“Why I Love” – Daredevil Season 3 and what it can teach us about violence

I am a Black man. One of millions. And at the time of me writing this piece, America is in turmoil. You ask most of us, Black people that is, and America is in constant turmoil. But last week, George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis. Breonna Taylor was murdered not too long ago by police in Louisville. And Ahmaud Arbery was murdered by insecure white supremacists in Georgia. Each one of them should be alive today, there’s no question about that. I’m not one to mince words, and if you’ve ever read anything I’ve done here on this website, you know that.

But this last week—was a lot. I lost an incredible amount of sleep following the protests that took place across the country. From LA to New York, the country was hurting, and a lot of people banded together to show their pain. People of all ages, races, I even saw protests going on in parts of Europe. And around the country, the globe, the message was the same.

Enough is enough.

Am I next?

Arrest Derek Chauvin and the other arresting officers.

Fuck the police.

And all on social media, conversations were happening about race and about the protests. People were sharing links to local organizations, conversations about allyship, and people just sharing their support and solidarity with the Black community. But there was another conversation going on.

You might have clicked on this link to read exclusively about Daredevil. Sorry to disappoint, but I’m getting there. Feel free to leave. The other conversation I’m talking about was one on violence. Property was destroyed all across the country during the protests. The images of Target and other places burning will live on forever in the history books. And this destruction became common across the country, as Black people pleaded to be heard. But like all things in America, the conversation shifted. It became rudimentary and stale and lacking nuance.

Is violence necessary?

If you care about your community, you shouldn’t destroy it.

I support people’s rights to protest as long as they do it peacefully.

Is this even about George Floyd anymore?

People across the country continued to emphasize the violence. Big media outlets such as CNN, FOX, and MSNBC focused on the violence in a sort of romanticized way, obsessed with it, and not with the cause. Going minutes, in some cases hours without mentioning the cause. And the obsession from them was with one side, the people, the protestors. And it was an obsession about property. Non-living things that can be replaced. I spent too many hours this past week watching the news and following different stories. And the covering of these protests infuriated me. The stories involving police committing acts of violence were slim. You wouldn’t have to look hard to find videos of police abusing their power to serve and protect.

But see, I didn’t see this erasure from the people. It was the people, who recorded videos of police escalating situations, driving their cars through barricades, spraying people with pepper spray who had their hands up, and continually bombarding people with tear gas.

This is complex. There’s a lot of information to sift through, it can feel like you’re drowning at times, I get that. But Americans, white people specifically, are always quick to forget the history violence has in this country. The violence against Native Americas, to the LGBTQ community, and of course, Black people. This country is known worldwide for its violence. In Latin America, the Middle East, our violent presence is felt just about everywhere we go. There’s a history. But the violence that has been laid upon Black people, from the moment the first slaves arrived, has been the worst in human history. Calculated, well-thought out violence is the nature of white supremacy. The tactics remain somewhat similar but they’ve evolved over time. And now, with these protests, after years upon years of this violence, the country is put on notice. And some have the audacity to care about property instead of people.

Image of a protestor in Minneapolis. / John Minchillo AP
Protestors burns an American flag in Los Angeles/ Dania Maxwell Los Angeles Time via Getty Images

But this isn’t new. Violence, when it comes to Black people, is how America has attempted to define us. Angry, lazy savages intent on destroying their own communities instead of building them up. I’m not one to destroy property, I wouldn’t do it at a protest. But to focus on the property, to even act as if it is equivalent to what happened to George Floyd and the thousands throughout the years, is bullshit. Just as bad as hating us for the color of our skin. Although it seems that people are okay with violence, with uprisings of the impoverished, when it comes from fictional characters. And that brings me to Daredevil season three.

Daredevil is my favorite superhero of all time. And there isn’t really a close second. The guilt and pain Matt Murdock carries in his heart as a vigilante superhero is something that’s always resonated with me. You can read exactly why he’s my favorite in this piece here

https://peaceloveandcomics.com/2017/05/11/why-i-love-daredevil/

The hero himself is rooted in violence. Not just the pain he inflicts upon people, but the pain his enemies inflict upon society, as well as the pain inside himself becuase of what he’s done. The constant corruption and ruining of people’s lives, the callousness of the system is what drives Matt.  Season three of the show is a good representation of the violence white supremacy causes in society, how deeply rooted it is. It also shows the consequences we face as a society for not speaking out. I love this show because it’s unflinching in its discussion about the effect that violence has on us. From decent people like Matt Murdock to the truly evil individuals like Wilson Fisk. Let’s take a look at season three overall and how it addresses violence. I’ll start with Matt Murdock.

