DAREDEVIL S3 Advance Review: “The Devil Of Hell’s Kitchen Is Back And He’s Never Been Better”

DAREDEVIL S3 Advance Review: “The Devil Of Hell’s Kitchen Is Back And He’s Never Been Better”

Marvel & Netflix’s Daredevil returns this Friday for its long-awaited third season, and it's reasonable to wonder whether the series is a return to form or if it's lost a step. Well, I have some good news.

After over two-and-a-half years, Marvel/Netflix’s flagship series finally returns this Friday for its long-awaited third season and it's only natural to wonder whether the Man Without Fear picks up right where he left off, or if he’s lost a step after The Defenders. Let me assure you right now that there’s no reason to worry: the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen is back and he’s never been better.

*The following review contains mild spoilers from the first six episodes of Daredevil season three.*

Daredevil season three picks up almost immediately after the events of The Defenders miniseries by revealing how Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) managed to cheat death at Midland Circle. Without spoiling exactly how he survived, he does manage to reach out to Father Lantom (Peter McRobbie), who takes him back to the orphanage where he grew up before he's quickly reunited with the woman that raised him: Sister Maggie (Joanne Whalley).

The story then takes a pretty significant time jump as Maggie, over the course of several months, helps Matt with his unorthodox rehabilitation, which is quite a tall order considering how hard-headed her patient can be. Not making the situation any easier is the fact that Matt is not only in a terrible place physically with his powers on the fritz, but he’s in an even worse spot spiritually as he’s lost his faith in God after what happened to both Elektra (Élodie Yung) and Stick (Scott Glenn). He soon begins to question if the world really needs Matt Murdock or if everyone would be better off with only the Devil.

Elsewhere, Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) has been living the good life behind bars, but he’s put on high alert when he learns that the FBI is looking to hold Vanessa Marianna (Ayelet Zurer) accountable for his crimes, which isn’t going to fly with the Kingpin of Crime. After a powerful monologue to veteran FBI Agent Rahul Nadeem (Jay Ali), he decides to cut a deal with the FBI to ensure her safety, but things, as they typically are with the Kingpin, are not entirely what they seem and something much more nefarious may be afoot.

Charlie Cox has always been excellent in the dual roles of Matt Murdock and Daredevil, but this season has the potential to be his finest hour yet. He’s no longer playing the Murdock we’ve come to know and love over the past three years, he’s portraying a changed man that’s finally been broken by the evils the world has thrown his way - and Cox brings pure fire and electricity to his scenes as both Murdock and the Devil. When he ultimately returns to his crime-fighting ways with his makeshift black suit, he retains his moral compass, but no longer relies on God to have his back if anything goes awry. After this coming season, Charlie Cox will be as synonymous with his character as Hugh Jackman, Chris Evans, or Robert Downey Jr. are to theirs. He’s just that good.

After sitting out the majority of season two, Vincent D’Onofrio reprises his role as the Kingpin, bringing back his own blend of raw animal magnetism to the part. He’s a force of unspeakable evil, but when he’s onscreen, you can’t help but watch and listen intently to every single word that’s coming out of his mouth, regardless of whether it’s a bold-faced lie or a rare moment of sincerity. Unlike the first season, it seems Fisk has finally found a way to keep his temper in check, but just when you might think he may have truly gone straight for love, the show begins to pull back the curtain and we begin to notice exactly how the Kingpin has been pulling everyone’s strings all along. Quite frankly, it’s an amazing performance from D’Onofrio and makes his inevitable rematch with the Man Without Fear all that more anticipated.

Now, as for the secondary antagonist, Bullseye (Wilson Bethel) is equal parts badass and complete goddamn psychopath. While Cox and D’Onofrio are undoubtedly the showstoppers, Bethel nearly manages to steal the show from both of them with his portrayal of a chilling descent from the seemingly well-adjusted FBI Agent into the completely unhinged master marksman. It’s actually one of the more heartbreakingly real storylines as we watch a man that’s worked so hard to be good and has taken all the right steps after living through a rough childhood, only to be betrayed by the system he believed in, ultimately giving into his darker inhibitions. He’s the most exciting addition to the third season and his first brutal showdown with Daredevil is an easy highlight of the first half (on par with Daredevil vs. Punisher from S2) and the body count is a lot higher than you might expect. 

