Allen Strickland: Welcome, true believers, to another Lewton Bus Fireside Chat (see our previous versions about Jack Ryan), where we gush and ramble about the latest big thing in streaming media. Today we’re kicking off a series of conversations about the show of the moment, Daredevil, which just premiered season 3. With me today are Tanner Volz and HM Flores, and together we are going to dive into the first three episodes of the latest season for the man without fear.
I want to start with each of us talking about our expectations going into the season, and how the first three episodes interacted with those expectations. What surprised you, what did you see coming?
Tanner Volz: I had no idea what to expect after the long haul from season 2 through The Defenders. I didn’t love season 2 or Defenders, though both had their moments – mostly I was hoping for a bit more of the more deliberate pacing and character work that I loved in the first season.
Allen: An understandable hope. Season two and The Defenders were a bit more relentless in their pacing and while many people loved the way they broke down the season, the lack of a single consistent throughline does change things with regards to the character journeys and the pacing. What about you, HM?
H.M. Flores: The first two seasons of Daredevil are some of my favorite comic book adaptations, and I love what Charlie Cox has done with the character, so my expectations were quite high. And I liked The Defenders a lot as well. The first three episodes had some of my favorite content in the season. The exchanges between Matt and Sister Maggie were delightful to watch. How their views of religion and the world itself make them grow and understand each other.
Allen: Yeah, an interesting thing about this season is how deep it dives into the characters especially early on. I’d argue that every single character, save maybe Fisk, has a much bigger arc this season than they had in the past. Matt, in particular, goes on a pretty large journey, even if we’re just looking within the confines of the first three episodes. He’s wounded, physically, mentally, and spiritually at the start of the season, and his journey back to himself is a long one. I particularly love how they deal with his struggles over (temporarily) losing the powers by which he had come to define himself.
Tanner: He’s in retreat, and this creates a unique dynamic; the supporting players immediately step onto the stage as equals. I’m not one of the folks who disliked Foggy from the outset (his hair aside) but right off the bat he (and his sweet new haircut) is a lead player, Karen’s arc is seeded immediately, and most importantly for me, Wilson Fisk is elevated right back to the fore where he belongs – he is as essential as Matt to the core energy of the show, at least as it was originally conceived.
Allen: Fisk’s return really is key. There are some great Daredevil stories that don’t feature the character, but the vast majority are built around the relationship between Fisk and Matt, and the interaction of their public faces and their darker sides.
HM: I like that the show delves deeper into Karen and Foggy’s familiar lives and how they inform who they are. Although it takes a little too long to see how they pay off in the large scheme of things. Vincent D’Onofrio, as usual, is a blast to watch, but I thought the dynamic he brings to the table wasn’t all that different from his season 1 arc.
Allen: That is the one thing with Fisk stories, once he learns Matt’s secret, their dynamic reaches a weird level of homeostasis. They occasionally exchange power, but it often moves back to the mean, and their power struggle.
I do want to spend a little bit of time talking about the primary two new characters this season FBI Agents Ray Nadeem, and Benjamin Poindexter, a character comic fans might know better as Bullseye. One thing we mentioned upthread is how all the major characters are equal drivers of the story this season and these two are no exception.
HM: Dex’s introduction is for the ages. In just a few seconds, you know he’s someone with a murky moral code. Sure, he’s saving Fisk and taking down the Albanian commandos. But in the process, he ignores the commandos’ plead to surrender in the most brutal way possible. And considering the massacre they just caused, you can see where’s him coming from. Not going to lie, it was pretty cathartic. And at the same time you can’t help but think “yikes!”
Allen: Dex’s intro is some John Wick level shenanigans and I am here for it.
Tanner: Dex rules from his first seconds on screen. I really, really dig his character – the loner supersoldier type person always appeals to me for some reason, see also: Person of Interest. Also, Sister Maggie immediately appealed to me. My impression of her relationship with Matt was maybe a little… problematic. I thought maybe he was ready for some inappropriate nun love which, well, I’ll shut up about that topic.
Allen: Yeah, that may be a byproduct of having not read enough comics there Tanner!
Tanner: EXACTLY. Nadeem also has some sweet hair.
Allen: It’s quite the impressive hairdo.
HM: Unfortunately, Ray Nadeem was the weak link for me. In theory, the idea of exploring the people who are directly affected by Fisk’s transgressions is a noble one. But his content was mostly procedural exposition rather than the meaty thematic content we see in the other characters.
Allen: I kind of disagree but I can see why his story might not appeal.
Tanner: From a plot perspective it’s all there, but I did take a while to empathize as fully as the story expected me too, I think. In the early episodes I just take it on faith that it will develop into something worthwhile. I do like him, though.
So, Karen! I absolutely adore her all the way through the show – and I’m relieved that she’s 100% out from under any love triangles etc. It put a damper on her development in the early days of the show.
