Warning: SPOILERS for Daredevil season 3!
Marvel's Daredevil season 3 fixed the mistakes made by season 2 and delivered a superior story overall. Taking the helm from season 2's masterminds Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez (who also oversaw Marvel's Defenders), new showrunner Erik Oleson 'resurrected' Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) and took him on a journey of self-discovery; the blind vigilante once more donned his original black costume to face the return of his greatest nemesis Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio). This back-to-basics approach was exactly what Daredevil needed after his life imploded thanks to the darkness of season 2 and The Defenders.
In many ways, Daredevil is the unluckiest Marvel superhero on Netflix. His life became a living hell after his original triumph over the man who became known as the Kingpin back in season 1. By the time season 2 was over, Nelson & Murdock - the law firm Matt founded with his best friend Franklin "Foggy" Nelson (Elden Henson) - was dissolved and Matt's legal career was in tatters. Despite revealing his double identity to Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), Matt's burgeoning relationship with her was also ruined by the return of his former flame Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung), who died and was resurrected as the Black Sky, the weapon of the ancient cult of ninjas called the Hand. Finally, Matt 'died' to save New York City in The Defenders when a building literally collapsed on his head. Of course, he did survive to make it to season 3, but Daredevil - both the hero and the series - faced a daunting comeback.
The challenge that Daredevil season 3 faced was to bring back everything fans liked about Ol' Horn Head while avoiding the issues that have plagued the character in his previous appearances. Not that fight scenes were ever an issue with Daredevil; the series' calling card was visceral and realistic action sequences and the hallway fight in season 1, episode 2 is still the benchmark for all of Netflix's Marvel series. Rather, season 2 and The Defenders' combined stories took Daredevil to the darkest possible places and stripped away everything from Matt Murdock. Here's how season 3 pulled Daredevil back from the brink and returned the Devil of Hell's Kitchen to glory.
- This Page: Why Daredevil Season 3 Was Better Than Season 2
- Page 2: Everything Daredevil Season 3 Did Right
Setting Up Defenders And Punisher Hurt Season 2
Season 2 was the purest comic book-inspired season of Daredevil. Fans were thrilled by the blind vigilante's battles with the Punisher (Jon Bernthal) in the first half of the season, which then shifted the focus to setting up The Defenders by introducing Elektra and the Hand. Daredevil was pushed to his limits by both guest stars and fans responded by posting big numbers for season 2 on Netflix.
However, the burden of simultaneously establishing Punisher's solo series while laying the groundwork for the big crossover series with Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter), and Iron Fist (Finn Jones) took its toll on the cohesiveness of season 2. The overall story felt disjointed, and what's more, the season was dark, which isn't atypical for "a middle chapter" of a saga. However, season 2 laid waste to everything set up in season 1: By the end, Matt was isolated and heartbroken. His legal career was over, he had abandoned his friends, and he was the lowest he'd ever been - until The Defenders when Matt presumably perished with Elektra as the Hand's skyscraper imploded on top of them.
Season 2's worst sin, however, was that it made Matt Murdock harder to like. Even though Foggy and Karen are practically saints for their willingness to stand by and believe in Matt despite all of his deceptions to maintain his secret, the blind hero alienated them by becoming obsessed with Elektra and the Hand. Murdock was supposed to defend Frank Castle in court but largely left the legal work to Foggy while he relentlessly pursued his vigilante activities as Daredevil, which led to the end of their law practice. Simply put, after everything Matt put himself and his friends through in season 2 and in The Defenders, he was sorely in need of redemption.
Season 3 Told A Better, Focused Story
Arguably the smartest creative move Daredevil season 3 made was to avoid any crossover with the other Defenders. Instead, season 3 told one complete story about the return to power of Wilson Fisk, who manipulated and coerced the FBI as an informant on New York's criminals while he actually consolidated his takeover of that very same underworld. With a 'ripped from real-life headlines' urgency, season 3 addressed the themes of a narcissistic megalomaniac corrupting the institutions that are supposed to keep him in check while Fisk literally attacked the free press and flaunted his power and ability to get away with it - all so he could marry the love of his life, Vanessa (Ayelet Zurer).
Season 3 borrowed elements from Frank Miller's seminal "Born Again" story and Kevin Smith's "Guardian Devil" but avoided a straight adaptation of either. Instead, Daredevil's three heroes, Matt, Foggy, and Karen, spent the season using their respective abilities to fight back against Fisk: Matt through his fists as a vigilante, Karen by being a reporter and investigator, and Foggy via the law. Yet the Kingpin was several chess moves ahead of them the whole time; he masterfully outmaneuvered Nelson, Murdock, and Page until the very end. By telling one macro story involving their greatest villain, while also finally introducing Bullseye (Wilson Bethel), Daredevil delivered arguably their best season of all and possibly the best season of a Marvel Netflix series yet.