The third season of “Daredevil” is here to bring order to Marvel’s Netflix universe.
If it seemed like the luster was beginning to fade on these Netflix comic book shows because it took two seasons to get “Iron Fist” right and you thought “The Defenders” was just okay, “Daredevil” is here to restore your faith. The third season, which premieres Oct. 19, is so good even the producers of “The Punisher,” who for an instant held the title of Netflix’s best Marvel show, will have to kick it up a notch in the future.
Shades of Frank Miller’s “Born Again,” one of the greatest Daredevil stories ever told that still defines Marvel’s Man Without Fear over three decades later, are evident throughout the new season. Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) is becoming more devil than man, losing his grip on the religion that guided his perception of justice. Crime boss Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) is on the loose (well, as much as you can be while on house arrest) and in true Kingpin fashion, he lurks in the shadows of everyone’s fears while barely having to lift a finger to get results. Although it helps having crooked lawyer Ben Donovan (Danny Johnson) at his side.
Season 3 of “Daredevil” is a game of chess between the devil and the Kingpin, with the highly anticipated arrival of classic villain Bullseye (Wilson Bethel) serving as Fisk’s cunning key piece in the match. And there’s no superhero favoritism here. Most of the time Daredevil is outwitted, outmatched and outclassed in the execution of psychological and physical jabs.
Cox’s return as Matt Murdock is no surprise after he supposedly “died” in “The Defenders” series last summer while fighting alongside Marvel’s other streaming superheroes, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones. Season 3 opens with those closest to him, Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) and Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson), believing he really did perish. But mourning turns into frustration and rage when Matt reveals himself as not only still alive, but wanting nothing to do with the two friends that helped him hold on to what little humanity he had left in his world of superpowered chaos.
What is a surprise, though, is Matt going back to his basic, all-black Daredevil suit and it not being an optical disturbance to the show. Yes, this is coming from the same guy who has been griping for two years about how Iron Fist has yet to show up in his superhero duds, but there’s something about Daredevil in black that is brutally appropriate. It also shows the strength of Season 3′s story that the plot doesn’t have to lean on the mask, red lenses and horns.
Though Cox is every bit the Daredevil in black as he trains himself back to 100 percent fighting-capacity after suffering critical physical damage in “The Defenders,” his top superhero moment ironically comes while he’s suited up as Matt Murdock. While on a jail visit looking for information on the Kingpin, he’s identified as an enemy of Fisk and the scene brews into the now always-expected “hallway fight” scenes that Netflix’s Marvel shows are known for. With no mask to hide behind, the blind rage in Matt’s face as he defends himself is on full display, and Cox delivers a definitive and unmatched Daredevil moment.
The only person helping Matt stay in the light as darkness consumes him is Sister Maggie (Joanne Whalle), the nun at Matt’s church where he is hiding out. “Born Again” loyalists will scream that Maggie is the mother of Matt in the comics, but it is unclear if the show is going that route. It certainly seems so in a season that is designed to make Matt suffer in every corner of his life. A dash of maternal strife seems like a key ingredient to what “Daredevil” is cooking.
Perhaps most loyal to the comic series is the spot-on performance by D’Onofrio as Fisk. D’Onofrio takes command of his role as the Kingpin this season, channeling a subdued but apparent rage, barely held back on a leash by one-step-ahead-of-everyone cruel calculations. Once the trademark white blazer comes on, you’re looking at a man who could sit at a table with Thanos and walk away with no perspiration.
The Daredevil/Kingpin battle is such a main course that Bullseye’s arrival is just a dessert of riches. Bethel gives us a look at the type of obsession that can be concentrated into a kinetic fury that makes anything around him a deadly weapon. This is the matchup fans have been waiting for and it doesn’t disappoint, taking place parallel to the mind games of the Kingpin, who is determined to make Daredevil public enemy No. 1 in an effort to rehabilitate his own image as a man of crime. Bullseye’s presence also gets the clock ticking as to whether Woll’s Karen Page will survive this season, given how fate intertwines them in the comics.
Lost in the excitement of “Daredevil’s” return is the realization that this is the first new season in 2½ years. And the show has never been better than it is right now.