Now that the third season of Daredevil has been on Netflix for an entire weekend, fans have had plenty of time to binge the latest rounds of Matt Murdock's eternal fight for Hell's Kitchen, and that means it's time to reflect on the various choices showrunner Erik Oleson and his team made to tell this chapter of the story.
*Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers for Daredevil Season 4 below**
The new season's most prominent new addition was, of course, Bullseye, the classic Daredevil nemesis who got a new spin as played by Wilson Bethel. In the comics, Bullseye is rarely treated as anything other than a fully formed, cold-blooded killer who's very, very good at what he does.
He could have easily just showed up in the world of Daredevil and got right to work, which would have made him a kind of impenetrable cipher for Murdock to battle against. But Oleson and company went a different way. In the Netflix series we see his beginnings as Ben Poindexter, a federal employee and skilled killer who has managed to keep his darkest tendencies in check thanks to various mental illness treatments.
In the hands of the Kingpin (Vincent D'Onofrio), though, Dex is reshaped and remolded into something even more dangerous. The various structures holding his mind together come tumbling down, and he ultimately begins a killing spree while in costume as a Daredevil imposter. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly about the new season, Oleson explained why it was important to show that evolution, rather than simply giving us the Bullseye we recognize from the comics right away.
"The way we saw Agent Ben Poindexter was that he was a borderline personality. Dex is somebody who might have been able to function in society as a positive character, even a hero. He overcame his mental illness using medication, psychiatric help, and a rigid structure in his life with a job at the FBI where he was helping people," he said. "But the tragedy that befalls him is that he comes into the orbit of Wilson Fisk, who is a narcissistic personality, a tyrant, a would-be dictator who twists him into the evil version of himself on Fisk’s own path to power.
"One of the things that fascinated me was that otherwise good people who might have been positive members of society, who fall under the sway of somebody that preys on their fears and on their dark side and gets them to carry tiki torches through Charlottesville. That was very much on our minds as we were looking at Fisk and the way that he plays to people’s fears — fears of the other — and uses those to divide people against each other and against themselves."
Oleson also explained that Dex's evolution into Bullseye was part of a large theme that each character in the series faced in Season 3: Confronting fear. Matt Murdock has in many ways always dealt with confronting his various fears in the series — it's kind of right there in the title of the show — but Dex became a kind of dark mirror to that. His greatest fear was what he could become, and Fisk was able to exploit that. Oleson and his writers came to that conclusion through, among other things, the help of some real psychiatrists who consulted on the character.
"When you add all of the characters together, what you come up with is the controlling idea that guided the design of Season 3 — and we had this on the writers’ room wall — [which] was a quote that we all came up with and it went as follows: 'You can only be free when you confront your fear because your fears are what enslave you.' In Dex’s case, he’s always feared being his true self," he said. "He’s kept himself in that cage because he knows that he is a borderline personality with psychopathic tendencies. We talked to psychiatrists; we just wanted to draw the character as a real person who will eventually become Bullseye because of all of the factors you saw in the season — Fisk intentionally destabilizing the parts of his life that allowed him to cope with his mental illness."
As for what might happen next, we don't really know, and Oleson isn't telling. It's an uncertain time for Marvel's Netflix shows, now that both Iron Fist and Luke Cage have been cancelled within a week of each other. Even with that in mind, though, Oleson is "very hopeful" that Season 4 of Daredevil is on the horizon, and if it does happen we can expect to see a fully formed version of Bullseye out in the world.
"Let’s just say we have now seen the origin of Bullseye, and there are many, many stories yet to tell with this cast of characters. Whether season 4 goes in that direction or another, Bullseye will be living and breathing in this world because we’ve now seen how he has been created."
Daredevil Season 4 is now streaming on Netflix.