The third season of Daredevil once again pits the eponymous hero Matt Murdock against Wilson Fisk, the self-styled Kingpin of crime. Matt, who barely survived death at the end of the Defenders mini-series, finds himself questioning his faith and his desire to live a normal life. Meanwhile, the Kingpin has made a deal to secure his own freedom.
We caught up with incoming showrunner Erik Oleson for a spoiler-free chat about the upcoming season.
So Erik, I was wondering if you could just tell us how you came to the project.
Oh, I’m a huge fan of the comics, and the show in fact. I met with Drew Goddard in season 1 and came very close to writing it, and I’ve been kicking myself that I didn’t ever since, so I was very excited to do season 3. I love the character of Matt Murdock – he’s got all these built-in contradictions, the lawyer who’s a vigilante, the faithful catholic who goes out and acts as if he’s god… It’s a dream come true to write my version of that.
And so you’re the third showrunner on Daredevil now and you had an extra challenge in that you had to also address some major events from Defenders, so I’m interested in how you approach that – what’s it like having to incorporate what’s come before while trying put your own stamp on it?
I wanted to treat season 3 in the spirit of the comics – like it was my own run of the comics, like Loeb and Sale’s Yellow, or Kevin Smith’s Guardian Devil. I wanted to put my own stamp on the show. Marvel had their ideas – they knew that Wilson Fisk would be back, and they’d cleared the rights for me to incorporate pieces of my favourite comics. Obviously at the end of Defenders a building falls on Matt so THAT had to be part of it. But from that, I wanted to make the show about something. Not just continuing the story, that’s not how I think and not what the great comic runs do.
One of the things I wrote on the wall was our season’s controlling idea: “We can only be free when we confront our fears because our fears are what enslave us.” That became the guiding principle for everything every single character does in the season, they all have a fear that is fuelling their actions.
I wanted to relate it to the real world in some way, and this year the show’s about a tyrant who manipulates people against one another using their fears. But as well as reflecting this circumstance, I wanted the show to be a prescription for how to defeat that sort of person and how we can use the power of the free press and compassion to defeat those personalities who are pitting us all against one another in real life.
It’s interesting that you mention the free press, because I’ve seen the first few episodes I’m really interested in how you’re using Karen – as you probably know there’s no real precedent for her working as a journalist in the comics but now I see why you might have picked that thread up.
One of the things I wanted to do was really flesh out the supporting cast. I’m a big fan of TV shows with well-realised characters, things like The Sopranos, so the first thing I really wanted to do was fully understand Karen Page, and why she never finished the flirtations she started with Foggy, and Matt, and for that matter Frank Castle. I wanted to know who IS this person and what makes her tick? I could not be more proud of Deborah Ann Woll and how she nailed her storyline this season.
And speaking of supporting characters… you created a new character, Agent Ray Nadeem, for Jay Ali. Why did you decide to go that route rather than use an established Marvel figure?
So yeah, the character of Ray Nadeem is an FBI agent who is Wilson Fisk’s handler as he cuts a deal with the government to get out of prison. In many ways he’s the heart of the show, it’s a story about an honest man who is affected by his proximity to Fisk. I wanted to create a character where we really didn’t know what was going to happen next – there’s nothing about him that springs from the comics so anything can happen to and with him.
And another part was that honestly, I wanted to diversify the cast. And Jay Ali is a terrific British actor, he carries a huge amount of weight this season. I’m looking forward to seeing where the character goes.
One thing I’ve noticed about what I’ve seen is that the show seems like it’s become a lot more intense, but also a lot less graphic. Is that something you were consciously doing?
Oh, definitely. When I took over as showrunner there were some guiding directions I gave to everyone on the crew, and that’s to tell the story as if the audience is experiencing the story within the shoes of the character, rather than watching it. When you approach the story from the outside you’re not necessarily emotionally connected to everything that’s happening in the scene. I’m a huge fan of deep storytelling of emotional bond between great actors, and being inside their heads like that… it allows the audience to really feel as if they are Matt Murdock, or Karen Page, or Foggy Nelson.
So this this might be getting ahead a bit. But assuming you told the story you want to tell in season 3, would you be interested in coming back for season 4? Is that something you’ve thought about?
I’d love to. I can’t talk about it in any way, but I’d be very excited to.
Okay, so the other the other Marvel shows since Defenders have been exploring the idea of crossovers and guest stars from other shows. Without spoiling anything major, what’s your feeling about that opportunity?
I didn’t want to do crossovers. I wanted to get back to the core characters and re-focus the show. I love the other shows, but they have different tones and for the story that I wanted to tell it would’ve just been a distraction from the story I was doing.
And speaking of the other shows, Iron Fist was ten episodes and I believe Daredevil is the full thirteen again?
Was that a choice you made? Was it something given to you by Marvel?
The decision was made even before I joined the show, but I’m a real student of pacing and structure, and I was cognizant of the criticism some of the other shows had with regards to their pacing. I designed season 3 to keep that in mind. It has nothing people can call filler, put it that way. I use every inch of real estate that they gave me to tell a moving story and dig deeper into the characters. If I didn’t have 13 I wouldn’t have been able to do some of the really cool and forward-pushing material that we did.
Erik Oleson, thank you very much!
Daredevil season 3 premieres on Netflix on October 19th