‘Marvel’s Daredevil’ Season 3 Spoiler Chat: Matt Murdock’s Journey
Executive Producer/Showrunner Erik Oleson dives into spoilers on the trials and tribulations Matt faces in the third season, now streaming on Netflix!
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
Matt Murdock has had it rough since “Marvel’s Daredevil” began, but Season 3 arguably gave him his toughest obstacles so far, with the character beginning in a very rough place both physically and mentally.
Discussing Matt’s journey this season, “Marvel’s Daredevil” Season 3 Executive Producer and Showrunner, Erik Oleson, remarked, “If you think about it, Matt has been smashed physically—because a building fell on him—and then once he discovers that he is incapable of being Daredevil… He is barely able to function, even as a blind man because he’s deaf in one ear and all of his abilities are thrown out the window at this point. He is definitely psychologically damaged and spiritually damaged. Elektra did not walk out of that building with him. The woman he loved, as far as he knows, is gone now, forever. If that had happened to you, I think you would have certain emotional feelings about that.”
Acknowledging that Matt certainly went through a lot in Season 3, Oleson said, with grin, “You know, put your hero up a tree and throw rocks at him! That’s one of the dramatic conceits and how to make great drama.”
In the midst of everything else going on in Season 3, Matt discovers that Sister Maggie (Joanne Whalley) is in fact his mother, and Oleson noted, “Matt finding that out rocks his world in many ways and it causes him to recalibrate the way that he looks at Father Lantom and others in his life. But, what it also was, for me, was a key to Matt’s internal process. What I mean by that is that Matt starts the season unaware that he actually does have a fear, and that’s a fear of abandonment. Everybody in his life has abandoned him, from the time he was an infant to the people who he’s loved and who have died along the way. A lot of what drives Matt this season is the fear that the people who are closest to him, who he cares about, will go away—will either die or abandon him in some way. It is only through the Sister Maggie revelation, that this is his mother and the history that they have between the two of them that Matt comes to realize that that is fueling his actions. And that he needs to now move past that. “
Oleson noted that in fact, the central “family” in the show is Matt, Karen, and Foggy, and Matt himself comes to realize that family unit and its importance to him. As Oleson explained, that realization, “springs from the revelation that Sister Maggie is his mom. We see that Matt is still haunted by the memories of his father. There are a lot of family themes that run through this show.”
“Part of the hidden architecture of the season is that we wanted to prescribe the antidote to the rise of a dictator or a tyrant who abuses fear and divisiveness to turn people against one another,” Oleson explained, describing Wilson Fisk’s role in the story. He continued, “Every character this season has a fear. Now, a villain like Wilson Fisk uses that as a tool to divide and conquer people. At the end of the season, Matt has this realization that he has to join forces with his friends. The collective action of teaming up with your buddies to do the right thing is kind of one of the key ways to prevent the rise of a tyrant, of a dictator, of an evil. It was the combination of collective, the power of the press, and the power of the law. [These] are kind of the three things that end up defeating Wilson Fisk this year.”
A key component to Matt Murdock’s character is his faith, with his Catholic upbringing serving a crucial role in shaping him into the man he is. Said Oleson, “One of beautiful things about having a writer’s room full of brilliant writers is that we get to have those theological debates in the writer’s room before it ever makes the page, and then on to the screen. One of my writers, Jim Dunn, at one point wanted to be a priest. So he had all of this great material that he brought into the writer’s room. Not everybody in the writer’s room was a Catholic, obviously. There was kind of a cross-section. We had pretty much every religion under the sun, and it lead to really interesting conversations. One of the great things about Matt’s Catholicism is [that] it’s really about morality and humanist connections between people. And the proper way to behave in the world. Right and wrong is a grey area in a lot of the stories, but at the end of the day Matt is always going to side on what feels like justice. Despite the fact that his anger might momentarily get the better of him, he will always come back to a moral center. And that’s not specific to Catholicism, that’s centered in pretty much in all the world’s great religions—there is a moral center to them. You can quickly see when people co-opt religion falsely, because they go off and behave in hyper-violent ways that are the antithesis of their religion. Matt’s moral center is one of the great things about the character and why I think Daredevil is more fascinating to me than some of the others.”
Oleson stressed that as cynical as Matt is when Season 3 begins, “There is no point in the series where Matt ever does not believe in God. He believes in God, but his viewpoint of who God is changes after that building falls on him [at the end of “Marvel’s Defenders”]. He basically comes into Season 3 with a new viewpoint of God, which is that God is a vengeful, mean spirit. It is not a loving God. It is much more Old Testament punishment God that Matt is now thinking. That informs a lot of his angry lashing out and behavior at the beginning of this season. Literally the worst thing any Catholic can do in the Bible is attempt suicide or commit suicide. I knew the baseline for Matt Murdock after he’s realized he’s incapable of being Daredevil, incapable of being Matt Murdock, incapable of being the person he wants to be. He despairs. He loses hope. He essentially attempts suicide by thug in episode one. Although nobody witnesses that, he knows that God saw that. That’s kind of the base from which Matt then starts to add layers. There’s kind of a spiritual layer also to what happens, because shortly thereafter, Matt’s abilities start to return. Right at that moment, he hears about Wilson Fisk getting out of prison. Now is that happenstance of the writer’s room, or is that God?”
Oleson noted, “The structure of the season was built to help Matt overcome this darkness and come back into the light. Although he spends a lot of the season in a very dark, angry place, it’s ultimately a road which will fail. When you stay in the dark, it doesn’t work. It certainly doesn’t make you whole. What Matt realizes at the very end is the [importance of] being a whole person and reconciling the Matt Murdock side and the Daredevil side… The Matt Murdock who has friends and a life, and a greater worldview, where he actually has people who love him versus Daredevil who is this symbol of darkness, of fear, against criminals. Unless he married those two sides of himself, he was never going to be the best he could be. Those were the two poles of the season. And once I had that and the writers in the room talked about that, we knew how to shape the show, we would start him in this really dark place. At the end, he would come back to the realization that the reason he was so dark was he feared abandonment. In the beginning of the season, he thought he was abandoned by God. He wasn’t just abandoned by all the people who left him in his life, he was abandoned by God. Realizing that no, that was not true, is what allows Matt to come back to himself by the end of the season.”
"Marvel’s Daredevil” Season 3 is now streaming on Netflix!
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