 

Season one of Daredevil is flawless. Perfect in every way. Season two is damn near close to perfection. So season three had a lot to live up to, just in terms of quality. And there was also the increasing number of fans from Marvel films tuning in. Ever since Avengers came out in 2012, and almost every Marvel movie after it, people seem to be discovering these heroes for the first time. The Defenders came out before this as well, and directly affects the first few episodes of season three. Defenders was good, but it wasn’t as well received as Daredevil has been. So once again, the pressure was on for this show, which was already getting rumors about it being their last season. And it didn’t disappoint.

The story of Matt Murdock is pretty known to this point. Season three starts with him near death due to what happened in Defenders. And throughout the season, he suffers an identity crisis. Matt Murdock worked his entire life trying to abide by the system the world had created. Thinking that his heart, his passion, and his education would be enough to help people. To make real, lasting change in society. But he soon realized that it wasn’t enough. That the world was too corrupt, his city was too corrupt. The system beat him down every time he tried to work in it. The exact same thing has happened with Black people through the years. Most of us, myself included, have had moments where systems fail us. Schools, hospitals, corporate, police. It’s the same here. You work your absolute hardest, give your all, hoping something will change. It never does. This is being Black in America. And it’s Matt Murdock’s life.

So that was what he was struggling with at the start of season three. Matt Murdock at the beginning of season three and protestors this weekend ask a similar question.

What’s the point?

Why am I doing this, if it is costing me and my loved ones their lives?

I try and try again but to no avail. The bad guys win.

For Matt Murdock, it’s Wilson Fisk. For us, police. But as I said, also schools, hospitals, jobs, entertainment, and more. It’s hard to watch at the beginning of the show. Matt is a broken human being. He’s a shell of himself for most of the season. And he’s kind of insufferable when he does get his senses back. But man, can you blame him?  The conversations he had with his mother, Maggie, at the beginning are some of the same conversations Black people have with loved ones. Just change the context. I was almost in tears the entire weekend talking with my fiancée, who’s white. She was in tears as she told me the fact I could die because of the color of my skin terrifies her. And I told her about all the anxiety I had this past week. About the pain in the world, the guilt I have for not doing more, the anger in my soul knowing that no matter what I do, things won’t change. There’s something weirdly liberating and freeing about wanting to abandon who you are as a person, your values. Just letting that anger and fear consumer you. And Matt plays with that idea at the beginning of the season when he tries to get himself killed.

Daredevil Season 3 Episode 1 Recap

Matt spirals as the season goes on. His worst moment probably coming when he steals Foggy’s wallet and goes into a prison for information. But damn do I love that scene. It’s brutal as hell and one of the best shot sequences in the entire show. Matt loses himself to the violence, to the pain. And I’m here to tell you today that most Black people are not like Matt Murdock. We do not wade in violence like he does. So often, so thoroughly. For a great cause, sure. But season three saw him pursuing violence as a sort of therapy and enlightenment. And the people around him telling him how foolish that was.

But it’s not his fault. It was out of his control from day one. Matt Murdock did not wake up with this violence and anger in his heart. It was created by the system he was up against. From the day his father was killed by mobsters all the way to his decision to become Daredevil. Black people’s “Jack Murdock” moment varies from person to person. And sometimes it isn’t a single moment. But a culmination. We all have different experiences with racism and oppression. Collectively though, we agree that George Floyd was just the tip of the iceberg. The culmination of years upon years of violence. Matt Murdock’s tip of the iceberg comes in the form of Wilson Fisk.

Wilson Fisk aka Kingpin is not a white supremacist, at least by definition. He hardly talks about race and most of the stories surrounding him don’t involve race. However, Fisk if he has to, if it will maintain his crime empire and his money, he will work with Nazi sympathizers, fascists, and extremists. And ask no questions about their ideologies or beliefs. Fisk understands the system, he knows where it’s vulnerable and what makes people upset. It doesn’t bother him, to be honest. Doesn’t phase him one bit. It’s what makes him such a diabolical villain. He knows how corrupt the police force is. Knows it doesn’t take much to turn someone who was looking in your direction already. This season shows his genius of the system in full force as he manipulates the FBI into releasing him. All under the pretense that him giving up criminals in New York is protecting citizens.

