Oh, Defenders. You were off to such a promising start back in 2015. When the first season of Daredevil hit, I felt pretty won over. You had developed one of Marvel’s few great on-screen villains, a solid and likable lead, and despite some qualms (it often looked like it was lit with a flashlight, poor Ben, etc), I came away from that set of episodes with the first superhero television series I can remember actively enjoying. Then Jessica Jones came along and blew the hinges off the place. This Defenders streaming project might actually be considered serious television during a period where the concept of peak TV was becoming the norm.

Then Luke Cage disappointed viewers with a sloppy back-half. Then Iron Fist gave these series their first real blow across the face with universal critical drubbing. Then the Defenders finally came, and no one seemed to like it, and it basically stopped any and all momentum on shows cold. I never finished it (more on that later), and then I never took a look at The Punisher, or the subsequent seasons of Jones or Cage. I just didn’t care anymore.

But whispers of Daredevil’s third season reached my ear, particularly reports that it would be an adaptation of “Born Again” (which despite how I’m sure it’s aged poorly in some respects, remains one of the big comics artistic high-points) and rumors that the villain would be Bullseye. Sure, the second season of Daredevil kinda blew chunks, but with a new showrunner in place and the hero’s other iconic villain coming to the fore, I had to give at least this show one more chance.

I should have listened to my better angels. Not only is Daredevil’s third season a total dog, it might actually pack less of an entertaining punch than Iron Fist. How is that possible? I’ll try to explain, dear reader.

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To give you the gist of the current status quo, this third outing for the Man Without Fear opens right after the events of The Defenders, so if you haven’t caught up with that, you’ll be quite lost as to why Matt has awoken – battered and broken, in the care of his local Catholic Church/boys home. Apparently, something happened to cause a building to come down on he and Elektra, so Karen and Foggy both think he’s dead, and the former has been paying off his bills and rent, I guess on the hope that he’s not.

It makes for a blisteringly confusing episode right off the bat, and it’s frankly a little vexing that Jeph Loeb and company presume you’ve watched every moment of these shows just to keep up with Daredevil’s comings and goings. In film, it’s largely fine because it’s not anywhere near the same time commitment to stay caught up. I’ve often bemoaned that it was a huge mistake for Netflix and Marvel to not consistently put out seasons of Daredevil, their most popular show, annually – but to turn Daredevil Season 3 into what is actually Daredevil Season 4 or The Defenders Part 11, depending on your perspective, is a lot to ask.

That gripe aside, the first six episodes that I was allowed to view kick off with the most indescribably misguided decision imaginable: a premiere full of moping and catholic guilt. Yes, just what we all wanted after two and a half years: Matt crying in a basement. And getting guidance from Sister Maggie and Father whateverhisnameis, while trying to gain back his radar sense that has become dulled thanks to the after-effects of the explosion. It’s a strikingly boring way to kick off a run of episodes that desperately need to win back the goodwill of viewers who have basically abandoned the husk of a once enticing enterprise. Making matters worse, Matt isn’t the only one in doldrums, as a returning Wilson Fisk is also oh so sad, so very sad about his wife Vanessa, and begins to concoct a plan for her safety and strike back in retaliation at Matt, because he threatened her last season. But in order to do that, he has to win over FBI Agent Ray Nadeem, who we learn has major debts and is desperate for a promotion – but his pesky bosses just won’t give it to him. Oh and Karen and Foggy miss Matt a bunch.

It drags on like that for four episodes, with no real conflict in place or antagonist to shape things. Fisk becomes an informant, and as he’s removed from prison, Matt, Foggy and Karen all tackle this new development from different angles. Foggy tries to convince the DA and the Police Chief to push back against the Feds (because, yeah, that’ll work), Karen wants to investigate the story at the paper, but her editor just won’t have it, and Matt takes a more direct approach. The sluggish pace of these episodes is just gruesome, and while a slow burn can be okay, the writing has somehow become progressively much worse. I’m not sure if it’s because Erik Oleson is a CW-vet, but the dialogue has all of the polish of an Arrow episode. Heart-felt conversations, of which there are many this season, mostly directed at Matt, are constantly aiming to be monologue-drivel and seem to be directed around their intended target rather than at them…you know, like normal humans converse.

Here are some choice cuts of terrible dialogue that I just had to write down:

“Thank god for you!”
“He didn’t save you, I did.”

“Love is the perfect prison.”

“You could pitch a billion perfect games, it still won’t bring your parents back.”

