This article consists of nothing but Daredevil season 3 spoilers.
Daredevil season 3 might just be the best Marvel Netflix season yet. A spectacular return to the more grounded, crime show flavor of the first season, the return of the best villain Marvel has put on screen, the introduction of a new physical threat, and the best action sequences the show has ever produced, it’s a real joy. It also, remarkably for any of these shows, maintained its momentum all the way through all 13 episodes. But it’s the Daredevil season 3 ending that perhaps leaves the most to unpack.
Showrunner Erik Oleson has been quite open about the fact that “fear” was the key to this story, and it’s also key to understanding the Daredevil season 3 ending. “The guiding principle of the season was… you can only be free when you confront your fears because your fears are what enslave you,” Oleson says. “Every character on the show this season is dealing with a fear of something.”
Daredevil episode 13 is the ultimate culmination of those fears for every major character on the show, especially Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson, and Karen Page, and the season’s villains, Wilson Fisk and Benjamin “Bullseye” Poindexter.
“I feel like a lot of us behave in the world in certain ways because of our fears,” Oleson says. “We might treat other people in a certain way … we may take on life missions because we’re afraid of something or we’re afraid of failing someone or we’re afraid that we’re not worthy of love. Wilson Fisk is afraid of something, too. I believe that the villains of the world also act out of fear, even if they’re a narcissistic, would-be tyrant who uses people’s fears to turn them against one-another and gain power.”
So let’s take a look at the Daredevil season 3 ending and see how those fears are confronted by our major players.
Wilson Fisk Becomes Kingpin
Make no mistake, Wilson Fisk is now completely the Kingpin from the comics. It took three full seasons to get there, but now this absolutely, finally feels like the guy who runs the criminal underworld in New York City, and who constantly runs afoul of heroes other than Daredevil.
“This year he becomes the Kingpin,” Vincent D’Onofrio told me at NYCC, “and it’s through his yearning for Vanessa and vengeance. There’s the birth of a new character caused by him. That’s real Kingpin stuff. Punisher/Kingpin, Daredevil/Kingpin, Spider-Man/Kingpin, that’s the beginning of all that. The reason why I talk about it in these terms…it’s such a huge thing. You can choose to go in as far as you’d like, but the further you go, the more knowledge and understanding you have of the whole ultimate picture of Kingpin. This season is the first time where ‘Kingpin’ really appeared, and in future seasons we’ll see the ‘ultimate Kingpin.'”
While Fisk figured out Matt Murdock’s double life early in the season, the question was always how he would act on it. Matt spent much of the season motivated by his fear that someone like Fisk would bring harm to Foggy Nelson or Karen Page or others he cared about (and in the case of Father Lantom, that’s what happened). But Fisk is motivated by a similar fear. His overwhelming love for Vanessa allows him to make his own “deal with the devil,” with the two basically engaging in a “mutually assured destruction pact” with each other. Fisk will happily go to jail knowing that Vanessa is safe and free, and in order to do that, he has to swear not to go after Matt Murdock’s friends.
On a side note, and one that is probably coincidental, the climax of the final episode, with a big throwdown between Daredevil, Bullseye, and Kingpin in a penthouse, ending in Matt and Fisk striking a bargain, is slightly similar to the 2003 Daredevil movie that everyone is always trying to forget. There, however, Matt’s point is driven home by the threat that Fisk would be unable to function if everyone knew he lost to a blind man. In this, as in many things, the Netflix series comes out on top.
That’s far less important than the fact that Wilson Fisk is going to spend his time figuring a way to get back out of jail and be at the side of his beloved Vanessa, who has already proven herself ruthless enough to put together a Kingpin-worthy empire in his absence.
What’s Next for Matt Murdock and Daredevil?
For starters, Daredevil’s name is essentially cleared. Well, it’s as cleared as any vigilante’s name can be. But with Ben Poindexter placed under arrest while wearing that authentic Daredevil costume that Melvin Potter made for him, and with Matt just visible enough in his black fighting gear as the police arrive, they all seem to know who the “real” Daredevil is. But where things end for his Daredevil identity is somewhat less interesting than where things end for Matt himself.
Matt’s journey over the course of the season, from when he thought he had lost his powers, to his crisis of faith in both God and himself that nearly led to his suicide by vigilantism, leaves him with a new sense of purpose. Defeating Fisk and Bullseye and clearing his name, while keeping both Foggy and Karen out of Green-Wood Cemetery will do that. But it also allowed him room to absorb the lessons his mother, Sister Maggie, tried to impart to him during his recovery, as well as those that Father Lantom had been giving him for most of his life. Matt’s eulogy for Father Lantom, in which he uses the old Daredevil tagline, “man without fear” isn’t meant to be taken literally for the character going forward, but in that moment, it’s true. For a season that so effectively built on all that came before, it ends with a feeling of a remarkable fresh start, with Matt, Foggy, and Karen ready to go back into business together, and Matt no longer resenting his calling as a hero.
UPDATE! I previously thought that was poor Melvin Potter stuck in the freezer with Julie’s body, but it has been kindly pointed out to me that it was one of Kingpin’s goons. This means that maybe Matt will be able to get himself a slightly more suitable/versatile costume once Daredevil Season 4 rolls around (and that had better happen!).
While Benjamin Poindexter was recognizably Bullseye fairly early on in the series, the show never gave him his own costume, and he certainly never had a codename (and knowing how Marvel Netflix shows work, he probably never will…which if fine). But Wilson Bethel also clarified that the character was never intended to be the full Bullseye this year.
“It’s important to note that this is very much an origin story of Bullseye,” Bethel says. “What we see this season is not maybe Bullseye as fans have come to understand him over the course of decades of comic reading. This is very much the arc of a human being, a man who is starting down that path toward becoming that iconic villain, but he is very much Benjamin Poindexter. The guy we see in season three of Daredevil is Dex not Bullseye.”
That is all going to change should Daredevil Season 4 get picked up. While Poindexter is left paralyzed after his fight with Daredevil and Kingpin (something which mirrors the events of the Frank Miller comics from after he murdered Elektra), it’s a safe bet that he’ll get better. Just don’t take the actual “bullseye” we saw reflected in his pupils literally.
Throughout the season, Dex lived in fear of losing his mind, losing control, losing his job, and losing the few human contacts he had. With all anchors to his humanity (Julie, the tapes with his therapist, his relationship with Fisk) destroyed, when he does return, he’s unlikely to be as sympathetic a character. Perhaps the most worrisome thing about Poindexter now is that he is truly a man with nothing to lose, and once he comes back from a shattered spine that’s likely to give him a particular view of the world and his own indestructibility. While Matt Murdock may not literally be a “man without fear” it’s quite possible that when we meet Bullseye again, he will be.