Volume 4, Issue 15!
“TV Review: Daredevil Season 1”
Marvel’s Daredevil is dark, gritty, and extremely violent. It’s like nothing else the studio has released. And it’s incredible. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Marvel has done it again, delivering a gripping story that honors the character it’s focused on, and adds to the legacy of Matt Murdock. Ol’ Hornhead has had some incredible stories throughout his 50+ years in comics, and we can now add Drew Goddard, Steven DeKnight, and the rest of the show’s creative team to the Daredevil list that includes writers Ed Brubaker, Brian Michael Bendis, and Frank Miller.
Much of this series (of which I’ve watched the first six episodes) finds lawyer Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) and his partner Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) starting up their law firm. They have zero clients, and are hungry for cases. Setting up shop in Hell’s Kitchen (which has essentially been turned into slums thanks to the events of Avengers) the two start taking defense cases while Matt beats the living hell out of human traffickers, thieves, and other assorted lowlifes at night. Their first case brings Karen Page (played by True Blood’s Deborah Ann Woll) into their team, and starts a whole web of conspiracy about her former employers.
Much of what makes Daredevil work is how grounded it is. There’s no “radar” sense like in the 2003 not as bad as you remember Ben Affleck film (yet they do show you how he sees the world in one instance). Instead, the camera focuses in on what Murdock is listening for. In the courtroom, it could be the heart beat of a juror. In a fight, it’s the chain knocking around behind him. This small touch adds a whole lot of realism to the story, and it works amazingly well.
There’s also no full episode origin story. While the first episode starts with the accident that took Matt’s sight but gave him his abilities in a hauntingly powerful scene, the story of Matt’s origin is instead peppered throughout the episodes. Like other Marvel characters (or superheroes in general), Daredevil’s life is filled with early tragedies, and even though hardcore Marvel buffs know what’s in store for young Matt, it’s still heartbreaking to watch battlin’ Jack Murdock prepare to go up for his final bout.
Of course, this is a superhero show, which means head’s gotta get cracked every now and then. And holy hell, do they ever get cracked in this show. I’m stunned at the level of violence that Marvel has allowed for this. While Netflix isn’t subject to the same rules as broadcast TV, this is some HBO level violence, and it’s definitely not for the kids who’ve watched Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy 1,000 times. Bones pop out of skin, people are thrown off buildings, and for the first time, we see a hero get beaten up almost as badly as the people he’s hitting.
The stand out action scene is a single take scene in a hallway at the end of the second episode. If you’ve somehow avoided it by now, I’ll leave you in the dark. But I will say that it’s incredible, and deserves some awards when the next Emmys roll around. The shear amount of craft and choreography that went into deserves a watch, even if you aren’t that big into the Marvel stuff. It’s an added bonus that you can’t even tell which scenes are Charlie Cox and which ones are with his stunt double.
Speaking of Charlie Cox, the man is a revelation as Matt Murdock. While I always defended Ben Affleck’s portrayal of the character, Cox is Matt, plain and simple. He’s fun and light as Matt Murdock, but when it’s time to bust heads as Daredevil, he takes it up a notch. There’s a great feeling of seething rage just under the surface whenever he’s threatening people as the Man Without Fear, and I can’t wait to see that rage really come out in future episodes.
The rest of cast, including (Eldon Henson from the Mighty Ducks!) is spectacular as well, but no one stands out quite like Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk. Now, full disclosure, you won’t see Fisk right away. As much as this show is about building the legend of Daredevil, it’s also about building the legend of the Kingpin. However, when you do see D’Onofrio, he’s incredible. His Fisk is introduced in the most unconventional way that I’m amazed the producers took the risk they did to introduce him. And when we see him again….well…let’s just say that D’Onofrio is doing something terrifyingly awesome with Wilson Fisk. Whenever he’s on screen he’s both terrifying and vulnerable. You can’t take your eyes off of him.
If the first six episodes of Marvel’s Daredevil Netflix series serve as setting the stage for Matt Murdock and his world, the second half of the series sets about dismantling that world piece by piece, and uncovering secrets behind the Man Without Fear and his nemesis, Wilson Fisk. It also features two of the best episodes of the season: “Stick” and “Shadows In Glass”.
Both episodes focus on the pasts of the central characters of the show: Daredevil and Kingpin. While they may cover ground that long time Daredevil fans know (especially if they’ve read Man Without Fear), seeing a character like Stick appear on screen, and the training he gives a young Matt Murdock is stellar, and it’s made even better by having the phenomenal Scott Glenn portray the gruff, no BS martial arts master. Glenn’s Stick is both hilarious and a bit of a dick at times, and Scott Glenn walks the line of the mysterious blind warrior beautifully. He also kicks major ass in the fight scenes he’s given. But as good as he is in the fight scenes, the best moment of the episode is when he’s sitting with a young Matt in the park and telling him about the full extent of his abilities. By the end of his episode we’re left with just as many questions as we had answers, and hints at a larger world beyond Hell’s Kitchen that (hopefully) will be explored in season two or Iron Fist’s Netflix series.
“Shadows In Glass”, which comes directly after “Stick”, is the Wilson Fisk show, peeling back the curtain on Vincent D’Onofrio’s insane mastermind to reveal the tragedy behind his stern face. I’ve already mentioned the stellar job that D’Onofrio has done in this series, but this episode is the one that should hopefully nab him an Emmy nomination. His performance has made Kingpin into one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most compelling and sympathetic villains, something that I honestly wasn’t expecting when I started this series.
There are more great episodes this season as well, and plenty more surprises. However, if there’s one complaint I have about this batch of episodes, it’s that there’s a certain decision regarding a character that I don’t entirely agree with. While the scene with this character is certainly compelling and heartbreaking, it’s also a bit of a bummer to have them gone from the world of Daredevil so soon, especially when they could’ve had a lot more to do in season two. There are also some moments that seem a little rushed as the series started ramping up to the finale. If the producers were given an extra episode or took a look at the timeline a little more, they could’ve prevented this. Despite this, Daredevil absolutely sticks the landing, and the final confrontation between Daredevil (in his kick ass red suit) and Fisk is brutal, powerful, and extremely satisfying.
Daredevil is proof that Marvel Studios should have complete control over every one of their characters. In a perfect world Fox and Sony pictures would watch this and just give the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man back to Marvel and say “we’re not worthy”. The amount of care and devotion to the character is evident in every frame. Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has said that they Marvel Cinematic Universe can be home to many different characters, tones, and genres, and with Daredevil, he’s not only proven it, but created something that stands as one of the best things the studio has produced.