He’s a metaphor for institutional corruption. Whether you see that or not. Today, in 2020, drugs still flood Black neighborhoods, guns still ship illeglaly in enormous quantities, human trafficking is still a huge problem, and conspiracies against Black men, regarding their deaths at the hands of police, spawn up like wild dandelions. There is no bald, fat white man to blame. He doesn’t have some sick obsession with white suits. There is no Kingpin. There are multiple. Each not as cartoony and overexaggerated as the next. Normal people who work, pay bills, have families. But they hold tight to the belief that they are better. Grip it as if their life depended on it. They deem themselves superior. In every single way that to challenge them is to put your own life in danger. Look at the number of innocents Fisk killed during this show’s run. How much did you cry or scream out when he killed Julie? How much did you scream or cry out when George Floyd died? Breonna Taylor? Tamir Rice? If Matt Murdock was real, I believe he would weep for every single one of them. Just like he did every time Fisk took an innocent life.

The Kingpin Returns In New Daredevil Season 3 Featurette – /Film

I want to talk now about how Fisk does what he does. If you’ve ever seen any show with a crime boss, be it Godfather or Narcos, the logistics sometimes come to mind. How is this possible? How can one person have so much influence. In this season, we got a true and extended look at just how Fisk earned the name Kingpin. And it plays out through Special Agent Ray Nadeem.

Nadeem is introduced to us as a family man. A man who cares about his son and his family with an intense love. We also learn of his financial struggles and that he helped to take care of his sister’s cancer treatments. Things are tough for the family, and Nadeem wears that struggle on his face, it’s palpable. The show even plays an almost cruel trick on us as they show him grab a gun as if he’s about to commit a crime to help his family. And right here, there’s a lot of layers being exposed. About bias and stereotypes mainly. Here’s this dark-skinned Asian man who instead of working to pay off his debt, resorts to crime. I can’t even lie that’s where my mind went when I first saw this a few years ago. But no, he’s just a hardworking FBI agent, looking to get a raise to support his family. That’s it. There’s also this sense of foreshadowing with Nadeem. The show is telling us where he will end up by the end of this season. But also letting us know that what we see first, his family, is what truly represents him.

As the season goes on, Nadeem’s fate is intertwined with Matt, Karen, Foggy, and of course Fisk. He leads the FBI special detail assigned to Fisk and is credited with being able to get Fisk to give up major criminal organizations. Nadeem does seem like a good agent. A little headstrong and blinded by the power he’s been granted sure, but good overall. And then, one of the most shocking moments in the show happens. Nadeem learns that his entire unit has been compromised by Fisk. Every single person. And when Nadeem attempted to give himself up for investigating Dex aka Bullseye, there it is. There’s the hook. That’s how the system gets him. He can only watch as his boss kills a man to frame him, making him a part of the complex web of  corruption Fisk has spun.

And then we come back to this idea of violence. Police around the country today are using the protests as an excuse for violence. There are countless videos and photos of police using completely unnecessary force on protestors. Unarmed people. Even with the world watching, they can’t help themselves to escalate situations with civilians. It’s a kind of engrained violence and callousness that can’t truly be undone. These men are scouted, tested, recruited. All because they hold the same values as the ones before them. They see no problem beating the living mess out of protestors or unarmed Black men and women. And if they do see a problem, those “good apples”, they don’t speak up.

This is where Nadeem has his darkest moment. He sees that the federal agent’s violence and Fisk’s violence is all the same. Fisk tried, and succeeded, in controlling lower law enforcement in season one. Until Matt, Karen, and Foggy came around. And like I said, Fisk realized that if you can control one, you can control the other, it just needs more time, more thought. This shook Nadeem to his core. Made him literally freeze at times. People shouldn’t have to go through these types of experiences in order to see the violence of a system for what it truly is. It is preventable though. All you have to do is listen. Listen to those with more experience, more stake in the fight, even if your fight is noble. Nadeem failed to do that and he failed to speak up when he saw crimes being committed. That was until, he spoke with Maggie after Father Lantom was killed by Bullseye. Another great scene and fight by the way. Not everyone has a Maggie though. It’s naïve to think people will just wake up one day and realize their role in the violence. But Nadeem does and it costs him his life.

