Diane: Welcome to another Fireside Chat! We are discussing Daredevil season 3, specifically episodes 4 to 6, titled “Blindsided,” “The Perfect Game,” and “The Devil You Know,” respectively. I want to start off with some general thoughts on these three episodes. What worked for you, what didn’t, did they move the needle for the characters and plot in a way that was satisfying?
Ryan: I mean, I kind of have to point to the most brutal, dogged, stressful and well executed scene in any of the Marvel Netflix stuff: The prison fight and escape. It’s high tension and dynamite execution. I’ve never seen anything like the way it maneuvers the pieces based on character. In “Cut Man” in season 1, the ultimate goal is that hero shot of Matt carrying the little boy after spending an episode displaying the lengths he’ll go to for the job. In this one, it’s the dominoes falling on a lot of bad decisions that Matt has made in his hubris. It’s incredible.
Diane: Hubris is basically one of the underlying themes of this season, isn’t it? Just the idea that Matt has pushed God away because he feels God has abandoned him, so he feels the hubris to try to replace Him. It’s pretty decisive how he goes into being reborn as a force of chaos.
Tanner: Yeah, it’s all about Dex for me. His apparent OCD. His loneliness. His PTSD. The show lays him out as a relatable, messed up dude and we want to root for him at first. It’s superb character building particularly for a villain.
Allen: Yeah episodes 4-6 are kinda the Dex show.
Ryan: I also think it does a remarkable job painting how pathetic and alone Dex really is.
Allen: Dex, from his introduction, cuts a pretty fascinating figure on the show but from the end of episode 3 on he really starts to take over the proceedings for long stretches of time.
Diane: He’s such an interesting villain because you see that he didn’t necessarily have to be that way…and yet, he is. Because he shoots those Albanians without hesitation, and even if he wasn’t slicing up pretty girls in his spare time this is still police brutality. I still love Dex though. He’s just such a superb foil for Matt. He’s just as strong, just as fast, deadly with small, common office objects.
Ryan: Matt is barely in episode 5. It’s a deep character examination of Dex. And I like how it turns the comic character on his head.
Allen: They slow roll it but the unraveling of all of his myriad mental health issues combined with the reveals of what he’s really capable of paints such a fascinating and satisfying portrait that when he cuts loose in episode 6 and goes full Bullseye, you’re fully on board.
Ryan: He’s a guy driven by praise. Totally manipulable.
Diane: Funny thing for me is that Dex really does remind me some of Dexter Morgan, who also kept his life in check through a strict structure and faked his interactions.
Ryan: In the comics, the story goes that he kills a guy in a minor league baseball game because he was annoyed that the coach wouldn’t let him quit playing and he was bored. In this, he’s a kid, furious that his praise is being taken away.
Tanner: I haven’t read any of the Bullseye stuff but I’m definitely curious how he plays on the page. I made a crack in our Slack (I got rhymes) about “this guy’s superhero is that he throws stuff really good?” which got me some heat because apparently this is the whole internet’s joke. I didn’t know!
Diane: But where the two really diverged is that Dexter had a family that, on some level, he did care about. Dex truly doesn’t have anyone and it’s so apparent that his loneliness is a tragedy. Even if he’s a murderer.
Ryan: Dex is obsessed with family to a certain extent, as is this entire season of the show.
Tanner: I can see Dexter. Dexter at least zeroed in on other psychos. Dex is just… point me at some people.
Allen: Yeah, Bullseye has always been an odd character from a power base standpoint Tanner, but he’s delightfully cinematic, as episode 6 shows.
Diane: Dex is a weapon, and always has been.
Ryan: I’ve kind of said for a while that Bullseye is the Joker, but interesting. A pure nihilist, driven only by his own reputation. Yeah, I’m coming for Joker. Try and stop me.
Tanner: His stalking is hella creepy and all of his interactions with his obsession are really tense and disturbing.
Diane: I adore that they really went there with Bullseye, that his superpower is throwing things really well and they didn’t try to explain it or get around it at all. The result is just like a boogeyman, John Wick level of scary.
