‘Daredevil 3’ Redeems the Netflix Cinematic Universe in Some Way
Daredevil was facing a mountain of problems going into Season 3. Firstly, the show was coming in right after the giant debacle of The Defenders. Secondly, it had to deal with the mounting criticism of the previous season being overcrowded with characters and plots. Thirdly, the other characters in the show’s cinematic universe were either getting canned or were being heavily criticised for diminishing returns.
While not exactly perfect, Daredevil Season 3 does manage to fix some of the broken elements, squeeze through some serviceable entertainment and redeem the cinematic universe in some way. This is, after all the Iron Man of the Netflix superhero roster, and as the premier superhero out there in Hell’s Kitchen this is a season worth checking out, even if it seems like the series’ swan song.
Season 3 is all about course correction, so the first thing you’ll notice is how condensed the drama is. The stakes are no longer as high as the world coming to an end, but merely a city being corrupted from the inside – a judicious story arc considering what’s happening in America right now. The focus goes back to the heart of all the drama – the camaraderie between Matt Murdock (Cox), Karen (Ann Woll) and Foggy (Elden Henson) and how they come together after years of being torn apart. But most importantly, the show once again delivers the primary component that made us binge the original season in the first place – Vincent D’Onofrio as the villainous Kingpin. It does feel like familiar, cinematic comfort food but maybe that’s all we needed – simplicity.
It takes three episodes for the show to really get going but showrunner Erik Oleson deliberately paces the narrative for dramatic purposes and to set the foundation for future seasons (if any). There are a couple of interesting new characters – FBI agent Nadeem (convincingly played by Jay Ali, who will probably be a big star soon) and his pal Pointdexter (played by former Captain America hopeful Wilson Bethel) whose enigmatic presence teases, then enthrals and then makes you want more of him.
We all knew Kingpin would be busting out of prison soon to run Hell’s Kitchen again, but instead of incorporating a standard issue villain rescue scene (although they do tease this) we get something that you probably wouldn’t guess. The element of surprise, and Kingpin’s unclear tactics work as a much needed boost to the otherwise predictable story beats of a super-villain doing super-villainous things to one up the superhero.
This is once again a dark, pitch black show where everything is bleak and mostly hopeless and humourless - which works both for and against itself. The utter grimness of the show is of course a window into how far Netflix could take things to render adult themed superhero shows, but the lack of sardonic levity from something like Jessica Jones is something the audiences would be craving for after thirteen episodes of streaming cheerlessness.
For the geeks the joy, of course, comes from the show’s incredibly put together fight sequences. If you dug the single take hallway fight from season one, this time there’s a ten minute long single take fight scene set in a prison that will knock your socks off. Moreover, unlike the hallway scene which was digitally stitched together to resemble a single take, the one here is an actual single take that seamlessly blends chaotic alarm gongs, crazy steadicam tracking, insane martial arts, and feral knifing and face pounding. The scene is made even better by the buildup preceding it and the unexpected burst of energy that ignites it.
For all the visual razzle dazzle and the impressive physical and emotional performance once again from Cox, there are downsides. Just when you think the show is getting down to the basics it throws in last minute subplots involving Daredevil and Karen’s backstories, delving into soap opera like family drama. It grates to think that the time could have been utilised in developing Pointdexter’s character, and the relationship between him and Agent Nadeem which could have made the shifting dynamics and the ultimate resolution between the two more powerful.
There is also the question of why Daredevil doesn’t Whatsapp his buddy The Punisher or anyone from the Defenders for help when the chips are down and there seems no way out. The whole ‘I work alone’ aspect of a superhero is fine as a character trait but when the story begins to strain the seams of logic it’s hard to stop questioning a show.
The future of the Netflix Cinematic Universe is unclear now that half the shows from the Defenders have been canceled, but the final image from this show is an exciting indication of how and where things could progress. Even if the Daredevil storyline has run its course Hell’s Kitchen is still a big enough sandbox to play around with, and hopefully we’ll see something new soon.
(Hi there! We will be continuing our news service on WhatsApp. Meanwhile, stay tuned to our Telegram channel here.)