Daredevil season 3 introduced Wilson Bethel as Agent Dex Poindexter a.k.a. Bullseye, Daredevil's greatest foe - but how does he compare to Colin Farrell's version?
General audiences were first introduced to the Man Without Fear back in 2003, when Fox released a movie starring Ben Affleck as Matt Murdock and Michael Clarke Duncan as the Kingpin. It was hardly a hit, grossing less than $200 million at the global box office and receiving relatively poor reviews. Fox spent the next few years attempting to get the Daredevil franchise going again, with Joe Carnahan expressing interest in taking over. Unfortunately the studio swiftly realized that his idea would take too long to produce, and in April 2013 Kevin Feige confirmed that Daredevil's rights had finally returned to Marvel.
The introduction of Bullseye presents us with a perfect opportunity to compare two different iterations of the same character. As such, it's possibly the best chance we've ever had to ask just what lessons Marvel has learned from the mistakes of the past. Of course, the two different portrayals will be heavily influenced by the mediums they were designed for; a 13-episode TV show has a lot more time to explore characters than a 2-hour-13-minute movie. But still, the show and the film took such radically different approaches that a comparison really is instructive.
The first major difference is that the Marvel Netflix show presents an origin story for Bullseye. The movie introduced him as an already-feared assassin - a ruthless murderer who took pride in the fact he never misses. Bullseye's obsession with Daredevil was largely shaped by the fact the Man Without Fear was able to dodge one of his attacks, which wounded his pride. In contrast, the Bullseye of Daredevil season 3 is presented as a well-rounded character in his own right: a borderline personality who had worked for years to overcome his mental illness using medication, psychiatric help, and rigid structure. Unfortunately, he fell into the orbit of Wilson Fisk, and the Kingpin identified his potential. This origin story is unique to the TV series, carefully woven by showrunner Erik Oleson. As he explained in an interview with Entertainment Weekly:
"In the version of the story that I wanted to tell, where every single character in our cast has psychological depth and there’s a reality to them, and I’m inviting the audience into their heads so that they can empathize with them, starting out with a psycho killer is not that interesting. I was much more interested in the fact that, because the comics were not specific about the backstory of Bullseye, I would have the freedom to create one."
This version of Bullseye becomes obsessed with Daredevil because the Kingpin gets him to dress up as him in order to carry out his kills. In fact, he still hasn't donned a costume of his own by the end of season 3.
In terms of skills, though, there's a massive difference between the two versions of Bullseye. In theory, both possess the same abilities: they're skilled marksmen, able to use anything as a weapon, with an instinctive ability to work out how to kill someone with everything from a peanut to a baseball. In reality, though, this works out very differently. Colin Farrell's Bullseye doesn't really seem like a physical threat to Daredevil, since Matt Murdock's radar sense and tremendous reflexes combine to allow him to dodge every one of the assassin's attacks, even when he tosses shards of broken glass at him. It's only when Bullseye realizes Daredevil is hyper-sensitive to sound that he gets an edge. In contrast, the Bullseye of Daredevil season 3 is every bit a physical match for Daredevil. He beats Daredevil to within an inch of his life, combining his own combat skills with precision marksmanship and an ability to use anything as a weapon. In one key scene, Daredevil only survives because of the intervention of Karen Page, the woman he'd arrived on the scene to rescue.
Both the movie and the TV show end with Bullseye crippled. That idea is lifted straight out of the comics, where Bullseye broke his back in a fall but ultimately returned to action after undergoing experimental surgery. In the case of the movie, while dialogue assures us that Bullseye will return, it never happened because the movie never scored a sequel. In the case of the Marvel Netflix show, the camera focuses in upon the villain's eye, promising viewers that Daredevil's greatest nemesis has finally been born. Hopefully Netflix will sign off on Daredevil season 4 and give us a chance to see Bullseye in all his ruthless glory.