Allen: Well that’s in line with Daredevil being Batman, but interesting (kidding, kidding).
Diane: He’s RED BATMAN.
Ryan: They managed to do the “parallel” thing with Dex and Matt, but actually make it work, and be interesting. Also, for some reason, Daredevil goes full impressionistic in episode 5.
Allen: I LOVE the framing device in episode 5.
Ryan: I quite like it.
Diane: Yeah, and Matt brings up the idea of nature versus nurture and wondering whether the church (and Stick) helped him or was Dex destined to be doomed from the start. I think episode 5 makes it clear that it’s a bit of both.
Tanner: An aside – what’s crazy about this season is that it’s so damn good only one of us has mentioned Hallway Fight 2018. Any other show any other year that’d be all we talk about.
Diane: Should we talk about the incredible prison fight? Because it was incredible.
Ryan: I’m obsessed with Hallway Fight 2018. It’s absolutely astounding.
Tanner: It’s bananas.
Ryan: And the way that episode ends with JUST ONE MORE FAILURE on Matt’s part. Getting driven off a pier in a cab.
Tanner: Matt sucks.
Diane: How dare you.
Tanner: I’m a devil.
Allen: Matt is… mentally unwell for the majority of this season.
Ryan: Matt is at an absolute low point. Using Foggy’s credentials and name in a prison while asking around about the Kingpin. DUDE, MATT.
Allen: It’s pretty fantastic, though ONE TAKE PART 3 isn’t even my favorite sequence of these three episodes.
Tanner: Nor mine!
Diane: The Bulletin attack is horrific.
Tanner: It’s the newsroom massacre which is absolutely stellar. Horrifying as can be.
Allen: The Bulletin attack is my favorite fight of the whole season.
Ryan: Mental unhealth is going around this season.
Diane: For me, it’s taken on a different, more uncomfortable tone given the events of the last week.It was already uncomfortable before, and it was obviously meant to be. But now, it’s a bit different.
Ryan: And yeah, Bullseye v. Bulletin: Dawn of Snowglobes is an excellent and terrifying fight.
Diane: Snowglobes are garbage.
Ryan: Bullseye agrees.
Tanner: When Bullseye lets loose, he is so terrifying. It’s also wonderful to watch Matt develop a strategy in real time – hm this guy is all about distance so I need to get in close.
Allen: I love that in the Bulletin and subsequent fights, we really get to enjoy the clash of styles between Matt and Dex. Matt is good at throwing stuff but stellar at hand to hand, so he tries to close the distance, while Dex is stellar at throwing stuff and good at hand to hand.
Diane: Who would win in a long distance fight, Dex or Frank?
Tanner: Hm. Dex is more… dexterous.
Ryan: That’s a good question. Frank v. Bullseye would be quite something.
Allen: Frank likely would just try and snipe him without Dex being aware. He’s not really about proving himself. Just results.
Diane: I bet Matt would save Dex from Frank’s sniper shot. Then it’d be a three way fight.
Ryan: Given we’ve seen what a ricochet artist Bullseye is, it’d be a toughy.
Tanner: What’s Karen up to in these eps?
Ryan: Getting menaced
Diane: Being terrified, rightfully.
Allen: Trying not to die mostly.
Tanner: Yeah. We feel her fear.
Diane: Karen goes through the ringer, but I like that she’s not a damsel. She’s actively trying to solve some mysteries and get to the truth.
Ryan: I love that Karen immediately knows THIS IS NOT MATT.
Allen: Foggy and Karen both are trying to use legal shenanigans to save the day. And it just keeps failing.
Ryan: So I want to talk about that. Failure. Because this season is full of everyone doing everything they can, and getting wrecked for it.
Tanner: I do love the gradual insights into this rather sweet domestic life Foggy is starting to build for himself. That runs throughout the whole season.
Ryan: Kingpin is absolutely Kingpin from the comics now. He’s completely ahead of everyone.
Tanner: Yeah this is the Last Jedi of seasons. Kingpin is everywhere. They cannot keep up.
Diane: I really like Foggy and always have. I like the idea that he’s not running for DA necessarily to succeed. That failure is in itself a goal, too.
