Photo: Nicole Rivelli (Netflix)

Daredevil is a show built from familiar pieces assembled in unexpected ways. You see that most clearly in the show’s conception of Matt Murdock. Given his guilt-ridden demeanor, obsession with vigilante violence, and dead-dad issues, Matt could easily feel like a Batman knockoff. Yet rather than lean into the angst of Matt’s story, Daredevil complicates his characterization by giving him an almost Captain America-like earnestness. Most of that comes from Charlie Cox’s absolutely fantastic performance, which has never gotten as much credit as it should. Like Chris Evans, I don’t know if Cox is an actor with a huge amount of range, but both performers excel at channeling their inherent likability into pitch-perfect superhero portrayals. It doesn’t really matter if Cox is a transformative actor when he’s so good at playing this particular role.

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Cox largely carries this opening hour of season three, which sees Matt at the lowest he’s ever been. As we saw at the end of The Defenders, Matt managed to survive the destruction of the Midland Circle building and is being cared for by Father Lantom and the nuns at the Catholic orphanage in which he was raised. Given that Daredevil has never exactly been a subtle show, it’s not long before Matt is monologuing about his Job-like existence and his decision to turn his back on God. But whereas a different performer might lean into Matt’s anger or petulance, Cox makes the far more interesting choice to color Matt’s emotional state with a certain wry detachment. It helps that he finds a fantastic sparing partner in Joanne Whalley’s Sister Maggie, a no-nonsense nun who’s deeply invested in her charge, but not particularly interested in coddling his bruised ego. While Father Lantom immediately sets his sights on repairing Matt’s broken soul, Maggie realizes that Matt’s physical recovery will likely be a crucial stepping-stone on his spiritual one.

In this third season premiere, new showrunner Erik Oleson consciously calls back to Daredevil’s smaller scale first season rather than its overstuffed second (or the messy Defenders series). That’s most clearly demonstrated by the fact that Matt is back in a version of his original black costume rather than his fancy hi-tech red one. The other way in which Olseson echoes the first season is by making Wilson Fisk a major player again. Fisk doesn’t have a ton to do in this Matt-centric premiere, but just seeing Vincent D’Onofrio back in the role with the promise of more to come is hugely exciting. For now, however, Olseson is content to slowly rebuild the world of the show rather than rushing to add a whole bunch of new elements at once.

Though I don’t think I’ve ever said this about a Marvel Netflix show before, I actually wouldn’t have minded if “Resurrection” had been even slower and more myopic. The episode’s sound design creates an unnerving sense of Matt’s lost abilities, and I would’ve happily lived in that realm a little longer rather than so quickly rushing through his recovery. In particular, I didn’t need to see Matt back out on the streets so soon, even if it’s clear he’s not yet fully recovered and is as interested in self-flagellation as he is with helping people. It’s also odd that “Resurrection” ends with a very tacked on segment about new character, FBI Agent Rahul “Ray” Nadeem (Jay Ali). Nadeem’s blown his savings paying for his sister-in-law’s cancer treatments, and the episode briefly implies he’s going to use his gun for something nefarious before revealing his actual plan is just to negotiate a pay raise (the gun is just part of his FBI work equipment). Agent Nadeem’s money woes eventually connect up to Wilson Fisk, but it’s an odd, disjointed way to end the episode. I suppose you could argue that “Resurrection” is an episode about three men hitting their lowest points, with Matt, Fisk, and Ray as parallels for one another. But it more so feels like Daredevil just didn’t want to commit to a fully Matt-centric opening for its third season. That’s too bad. The show should never underestimate what it has in Charlie Cox.

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Stray observations

  • Welcome to binge-review coverage of Daredevil season three! Reviews of all 13 episodes will be up by tomorrow evening.
  • As with most live action superhero adaptations, comic book readers might already know some yet-to-be-revealed details about certain characters. For my part, I’m only going to discuss what’s been revealed in the show itself.
  • After The Defenders jumped ahead, “Resurrection” circles back to the second season cliffhanger in which Matt first told Karen he’s Daredevil.
  • At Karen’s insistence, she and Foggy are paying Matt’s rent in case he ever returns from the dead. I find Karen’s naive belief that Matt is alive to be kind of annoying, especially because she’s improbably right.
  • I genuinely never thought I’d see a scene where a superhero uses a Neti Pot. It truly is the golden age of diverse superhero storytelling!
  • My absolute favorite detail from this episode is that in order to find a sparring partner for Matt’s boxing practice, Father Lantom seems to have assigned the job as penance to one of his congregants. As the guy puts it, “Beats the Hail Marys.”

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