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Daredevil - Season 3A - Review: "Into the Darkness"

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"I'd rather die as the Devil than live as Matt Murdock"

EPISODE 3.01: "Resurrection", WRITTEN BY: Erik Oleson, DIRECTED BY: Marc Jobst

The season starts with a powerful image of exactly what happened to Matt Murdock at the end of "The Defenders". His broken body is taken to Clinton Church by the taxi driver who finds him barely alive. Father Lantom brings Matt to St. Agnes orphanage (the same place where Matthew grew up in) and sister Maggie and the rest of the nuns nurse him back to health. Or at least a more stable state. It's been weeks and in addition to all his other wounds, Matt can no longer hear anything out of one ear. It's a miracle that Matt survived the collapse of the building. However this hour makes it very clear that we're not talking about any magical healing process here. His wounds are deep, the healing is slow and painful. And even though his body is struggling to stay alive, it's his spirit and faith that are left completely shattered.

One thing that is absolutely clear from the premiere, Charlie Cox is incredible in his portrayal of Matt Murdock. There was a scene back in season two, that I've always identified as the scariest and most powerful moment for Matt, when after hitting his head really badly, he temporarily loses his hearing in addition to his eyesight. Charlie's performance in that scene was absolutely breathtaking and in this episode Matt wakes up in such nightmare once again. He can barely breathe, can't even truly stand up and walk, and he's also lost the hearing in his right ear. He's been relying on his other senses, hearing more than most, for the majority of his life, but now he truly feels lost in the dark, not even able to find a balance to walk to the bathroom, much less be his regular self. That is absolutely terrifying and Charlie Cox plays Matt's reaction to perfection. The only thing worse than his physical state might be the state of his spirit. He's all alone and refusing to call his friends after losing Elektra all over again. And what's so much more painful this time, he doesn't believe anymore. Matt Murdock without his faith is such a heartbreaking view... At least by the end of first hour, thanks to his determination and practice, he manages to finally get rid of the taste of blood and ash from his mouth, and his hearing is restored. From that moment on, he decides to go back to training, even going as far as getting into a fight on the streets, dressed in black just like in season one.

Matt's only companions in the premiere are Father Lantom and Sister Maggie Grace. Sister Maggie turns out to be quite an interesting character. She's very reluctant to hide Daredevil until she learns his real name, she doesn't approve of his actions but stays by his side, no matter what he says. She even gives him her cross, after he shares how he feels about God now. Sister is also quite a motivator, she speaks very openly and doesn't allow Matt to drown in self-pity, instead making sure he realizes things could be much, much worse. Meanwhile, Karen and Foggy are trying to move on with their lives. Karen can't seem to be able to let go of Matt. She's taking care of his apartment, paying the bills to the best of her abilities, hoping that he might still come back to them. We even get a glimpse of the past, finally learning what happened after Matt revealed to Karen the truth about Daredevil, including his promise to never lie to her again. Things are different for Foggy, after considering all the facts, he's trying to accept that Matt is gone, even though he sometimes still wonders "what if"... Finally there's Wilson Fisk, back in the center of attention this season. When he learns that the federal government has decided to charge Vanessa as an accessory to his crimes, he decides to make a deal with the FBI to help her. His new main contact is introduced as Agent Ray Nadeem, the latest addition to the show's main cast and a father and husband struggling with financial debts.

EPISODE 3.02: "Please", WRITTEN BY: Jim Dunn, DIRECTED BY: Lukas Ettlin

It's a big day for the FBI when Ray leads a raid and arrests the main members of the Albanian syndicate based on the information received from Fisk. Kingpin, on the other hand, is now known as a snitch and attacked in prison. He has no problem with fighting off his attacker, however he does stop himself from killing him. An interesting choice for a man like him. However it's clear that he truly is willing to do anything for his beloved Vanessa, including the cooperation with the enemy such as the government. As a result of the fight, the FBI decides to transfer Fisk outside of prison into a safe house after somewhat heated discussion with the District Attorney. Nadeem certainly uses this opportunity to make the best of his new chance to advance his career and earn more money to pay off family debts. Of course whenever there's a police transfer, something has to go wrong. The convoy is ambushed by Albanians looking to punish Fisk for his betrayal. They're almost successful until they encounter one man, Agent Benjamin "Dex" Poindexter, who kills them all before they get to Kingpin, even those who try to surrender. Enter Bullseye...

