For the Marvel fan, it’s pretty common knowledge Daredevil’s Matt Murdock is guided by his Catholic faith. The arc by Kevin Smith, called “Guardian Devil”, really amplifies this element of Murdock, which Season 3 of Netflix’s Daredevil has seemingly based its arc around.
It’s not hard to see the creators of the third season dove deeper into Murdock’s faith (and specifically his struggle with it), but after finishing and reflecting on the season, a huge Christian theme stood out to me: Redemption.
Interestingly, nearly all the big characters went through some sort of redemptive arc, coming from a place of pain, loss, destruction, suffering, regrets, and feeling unworthy, to a place of healing, righting wrongs, stability, and ultimately, forgiveness. This concept of redemption described above is infused within what Christians call the Gospel, or “good news”. This good news stems from a man named Jesus performing miraculous deeds of healing, exorcism, feeding thousands, and preaching peace, joy, and love. It ultimately culminates in his death, resurrection from the dead, and ascension into heaven, thereby “defeating” death itself and reversing what “sin” does and has done to the world. In fact, his disciples Peter and Paul highlight this event of Jesus rising from the dead as the most important thing to understand and wrestle with – a man defeating death and redeeming mankind into a new glorified state of being with God the Father.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he writes, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.” – 1 Corinthians 15:12-15 (NRSV)
Connecting to Daredevil, it’s obvious the emphasis of Murdock’s faith in Season 3 is a huge part of his character, but the key phrase of Jesus “redeeming” man seems to be what the creators ultimately wanted to demonstrate in relation to Christian thought and belief.
I’ll briefly explain how some of the main characters are connected to this idea:
Matt Murdock: Coming from a place where everything has been taken from him since he was a child – no mother, his father being murdered, him being blinded, Elektra once again being gone, and his Daredevil “powers” being hindered at this point – he becomes very angry with God. He’s vocal about it, and through most of the beginning of the season he speaks against God. However, as we see his friends Karen and Foggy, Sister Maggie, and Father Lantom continually reach out to him and stay by his side, this gradual support and love slowly turns him around, and by the end of the season he maintains his Catholic principles (being solidified by choosing not to kill Fisk), forgives Father Lantom and Sister Maggie, and returns back to the Murdock he was before, perhaps even stronger in his faith and purpose.
Karen Page: Being addicted to alcohol and drugs, as well as selling them and getting her brother killed throughout the process of her trying to find herself, Karen became extremely guilt-ridden and didn’t think she was worthy of love, at least love from her only living family, her dad. In the scene where Bullseye has hunted her down in the church Matt grew up in, she decides to sacrifice herself in an attempt to save the churchgoers from Bullseye. At this time, and after Father Lantom saves her life, she begins to slowly find worth in herself and forgiveness, and by the end of the season, she’s accepted the fact she can’t change what she did and has done her best to make amends, and is at a position now to love others and start anew.
Sister Maggie: In the process of becoming a nun as a young woman, she fell in love with Matt’s father, and before she took her vows, they had a child. Suffering from postpartum depression, she left them thinking she would protect them from herself (they didn’t know much about the condition at that time), and she’s regretted it ever since. Even when Matt’s father died and Matt was put under the care of Sister Maggie and the church, she still didn’t tell him, calling herself a “coward” later in the season for not doing so. She then believed her actions of not being there for Matt as a mother when he needed it the most created the violent vigilante Matt had become. When Matt comes into her care yet again at the start of the season, this time as an adult, she does her best to guide him with tough love, thereby becoming his spiritual director of sorts. Matt eventually finds out she’s his mother and leaves her, causing her to breakdown from guilt for failing again. As the story progresses, she does her best to help Matt, while knowing how much she’s hurt him, and by the end of the season, Matt forgives her and she becomes his official spiritual director, since Father Lantom had died.
Father Lantom: Feeling guilty for not telling Matt the truth about his mother, Father Lantom also believes he had contributed to Matt’s anger and violent behaviors, making him regret the way he raised Matt and lied to him his whole childhood. In the successful effort of saving Karen Page from Bullseye, he steps in front of her as Bullseye throws an object at her, taking a lethal hit. His last words he whispered to Matt before dying were, “Please forgive us.” This is the moment that helped start Matt’s return back to his faith, as shown when he makes the sign of the cross before leaving the scene shortly after, most likely praying for Father Lantom.
Agent Nadeem: Having been manipulated by Fisk into having the FBI do his bidding, Nadeem eventually ends up in a position where he becomes one of Fisk’s men in order to keep his family safe. He regretfully takes part in Fisk’s plans, and eventually this leads to the killing of Father Lantom, which he realizes he could have stopped but instead did nothing. At this point of his life spiraling out of his control and being associated with Fisk, he tries to turn it around by working with Matt and Foggy to take down Fisk through legal means. However, Fisk has such control over the system that even that doesn’t work. Knowing of one other way (and most likely the only way) he can right his wrongs and stop Fisk, he decides to sacrifice his life, leaving a secret video of his confession before Bullseye comes to kill him. This video confession turns out to be the “silver bullet” (as Foggy put it) of finally stopping Fisk, since a person’s confession before death has more weight in the case since the person has less of a reason to lie. This enables Fisk to be put away legally, without Matt having to kill him and betray his values.
This “turning around” or “turning back” from a place of darkness to light is basically what Christians mean by the term “repent”. To the Christian, what Jesus did in the Gospels, and continues to do today, is turn the world back to its original intention, even glorifying it to a more unified and complete relationship with the Father. That’s why the Gospels are filled with healings and caring for the oppressed. Philosophically speaking, “evil” can be described as the absence of something that’s supposed to be there, and Jesus came to correct and amplify that.
In the last episode, during a conversation between Karen and Foggy about whether or not the only way to stop Fisk is to kill him, Foggy basically says the thesis and theme of this season:
Foggy: “Matt’s Matt because he believes that everyone deserves a shot at redemption.”
Karen: “Except Fisk.”
Foggy: “Everyone. It’s a Catholic thing, it’s why he doesn’t kill people.”
To conclude, it seems the creators of Daredevil Season 3 were intentional about the way they developed the characters, tying in with the underlying element of Christianity that helped drive the story along in a very subtle way. It’s my interpretation that the creators advanced the plot in a way that suggested God was guiding the whole unfolding of each character and the stopping of Fisk in a symphony of complex events, culminating in the redemption of all the characters that were seeking it, and the enacting of justice by the stronger and more faithful Daredevil and team.
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