That last one is a good point to launch into the addition of Bullseye, who goes by the name Benjamin Poindexter – who I will forever be struggling to not call Buster Poindexter – an FBI sharpshooter in the direct employ of Agent Nadeem. Fisk takes a special interest in him, and begin to craft a bit of a relationship of commonality. It’s probably the lone element of the season that justifies a more sluggish roll-out, but it doesn’t make the process of getting there any less painful, and at times nonsensical. You see, Buster…ahh!! Benjamin!…is a bit of a creep, who is also secretly a sociopath, which is all well and good if Wilson Bethel displayed any tangible character dimension beyond “bland pretty bro”, but his acting chops aside, the character simply isn’t there on paper. When we finally get the breakdown of his background, told in cheaply produced, black and white reenactments, it’s an exercise in the show taking the cheapest type of shortcuts; building a serial killer-level psychosis that was never really all that apparent from the preceding episodes.

And in the meantime, Foggy is running for public office, because he needs something to do. But speaking of terrible acting, Elden Henson hasn’t gotten any better in the intervening years, and so many of his scenes where he has to project a sense of anger or concern fall utterly flat because of it. It’s a shame that Henson gets a lot to do (though it’s never really clear why), while Deborah Ann Woll, a terrific performer, is backgrounded into pointless investigative work, shades of the first season, and simmering resentment at Matt. As a matter of fact, the most compelling moments come to bear when one of the mistakes of her recent past have reason to surface. Suddenly, the writers somehow realized that decisions have actual weight and consequences, and it’s one of the few times where things start to click into place. Still, she’s better served here than in the actual Born Again storyline, so thank goodness for small favors.

It’s at the midway point of the season where I finally thought, “okay, now things are happening”, including a very good battle scene, which has always been this series’ strength and tends to display more drama in those compact moments of testosterone and is where its respective directors make the best use of interior space. But the fact that it took 6 episodes to get there is the Marvel-Netflix problem taken to a new extreme. At least Iron Fist had the excitement of the new attached to it, even if it bungled nearly everything in its wake. Daredevil’s third season doesn’t even have that, and its hard to justify sitting through 5 hours of truly awful television just on the hope the backhalf will get it together.

Sorry Daredevil (and the rest), we are officially broken up for good.

 

29 COMMENTS

  1. I loved the first 2 seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones. I enjoyed both seasons of Luke Cage and Iron Fist and I loved The Defenders. I haven’t seen season 3 of Daredevil yet, so I can’t comment on it. But a lot of us have been enjoying the other shows. Well, at least I and my friends are.

  2. This is one of the problems of the Netflix production model, which you also see with The Walking Dead on AMC. Instead of producing the shows on more-or-less a week by week basis, they do them all before the public gets a chance to react to any of them. Which means when things go wrong, there’s absolutely no chance to fix anything.

    Mike

  3. What is interesting are other sites are praising season 3. People need to watch things for themselves before jumping on the “it’s a tragedy” train.

  4. @Spike: I have a rule: If Mr. Pinion doesn’t like something, chances are very good that I will. So I think I’m gonna love this season of Daredevil.

  5. Another reason why I’m glad I don’t waste my time and money on Netflix. If you must stream, check out FilmStruck.

  6. Daredevil was always one of my favorite comic characters. Since I was a kid I always made sure to buy Daredevil and got some great stories because of it. When they announced the Netflix series I was super excited.
    Then they killed Ben Urich.
    I was infuriated. So infuriated that I skipped Jessica Jones completely. Besides, I do not like that actress at all.
    Then along came Luke Cage and that was great. Iron Fist was also great.
    Interestingly enough I liked Defenders.
    When Luke Cage and Iron Fist came back for another season I watched those.
    There was no chance I was going back to Daredevil or Jessica Jones so, I just skipped The Punisher altogether and feel like I have missed nothing.
    I heard the cancelled Iron Fist which is a shame and I hope that Luke Cage comes back for a third season.

  7. I’ll give it a shot, but DD2 and Defenders left a bad taste in my mouth. JJ2 was also awful. But LC2 was a slight improvement (first half not as good as S1, second half better, ending really interesting). And I like IF1 &2 despite the black hole at the center of the cast. (Most of the show’s flaws could have been overcome with a better Danny Rand, I suspect. The supporting cast was ace.) Just watched LC2 and IF2 back to back and finally got excited about Marvel Netflix again. Now with IF cancelled…well, it does dim my enthusiasm for DD3, which I didn’t have high hopes for outside of D’Onofrio’s magnificent Kingpin. We’ll see.

  8. I’ve learned from reading your reviews I like stuff that you don’t like and don’t like stuff you like. That’s all good because taste is subjective. This review has made me even more excited for the next season!

  9. Yes, Iron Fist has been cancelled. Guess it didn’t get enough clicks (or whatever Netflix uses instead of Nielsen ratings) to justify another season.