Matt continues to live in the laundry room below the chapel. "Impervious to bad attitude" Sister Maggie does her best to help Matthew search for a new purpose, in case he's no longer able to follow his old path. She even shares a story of her own, when years ago she left the order for a while and considered a very different life but ultimately made her choice to become a nun. I'm really enjoying the relationship between these two, their interactions so far have been a joy to watch. It's a day for remembering the past as Matt is recalling his struggles with faith when he was a child, listening to people's prayers and trying to help them. Now all he can think about is God's silence in response to all the prayers. Daredevil is also making some progress with his fighting skills but still suffers the painful consequences whenever things go wrong.

Karen Page is given another story to follow, an attack on a real estate developer, Rostam Kazemi and his daughter. She's reluctant to step away from Midland Circle topic which has been a center of her attention for months now but her editor manages to change her mind after drawing a comparison to her own family crisis from years ago. Turns out he's right, Karen quickly finds a connection with the victim's daughter and even tells her about the events surrounding the death of her brother Kevin, something she's never really shared with anyone before. As if that wasn't enough of an emotional conversation Karen learns about the man who stopped the attack on this family and the description sounds much more familiar than she would expect it. She doesn't waste any time to share the news with Foggy. She finds him in "Nelson's Meats", his family's store where we're introduced to a lot of members of Nelson family, including his parents and brother Theo. Despite knowing he's built himself a good life, his mother is still expecting him to come home eventually. Franklin opens up to Theo, admitting how much he misses Matt and how lost he feels without him. Even though he wants to believe his best friend is still alive, Karen's news still leaves him more than a little doubtful.

EPISODE 3.03: "No Good Deed", WRITTEN BY: Sonay Hoffman, DIRECTED BY: Jennifer Getzinger

Wilson Fisk adjusts to his new situation. He's still serving his sentence, but no longer in prison. Instead he's been transferred to a safe house, also known as a $20 million penthouse. His circumstances may have improved, however the news of Vanessa's temporary disappearence leaves him restless for a while. Meanwhile Foggy is haunted by the dreams of Matt. He feels guilty about living his life but at least he has Marci to comfort him when he struggles. Karen is set up on a blind date by her editor Mitchell who's clearly worried about her. The date is interrupted by the news of Kingpin's transfer. Mitchell refuses to let Page work on the story knowing her history with Fisk but of course that's not stopping Karen from showing up in front of the Presidential Hotel where she almost crosses path with Murdock and ends up meeting Agent Nadeem.

There starts my favorite part of the hour, Matt's internal conversations with Fisk. A voice in his head, making him confront the hardest of truths. These two actors play off of each other in a way that is simply exceptional. Matt is fighting with himself, wondering whether Fisk being out of prison is a punishment from God, for losing his faith, for being so close to killing himself... Kingpin's return feels like a final proof that Matt has ultimately lost and his greatest enemy will continue to destroy everything he cares about. The pain of his losses hits harder when reminded by an echo of Fisk. Matthew's father, Stick, Elektra, how much more can he lose? It's hell on Earth and I love how the camera is focused on Charlie Cox in this moment, Matt's reaction to Wilson's words speaks volumes, even with his eyes hidden behind sunglasses. That's why he doesn't hesitate to go after Fisk right away. He's clever so he manages to get past the initial security but is eventually stopped by Dex. He later makes another attempt to get to Fisk, this time by confronting his lawyer before he "lets the Devil out" when surrounded by a group of FBI agents guarding the Kingpin.

Foggy takes a different approach when it comes to Wilson Fisk. He contacts the DA directly, offering his help to send Fisk back to prison, to work on his deal. He's still fighting in the name of Mrs. Cardenas and all the people who suffered at the hands of Kingpin. It's a beautiful sentiment and a callback to a friend from season one, never forgotten by Nelson and Karen. Nothing hits Foggy more than the sudden return of his best friend from the dead. Their conversation is brief, almost comes out of nowhere but there's so much history between these two examined in this very moment. Foggy is so genuinely happy to see Matt alive but his friend is distant, cold, like he never truly came back. Murdock's behavior makes this reunion unexpectedly painful to watch. He only shows up to warn Nelson, asking him and Karen not to get involved, but not listening to his friend at all. Actually, he does even more than that. He steals Foggy's wallet (with money and ID), ready for anything to take down Wilson Fisk, even at the cost of his relationship with his best friend. His fall into the darkness continues...

