The Netflix Marvel superhero universe has had its ups and downs, and nothing can really make up for how bad Iron Fist Season 1 was, and what it did to The Defenders. But sometimes when you hit rock bottom, there’s a silver lining: There’s no direction to go but up. The Punisher was pretty good, Luke Cage Season 2 was a step in the right direction, and even Iron Fist Season 2 was watchable. Now that we’ve mostly forgotten about Jessica Jones Season 2, it’s time to return to where it all started: Daredevil. And you know what? It’s good to be back.
Daredevil Season 3 has a lot preceding it, but except where it’s relevant to Matt Murdock’s story, it mostly ignores what’s come before. In the first six episodes, which were sent to press ahead of time, there’s no mention of Jessica, Luke, Danny, or The Hand. Even Elektra is just a memory, albeit one that haunts Matt still.
Daredevil Season 3 is about rebuilding. Matt (Charlie Cox) suffered his most emotionally and physically devastating defeat yet when an entire building fell on him at the end of Defenders, and he’s forced to find the time and will to heal on multiple fronts. Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) has a scheme to get out of prison, but he puts himself at great risk to pull it off. Foggy (Elden Henson) and Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) are still dealing with the fact that Matt is gone, trying to put the pieces of their lives together without their best friend. Naturally, his eventual return in Season 3 will only complicate things further.
To fans, it’s no secret that Matt survived the events of Defenders. He spends much of Daredevil Season 3’s first half recuperating in the basement of the Catholic orphanage where he was raised, tended to by a nun who may or may not be his mother (in the comics she is; it hasn’t yet been made clear in the show). At the season’s start, his hearing has suffered, and without it his “sight” has also waned. An early season boxing match puts Daredevil’s brutality, the actors’ impressive physicality, and Matt’s threshold for punishment all on display. Daredevil spends plenty of time wallowing in Matt’s well earned nihilism, but even then it can be a joy to watch.
Fisk, meanwhile, proves to be the manipulative villain we remember him as from Daredevil Season 1. He flips and turns FBI informant, snitching on New York’s Albanian mob and almost getting himself offed in the process. That triggers a transfer out of prison and into a cushy high-rise, “for his own safety,” of course. He claims to be doing it all for Vanessa–played by Ayelet Zurer in Season 1, though she’s yet to reappear in Season 3–but with the Kingpin, there’s always the sense that there’s more going on than we’re ever made aware of. No doubt that shoe will drop before Season 3 is over.
Fisk’s recruitment of crack shot FBI agent Benjamin “Dex” Poindexter–who we know from the comics as Bullseye–only begins to see its full payoff by the time Season 3 is halfway through. But Dex gradually proves himself to be a dangerous presence, an obsessive sociopath with perfect aim who was taught as a child to blend in with society. When the cracks in his “normal” life start to shake his foundations, Fisk knows exactly how to dig his fingers in deep.
The news of Fisk’s “release” doesn’t go over well in Hell’s Kitchen, and protesters keep vigil outside his suite, adding to the feeling that this is all leading somewhere topical. Foggy and Karen fight back in their own ways–still working at the Bulletin, Karen starts investigating what Fisk is really up to, while Foggy attempts to get at him through legal means.
That’s all to say that Daredevil Season 3 puts the focus where it belongs: on Matt, Fisk, Foggy, and Karen, the core characters that we originally grew to love or hate back in Season 1. With that re-anchoring comes some really cool stylistic choices; there’s an entire sequence that plays out in black and white, half flashbacks, half imaginings, with one character walking back through another’s life as he strives to learn everything he might use to his advantage. And there’s a single-shot fight scene in these first half dozen episodes that’s unbelievably impressive, easily rivaling any action that’s come before in the whole Netflix Marvel universe.
So yeah, Daredevil is back. And thanks to its much needed laser focus on the characters and stories fans actually care about, you don’t even need to be caught up; If you watched Daredevil Season 1 and then stopped, you could pick up again right at the start of Season 3. That definitely says something about how forgettable much of what came in the interim was. But regardless of where you’ve been all this time, Daredevil Season 3 is worth returning for.
Daredevil Season 3 hits Netflix October 19.