‘Marvel’s Daredevil’ Season 3 Finds the Hero in Search of His Identity

Eventually all heroes, in particular comic book ones, go through that moment of self-doubt and loss of identity. They have to train themselves back into the costumed crime fighter we all recognize. Netflix’s long-awaited third season of “Marvel’s Daredevil” opens with its title hero in just this kind of situation. The first few episodes are interesting in how the showrunners keep us waiting for the red-clad avenger to return, while advancing the storyline in a highly entertaining, classic comic book style.

The season opens with Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), still reeling from the end of the other Netflix MCU opus, “The Defenders,” when he found himself trapped under a collapsed structure. He is washed out through the sewage system and finds himself in the care of the orphanage that raised him. Father Lantom (Peter McRobbie) and Sister Maggie (Joanne Whalley) try to coax Murdock back to health and physical shape, also while trying to mend his soul. He remains haunted by the death of Elektra and a loss of hearing has dampened his powers, taking away temporarily his hyper senses. Meanwhile reporter Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) is watching over Murdock’s apartment, determined to believe he’s still alive, even as Foggy Nelson (Eldon Henson) tries to convince her hope is fruitless. While Murdock and friends try to figure out where to go from here, in prison crime lord Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) is considering cutting a deal with the FBI to start plotting his release back into the world. His vehicle of choice is FBI agent Ray Nadeem (Jay Ali), who is going through financial hardship and needs a big break. Fisk will make his way back to his crime boss throne, and to Daredevil.

Netflix has recently been seen as slipping on the comic book adaptation front. “Marvel’s Iron Fist” was cancelled, which brought bad press despite other, excellent shows on the roster like “The Punisher” and “Jessica Jones.” “Daredevil” took a nearly two year hiatus and is now back in the same way you anticipate a long-awaited issue of a comic title. There’s a lot of introspective drama in season three, but again, tailored in the way these kinds of stories are usually spun. Murdock finds himself in the bowels of his old orphanage, sitting in the shadows, like Bruce Wayne in “The Dark Knight Rises.” His senses lost, his memory travels back in time to his childhood and we learn a little more about his relationship with Father Lantom. We also get the required moments where he gives Sister Maggie his own interpretation of the Biblical story of Job, because of course he sees himself as Job-like sufferer. Laying it on thick? Maybe, but that’s how this kind of material works. Better to be interesting than stale. For at least the first half of this season we don’t even get Murdock in the famous, crimson Daredevil costume. There’s action for sure, but what the show does is build anticipation while reintroducing us to the world. There’s still plenty of fist fighting and action. Once Murdock feels stronger he ventures out to do some crimefighting and busts a crime ring using a laundry service as a front. His first encounter with some mob thugs doesn’t go so well, but he’s just rusty.

What “Daredevil” does particularly well this season is build engaging side stories that keep the momentum going as we wait for Murdock to get back into costume. The character of FBI agent Nadeem is interesting because he’s one of those storylines MCU shows use to comment on current events. Nadeem has a terrible credit rating, he spent a lot of money helping his sister-in-law fight cancer, and now he won’t get a promotion. What is a person to do in such a brutal economy? Collaborate with a crime boss like Fisk of course. Karen and Foggy deal with the disappearance of their friend and debate over what to do with his apartment. Karen is the one who is convinced that Murdock is alive, and while we sense Foggy also knows deep down his friend will return, he tries to mask his hope with attempts at being more realistic. They have some good scenes together and once Karen starts investigating some gangland murders taking place around the city, it leads her to a laundromat which will of course lead her to…

But the key supporting role is of course Vincent D’Onofrio as Fisk. He’s a menacing, bestial presence. He walks around prison like he owns the place. Even when an inmate tries to shank him in the weight room it barely scratches him. The writing also makes him slightly more complex this season. A stand out scene is a moment where he’s being transported by Nadeem and he starts philosophizing on the virtues of love (just watch the episode and you’ll get it).

Along with the engaging characters fans of “Daredevil” will get their usual fix in grand tracking shots, elaborate fight scenes and gritty shoot outs. A tracking shot where Fisk escapes from a caravan is brilliant in its execution, just watch how we see the action from his trapped eye line. This is still the kind of show that you’ll love if you’re into comic books, and will find very entertaining even if you’ve never opened one.

Daredevil” season three premieres Oct. 19 on Netflix.