I successfully didn’t watch Arrow’s season seven premiere! I did see Daredevil season three. Remember when Netflix used to space these out? Dare you read down into SPOILERS? Please do or I wrote this for nothing.
This isn’t a direct adaptation of “Born Again” because Nuke was killed in Jessica Jones. Black Widow, Nick Fury, & Captain America don’t appear either. It does have Sister Maggie, attempted to drowning via taxi, & a killer Daredevil impostor. Karen also reveals Daredevil’s secret identity to Fisk but accidentally not for heroin, & he already had a strong hunch. (The Page/Fisk showdown is much better than that sounds.) Anyway this is the best Daredevil cover (without grease).
Daredevil might edge out Green Arrow & Batman for biggest asshole superhero protagonist. Matt Murdock whines about miraculously surviving an entire building collapsing on him with only temporary deafness in one ear, which still leaves his hearing better than most. Not only does he refuse professional medical attention after his incriminating costume has been removed, he doesn’t reach out to his friends for months until he needs to steal Foggy’s wallet. (Not to mention Matt kept his powers from Foggy for years even before he had a Daredevil alter ego. Too bad he didn’t explain his return from the dead by insisting he was his sighted twin, Mike Murdock.) Inserting himself into the FBI’s Fisk fiasco raises the danger for everyone. After guilt-tripping Melvin into helping him beat up feds, he lets him get arrested. Maybe Matt’s possessed by Stick’s spirit since he now dresses like the jerkface? Murdock argues with an imaginary Kingpin because he steals from Jessica Jones. At least his mom & friends call him out on his dickishness. Viewers of Iron Fist’s first season said Danny Rand was insufferable, but I might want to punch Matt Murdock more.
Matt’s enhanced senses start the season on on the fritz. (Can we retire this trope already? What is the appeal of superheroes losing the powers that were their selling point?) His hearing comes back by the end of episode two, so that sure was an obstacle. Murdock appears to have acquired additional powers of super-durability & healing because somebody confused Daredevil for Deadpool. Inhaling dragon bone dust does wonders! He gets beat up a lot while refusing to wear an armored costume, yet he always seems in top shape for the next skirmish.
Matt Murdock’s prototype black costume is back & I still hate it. I don’t know why so many people are hyped about this. It’s just Dexter Morgan’s casual kill-suit in black with a mask that provides no protection. It doesn’t even have horns! It’s too similar to Bullseye’s classic costume! Daredevil’s armored red suit may have been outclassed by a variety of subsequent action figure designs (Hasbro is remaking every Marvel Legends that Toy Biz did, but they’ll probably never do movie Daredevil.), but that doesn’t mean the return of the black outfit is cause for celebration. Daredevil’s never been about camouflage, not that wearing solid black is inherently stealthy. Matt Murdock’s original DD (the initials stand for Death Dick) costume was canary yellow to inflict pain in his enemies’ eyes. (GTFO, The Man Without Fear retcon! You were ripped off The Trial of the Incredible Hulk telefilm!) He’s a daredevil because he specifically wears a vibrant costume into battle! Red Batman should dress accordingly! I’d even prefer his 90’s outfit, but then I am in the minority that doesn’t hate it.
Wilson Fisk narcs on his former criminal associates to the FBI in exchange for immunity for his wife, Vanessa. After a staged shanking in prison, Fisk is transferred to a penthouse in a luxury Manhattan hotel owned by his shell corporations? Could they not move him to another prison or a lower profile safe house where there aren’t hundreds of strangers passing through daily? The FBI was so terrible at negotiating his house arrest they missed out on the secret room it connects to. We see that the FBI kept him under tight scrutiny, yet he’s still able to call-in during an impromptu hit on Matt Murdock when he arrives at Fisk’s former prison unannounced? (Matt hasn’t been declared dead, but he still impersonates Foggy instead of using his own credentials.) The prison fight sequence is great, but you have to grant it a lot of serendipitous wiggle room.
I’ve been waiting for Bullseye the Master of Throwing Stuff to enter the MCU for years. Colin Farrell’s Bullseye was the highlight of the Daredevil movie. Gotham’s Victor Zsasz feels closer to Bullseye personality-wise minus the braggadocio about his aim. Bullseye is superior to Hawkeye because he can throw arrows directly into his targets without a bow! His classic costume is one of the rare designs (it even makes sense if you look down on him from above) that seems like it’d be impossible to screw up, yet inexplicably neither the movie nor this series attempt it.
Wilson Bethel plays Benjamin “Dex” Poindexter a.k.a. Bullseye (who is never actually called this). Unlike me, Bullseye was trained to fake empathy. This version is a veteran focused on his job to maintain control of his disturbed psyche. It works to show how he met the Kingpin (even if it seems like he would’ve flunked FBI psych evaluations), but it kind of feels like a repeat of how they just reinterpreted Typhoid Mary.
Dexys Midnight Runners Dex is obsessed with Julie, played by Holly Cinnamon, which means there is a real life precedent for improbable names like Ivy Pepper. It’s refreshing that he desires her to be his new moral compass instead of a paramour. Fisk arranges to be his surrogate father instead. Every time this perfectionist tosses something innocuous at a victim, it’s delightful. Sadly we are deprived of his professional rivalry with Elektra, who is ambiguously absent.
Fisk’s plan to discredit Daredevil is clever. Dex dons Daredevil’s duds, which makes this season appropriate for Halloween. Bullseye proves Matt’s outfit worthless by perforating him with office supplies. Melvin “still not Gladiator” Potter offers Murdock new armor. This is a great opportunity to redesign it into something better, but Matt refuses on the grounds that he’s outgrown its symbolism. (We definitely needed another superhero adaptation embarrassed of its roots.) He’s still hardcore into losing blood at crime scenes cosplaying as Dread Pirate Roberts.