Tanner: Yes, he’s explicit about it.
Ryan: Foggy is ultimately too good a guy to let his ego get ahead of doing good. I love Foggy this season. I always do, but especially this season.
Diane: Yeah, and he’s really taking one to the chin for this too because he’s going to have a Wikipedia entry with “unsuccessful run for District Attorney” to it. And only he, Marci, Matt, and Karen know why he failed.
Tanner: I want Foggy for AG of the United States.
Allen: Happiness suits Foggy.
Ryan: The entire trajectory of the Netflix Marvel U has been about the ascendance of Foggy Bear.
Diane: ALL HAIL FOGGY BEAR.
Allen: I love how that became an endearing nickname and not a condescending insult.
Diane: I like that Marci genuinely loves him and it’s clear in their interactions.
Tanner: Also Foggy’s haircut continues to rule.
Diane: He has great lawyer hair. Those suits! That incredible navy suit he wears at the union meeting!
Ryan: Marci has gone from kind of a beast in season 1 to a character that everyone loves
Allen: Marci is a fantastic character.
Tanner: Marci is the best. She’s super supportive and loving and feisty.
Ryan: Marci and Foggy bring out the absolute best in each other, and it’s clear after all this time.
Allen: Oh and we have to talk about the best line delivery of the season: “Blake Tower is a good man.”
Diane: Marci also has a life and career outside of Foggy. I think a lesser show would have been tempted to involve her even more, to make her a damsel. The Blake Tower character is interesting to me, because he’s more of a symbol than a real person but that’s okay because what this show is really getting at is furthering symbols that will help the city. Imperfect symbols, but worthy ones. Like how Matt had to reclaim the Daredevil symbol for himself.
Tanner: Blake Tower is sort of a power hungry turd.
Ryan: Nobody better lay a hand on Marci.
Tanner: How about our other lead character in these eps, Nadeem?
Diane: Nadeem with the good hair.
Ryan: Nadeem continues to be a wonderful character. He’s absolutely compelling. He’s in a similar trajectory to Matt, in that what he’s doing is driven by his own ego. But you root for Nadeem every second he’s on screen. You want him to win. You want to believe in him.
Diane: He’s got a fragile ego. There’s a moment later in the series where he admits to his own ego as being a fault and a driving force, and it makes you feel for him.
Allen: Nadeem is a well sketched character for sure.
Tanner: Nadeem is torn between professional pride and righteousness. He has the silly idea that you can climb the ladder and hold on to your morals.
Diane: Nadeem is also a good man. He’s just, like Dex, easily manipulatable. You know, “climb the ladder and hold onto your morals” sounds an awful lot like Jack Ryan. That’s right, I went there.
Diane: JACK RYAAAAAAAAAN!
Ryan: Jacked Ryan hangs over a lot of TV for me this year.
Allen: Except Nadeem isn’t quite as incorruptible as Jack. He’s a bit too careerist and it costs him.
Tanner: I love watching Fisk plotting his manipulations. Made me wonder what it took to bring Wesley under his wing before season 1.
Ryan: He actually loved Wesley. I want to know that story.
Tanner: He certainly did. I do too.
Diane: I think that in my mind, he loved Wesley and hung onto him perhaps more than Wesley hung onto Fisk. Wesley certainly would have done anything he asked, but Wesley doesn’t have that lonely boy issue Fisk does.
Allen: Fisk is 20 moves ahead because he’s been playing this game since before everyone else knew the game had started back up.
Ryan: Fisk has been plotting this in jail for years. Ever since Matt came to see him.
Tanner: Fisk probably memorized every FBI agent’s file while he was in the clink.
Diane: Fisk found out how everyone was vulnerable. The only one he couldn’t get to was Matt, not until he confirmed his suspicions.
Ryan: I want to talk a bit about how this span of eps absolutely explodes the normal progression of the show.
Ryan: Usually, Fisk acts, everyone freaks, comes up with a plan, and gets it over the line. But this time, the plan blows the hell up at the Bulletin. They are not prepared for BullsDevil.
