Daredevil got its third showrunner in as many seasons with Erik Oleson taking over behind the scenes, but luckily for the show, he’s somebody who happens to be both a fan of the character and someone who could see what was working and what wasn’t. As a result, the third season got back to basics somewhat, and gave us a much needed break from all those ninjas.
One of the things that worked about this show originally was of course Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin, who was sidelined in the show’s second season due to being incarcerated (he did get one cool episode where he confronted Matt over the visitor’s table and nearly crushed him). He’s back in a big way this time, manipulating his way into the role of FBI informant to lessen his sentence and bolster his escape, soon enough holding every decent NYC law enforcement agent in his pocket once more. Oleson makes a lot of contemporary, real world parallels this season, questioning whether evil really does win out in the end, as Kingpin corrupts everyone and everything, leaving Matt to lose all faith in the system as he pretty much abandons his career as a lawyer.
The show doesn’t draw on a lot of previous season plot threads, only briefly referencing Elektra and reviving Matt from the whole Defenders building collapse as he wakes up in a church and befriends a tough nun (Joanna Whalley) who harbors familial secrets regarding Matt’s birth. He spends a decent amount of time hiding out and away from his friends this season, never once stepping back into the Daredevil suit (the black mask outfit makes a resurgence instead). Karen Page gets more focus, even getting a whole episode to herself, as we see the backstory that drove her out of her hometown (not that interesting), and Foggy finally gets a decent subplot, as he attempts to run for DA and stands up for the rule of law agains the likes of the Trump-like figure in Kingpin.
There’s also a new origin story developed for Bullseye, a fan favorite DD villain, with Wilson Bethel stepping in as Ben Poindexter, an FBI agent with a real penchant for throwing things. This inherently silly “superpower” actually leads to some pretty decent action scenes, as Bullseye and Daredevil face off in several episodes with some of the best fight choreography of the series. D’Onofrio’s imposing presence still dominates as Fisk though, and even a familiar (for these shows) plot regarding an anguished government agent (this time it’s Jay Ali as poor Agent Nadeem) has a pretty good payoff in the end. The pacing and timing of revelations are improved this season, and even though I didn’t hate Season 2 as much as a lot of people did (what can I say- yes there were too many ninjas, but Elektra is a far better match for Matt than Karen and she wasn’t utilized enough, and the Punisher was compelling in his own right), there’s little doubt this was the show’s best season to date.
Unfortunately, with Netflix on the rampage against all things Marvel, we won’t be seeing any more seasons of Daredevil (or Luke Cage or Iron Fist, very soon to be followed by The Punisher and Jessica Jones). The show ended on a solid note though, no cliffhangers involved as Matt, Karen and Foggy decided to rebuild their law office with Fisk safely behind bars again (for now). It’s too bad- with a competent and enthusiastic showrunner at the helm, the potential was nearly fully realized, and I would have loved to see what Oleson has up his sleeve for future seasons.