The second to last episode of this season is extremely hard to watch. It took Nadeem a short period of time to speak up, at least compared to his fellow agents. But he still didn’t for a time, and in that time, murders were committed. So on one side, screw him, right? He gets what he deserves. But on the other, all Fisk used against him was his passion and love for his family. Nadeem admits that was his only thing he wanted in life. For his son to see him as more than a federal agent. He went from hero to villain in no time flat. Even Matt and Karen make him feel bad for it. If Matt doesn’t have super hearing, if he can’t hear Nadeem tearfully tell his family how much they mean to him, does his opinion change of Nadeem? Will the world’s? Maybe, since he recorded a video detailing everything, but the damage is done. And he was killed by a federal agent who was also corrupted by the system aka Fisk. There’s a beautiful and tragic irony is Nadeem’s story in season three. Beautiful because of how well its executed and how true I believe it to be. I know for some police it must be hard to witness what they witness. There are a few Nadeem’s out there most definitely. But if you don’t speak up, if you don’t make your voice heard, you are no worse than your colleagues. And your good deeds mean nothing.

Is Nadeem In The 'Daredevil' Comics? Here's What Marvel Fans ...

Another tactic Fisk used during season three was divide and conquer. Within the FBI but also the city. He used Daredevil, a legitimate figure in Hell’s Kitchen. A vigilante that had won over the hearts of the city, even if some didn’t agree with his methods. He knew that in order to turn the city away from him, he needed a scapegoat. Figuratively and literally. Daredevil the symbol and Special Agent Benjamin Poindexter. And once again, we got insight to the ferocity of Fisk’s mental violence. And he used every bit of it on Dex as he turned him into an absolute maniac by the end of the show. But his idea to have Dex dress up as Daredevil and have him kill multiple people, and use Karen’s name so that people demonize her and delegitimize her writings? It’s scary brilliant. The first fight with Matt and Dex was one of the best buildups I’ve ever seen in a show. As a comics reader, of course I was excited. But they just executed it so well. And this wasn’t something hard for Kingpin to do. He’s a master at figuring out the system and it’s creacks. It was something he maybe didn’t plan on doing, because if Dex didn’t save him that one episode, none of this is relevant. But he adapted, used his resources, and executed. Our justice system in real life work the same way.

Broken isn’t the word to describe our justice system. Corrupt is one. But what has happened the past few days with the protests is something else. Reports of truly random and chaotic acts of property damage being done. And no, not by Black people, but by white people. Discreetly clothed, almost unrecognizable. Smashing windows, while saying little to no words at all in support of George Floyd or Black lives, and running away while Black protestors plead for them to stop. Piles upon piles of bricks being laid out like loadout drops from Call of Duty for people to use. And the speculation that white supremacist groups have an interest here because of their desire for a race war. All in an attempt to delegitmize the protests through violence.

I’m not here to speculate as to the nature of this corruption. I do not care if it is antifa protestors, white supremacists, undercover cops, or hormonal white kids looking to boost their TikTok content. In all actuality, it’s probably a mix. But the job has been done. Divide has been implemented and it has turned people against protestors. Protestors against each other. And it has made certain people forget about the cause of the protests. I don’t put it past police to try and cause dissent within riots, I know that they have in the past. They have lied in order to protect their own cause and will do it again, no matter the cost. Whether it’s planting drugs on a dead black man or influencing living ones to burn a car, it’s all to build this narrative of violence. Fisk did the same thing with Dex. Each hit was targeted, his words carefully chosen. But we can’t see the true inner workings of police in real. We just have years and years of evidence and research from dedicated people to go off of.

There’s a lot of nuance needed when discussing these protests. And some may not agree with me, but I don’t care. Do I think something is up with random white people showing up destroying things? Yes. Do I think Black people, as a way to express their pain, have a right to destroy things? Yes. It’s what you get when you oppress people for longer than I’ve been alive. Do I think destruction of property delegitimizes the movement? Absolutely not. People vs. Property is not an argument for me, in terms of value and importance. Some people might have respiratory problems for life because of the police’s excessive use of tear gas. There’s multiple layers to this and to understand the true picture, work must be done. You have to read multiple articles, talk with family, friends, follow news. It’s heartbreaking and exhausting, I get it, but so are our fucking lives.

