The stellar third season of Netflix’s Daredevil broke a lot of conventions for the streaming service’s Marvel Universe, like it’s lack of crossovers, it’s almost art-house black-and-white mind-delving, and the fact it hasn’t been canceled yet. But one of the most genuinely thrilling experiments this season was its tenth episode, simply titled “Karen”, which used the bulk of its runtime to flashback to the shockingly violent early days of Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), living as a part-time waitress, part-time drug dealer.
Speaking with Marvel.com, showrunner Erik Oleson explained that the writing staff forewent your typical storytelling devices as a way to break form:
“I love form breaking episodes that dive deeper into characters and give the audience something surprising and fun. Sure, there were a host of other storytelling techniques we could have done. We could have done flashes or quick pops of flashbacks, the more traditional way of telling a story like that.”
“Karen” is a jarring bit of work, especially considering it butts in at a climactic point in the story with Karen firmly fixed in Wilson Fisk’s (Vincent D’Onofrio) crosshairs. Oleson handled that tricky task over to director Alex Garcia Lopez, who proved his ability to dive into madness with season three’s absolutely bonkers one-take sequence in episode four, “Blindsided.”
“I’m just a fan of the departure type episodes, something that expands the filmic vocabulary of our show. We did that episode that makes you go ‘Wait, what show am I watching? This doesn’t even feel like ‘Daredevil.’’ And you realize what it is and why we’re telling that story and we wanted to give it its own distinct look and feel and rhythm. And the director of the episode, Alex Garcia Lopez, who also directed episode four and the prison fight sequence, is a brilliant director and we worked in close conjunction with him to make it have a very different feel to it, almost a ‘Winter’s Bone’ kind of feel to it.”
Make no mistake, though, “Karen” is a bonafide showcase for Woll, who adds layer on layer to Karen’s bloody past decisions; it’s a knock-out performance that sees regret, sadness, and strength play out simultaneously across Woll’s face the entire time.
Oleson noted that—in addition to just breaking up the usual Daredevil tone—”Karen” was designed from the start as a highlight reel for Woll.
“I was eager to give her a chance to really shine. For me, I’m a fan of the kind of storytelling that treats every character as the hero and protagonist of their own storyline. I wanted to do that for Karen Page. It was one of the early things I wanted to do when I took over the show. At the very beginning of the season, it was always in my mind’s eye that Karen would have an episode that dove deeply into the backstory elements that were hinted at in the first seasons. So I also wanted to understand why Karen Page behaved the way that she behaved in seasons 1 and 2 and ‘Defenders.’ I wanted to know why she flirted with Matt and that never went anywhere in Season 1 and why she flirted with Foggy but thirty seconds later that was over and why she has chemistry with Frank Castle but that never really goes anywhere. I imagined if Karen Page is a real human being, what might be the hang up there that’s preventing her from forming any kind of real, emotional relationship with anybody?”
For more on Daredevil season 3, check out the links below:
- ‘Daredevil’ Season 3’s Only Crossover Is a Perfect Example of Subtle World-Building
- ‘Daredevil’ Season 3: Netflix’s Aversion to Marvel Crossovers Is Undermining Its Best Characters
- Vincent D’Onofrio on Season 3 of ‘Daredevil’ and the Return of Wilson Fisk
- ‘Daredevil’ Season 3 Review: A Return to Basics Puts Netflix’s MCU Back on Target