My apologies in advance as this is one of my longer blogs.
On Friday April 10th, the long awaited Marvel series, Daredevil, was exclusively released on Netflix. As with other Netflix original series such as Orange is the New Black, the online cinema mogul released all episodes of the first season simultaneously meaning viewers could binge watch all 13 episodes in one go. By Saturday April 11, 2015, I had finished the entire first season. And I already wish there was a second season to finish binge watching by April 12.
For those not in the know, the Daredevil series is a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), meaning that it exists in the same fictional story universe as the Captain America, Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Avengers franchises, and the network television shows Agents of Shield and Agent Carter.
Daredevil Dares to be Different
Despite being in the same fictional universe, Daredevil varies wildly both in tone and approach from the other Marvel franchises – most of all its’ TV siblings. Whereas Agents of Shield is very campy and at times even childish, Daredevil strikes a much more serious tone. Netflix original series don’t have FCC ratings, but if they did Daredevil would be inches shy of an R rating. Some of the bloody beat downs Daredevil lays on his enemies approaches a level of gratuitous violence usually reserved for villains.
Agents of Shield makes regular – if not too many – references to the other series, or characters in the MCU. Daredevil on the other hand made very, very few. People dorkier than I may have caught some that I missed, but I only counted two Easter eggs in total. There were several mentions of the ‘attack on New York’ from 2012’s Avengers. The other was a comment about “an iron suit or a magic hammer”, alluding to Iron Man and Thor, though no names are ever used directly.
Daredevil is a dark show, but it steps out of Marvel’s shadow.
Plot and Setting
True to Marvel form – with the exception of Agent Carter – Daredevil take’s place in the chronological order in which it was released. It takes place in Marvel Phase 2, after Avengers and Winter Soldier, but before Avengers: Age of Ultron.
The show focuses on Matthew Murdock, an attorney turned vigilante who fights crime on his home turf of Hell’s Kitchen, New York City. Few references are made to other Marvel characters but the jury is still out as to whether Captain America or Spiderman will ever cameo in the show, given that all three masked heroes hail from the city that never sleeps.
This isn’t just New York with it’s lights and skyscrapers. This show welcomes you to Hell’s Kitchen, an unforgiving and downtrodden part of the city where street thugs are the least of your problem. Corrupt cops, dirty politicians, and crime lords reign supreme. The city is dark, dirty, and gritty.
The antagonist of the first season is one of Daredevil and Spidey’s arch nemesis – Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin played by Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket). Though not as physically intimidating as Michael Clarke Duncan in the 2003 feature film of the same name, D’Onofrio plays a frightening, cunning, brutal and resolute version Kingpin that keeps you on the edge of your seat, and dominates every scene he’s in. Oh, but he can still throw down and is not someone you’d want to meddle with in an alley.
Cast and Characters
The show focuses as much on Matthew Murdock (Charlie Cox) as it does on the Daredevil, which makes for some very interesting story telling and character development. What’s most interesting about the show is Murdock’s history. He has a back story that make’s Bruce Wayne’s sound almost pleasant by comparison.
As a child, Matt’s mom left him and his dad as they scraped to get by. His dad was a professional boxer – but not a very good one – and would come home bloodied and beaten on a regular basis, to which young Matt had to stich him up. Matt was later blinded in an accident which left him traumatized as he struggled with walking, reading, and adjusting to everyday life. Shortly thereafter his father was murdered after a fixed boxing match went south. Now Matt was not only an orphan, but a poor blind orphan living in the government system.
There was no trust fund, no Alfred, no Wayne Manor, no multinational corporation to fall back on. Matt Murdock had nothing but his will and his wit – and pulled himself from the gutter with amazing tenacity.
As awe inspiring as his story may be, you forget just how fear inspiring Murdock can be when donning his mask. He’s no chump. He’s quiet, watchful, brooding, and very dangerous. The show does a fantastic job of making Matt look like a normal (albeit blind) guy in the day, while surrounding him with an air of mystique and dread at night.
Murdock has the benefit of some strong supporting characters Karen Page played by Deborah Ann Woll (Trueblood) and best friend Foggy Nelson played by Elden Henson (Butterfly Effect). Woll and Henson offer amazing performances making their characters that much more interesting, and the story that much more believable. Thank the heavens Hollywood has taken us out of the age of the useless sidekick. Karen and Foggy are loyal friends, and although they aren’t MMA fighters, they should not be easily dismissed.
Rosario Dawson does a great job playing Claire Temple, also known as the Night Nurse in the comics. Unfortunately, she was relegated to just 2 episodes out of the entire 13 episode season. I hope to see more of her in Season 2, or in the other Marvel Netflix series coming out soon.
There is a ton of action and violence, but it does a good job at not crossing the line into cheesy. The characters are very real, and very vulnerable both emotionally and physically. On many occasions Murdock gets himself into a situation where this time feels like it’s going to be the last time. He might crawl his way out of a tough spot, but the show makes sure that he has to claw and scratch for every inch. There is no cavalry, no backup, no lucky breaks. Nothing comes easy, which makes the show that much more suspenseful and dramatic.
The settings are real. The acting and character portrayal is believable. The drama is relatable. The action is grounded. The show doesn’t gloss over any detail, grand or minute. Most importantly the show is honest.
15 minutes into the pilot episode I knew this show was right up my Hell’s Kitchen alley. I thought it would be good, but I didn’t think it would be this good. If you’ve read any of my reviews, you know that when it comes to my taste, the grittier the better.
Daredevil exists in the MCU, but it could very well exist in the same world as Sons of Anarchy or Law and Order – two other shows I enjoyed. This show stands on its’ own two feet, and doesn’t need to use the rest of the Marvel universe as a crutch. Fans who haven’t seen all the other movies or shows can appreciate being able to dive into a new show without being totally lost. I will without a doubt be watching and highly anticipating season 2 of Daredevil when it comes out. If you want a Disney quality TV show without the Disney movie rating, then this show is for you. I love the action, I love the violence, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I give this show a 9 out 10.