HM: Karen and Foggy are already in charge of the legal minutiae in the show, so Ray’s subplot was kind of redundant for that.
Allen: Karen’s arc is interesting in that they really had to fully reinvent the character for the show, as the Karen of the comics is problematic to say the least. So her arc is some of the most original work you’ll find in one of these stories and it’s pretty fantastic. Her journey to self-empowerment, filled with fits and starts though it might be, is one of the best narrative through lines of the whole series. And in these first few episodes we see hints of that. Karen is a bulldog of a reporter. She zeroes in on something and doesn’t let go until she gets her story.
And Fisk is THE story for her.
Tanner: Yeah her drive to get out the story is really compelling – who doesn’t love a hero journalist story? And, I find it moving that she’s inhabited her mentor’s shoes so completely and continues to honor his memory. In the first season I thought Editor guy [Ellison] was a massive dbag but, like any good Editor character, you figure out that he’s all about the tough love.
Allen: [Ellison] is great. We should also probably talk a bit about Foggy, because he really comes into his own in these first few episodes. Being rich and semi-powerful suits Foggy. He’s not in Matt’s shadow anymore and he’s thriving.
Tanner: His suits are occasionally almost, just barely, Hannibal-level. Somehow, now that he’s seriously confident and knows his own value, he’s much more appealing. Or, well, of course he is. Confident people always are.
HM: He’s rich and living the good New York life. But at the same time, he can’t detach himself from his relatively modest roots. He wants to get over Matt’s “death” but he just can’t.
Tanner: He always yearns for his college days, basically. Which is sweet, mostly. He loves his buddy.
Allen: Foggy’s living the life for sure. He’s even in what appears to be a shockingly healthy relationship with Marci, who somehow turned into a secret weapon for this show.
Tanner: I DID NOT EXPECT THAT AT ALL.
HM: Even in the intimate scenes in his apartment with Marci, Elden Henson acts like Foggy doesn’t feel completely comfortable in the transition.
Tanner: Marci was played for run-of-the-mill blondeness originally. Thankfully, those days are over.
Allen: So, we can’t wrap up without talking about a few more key things, particularly Matt, and the fantastically creepy reveal regarding Dex at the end of episode three. Let’s start with Matt and work our way to that big twist.
Matt’s emotional state in this season, especially early on, was something I didn’t see coming. The death of Elektra and the loss of his powers left him completely unmoored.
Tanner: Yeah, going into hiding was a dramatically interesting choice and risked alienating audiences – we generally prefer our heroes to pick themselves up and pretend everything is fine. I like that the show partially just stuck him in a basement, which mirrors where he is psychologically.
HM: There’s one particular beat that really hurts in Matt’s process. When he asks Sister Maggie what would she do if she wasn’t able to fulfill her call as a nun, implying that Matt’s call was being Daredevil and the loss of his powers is stopping him. It consolidates the idea that the vigilante has overtaken the lawyer.
Allen: Yeah he clearly came to define himself by his powers. Which in turn, when he thinks he’s lost them, causes him to define himself by his disability, and he’s shockingly horrible at dealing with that.
Tanner: Yeah, it’s rough – the idea that all he is, is the devil, is the blind ass-whooper – I get it, I relate to this. You want to be more than just your body and your public self (I relate to it because I am also a superhero living in a church basement).
HM: Dealing with an emotional crisis of this magnitude takes time and effort. And the fact that the show takes said time and effort in portraying the process is one of its biggest strengths.
Allen: Ok, so before we get to final thoughts, we gotta talk about that Dex reveal.
Tanner: The Dex reveal kicks ass.
Allen: Up until that moment Dex reads as just some conflicted FBI guy who resents the fact that superheroes get praised for doing what he wished he could do. But then right as we’re expecting the story to go one way, we get this big reveal that this girl that he talks about that helps him cope with all of his work stress is just some girl that he’s stalking and it’s the creepiest thing ever.
You instantly go from “he’s conflicted” to “uh oh, he’s crazy”
Tanner: From a dramatic perspective it’s brilliant. And it’s why he’s one of my favorite characters in the Marvel TV enterprise.
HM: Makes perfect sense considering that his whole gist is acquiring power from keeping his distance.
Tanner: Absolutely. He can’t do anything up close.
Allen: I guarantee you that adult Dex has never had a real human relationship. The man is incapable of closing the distance between himself and others.
Ok, final thoughts on the first three episodes?
Tanner: Just that they are so good, and that there is so much more goodness to come. I get a little gushy about this season.
HM: A generally solid start. Especially everything inside the church, which is almost a character in and of itself.
Tanner: Indeed it is!
Allen: The church stuff is dynamite, as is the season as a whole, but we’ll get to that. These first three episodes of this season of Daredevil are a pretty fantastic example of how to set the table properly for what turns out to be an incredibly thrilling journey.