Years: 2015 – 2018
Synopsis: The series follows blind lawyer and ninja-like vigilante Matt Murdock (Daredevil) working to save New York’s Hell’s Kitchen from ancient and new crime lords.
An excellent start to the more earthbound Defenders within the broad MCU, providing a more specialized story. Being on Netflix, the series is much darker and more violent than Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter of network ABC. Feels much freer from the overarching MCU narrative than SHIELD or Carter. D’Onofrio’s very human antagonist Fisk drives the first season, and is a highlight even in his lesser role in the second. Dynamic characters such as Electra and Punisher are introduced strongly. Like with other unrelated Netflix series, the title sequence is breathtaking.
Second season takes longer to come together with much more happening. Fisk having less prominence after the first season. Knowing most of the characters survive, get resurrected, or are officially cast for Defenders and later seasons reduces the sense of peril. Might be a bit too violent for some, while its small scale might be too small for those expecting something as grand as the films.
Up to this point, the MCU tended to shy away from dark antiheroes, intentionally or no. Perhaps this was related to the Ben Affleck Daredevil film (2003), which was largely watchable yet largely mediocre. This film tended to follow the already overused construct established in the Tim Burton Batman (1989). There was also the downright flop of the film’s spin off Electra (2005). At the same time, antiheroes are admittedly not easy to do in an engaging way. They often start as a villain or are intentionally unlikeable. They are willing to go places and do things that literally make the traditional heroes throw up (see Deadpool). What makes the MCU Daredevil work is the writers essentially making a new narrative construct that is unlike the construct rejiggering seen in even Iron Man (2008). We dive into the consequences and internal struggles of very Catholic Murdock. He creates his own limits that are always tested and sometimes broken. We are made to feel for him, even if he has trouble feeling for himself. Even though this new construct is not strictly followed throughout the shows in the Defenders story-arc, it is an important one for the whole of the MCU.
10/26/2018 Update: Season 3 easily is the harshest up to this point. Similar to the last season of Iron Fist, Daredevil-Murdock has no idea if he can even be what he feels he is meant to be anymore. The season’s central question is devastating: In the darkest and lowest moments of our lives, can we make the right decisions? Dex probably did not, becoming the truly horrifying Bullseye. Indeed, every character works through it all and evolves, for better or worse, with the dark influence of Wilson Fisk, who confirms his status as one of the best villains in the MCU.
12/16/2018 Update: It would seem that S3 is likely the last, at least on Netflix. One can only now assume Disney is shifting focus to their upcoming streaming service. So, the rest of Netflix-Marvel is likely to walk into the shadowed sunset, perhaps turned to dust at the snap of Thanos’ gauntleted fingers. That does not necessarily mean we have seen the last of these characters. It’s all connected, after all …
4/25/2019 Update: Nothing is ever truly forgotten; nothing is ever truly lost. Hulu appears more than open to expanding its Marvel offerings. With them now majority own by Disney post Fox buyout, they are primed to show the more adult oriented offerings Disney+ will not offer. If this possibility of continuation comes to fruition, there will be an extra year wait for new episodes, per deal with Netflix.
Marvel Cinematic Universe
S1 – 98%
S2 – 73%
S3 – 92%