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Daredevil season 3 adapts a classic comic arc to great effect

Kingpin returns, ‘Poindexter’ steals the Daredevil identity, and Netflix’s superhero show goes back to what worked

bullseye as daredevil in daredevil season 3 on netflix David Lee/Netflix

Out of Marvel’s Netflix superhero shows, Daredevil has not only been a fan favorite, but simply one of its strongest performers. When season one was released in 2015, it seemed like everyone was enamored with Charlie Cox’s tortured portrayal of “Ol’ Hornead” and his brutal fight scenes (especially the now-legendary hallway one). Most of all, Daredevil’s first season reaped acclaim for its incredibly complex villain, Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin, brought to empathetic life by Vincent D’Onofrio.

Daredevil season two and The Defenders introduced a bit of Daredevil fatigue. I love ninjas — I mean, who doesn’t really? — but I got tired of the Hand, the ruthless criminal organization that was interwoven throughout multiple Marvel shows, who lacked the charisma and complicated nature that Fisk embodied so well during season one. And as much as I looked forward to The Defenders as a culmination of my efforts for watching all of Marvel’s street-level superheroes, it underwhelmed.

Now that season three of Daredevil is premiering Oct. 19, what can we expect? How will this season make Daredevil feel fresh again, and not just a rehash of what we’ve seen before?

Having watched the first six episodes of season three, I’m here to tell you, Daredevil has found its footing again, taking what worked best in season one and exploring those concepts in different ways. Basically: everything old is new again.

[Ed. note: This post contains mild spoilers for the first six episodes of Daredevil season three.]

The Kingpin is back

One of the strongest components in season one was Wilson Fisk, and new showrunner Erik Oleson has brought him back in full force, setting him up as a changed man, one whose time in prison has reformed him. But he’s not free, at least not in the first six episodes. Though he manages to get out of jail, he’s still under FBI custody as part of a deal he made to provide them with leads to bring down Hell’s Kitchen’s most notorious bad guys in exchange for keeping Vanessa safe from imprisonment and the repercussions from the criminals he’s helping to put away. And there are moments in the first six episodes that I feel sorry for Fisk, a compliment to the complexity the show’s writers and D’Onofrio bring to the character. But as the season progresses, all is not what it seems.

vincent d’onofrio as fisk kingpin in daredevil season 3 Nicole Rivelli/Netflix

Born Again ... sorta

Considered by many comic book nerds, including myself, to be one of the best Daredevil stories in the history of the character, Frank Miller’s 1986 story arc Born Again sees Matt Murdock slowly lose his mind as the the Kingpin systematically destroys his life. One of the elements that makes this story so famous is Sister Maggie, the nun who helps nurse Matt back to health after Fisk beats him to near death. Maggie, it turns out, is Matt’s long-lost mother. This season takes elements of this story, much in the same way season 2 took elements of Miller’s “Death of Elektra” in Daredevil #181, and adapted them for the show.

It’s not a well-hidden secret, especially since this trailer came out, that Bullseye (Wilson Bethel) will be this season’s main baddie, other than Fisk. One of Daredevil’s most revered enemies, to comics nerds Bullseye is forever known as the man who murdered Elektra in Daredevil #181. In the comics, he doesn’t have a definitive origin story, but has gone by the alias “Benjamin Poindexter,” which allows season three’s writers creative freedom to frame an origin that befits the show’s current plot.

So far, in the first half of the season, the only things Bullseye and his comic book counterpart have in common is their name, their mental instability and their deadly aim. As you’ll see as the season plays out, Poindexter’s mental descent to becoming Bullseye is riveting and downright creepy, which makes him a Fisk-level villain; brutal and complex. Bad guys are always more interesting when you really play with their psychology, and this season explores Poindexter’s mental instability in a fascinating way, sprinkling elements from the comics into a new origin, setting up Poindexter as a hero FBI agent manipulated by Fisk.

New allies ...?

As season three begins, Murdock is in no shape to fight crime. He barely survived the events at Midland Circle in The Defenders, and he’s not just bruised and battered physically, but mentally, as well. But he has the help of Sister Maggie (Joanne Whalley). Maggie helps nurse Murdock back to health physically, and challenges him mentally when he’s all but given up. In the show, it’s something of a reunion; Maggie helped raise Matt in the orphanage he was sent to after his father was murdered. This wasn’t the case in Born Again, as Maggie has become a nun after abandoning her family. Season three could reveal Whalley’s Maggie to be the long lost mother of Matt — or she’ll simply be a mother-like figure. Whatever the case, she adds an interesting twist to the drama.

Also new to the mix is FBI agent Rahul “Ray” Nadeem, who’s up to his eyeballs in debt after helping his brother pay for his sister-in-law’s cancer treatment. To try to dig himself out, he becomes more ambitious in his work, taking more of a leadership role in the FBI. Nadeem is integral to the plot this season, as he’s the one who builds a rapport with Fisk, getting him out of jail and under FBI protective custody. He’s an empathetic character to be sure, who’s just trying to protect his family. But his eagerness to rise in the ranks to help his family is blinding him to Fisk’s true intentions.

daredevil in black costume in daredevil season 3 David Lee/Netflix

Return of the black suit

This season, Matt is back in black. After his red (or burnt sienna, if you will) costume is destroyed, Murdock adopts his original black costume again, but with a twist. Because he’s being treated at the orphanage he grew up in, which is in a church, he must make do with what is available. And in a Catholic church, what works better than the religious habit of the nun, a black tunic with a black and white coif. It’s a nice nod to Matt’s religion; the backbone of Daredevil’s character.

Speaking of religion, Matt’s relationship with God looms large this season, and it’s in shambles. In season one, Matt believed that he gained his heightened senses for a reason: to be a warrior for God. But as a result of the physical trauma he received from the explosion at Midland Circle, Matt’s heightened senses don’t work, leaving him a regular blind man. He feels God has taken away what made him so special. But what Matt is forgetting is that it wasn’t necessarily his superpowers that made him a hero, it was his strong Catholic faith.

On top of that, Matt fully embraces his Daredevil identity, focusing on the devil part. Still believed to be dead, he abandons his friends, Foggy and Karen, and shuns his Matt Murdock identity. As Fisk begins to realize that Matt and Daredevil are the same person, he sets out to destroy him. At the same time, Matt wrestles with whether or not he should kill Fisk, once and for all.

What I’m looking for in the rest of the season

I really love what I’ve seen so far in the first six episodes. Here’s what I want to see for the rest of this season:

  1. Maggie turns out to be Matt’s mother. Because the show hasn’t really touched on what happened to her. And to not have this happen would really be sacrilege to Daredevil comics fans.
  2. A new Daredevil costume. I admit, this is where I get nerdy. I want to see a brighter red, more comics-accurate costume with Matt’s classic double-D emblem emblazoned his his chest, along with expandable, grappling hook baton. With Matt fully embracing his Daredevil identity this season, this creative choice really would make sense, especially since his last costume got mixed reviews from fans.
  3. Bullseye adopting his comic book symbol. In the comics, Bullseye’s symbol is, not surprisingly, a bullseye. His costume in the comics is cheesy, a black leotard with the blazing-white bullseye symbol on his masked forehead. We don’t have to go quite that accurate. But a nice blend of the comics costume and the grounded, real-life approach would be nice.
  4. Superhero guest star. In Born Again, the Avengers make a guest appearance in the story. I don’t expect that happen, but it would be cool to see Jessica Jones or Luke Cage show up. I expect Danny Rand is off traveling across the world, looking for Orson Randall.

Charlie Moss is a freelance writer based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He has written for The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Slate, Vice, Paste and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @chachimoss.