The one story that I didn't find myself attached to would be Agent Nadeem's. He seems like a good man trying to make the best choices for his family and friends. He blames himself for the events surrounding Fisk's transfer and channels his energy into finding a purpose for Wilson, making sure his cooperation is worth all the lives lost. His visit to the hospital was well done but his character still seems like a necessary element of the story but not exactly an engaging part of it. Dex, on the other hand, gets a very different introduction to the world of Daredevil. Fans of the comics would certainly recognize him as quite an important character but what stands out about him on the show, at least in the beginning, are his interactions with Wilson Fisk. It's strange to see Kingpin grateful to anyone for saving his life, especially an Agent like Poindexter. He did however see exactly how Dex ended the attack so he might recognize him as a kindred spirit, at least in certain aspects. From his first episode it's clear there's more to Dex than meets the eye, especially when his words spoken during a session with Doctor Myman are confronted with a very different reality.

EPISODE 3.04: "Blindsided", WRITTEN BY: Lewaa Nasserdeen, DIRECTED BY: Alex Garcia Lopez

Foggy and Marci have a strong, supportive relationship. Definitely not what I expected when she was introduced back in season one. It's a good thing she's there to calm Nelson down, keep him focused and not let him fall into panic. Matt's return leaves him confused and scared, unsure how he should go on with his life. Marci's idea? To run against the current District Attorney in the upcoming elections. As impossible as the win may seem, when Foggy shows up at police union function, he certainly seems like a force to be reckoned with. Not going down without a fight, for sure. Nelson also shares with Karen the news about Matt's return. I really liked their conversation in Murdock's apartment. It's a great way to show the viewers that Foggy noticed the difference in his best friend. He realized that something is missing, though Matt's alive he didn't really return. Karen's response is different, she's angry and hurt, especially when it becomes clear that her friend made a choice to remove her from his life without saying goodbye or letting her have a say. The news only pushes Karen deeper into her investigation against Fisk, desperately looking for a proof of the conspiracy that resulted in letting Fisk out of jail.

Matt's plan to take down Fisk involves using Foggy's stolen ID to enter the prison and introduce himself to Vic Jusufi, the leader of the Albanian syndicate who he suspects can help him understand the reason why Kingpin decided to turn against the Albanians in the first place. Things take a dark turn when Matt is attacked in the prison, by both convicts and the guards. The attack is organized by none other than Wilson Fisk, still in control of the facility and now aware of Matt's unique abilities. Kingpin openly threatens Murdock and his friends, as a response to their last conversation from season two. Matt is forced to fight his way out of the prison and what a fight it turns out to be. Daredevil is not at his full strength (yet) but it wouldn't be the Devil of Hell's Kitchen if he stayed down for too long. I absolutely love these one-take action sequences and nobody does them like this show. The amount of work that goes into these fights can't be underestimated. The entire sequence takes 11 and a half minutes and follows Matt's path through the prison filled with people going after him. If Wilson suspected he's the Daredevil before, he surely knows it now. Incredible work by Charlie Cox, the director Alex Garcia Lopez and everyone involved.

As it turns out, something important is revealed to Matt by the Albanians in the prison - they never attacked Wilson Fisk when he was locked up with them, the entire thing was staged just to have him transferred to the Presidential Hotel. The same hotel which, as the viewers know from Karen's investigation, is already owned by Fisk. And the witness, Jasper Evans, the same one who attacked Fisk in the weight room is now on the outside. Meanwhile, when asked about Dex's actions during the ambush, Kingpin decides to cover for him, assuring the FBI that Agent Poindexter killed the attackers only in self-defense. Dex is not happy about being played, but instead Fisk offers sympathy and gratitude for the Agent. His words are convincing, clever and powerful. He certainly knows how to find himself a new ally.

