“Daredevil” – Season Three (Netflix)
Created by Drew Goddard
This review comes days after Netflix has officially cancelled “Daredevil”. Which is a shame, because after a maudlin, twelve-step based second season, Goddard and company remembered to execute the formula that made the first season so exciting and fresh. Which is to say they gave us back a devious, violent and intelligent evil-doer as Matt Murdock’s antagonist. What a difference a bad guy makes! And, like the latest season of “Iron Fist”, they gave us a SECONDARY bad guy, “Dex”… a believable one at that. So instead of endless hours of conversation about the angst-driven madness of being the “Daredevil”, we get action…maybe not as brilliantly conceived as the first season, but tons and tons of gorgeously choreographed action steeped in emotional energy.
To be sure, there are still flaws. The story finishes with a bit of a shrug, more reminiscent of how season 2 ended. The machinations of the plot are clunky and unbelievable. And there remains this compulsion to keep all of Netflix’ Marvel entries obsessed with how our heroes fit in to a “family” unit – whether family of origin or of choice. And would it kill the writers to give Karen Page even ONE scene where she doesn’t have to cry or rail against the world? It’s borderline cruel to actor, Deborah Ann Woll. How many dead puppies must she think of to work up the tears necessary for her fifteen minutes of screen time each episode?!
But no matter. Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk is back and all is right with the world. You don’t realize how much you missed him until you experience the visceral sense of evil his immediate presence brings. It’s such a masterful performance. In total control of his rage, lying just one millimeter below the surface, he knows how to unleash it for maximum impact…even if it’s just for a phrase. And it ALWAYS shocks and surprises. It’s unsettling, unnerving, and is so viscerally real that it makes you wonder just how unhinged the actor is in his real life to be able to master the character so well. Regardless, without him, the show is an afterthought – (much like the second season).
Our regulars are fine, I guess. The thing that made Charlie Cox so interesting in season one, mainly his introspective look at the outside world due to being trapped in a sightless body, has, at this point, become exasperating. And without the outward expressions of joy in the company of his pal Foggy (a joy which also disappeared after the initial season), it’s just a constant bummer. UNLESS he’s pissed off, and that demands the presence of Fisk, or last season’s Frank “the Punisher” Castle (Jon Bernthal), and this season that second character I referenced earlier, FBI Agent (and violent psychotic) Benjamin ‘Dex’ Poindexter, played to perfection by Wilson Bethel. Like Alice Eve’s Typhoid Mary (schizoid) in “Iron Fist”, Janet McTeer’s Alice in “Jessica Jones” (bipolar), and the Bernthal’s Punisher (PTSD), Netflix seems equally interested in exploring all the facets of the worst kinds of mental health diagnoses. It’s a little bizarre, perhaps, but Dex’s need to cause mayhem (and our subsequent belief and investment) come from a place of emotional reality…not mere ambition. Hence, MUCH more interesting to watch.
Production-wise, the show is almost identical. Still dark, yet sharper – easier to follow the violence. In other words, the camera is very well placed thanks to season three cinematographer, Christopher LaVasseur. The show still feels confined, claustrophobic – even in its outdoor scenes (kudos to location coordinator, Lindsey Lambert). And it is still brutally violent and well edited. Finally, John Paesano’s music remains the best of all the Netflix Marvel offerings.
If you muscled through season two (and the brutally bad “Defenders”), then you owe it to yourself to enjoy D’Onofrio in season three. “Daredevil” lost its soul after season one, but this is, if not a recapture of that glory, at least several steps closer to satisfying.
Written on 12/4/2018