Marvel’s Daredevil has been Netflix’s best superhero show by far. But, after Season 2, I was getting worried about the direction the series was taking. Season 3 has completely alleviated that concern.
Season 2 began to feel like the show was reaching a bit. The characters of Elektra and Frank Castle weren’t as compelling as they could have been. The scale became a bit overwhelming and unbelievable. (It felt like ninjas were appearing out of nowhere to fight the heroes of the show.) And there were just too many loose plot threads left unaccounted for to feel like there was a satisfactory conclusion to the season.
My concerns increased with the development of Netflix’s rendition of The Defenders. Simply by the fact that Netflix’s version of Iron Fist was so lacking (it’s been canceled after two seasons, along with Luke Cage). I was worried that the immaturity exuded by Danny Rand and his series would be the nail in Daredevil’s fictional coffin.
Yet, while the end of The Defenders led the viewer to believe that that narrative was exactly the case, Matt Murdock still managed to do what he does best…survive. So enter Season 3 and voilà, a la Gloria Gaynor, Daredevil is back at it again. But this time the series is, believe it or not, better than ever. Here are 3 reasons why this is the best season of Daredevil yet.
Daredevil’s origins have always involved the church and even theological questions but Season 3 is doing what few web series dare to do: deep dive into theological questions by integrating them into the plot. Admittedly, Daredevil is supposed to be one of the most religious characters in the Marvel Universe having grown up under the care of the St. Agnes Orphanage. Impressively though, instead of shying away from this fact like much of popular media, Netflix has doubled down on focusing on Murdock’s faith and, most significantly, his questioning of it.
Season 3 shows the church as a place of respite for Daredevil doing what churches historically have done best – taking care of his wounds both externally and internally and walking with him to address questions of ultimate meaning. The writers don’t shortcut this important development of Murdock’s character. Instead they show his self-questioning and his mental wrestling of his place within the divine narrative of Scripture. Regardless of what one thinks about where the season ends up, this theological inclusion in the plot is good stuff that religious folks, which comprise the vast amount of the world’s population, will appreciate.
#2 Systemic Plot Development
Unlike season two that left so many unresolved issues in the plot, Season 3 is showing from the beginning that this season is a systemic plunge into the manipulative brilliance of Wilson Fisk. The twists and turns of the season don’t feel forced but instead make the viewer feel like Fisk’s scheming and reach is nearly unstoppable. This season, much like Matt Murdock’s theological quandaries, it won’t be enough for Daredevil and company to simply try and find the obvious way out. They will have to struggle to uncover how far Fisk’s network extends and then make contextual decisions as information is revealed.
What makes the systemic plot development of Season 3 fascinating is that it furthers the development of the characters by forcing them to make decisions in context. As such we learn what the true ethical boundaries are of the main players. What the show does an ever better job of though is explaining how these characters got to be the way that they are currently. Understanding and anticipating their motivations becomes one of the most dynamic elements of series.
We saw some of this in the earlier 2 seasons but it is apparent that the writers took the feedback seriously that more was needed after Season 2. Season 3 takes this to new levels by showing the potential choices and outcomes based on systemic abuse. This extra effort by the writers to intentionally form the backstory of the characters makes Fisk’s manipulation’s even more dastardly and creates empathetic understanding for the viewer. Like all good art, Daredevil 3 then forces the audience to consider how we too were formed and why we do what we do.
Reality Changing Observations:
Q1. What are the best TV series that you know of that openly deal with challenging theological issues?
Q2. Since nearly every superhero deals with questions of ultimate meaning, why do you think that religion isn’t integrated into their narratives more in popular media?
Q3. What work of art, cinematic or otherwise, has most impacted your understanding of yourself?