EPISODE 3.05: "The Perfect Game", WRITTEN BY: Tonya Kong, DIRECTED BY: Julian Holmes

This was quite a character study. We finally learn the story of Benjamin Poindexter, right before his world begins to crumble down. As it turns out Fisk was never looking for an ally. His plan requires the city to focus their attention on someone other than him, so what he really needs is a new villain. And Dex matches his requirements perfectly. It's a great creative choice to follow his story by starting from Fisk's perspective and then slowly being drawn to Dex himself. We're introduced to a young boy, angry at the world after his parents' death. All he's left with, as it seems, is baseball and the hope for a perfect game as the pitcher. He's extremely talented, never misses his target, but his Coach wants him to save his strength so one day he takes him off the field during what could be a perfect game. It's a trigger for Dex who in response throws the ball straight in Coach's direction and kills him in a matter of seconds. It's a horrifying event that ends with young Benjamin in need of psychiatric help. That's when he meets Doctor Eileen Mercer, who quickly identifies his borderline personality disorder and psychopathic tendencies but through kindness, understanding and established routines she starts building a relationship with the boy, helping him to learn about things like empathy.

The problem appears when years later Dr. Mercer is ill and no longer able to work. Their last session almost causes Dex to kill her, his way of punishment for leaving him alone. She manages to calm him down and tells him that what he needs is another person to help him see the difference between right and wrong, a North Star to guide him. "Any good person with a decent heart will do." So he finds her. During his work in Suicide Prevention Center he meets Julie, a kind woman who helps people in any way she can. The viewers can recognize her as the girl Dex has been following since his introduction. Stalking her is a routine that he's holding on to, so her sudden appearance in the Presidential Hotel takes him by surprise. When they finally get a chance to really talk, face to face, it doesn't take long for Julie to realize that there's something wrong with Poindexter and he knows far more about her than he should. The meeting clearly breaks him, after coming back home, he takes his anger out on the wall, a picture of Julie, anything around him. Though he reaches for old recordings of his sessions with Dr. Mercer, it's becoming painfully obvious that his structure is gone, he's on the edge and one more trigger is all he needs to cause the irreparable damage. Now that we know Dex's story I can't help but wonder how did he become FBI agent in the first place? Though some of his files must have been sealed due to his young age, it's hard to believe that no FBI psychologist has recognized his true nature. Regardless, kudos to Wilson Bethel for his portrayal of this unstable man. Such a different role than the last one I've seen him portray, making this change all the more impressive.

The plan to create a new villain of Hell's Kitchen isn't the only thing that Fisk sets in motion during the hour. The next name he gives to the FBI, the name of supposedly dangerous criminal he's been working with for years, is Matt Murdock. Now knowing his true enemy, Kingpin uses his new relationship with the FBI to turn everyone against Matt. I have to say, Agent Nadeem did not win any points with me in this episode. The fact that he's so blindly following Fisk's words, without even considering that Matt Murdock is one of the lawyers who put Fisk behind bars and would be a perfect target for retribution, is simply hard to accept. Matt survives the car crash from the end of last episode only for FBI to raid his apartment a day later. Even though Murdock manages to stay away from the FBI, Karen and Foggy are both confronted by Agent Nadeem. Foggy is once again absolutely great during the confrontation. He's worried about the situation, but he doesn't allow Nadeem to see it. He's responding to each question with ease and is not intimidated by any accusations. A loyal friend and talented lawyer without a doubt. Karen, on the other hand, is not doing so well. Last events leave her shaken and when she's questioned by the FBI, she's barely keeping it together, especially after seeing a picture of James Wesley. I've been wondering whether we'll come back to this story, Wilson Fisk's right hand man, killed by Karen back in season one. Looks like it's finally time to confront this painful truth as Page admits what happened to Foggy, who officially becomes her lawyer at the end of the hour. The next shout-out goes to Deborah Ann Woll. She's doing a wonderful job with portraying the many emotional layers of Karen Page. And it's becoming clear that things are about to get much, much harder for her.

