Daredevil’s third season is a gripping exploration of the internal boundaries that individuals maintain as well as the external regulations holding them back, and the navigation of both for the purposes of action, be it a selfish or altruistic motivation.
For Matthew Murdock, the titular Daredevil, his arc centres on his disillusionment with Catholicism and the law. In his perspective, it is the judicial system that he swore an oath to uphold that has set his nemesis, Wilson Fisk, free and allowed him to thrive below the radar of the law. It is also Murdock’s unyielding refusal to take a life that renders him unable to permanently end Fisk’s reign. With the severing of his moral principles also came the dissolution of his human ties, his friends and his moral council, to remove the distractions that hinder his mission, but to also protect them from the consequences of his actions.
Prior to the suffering he undergoes that leads him to lose his faith, Murdock believed himself to be God’s servant, executing God’s will through his identity as Daredevil. However, as he begins to question his faith and the absence of divine justice in himself and the city around him, Murdock examines his own agency in his actions as a vigilante and grows to reject God’s influence on what he had hitherto considered his divine vocation. This loss of faith is clearly demonstrated by his reply to a woman thanking God for him: ‘He didn’t help you. I did.’
Therefore, at first one can surmise free will to be the absence and rejection of the obstacles that hinder us from acting; Murdock’s decision to become Daredevil leaves him as a man with nothing to lose and nothing to hold him back. This is in contrast with Wilson Fisk, a man in prison with a singular goal to be reunited with his wife. It is through the exploitation of the government’s bureaucracy and the judicial system that he has a framework to climb and eventually exonerate himself. Meanwhile, FBI Agent Nadeem’s commitment to the FBI and his family is what the Fisk preys upon to make him his servant. Consequently, Fisk relies on the restrictions placed upon him in order to thrive.
The perversion of Murdock’s new philosophy comes in the form of Benjamin Poindexter’s release of his psychopathic urges. Like Daredevil, he was a man that used a system, his being in the FBI, in order to justify his violence. He also sought therapy to guide him, paralleling Murdock’s reliance on religion. It is this yearning for a ‘north star’ that empowers Fisk to seduce him for his own purposes as he promises Poindexter a sense freedom. Poindexter comes to don Murdock’s red Daredevil suit, illustrating to Murdock what he could have become without the guiding influences instructing him to remain vigilant when controlling his own feelings of anger.
Overall, Daredevil Season 3 unifies its characters in their struggles with their own agency and the ability to act, whilst navigating the restrictions placed by ourselves and upon ourselves, both legally and morally. While these restrictions might hinder our ability to act in one manner, they also enable us a framework to operate in another, whilst the promise of liberty can leave us open to being exploited.