This binge review contains spoilers for Daredevil Season 3, Episode 7 to 9. Not caught up? Read our spoiler-free review of the opening chapters here.
The third season of Daredevil continues to impress as it passes the mid-way point and heads into its home stretch. It is, as the saying goes, all killer and no filler. Episodes 7, 8 and 9 are packed with plot revelations, fan-pleasing fight sequences, compelling character development and superb performances from the entire cast.
Episode 7 (Aftermath) deals with the aftermath of Bullseye’s horrific attack on the Bulletin. It turns out that Ellison (the Bulletin’s bearded editor) is still alive, which is a huge relief, because he’s a great supporting character and effectively Daredevil’s J. Jonah Jameson (albeit not as hot-headed). The bad news is that he’s mad as hell and he sacks Karen when she won’t reveal Daredevil’s secret identity.
That sets up a terrific run of episodes for Karen, and Deborah Ann Woll once again knocks it out of the park, with a stunning performance that’s almost painful to watch (her post-crying face delivers an emotional punch all on its own). She has a number of great moments, whether it’s calling her estranged father after her brush with death at the Bulletin (she floats the idea of visiting him and his refusal hits her hard, when she’s already at her lowest), or, in a supremely tense sequence in Episode 9 (Revelations), going entirely rogue and visiting Fisk at his penthouse, in the hopes of provoking him into attacking her, so the FBI will be forced to put him away.
Woll and D’Onofrio are arguably the two best actors on the show, and it’s a treat to see them go properly head to head in their confrontation, especially when Karen clearly rattles Fisk by confessing that she killed his beloved right-hand man, Wesley, back in Season 1. She also reveals that she spoke to his mother, but when that doesn’t get the desired result, she goes for the jugular. However, Fisk lands a blow of his own, correctly interpreting her silence when questioned as confirmation that Matt Murdock is Daredevil.
The Born Again storyline of the comics (which Season 3 is partly based on) has a drug-addicted Karen selling Matt’s secret identity (which eventually lands in the Kingpin’s hands) to buy a heroin fix, so this is a nice way of referencing that key plot point, even if the audience knows that Fisk is already aware of Matt’s identit. Karen’s actions also tie into one of the show’s main themes, that of facing your fears – while there’s no question that what she’s doing is incredibly stupid, it’s also incredibly brave. Ominously, Episode 9 ends with Fisk ordering her death, and the next episode is called, simply, “Karen”. They wouldn’t kill her off though… would they?
Karen revealing her part in Wesley’s death isn’t the only revelation in this batch of episodes. We also learn that Fisk’s control goes much, much deeper than previously suspected. Prior to this point in the season, it had been difficult to get a handle on FBI Agent Ray Nadeem’s (Jay Ali) function in the show. We knew he was naïve and getting unwittingly played by Fisk, but we suspected (through the details of his family life and his interactions with his boss) that his heart was in the right place. These three episodes bring Nadeem’s character into sharp focus, as the penny finally drops for him as to just how far Fisk’s manipulation goes.
There’s a mini-arc at play here. Episode 7 begins with a hint of suspicion on Nadeem’s part, as he walks through Fisk’s penthouse apartment and becomes suspicious of the increasingly lavish decorations. There are shocks for the audience, too – previously, we knew Fisk had at least one or two FBI agents in his pocket and that he was able to push Dex into becoming Bullseye. However, we soon learn that he has his own private room, invisible from FBI surveillance, from which he, in turn, has camera surveillance on several different people, including his own security team. However, that’s nothing compared to the shock in store for Nadeem in Episode 9, when – in a moment clearly lifted from a key scene in L.A. Confidential – Nadeem’s boss shoots and kills someone in front of him, immediately framing him for the murder and telling him that he works for Fisk now. It’s an audacious, dizzying rug pull, as shocking for the audience as it is for Nadeem, and it makes Fisk that much more terrifying, knowing that he’s been pulling all the strings all along.
In addition to his experiences with Fisk, Nadeem becomes more central to the storyline through his unexpected alliance with Matt. After Matt learns from Melvin Potter (more on that in a moment) that the fake Daredevil was an FBI agent, he teams up with Nadeem to investigate Dex. That leads to a thrilling action sequence where Dex attacks Daredevil and Nadeem from a distance, after finding them in his apartment, with Nadeem getting shot in the stomach in the process (a bullet wound he somewhat bizarrely doesn’t seek any hospital treatment for, despite it bleeding profusely over the next couple of episodes). The team-up scenes are a lot of fun, not least because they allow us to experience Daredevil’s powers through Nadeem’s eyes, smelling Dex on the suit they find, using his super-hearing to crack a safe, and so on.
As for Melvin Potter (Matt Gerald), his appearance here (as the man who made the Daredevil suit) leads to a fight that comics fans have been waiting for ever since he first appeared back in Season 1. Potter’s alter-ego in the comics is the super-villain Gladiator, whose costume comes equipped with a pair of deadly spinning circular saws. Here, Potter – having already created the bespoke Daredevil suit for Bullseye – is manipulated by Fisk into luring Daredevil into a trap, which leads to a thrilling fight where – yes! – Potter finally gets to use those circular saw blades, even if they’re not actually attached to a costume.
The final revelation involves another story point from Born Again, namely Matt discovering that Sister Maggie (Joanne Whalley) is his mother. We’re treated to her backstory in flashback, which makes her sympathetic to the audience, but the revelation hits Matt hard, as he realises that Father Lantom (Peter McRobbie) has been hiding that information all along. Matt’s identity crisis is a central element in this season and this new information sends him into a tailspin.
A key part of that is an issue tackled back in Season 1 – the idea that Fisk is so powerful and so dangerous that the only way to stop him is to kill him. Episode 9 ends with Matt poised to kill Fisk, but he’s halted in his tracks when he learns, in the episode’s cliffhanger, of an imminent attempt on Karen’s life, raising the hope that he can still be brought back from the brink.
Episodes 7 to 9 sustain the momentum built up by the first half of the season and continue to deliver thrilling action scenes, terrific performances and an increasingly tense plot, with high stakes for each of the characters. Can Daredevil’s third season sustain this level of quality as it heads into the finale? It’s looking increasingly likely.
All episodes of Marvel’s Daredevil: Season 1 to 3 are available to watch on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.