Last week, Deadline reported Daredevil has been canceled, officially ending its three-season run in the Marvel Netflix Universe, joining other previously canceled shows Iron Fist and Luke Cage. The proverbial Iron Man of this universe, the show to start it all now rests under the depths of Hell’s Kitchen as the Man Without Fear’s story solemnly comes to an end.
I’ve always had a difficult relationship with the Marvel Netflix Universe. When these shows launched, I immediately fell in love with Daredevil’s striking combination of entertainment and depth, but I’ve always found the rest of the shows arduous and difficult to navigate. When Iron Fist was canceled in October, I challenged Netflix to cancel more of these shows because most of these characters weren’t worth investing time in. Alas, Luke Cage was subsequently canceled, propelling further doubt that these shows had any more sustainability.
Later that month, Daredevil’s third season was released, inviting viewers into what may have been the show’s most intimate and visceral run. As the titular superhero, Matt Murdock’s (Charlie Cox) lines of morality have been shaken, Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio) is playing the world for a fool, and we were finally introduced to fan-favorite villain Bullseye (Wilson Bethel).
By all means, this new season was absolutely terrific and opened up great opportunities for an exciting follow-up, so its ending was certainly puzzling. The series wasn’t even struggling with viewership because, according to Deadline, a Parrot Analytics report revealed the show reached over 30 million demand expressions during the final week in November. Furthermore, many are upset with the show’s cancellation. IGN remarks that many fans and stars of the show took to Twitter to express their displeasure and anguish over the show’s cancellation and an io9 interview with a writer of the show, Tamara Becher-Wilkinson, reveals the writers weren’t even expecting the cancellation, canning their plans for a fourth season.
While I’m certainly fine with the cancellation of both Iron Fist and Luke Cage, I’m very struck by Daredevil’s cancellation and will certainly miss how the show brilliantly presented thoughtful characters who excited with engaging action, all while delving deep into the complex themes of morality and faith. This show’s all-encompassing drama and action was the perfect response to other mindless superhero shows out there. All this to say, here’s what I’ll miss most about Daredevil:
The characters in Daredevil were absolutely phenomenal. Throughout the show, we journey through Daredevil’s core moral crisis because he has to drop his angel wings and don the devil’s horns in order to save his city. However, every time he dons those horns to face men like Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin, or Frank Castle, aka The Punisher (Jon Bernthal), or Dexter Poindexter, they force him to pull closer or push further from his central values, ultimately forcing Murdock to unleash the real devil within.
Fisk was Daredevil’s perfect antithesis. He brought Murdock to a darkness unexplored and stood on the exact opposite plane of our Man Without Fear. He was ferocious, troubled, and complex. To explain Fisk’s nature would only trivialize his personality, but it takes a character with a similarly troubled backstory to challenge Murdock’s moral values. As Fisk pushed Murdock deeper into hatred and relativism, this actually saved Murdock from crossing the breaking point.
The Punisher and Bullseye were both birthed from trauma. As such, they were also perfect characters to push Daredevil’s growth. Castle ultimately served as an extreme version of Murdock, showing him what he could eventually have become. However, Dex was the absolute opposite of Murdock, presenting him with the ultimate physical challenge. While both of these characters presented incredible action sequences with Daredevil, they were ultimately more than just fun action scenes. It’s easy to shortchange a villain’s background, but Daredevil excellently introduced complex characters that rivaled the depth of our main hero, which doesn’t only test him physically, but also mentally and emotionally.
Moreover, Daredevil may have the best action on television. Many action sequences in film and television are hardly comprehensible because filmmakers hyper-edit these scenes with too many close-ups and too much shaky camera movement. Daredevil, however, subverts our modern expectations for superhero action with all-encompassing cinematography and intelligent choreography. The action here isn’t cut up all to hell, rather, it lets you watch the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen cycle through the myriad bad guys he pounds down. With the cancellation of Daredevil, I’m really going to miss the action that’s actually entertaining and actually viewable. Here’s that famous stairway scene to hold us all over.
Lastly, I’ll miss how Daredevil took a thoughtful approach to religion. Murdock’s faith has always been central to his character. He constantly has a dialogue with his priest about the moral shakiness he walks on and as the show progresses, it’s certainly obvious to see how Murdock falls further and further from his faith. Eventually, he experiences a crisis of faith, which was handled with beautiful class and certainly felt like it came from a place of truth. I have personally felt the same hopelessness Murdock felt through my own crisis of faith, so watching him experience the same apathy, anger, and abandonment that I felt was very special to me. I’m glad this show approached this issue with rich contemplation, presenting a real opportunity for thought-provoking analysis and reflection.
At the end of the day, I appreciate how Daredevil bravely balanced all the things I loved about the series. Some television shows have great characters but lackluster action. Some have great action but paper-thin plots. So I’m grateful we got three fully comprehensive seasons of Daredevil, but I wish we could have more.
What’s next? Jessica Jones and The Punisher have yet to be canceled, so are they next on the chopping block? Will the Disney+ streaming service pick up these shows and continue their stories? They certainly could bring all these shows back, but I only have hopes that Daredevil resurrects from the dead.