  10. Kyle is too young to remember TV in the ’60s and ’70s, when the average network show made “Daredevil” look like “Citizen Kane.”

  11. How did i come here? I watched one and a half episodes of DDS3 and decided it was time to stop and google: DDS3 is boring. Landed here. This review is spot on. So i,ll save myself a few hours and skip fwd to episode 7.

  12. 7 episodes in and I’m reading this review for something to do. Says it all. This might be the end folks. It’s a shame but this review is 100% accurate.

  13. Lol you are out to lunch. Season is hands down the best MCU tv series of all time.
    Praised by pretty much everyone on reddit, not that that’s an indication of great content, but it is an indication that the fan base is against you. Because you are wrong.

  14. “Praised by pretty much everyone on reddit …”

    Wow, that’s almost as good as an endorsement from David Duke or Richard Spencer.

  15. I disagree with this harsh review. I thought Daredevil season 3 was awesome. I binged on it within a day. It’s all down to individual opinions. I can understand that it started slowly in the first (like every other Marvel Netflix show). There was some parts which could be perceived as fluff like the Nadeem plot, Karen backstory, meeting Foggy’s family or Ben Poindexter backstory. I think personally liked this because it makes the characters have more development and context.

  16. Finally some people who didn’t enjoy this either! Usually there’s a vocal minority of us when there’s a season of a show that I don’t like. But all I’ve seen is praise for this shitty season. I want to clarify that I’m only 8 episodes in but I don’t think it’s going to get any better at this point.

  17. I was five episodes in and had to stop. The scenes are almost entirety black and back or side lit, making it unclear why this isn’t just an audio drama.

    The story is weird. The characters are all unrelatable and reckless. Did we really need to see Karen do blow and screw a drug dealer? Really? No, we did not.

    How about the giant sinus blood clot emptying into the sink scene? That did not make for fun, engaging viewing. That could have been tastefully handled and was not.

  18. I watched clips on YouTube. Looks like fun for people who like prolonged beatings and lots of bloody, psychotic violence. The padding really shows in these Netflix shows.

  19. The first two seasons of Daredevil were very good, but undercut by the urge to fetishize the source material. After some very good drama in the first season, why whiz it all away at the end by making it the story of how Matt Murdock came to run around in an embarrassing red costume?

    The third season told its own story, and was a lot stronger for it. It developed its main theme in an intricate and interesting way– how individually fallible people strengthen each other and provide the structure each needs to stay human; what happens if you don’t have this structure, or if the structure itself is pathological.

    The story takes us from darkness into light, and yes, the first episodes were literally dark, and the last brightly lit, but it did make sense. And it’s similarly logical that the characters were unrelatable in the beginning, and showed their uglier sides, or the ugliness of their pasts. When they end up as better people, who you can relate to, and who relate to each other, it’s earned, and it’s a relief.

    I think it was beautifully done, and it stayed engrossing from beginning to end, unlike any of the other Netflix shows to date.

  20. Daredevil season 3 has been awesome. I’ve been loving every second of it. Also the prison escape scene was one of the most amazing scenes I’ve ever seen.

  21. Spot on review, a truly awful season, not even sure how I dragged myself through it.. There was a lot of use of fast forward…..

  22. yeah. I googled daredevil slow and boring. And then came here.
    I agree with every word you said. I am on episode 11…with lots of
    skipping god awful 80% blahblah. So slow..made my teeth grit.
    I hope its cancelled.
    Fisk Fisk Fisk??? Again?? whywhywhy???
    Compared to Marvel films, it eats sh@t. Very disappointed.
    (I did enjoy the Punisher a lot). (i teach film editing by the way).

  23. Spot on review. I ended up here, because I googled “Daredevil Season 3 Lazy Writing” because it has been so so dull. I think Netflix should challenge themselves to make higher quality content by shrinking some of these stories into 3-6 episodes. 10 episodes is a problematic format.

    I also think that the whole Catholic preaching stuff and stuff about God just feels well outdated. Dial down the religion Netflix and Marvel. And those scenes where Murdoch is talking with a phantom vision of Fisk? Ugh. Foggy’s cheesy dialogue, moaning and guilt. The whole first few episodes is just pure labor to get thru.

    Who cares what fanboys say? They’re certainly no indicator of quality. If the shows are dross, then its dross.

    Don’t bother with this season, its shite.

    Also Punished sucked. One note. Range: Angry to angry. Lots of shouting. Next please.

  24. Emo boy cries. It will only get worse. Disney owns Marvel so you should save your tears for when things actually get bad. Apparently your hair is your perfect prison. Get a real job.

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