‘Marvel’s Daredevil’ Season 3 Spoiler Chat: Revealing Karen Page’s Secrets
Spoiler Alert! Executive Producer/Showrunner Erik Oleson on Karen’s big confrontation with Wilson Fisk and finally delving into her past.
Additional reporting by Ryan Penagos and Jamie Frevele.
Note: Full spoilers for “Marvel’s Daredevil: Season 3 follow. If you haven’t seen Season 3 yet, go check it out on Netflix, and then come back here!
While Karen Page has been a vital part of “Marvel’s Daredevil” since the series began, Season 3 gives the character, played by Deborah Ann Woll, some of her most pivotal moments yet. That includes a riveting one-on-one encounter with Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) in the eighth episode, “Upstairs/Downstairs,” and looking back on that scene with Marvel.com, “Marvel’s Daredevil” Season 3 Executive Producer and Showrunner, Erik Oleson, recalled, “When the idea came up in the writer’s room, we were all just saying, ‘Oh my god. We have to have this scene.’ We had to have this scene where Karen is at this all-time low, and she’s going to risk it all to try to provoke Fisk into making the one mistake that will send him back to the slammer.”
Oleson noted, “In the comics, in BORN AGAIN, Karen basically sells Matt’s secret identity. In our version, in the show, she lets slip, just with a look, that Matt and Daredevil are the same person. Fisk reads it off her face. So we’re able to get that moment from the comics in a way that was very organic and also didn’t denigrate Karen’s character. She came in with this great goal which is ‘I’m going to send Fisk back to prison.’ And she walked out of that room not just having failed in that, but having accidentally confirmed to Fisk that Matt and Daredevil are the same person.”
Oleson had huge praise for Woll’s performance in “Marvel’s Daredevil,” and stressed he wasn’t the only one who felt that way, explaining, "After we filmed that, Vincent [D’Onofrio] called me up and he said, ‘I knew Deborah Ann Woll was good. I had no idea how good.’ He said, ‘She’s not just brilliant as an actress, she’s technically brilliant.’ Like the way she’s actively listening off-camera, the way she was giving him a lot to help his performance... It’s one of those magical scenes where the actors knew that they were in something really special.”
The tenth episode of Season 3, appropriately titled “Karen,” is a unique one, with much of its screen time depicting Karen’s life before the series began, and finally filling us in on a backstory only hinted at previously. Regarding the decision to have so much of the episode exist in the past and focus solely on Karen, Oleson said, “I love form breaking episodes that dive deeper into characters and give the audience something surprising and fun. Sure, there were a host of other storytelling techniques we could have done. We could have done flashes or quick pops of flashbacks, the more traditional way of telling a story like that.”
He elaborated, “I’m just a fan of the departure type episodes, something that expands the filmic vocabulary of our show. We did that episode that makes you go ‘Wait, what show am I watching? This doesn’t even feel like ‘Daredevil.’’ And you realize what it is and why we’re telling that story and we wanted to give it its own distinct look and feel and rhythm. And the director of the episode, Alex Garcia Lopez, who also directed episode four and the prison fight sequence, is a brilliant director and we worked in close conjunction with him to make it have a very different feel to it, almost a ‘Winter’s Bone’ kind of feel to it.”
Going back to Woll’s talents, Oleson remarked, “I was eager to give her a chance to really shine. For me, I’m a fan of the kind of storytelling that treats every character as the hero and protagonist of their own storyline. I wanted to do that for Karen Page. It was one of the early things I wanted to do when I took over the show. At the very beginning of the season, it was always in my mind’s eye that Karen would have an episode that dove deeply into the backstory elements that were hinted at in the first seasons. So I also wanted to understand why Karen Page behaved the way that she behaved in seasons 1 and 2 and ‘Defenders.’ I wanted to know why she flirted with Matt and that never went anywhere in Season 1 and why she flirted with Foggy but thirty seconds later that was over and why she has chemistry with Frank Castle but that never really goes anywhere. I imagined if Karen Page is a real human being, what might be the hang up there that’s preventing her from forming any kind of real, emotional relationship with anybody?”
Because he was going to be expanding on references made previously to Karen having used a gun and to a car crash, Oleson said, "I spoke to my predecessors. I spoke to [Season 1 Showrunner] Steven DeKnight and to [Season 2 Co-Showrunner] Marco Ramirez and asked them about the backstories that they had written for Karen and things they had hinted at in previous seasons. What came back was that they hadn’t really figured it out and I was free to create whatever I wanted. I also spoke to Deborah Ann Woll and she was concerned we would do a saccharine, safe backstory where Karen shot a man to save a bus load of kids or some lame idea like that. She was concerned that the new guy, me, would come up with something like that and in speaking with her, that was definitely not what I wanted to do. What we wanted to do was show a backstory that explains why Karen is afraid to form a lasting relationship with anybody. What we came up with was the story you see in episode ten, which formed scar tissue for Karen. She doesn’t believe she’s a good person. She doesn’t believe she can ever redeem herself for the events that lead to her brother’s death in the backstory. For me, that was a big click sound when I was like ‘Now I understand why Karen Page would be able to walk into Fisk’s apartment and threaten him and act violently toward him knowing that it could very well get her killed.’ What kind of person would do that? And you could say ‘Well, a heroic person would do that’ - self-sacrifice, etc. But if she were a real human being, I think someone who also feels like there’s something in her past that she has to redeem, and she might be willing to die to redeem it, was just a layer deeper.”
When it came to the specifics of Karen's backstory, Oleson explained, “The writer’s room and I kicked around a lot of ideas. We ended up coming up with the story that you see on-screen. We hinted at the drug habits of the comics, but in Karen’s deep backstory where she’s with her boyfriend/drug dealer Todd. There’s that extract from the comics. That was great. It was all about a young woman who has lost her mother, who is trying to keep the family business afloat even though the father in her life -- who is so emotionally distraught about the death of the mom -- can’t see that she’s actually the one running things. Her frustration over being trapped in that kind of a family dynamic and her outlet being to go out and party with her drug dealer boyfriend. Which, of course, leads her younger brother to try to step up and save his sister from the darkness and it has that tragic ending that it has. Karen will forever go forward from that moment, thinking ‘My younger brother tried to come save me, and I accidentally killed him in a car accident while he was doing that.’ There is no coming back from that in Karen’s mind. Although Matt, at the end of the season, says, ‘You know what? In the balance of life, you’re doing more good than you did harm.’ And that’s all Karen really can do.”
The explanation of Karen’s past, “Really gave Karen Page a much richer dimension than I had seen prior,” Oleson remarked. He added, “It’s always been there, but now, when you go back and watch Season 1 and 2, you’re going to have a new understanding of the depth of Karen Page.”
"Marvel’s Daredevil” Season 3 is now streaming on Netflix!
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