Diane: It’s not even important or relevant how he knew Evans would be at the Bulletin. In season 1, that would have been a plot point. Here, we know Fisk has so much power that it’s just a given.
Ryan: Fisk knows all. He has people in his pocket for that. Because, I say again, this show has given us Comics Kingpin. That’s him.
Diane: Yeah, a guy who wields so much power and control he strikes fear into everyone around him.
Allen: Even down to the increasingly seemingly impossible feats of strength.
Ryan: Fisk is an absolute unit. He’s physically dominating to an absurd degree, but so intelligent it’s Shakespearean.
Allen: He monologues so much this season.
Ryan: Also, him living in Matt’s head all season was a great touch because that’s where he is. He’s right in Matt’s head.
Diane: That framing device is wonderful!
Ryan: I almost kind of wish we’d gotten some scenes where Fisk was alone, talking to Matt.
Diane: So I think the last thing we can talk about is the one character we haven’t actually spoken about much…Matt. He’s not really in these episodes all that much, but we see other people’s perceptions of him.
Tanner: So these eps take us to an incredibly dark place, even for this show, and I adore it. Where Matt is, well, we thought he was lost before all this happened. Now we see his world fall apart, his friends in danger, and his enemy ascending. We spectate and feel what he feels.
Diane: We see Nadeem going after his life and his friends because Fisk said so, we see Karen and Sister Maggie talking about him and the fact that everyone has abandoned him, and finally, we see Dex put on the Daredevil suit and change everyone’s perception of Matt. I found it really gutsy and interesting to do it this way, to show Matt without actually showing Matt. He’s changed everyone’s life.
Allen: I do love how this is more of an ensemble season than any before, while still thematically rooting everything in Matt.
Ryan: He’s heavily in darkness this season. He’s all over Ep 4, but after that he’s recuperating from the ordeal, until he meets Bullseye. Matt is at his absolute worst, as a person. He’s King Of the A-Holes. Which is perfect, because you have to have that for Matt Murdock. A guy with a good heart who is also the worst friend.
Diane: I feel some empathy for him, though. No one can understand what he lost down there. Not so much Elektra (I am soooo glad they didn’t dwell on that at all) but losing his senses, losing his cornerstones, his faith.
Ryan: When he puts on the suit in episode 4 and you think he’s going to take his life back, he actually regresses further, making his absolute worst choices. And that’s the thing about Matt this season. He’s grieving. He can call it a loss of faith, but he’s grieving Elektra. And so, honestly, am I. I miss her!
Allen: These three episodes are really all about putting Matt and Dex on a collision course. Once they collide it launches us into the back half of the season, where arguably, the best is yet to come.
Tanner: It’s really just begun.
Ryan: That’s kind of perfect for this season. It relies heavily on the characters and our investment in them, then plots them against purposes.
Diane: Okay, final thoughts.
Allen: I think these three episodes really further everything I was feeling during the first three. They take all of the themes and parallel plot lines and take us further down them, while digging in even deeper with characters old and new, and while they do that, they also give us two of the greatest fight scenes that we’ll see on television this year. This really is just a triumph of a season.
Tanner: Mostly at this point I am moderately obsessed with Dex. His backstory, his obsessiveness and desire to hold on to his potential for good, and his final slide into brutality. It’s brilliant character work.
Ryan: This is the span of episodes where this season clicks home. I had turned to my wife at one point while all of this was happening and said “This is going to be about getting Matt back in the light,” and this little arc of stories kind of toys with you to elicit that, and then blows it up, too. It’s thrilling television, but it’s also sort of gut wrenching in how it puts all of our characters through the wringer. That would get tiresome if it weren’t also pulling off some of the best action and fight choreography and staging around. This section is a thematic meat and cheese assortment in an asskicking bread sandwich.
Diane: I agree with all of you. This is an incredible season from start to finish, and these episodes are where it really coalesces. The themes, the characters, they all hit a new speed here as the plot escalates. I really like the attention that’s paid to the smaller things, like Marci and Foggy, and Karen and Ellison. The fights are also stellar, and better than they ever have been. We can have the action and the deep character work, without sacrificing either for the sake of the other.