhero universe that (to put it cogently) doesn’t suck big time.
While at one point the Marvel-Netflix partnership seemed like a panacea to all the issues superhero live-action adaptations are often plagued with, The Defenders turned out to be a complete dud with its lackluster choreography and poor scripting.
More so, it ended up being just another Superhero TV-crossover- a grand fancy-dress party where overtly chiseled men and women hang out together to beat skimpily dressed, over-reacting villains.
But thank god (the most Catholic influence this review has), Marvel has redeemed TV-based superhero adaptations with the third season of Daredevil. The sheer emotional range, plot development, cinematography, and overall cohesion to character arcs make the Daredevil one of the best live-action adaptations of our times.
While it is not entirely comic accurate, Daredevil borrows heavily from Miller’s Daredevil: Born Again and adds a layered narrative with some new characters and backstories. Moreover, it redeems a poorly written villain from the original source material, by giving him a backstory that makes him somewhat of a spectacle.
If you were looking for a verdict, then perhaps, the review is over and you can start binging straightaway. Or you can read more to find out what makes the third season of Daredevil so opulent with excellence.
1. Charlie Cox’s charismatic vulnerability and fallibility as the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen
Matt Murdock is not your run-of-the-mill superhero. He is much more complicated than an ‘enhanced’ individual who lives a binary crime-fighting life. His alter-ego emanates from the complicated soliloquies he often finds himself buried in. It is almost a vent, to the volcanic, chaotic friction he faces internally between the simple feelings of fear, love, abandonment, atonement, and powerlessness.
At one point, he feels much like his father, at another he feels he is no different than Fisk. And all this happens against the backdrop of heavy religious symbolism, Gothic colour tones, and mind-bogglingly wonderful point-of-view shots.
Although all the above factors create a gritty, dark Hell’s Kitchen in a spatial sense, it is Cox’s knockout performance as Matt Murdock that takes the viewer inside Matt’s soliloquies.
The show is structured in a manner that you empathize with Matt, travel through his soliloquies, and feel the friction he experiences as both Matt and the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, but it is Cox who lives it.
Cox is vulnerable, stubborn, and fallible, and yet, there is a certain sense of faith, of confidence which runs through his performance as an undercurrent. And you can feel a primal sense of rage every time Cox punches someone fearlessly as he smirks while blood oozes out of his nostrils.
To be fair, Cox’s range as an actor in the three seasons put together should easily make him one of the best actors to ever play a superhero. That’s how you do it, folks!
2. Vincent D’Onofrio raises hell as Kingpin
The most antichrist-esque figure in the Daredevil universe, the Kingpin, also known as Wilson Fisk, is as complicated as a villain as Daredevil is as a superhero. Anxiety-ridden, rage-prone, and more manipulative than marketing campaigns run by online marketplaces.
In the third season, D’Onofrio’s portrayal is scarier, more manipulative and more empathy-inducing at the same time. D’Onofrio’s understanding of Fisk as a character reminds us what the MCU could be missing right now by not utilizing him as a villain
Honestly put, D’Onofrio as Fisk is perhaps the best villain in the entire Marvel pantheon and we sincerely hope Mr. Feige is thinking of utilizing him elsewhere.
3. Supporting characters get the respect they deserve
Geeky, over-excited sidekicks and poorly written individuals with normal human capabilities are often the things that bring superhero adaptations down.
In the third season, the showrunners and writers have made a conscious effort to utilize the excellent acting potential available to them.
Not only character arcs of Foggy Nelson (played by Elden Hanson), Karen Page (played by Deborah Ann Woll), and Agent Ray Nadeem (played by Jay Ali) are written well, they provide a credible support to the one of Murdock’s in this season.
Furthermore, complemented by brilliant acting, none of the characters feel like an appendage or a liability of an adaptation. In fact, the characters match-up to Matt Murdock in their courage, and make the same heroic sacrifices he does.
The character arcs convince you that Matt could not have done it alone, and the sub-plots provide a convincingly strong spine to contribute to the crescendo of drama the director was weaving throughout the thirteen episodes of TV-series.
4. Cinematography, Fight Choreography and Direction
While everything else had an incremental improvement from the first two seasons, the above the three aspects have always been strong in Marvel’s tv-adaption of the Daredevil. Flooded with tones of red, black, teal, yellow and white, complemented by its grit and empathy-inducing point-of-view shots, the screen blares emotions of fear, anxiety, and fallibility.
Fight choreography too, is no surprise here. All fight scenes between the Daredevil and agent Poindexter are a treat to watch and tie in seamlessly with the intended character development. Although the action never reaches the scale of what was achieved in season 2 with the Punisher stepping in, it is still the best fight choreography you will ever see in a superhero TV-show.
But wait, there’s one crazy 11-minute one take shot which beats anything you have ever seen in the Daredevil TV-series.
Coming to direction, there’s nothing much to criticize here. There are, of course, the usual leap-of-faiths associated with a superhero adaptation but other than that and a few pacing issues here and there, the direction is somewhat of a masterclass for every other live-action superhero adaptation out there.
5. Wilson Bethel captures the complexity of being the Bullseye
Brilliantly portraying a different backstory developed by the showrunners, Wilson Bethel embodies agent Poindexter with a certain psychopathic instability that at times makes you feel sorry for him as a character.
Bethel captures the emotions and aggression so finely that one never really feels that the real Daredevil will ever be good enough for him.
This one deserves a strong 9!