Fire up Netflix and watch Daredevil Season 3. Just trust me. If you haven’t seen the previous two seasons, just disappear for a long weekend and catch up. And then stick it on. I’ve not had this much fun watching a Marvel show or genre movie in since forever. Well, not since Rian Johnson decided to launch a wrecking ball on crotchety Star Wars traditionalists.
Sure, there’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. SHIELD had a wonderful start. The twisty-turny conspiracies of Season 1. The shot in the arm that is mad-cap energy of Kyle MacLachlan. Outside of that, it’s been a little limp. Yes, I’ve kept up to date but damn I wanted something a bit more R. Rousing. Ragged. R-Wonderful.
Yes, I know SHIELD is a network show. And it has a hard line to walk. Drawing lines between the dots of taste, U-cert fun and MCU’s bets is no cakewalk. But damn. Seeing the way Daredevil has evolved makes me a little sad for the ground that SHIELD could have trod on cable or with a mature audience streamer.
Where Season 1 grounded us in Matt Murdock’s reality and Season 2 knit a little messily the heavy realism of the Punisher with pseudo-mysticism of The Hand, the latest season gives us a welcome return to the gritty underbelly of Hell’s Kitchen.
Wilson Fisk is the fulcrum around many of the best Daredevil stories. Originally, a Spidey villain, he’s dovetailed into DD land comfortably. In the latest Netflix adaptation, he’s prepared, ruthless and incredibly damaged (See Season 1’s ‘Shadows in the Glass’). You can find yourself wanting to bear-hug for good and sometimes ill.
The pacing of episodes this latest season is the best yet. The season opens slow, giving Murdock the space to process what’s happened since The Defenders and what he stands for. After that, we’re firmly into tones of a conspiracy thriller a la Mr Robot with sprinkles of Trump’s America to boot.
Let’s not overlook the best part of the season, the almost-standalone episode centred on Karen Page – suitably called ‘Karen’. Inserted right before the final season arc salvos kick in, I’m sure that showrunner Erik Oleson wanted this to be a deep breath before we’re up shit creek without a paddle, but nope, nada, no way.
‘Karen’ is devastating. Karen’s background story is finely-realised and it counterpoints where Matt Murdock is subtly, beautifully and with bags of soft tragedy. I won’t ruin it, but only say it’s devastating because it’s so normal. Deliciously devastating. It’s rooted in the small things people have and those they lose. And that’s the crux of this season’s struggles for Murdock et al.
Daredevil works best when it circles normal human things, and pulls out the rug beneath our feet. Sometimes our villains are a little heroic and our heroes are a little villainous. Sometimes we invent our biggest problems by building walls. And sometimes we eat our tragedies without salt.
A mostly non-spoilery sidebar: Should Season 4 get a green light, let’s pull out all the stops and start removing parts of Murdock’s support system. Hello and Goodbye Foggy Nelson. Who is Matt Murdock without his anchor Foggy Nelson?