As much as I disliked the protagonist (Charlie Cox still plays him well), I found the supporting cast to be strong. Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen Page & Elden Henson’s Foggy Nelson remain competent & likable. (Is it bad that every time they share a scene I think of Galadriel & Samwise?) I felt so bad for how Agent Nadeem kept getting screwed as he struggled to do right by his family. Father Lantom, Ellison, Marci, & Detective Mahoney have grown from from the stock characters they began as. Vanessa’s desire to be fully included in her husband’s life makes their relationship richer. Sister Maggie is a great addition. Turk’s absence is unacceptable!
The first eight episodes were very strong. With a focus on Kingpin, it felt like the show apologizing for its disjointed second season. Then episode nine began, & it started to crumble. The reason Fisk is so improbably in control is that shat he’s somehow managed to blackmail his whole FBI detail years in advance. What stale Hell is this? I’ve somehow fallen back into Arrow season six! NNNOOOOOO!!!! It works slightly better because some of the agents act ashamed & Vincent D’Onfrio’s Fisk is much more magnetic than Ricardo Diaz. (I’d call him Clearance Shades, but I don’t want to diss Shades.) This is extra ridiculous if you recall that season two revealed Fisk’s resources had been stretched to their limits. Kingpin officially commanding the feds instead of subtly manipulating them makes him ludicrously powerful & removes all the tension from his arc. His conviction is suddenly overturned overnight? Then when agent Nadeem testifies against him, the grand jury learns together that they’ve all been targeted should they indict Fisk. So there is on the record evidence of jury tampering, but this doesn’t automatically trigger any legal consequences? Wait, Fisk is a former real estate mogul with a glamorous European wife residing in The Presidential Hotel (legally distinct from The President Hotel) who complains about how unfairly the press treats him?
Fisk didn’t quite become Kingpin in season one, but they still took him off the board to give it an upbeat resolution. Now they had to do lots of narrative gymnastics to get him back into position as the Kingpin complete with his iconic white suit minus his diamond-topped swagger stick. All the drama of seeing whether Fisk can play the feds vanishes as soon as we learn he already won the game before the tournament started. The Kingpin is so omniscient (without being a legitimutant superhuman like The Thinker) that he stops being compelling. Then as soon as he’s back to full power, he’s abruptly returned to prison for another happy ending.
The finale has Daredevil turn Bullseye against Fisk at his wedding. (Dex is also a better belated turncoat than Black Siren.) Instead of letting him kill Kingpin to avoid breaking his no murder rule (unless the victim is Nobu), Daredevil actively fights Bullseye to save Fisk’s life so he can take it. After Kingpin cripples Dex, Matt tenderizes Fisk’s face yet once again opts not to finish him off. He threatens Vanessa’s life to make Fisk promise to leave his friends alone. Nadeem’s sacrifice makes Daredevil’s actions petty & superfluous because his dying declaration was the only evidence needed to send Kingpin back to the slammer. Matt swiftly becomes less cantankerous & Foggy wants to reform their partnership with Karen. So everything reverted back to the season one status quo. At that point I was glad the season ended without making things worse, but it it’s perfunctory reset that didn’t get me excited for things to come like Iron Fist’s did. It ends with Lady Deathstrike’s dad mending Dex’s spine as concentric circles are goofily reflected onto his eyes, but who knows if there will be another season for him to get his costume & codename.
The Nextflix MCU shows feel like thirteen hour trailers. They spend so much time with fan favorite characters without fully transforming them into who they’re meant to be. Instead of feeling like rewarding character development, much of it feels like frustrating water treading. Surely it’d be more fascinating if characters interacted as fully fledged superheroes & supervillains sooner. The Kingpin tells Dex “The world is changing.” No it’s not! It’s been a decade since Iron Man debuted. The world is staying the same! By now everyone should be comfortable with costumed kooks fighting through Manhattan.
Despite Murdock, I enjoyed the first 2/3. Sadly showrunner Erik Oleson’s masterplan was to rehash my least favorite Arrow season. Somehow it feels like both the strongest season of Daredevil & the most regressive. There’s a sense that it feels ashamed to be a comic book show. After thirteen hours, it feels like something more momentous ought to have transpired. So out of all the Defenders seasons this year, I’d rank it near the bottom despite its highlights & Iron Fist at the top. I did not see that coming.
Iron Fist got cancelled despite its second season. The Immortal Dragon Hugger would’ve gotten infinity seasons! I don’t mind provided Netflix replaces it with a Typhoid Mary series. (Get Nervous-era Pat Benatar looks like an inspiration for her.) Odds are stacked against this, so I should mind! Oh now they cancelled Luke Cage too. Creative differences were cited, although when they had creative differences with Scott Buck they just replaced him with someone who could make a good show.
There’s hope that the characters will be rolled together into a Heroes For Hire series even though none of them are mercenary at the moment or Daughters Of The Dragon since Misty & Collen ought to be the leads. Melissa Rosenberg is leaving Jessica Jones after season three, which may turn out to be its last too. If Marvel can get around whatever contract it had with Netflix, it’s more likely these properties will be relaunched on Disney Play. There are rumors that its Netflix deal would require Marvel to recast all the characters & not reference the earlier shows if they want to use them. (Maybe the Play versions would include Avengers Tower in the background to fuel crackpot theories that the Netflix shows weren’t part of the MCU.) If the era of fighting hallways is dying out, could we at least get a final season of The Defenders to wrap everything up? They’ve got to pay off Chekov’s Stilt-Man armor!
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina premieres this week? Slow down Netflix! (Maybe something on Legends of Tomorrow will manifest too.)