Newcomers Joanne Whalley and Jay Ali are both welcome additions to the cast, each bringing something different to the series. Whalley is easily one of the best parts of the premiere and her dynamic with Cox is one of the best relationships on the series. She may not be Matt’s actual mother, but she essentially fills that role with a dry humor and heart that is much needed to counterbalance the suddenly dark and dour Matt Murdock. It’s also nice to meet someone that knew Matt before his Daredevil days and get some valuable insight on what made him into the man we met in season one. Ali is an interesting addition as well, playing the well-intentioned, but seriously in-debt, FBI Agent Rahul Nadeem, who has been tasked with serving as Fisk’s handler. At first glance, it seemed a little too obvious where his storyline was probably going, but after six episodes, it feels like the showrunners may be looking to avoid that classic trope by depicting a good-hearted government agent - although it is still relatively early in the process and the Kingpin has only just begun to set his plan in motion, so who knows which side Mr. Nadeem will be on by the end of the year.

In a season with practically everyone descending into darkness, Elden Henson continues to inject optimism and levity into the series as Foggy Nelson and will be on his own unique journey this season, potentially on the verge of taking on a new role that could do a lot of good for Hell’s Kitchen if all goes according to plan. However, with the Kingpin placing a target on his back, that may be easier said than done. As for Karen Page, well if there is one small downside to the season, it’s that the show continues to have a slight Karen problem, albeit it’s not as pronounced as it was last season. Deborah Ann Woll continues to excel in the role, and plays the part of a spiraling, paranoid reporter extremely well, but it’s sometimes hard not to feel as if the character hasn’t overstayed her welcome on the series. She along with Foggy are both still mourning Matt when the season picks up, but while Foggy tries his best to move on and works to build a life with Marci (Amy Rutberg), Karen is still very much convinced that Matt is alive - which she’s not wrong about -  but it did feel like a waste of a subplot early on when there were possibly more compelling directions to go with her character, who spends much of the first half in a downward spiral and wallowing in the renewed guilt of killing James Wesley (Toby Leonard Moore) in season one. The early part of the season does also offer some hints about Karen’s past, so it does seem likely that a future episode will fully delve into her troubled upbringing, which could make for an interesting parallel with her present-day self as she struggles with her innermost demons and potentially heads toward another descent into madness.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but the fight scenes are once again top-notch, arguably some of the best superhero fights ever put on television. As I said before, Daredevil vs. Bullseye is well worth the wait. Bullseye's initial introduction is also one of my favorite moments in season three with a fantastic buildup that is subtle, but extremely intense, making it one of the best entries for a Marvel character ever. 
As expected, there is another version of the popular “hallway fight” sequence but it’s a little different than the ones that have come before and almost has a video game feel to it, which makes it all that much better. To describe it, it’s probably a cross between the original hallway fight, the stairwell fight from season two and the Punisher prison fight. It’s just awesome. 

After middling follow-up seasons for Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist earlier this year, Daredevil season three is a true return to form for both Marvel and Netflix, which is good news for CBM fans everywhere. This season, which draws inspiration from the comic storyline "Born Again," is relentless from the get-go and absolutely does not disappoint as the Man Without Fear returns from the dead to bring down one of the most iconic villains in Marvel lore. The fights and performances are all among Marvel’s best and anytime Charlie Cox, Vincent D’Onofrio, or Wilson Bethel is onscreen, it’s absolute must-watch television. Don't miss it this Friday.

"Marvel's Daredevil" is a live action series that follows the journey of attorney Matt Murdock, who in a tragic accident was blinded as a boy but imbued with extraordinary senses. Murdock sets up practice in his old neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen, New York where he now fights against injustice as a respected lawyer by day and masked vigilante at night.

Daredevil features:
Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock/Daredevil
Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page
Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson
Vincent D'Onofrio as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin
Wilson Bethel as Benjamin "Dex" Poindexter/Bullseye
Jay Ali as Rahul Nadeem
Joanne Whalley as Sister Maggie
Amy Rutberg as Marci Stahl
Danny Johnson as Benjamin Donovan
Annabella Sciorra as Rosalie Carbone
Geoffrey Cantor as Mitchell Ellison
Peter McRobbie as Father Lantom

Daredevil returns October 19
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