EPISODE 3.06: "The Devil You Know", WRITTEN BY: Dylan Gallagher, DIRECTED BY: Stephen Surjik

This is where the situation takes a really bad turn. Matt finally shows up at Karen's to ask for her help with locating Jasper Evans. This is the first chance for these two to talk since the events of The Defenders. There are a lot of things left unspoken but at least their conversation leads Karen to visit Sister Maggie and learn more about Matt's past in an attempt to truly understand him. It's clear how much these two care about Murdock and I especially loved the way Sister Maggie fought for Matt, telling Karen a story about the one time she wasn't there for him and asking Page not to give up on him, like everyone else did. Her words are even more impactful when they're also repeated by Foggy. This is exactly why he's such a great character. People in Matthew's life abandoned him. Foggy has no intention to be like everyone else. Even though Matt wasn't exactly a good friend lately, he's still there for him, he's still his best friend. These two conversations are enough to convince Karen to try to help and maybe even start forgiving Matt.

It's a simple plan. Matt and Karen bring Jasper to the Bulletin office. He goes on the record, saying that it was Fisk who staged the attack on himself in prison. The FBI shows up to hear the testimony and having the proof of Fisk's manipulation is forced to send him back to prison and hopefully clear Matt of any suspicions. What no one realizes is just how much of his power the Kingpin has already restored. The FBI is returning his personal belongings, the penthouse starts to resemble a home far more than a cage it's meant to be. The phones, the cameras are already under Fisk's control and soon after that, so is Dex. All it takes is an article published in the Bulletin paper which mentions that Agent Poindexter is under the internal investigation following the ambush organized by the Albanians. Even though his boss and Agent Nadeem all assure Dex that he has no reason to worry and the situation will be cleared soon, he's too far gone to listen to them. With Julie's voice in his head intertwined with Dr. Mercer's, he's no longer able to sleep, to focus, to calm down. He wants to prove to Fisk that his actions don't have an impact on him but his anger takes over and he ends up proving the Kingpin's point. His fall into darkness leads him to almost commit suicide. He's sitting at his apartment, with a gun in his hand, ready to pull the trigger. That's when Fisk's call offers him a chance to put his anger to use and with an unexpected gift he's ready to show his true self and embrace it.

I did not see this one coming. For a second it was nice to watch Matt and Foggy together, just like in the good old times and then all hell broke loose. The Bulletin is attacked by a man wearing Daredevil disguise. It doesn't take long to realize that it's none other than Dex killing everyone in his way. He accepts Fisk's gift and the promise to never be left alone again and shows up in the office to murder Jasper Evans to stop him from talking. He's confronted by Matt hidden behind his black mask. Their fight is impressive but the scene is very intense, almost hard to watch. It's clear that Murdock is not ready for this confrontation. He's not only taken by surprise by a stranger wearing his suit, his wounds are definitely not healed yet. Eventually Dex manages to take him down, easily gets past Foggy and Bulletin editor in chief, Mitchell Ellison and finally is left with Karen and Jasper. There's a moment when it seems he will shoot Karen, but he kills Evans standing right behind her and leaves. Of course that's when the FBI agents show up, to see the battlefield with dead and injured all around. Karen is crushed by the event, she helps Matt get up but stays behind, next to Jasper's body. That's when Agent Nadeem finds her. He catches a glimpse of "Daredevil" and identifies him as the person responsible for the massacre. The only good thing about it though, from the look he shares with Karen, it seems he might actually believe her story about Fisk. The bad news? Now both Matt Murdock and Daredevil are wanted men with nowhere to hide. What a powerful way to end the first half of the season. It's hard to believe there's still so much more to come.

These six episodes once again prove just what a fantastic show this is. Daredevil is the main reason why I've been following the Marvel Netflix shows and though I've enjoyed them all this one is certainly my favorite. With a brilliant cast led by the wonderful Charlie Cox and the creative minds of the crew behind "Daredevil" I hope to continue the journey beyond season 3. Also, one thing I haven't mentioned yet. I loved the theme following Matt throughout the season. It's a quiet, emotional version of the main theme and it fits perfectly to his story so far. Kudos to everyone involved for their incredible work on the series. In a world full of superhero shows, Daredevil is truly one of the kind.

Thanks for reading. What did you think of the first half of the season? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Any favorite episodes, scenes or quotes so far?

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