Daredevil season 3 trailer showcases the origin of Bullseye

That effort, that determination, is showcased in the three protagonists of the show. Matt, Karen, and Foggy all have different beliefs and believe in different methods of combatting the system. I’ve already discussed Matt’s, but Karen’s is extremely important. Karen’s approach is what I just described. She gathers as much information as she can. She trusts her gut when she knows something isn’t right, even if she can’t prove it. Foggy on the other hand is blinded by the system. By the small amount of good he has been able to achieve. There’s a fundamental difference between him and Matt that shows itself whenever they get in a room together in season three. And the same with Karen. She’s willing to expose the truth, willing to even have violence enacted upon her, when she tries to taunt Fisk. But in her taunting, she revealed that she too, has succumb to the violence, by killing Fisk’s right-hand man. And yet, it took her a long time to be okay with Matt as Daredevil. They’re talking about beating up people, criminals mind you, but people. Crippling them for life in some cases. And here we are in our world arguing about property.

Would you agree with Daredevil’s methods if he were real? Probably not. And if Daredevil, the character was Black, I’m not sure he’d be as popular as he is. Because as Matt Murdock, he is seen as white man. Blind, but still white. Still has a level of privilege on him that he cannot get rid of, no matter how many people he beats up. The show doesn’t cover that much, his comics never really have either. But everything I talked about, the violence in his heart, the violence of Fisk and the system, it all comes to a head in the last episode. As Daredevil has an epic confrontation with Fisk and Bullseye. In a truly epic fight, they beat the snot out of each other until Daredevil gains the upper hand. He bashes Fisk’s face in and grabs his neck, but unable to deliver the final blow, and he lets out a primal scream, torn to shreds at what this has done to him. But Fisk deserves it, right? He’s killed innocent people, young and old, from all walks of life. He’s corrupted and fed off a city for his own profit. To make those damn omelettes and stare at paintings to justify his evil. The world wouldn’t miss Fisk. But Matt can’t do it. He refuses to let the Kingpin turn him into a monster. He delivers one of the best monologues I’ve ever seen or heard in a show and removes his mask so Fisk knows that Matt beat him, not Daredevil.

“No! God knows I want to, but you don’t get to destroy who I am. You will go back to prison, and you will live the rest of your miserable life in a cage, knowing you’ll never have Vanessa, that this city rejected you. It beat you. I beat you!” – Daredevil 

Derek Chauvin chose to be a monster. Chose to become like Fisk. And people burning stores and cars are not in the same conversation. Their violence isn’t even as bad as Daredevil’s. And viewers tend to agree with Daredevil, but only because we see the entire picture laid out for us.

I’ve written a lot. This topic is close to my heart, and I love Daredevil. He’s flawed, yes. But this season showed just how layered and real a superhero show can be. Those elements of white supremacy and white privilege aren’t there but they don’t take away from this show’s importance. Their message. And my message I believe is similar.

Violence, as a concept is complex. And Americans especially, have a weird relationship with it. I’ve played American football and have been punched in the face during a mixed martial arts fight. Neither is particularly fun. Our obsession with violence when it suits us, in sports, police, foreign affairs, is honestly what defines us as Americans in a lot of ways. But that identity is too often shifted to Black people and our causes. Learn about this country’s history with violence. Physical ones such as the Tulsa race massacre or the murder of Fred Hampton. Mental ones such as unfair portrayals of Black people in media. And emotional ones such as the systemic problems within industries such as comics, music, publishing, and more. There’s usually a lot of overlap. A lot of learning to be done. And that’s what I think Daredevil season three can teach people if they truly want to learn. If you can find it in you to only support violent uprisings when they are fictional or another country away, that’s a problem. This is on all of us, to get better, to do better. But Black people are tired of trying to find different ways to communicate. It’s taken it’s toll on all of us. In every way imaginable. The same way it did on Matt.

Rest in peace George Floyd. Tamir Rice. LaQuan Macdonald. Alton Sterling. Breonna Taylor. Philando Castile. Trayvon Martin. Sandra Bland. Terrence Crutcher. Botham Jean. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Freddie Gray. And many, many more.

Black Lives Matter.

 

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