On April 10th of this year, Marvel’s Daredevil premiered on Netflix. With the show being a piece of a larger whole, and premiering on a relatively new platform, I feel it deserves a more in depth review than it’s network counter parts. With that being said, I must warn you that this review, while informed, is 100% bias in favor of the show. What few bad things I could say about the show would be dwarfed by the sheer magnitude of positive things that make the show a welcome, and necessary addition to the MCU (Marvel cinematic universe).
Over the years, there have been several attempts at bringing our favorite heroes from the page to the television screen, but what those projects lacked is a sense of obligation to the character and the world they inhabit. In other shows a world is created on screen at the same time the story is. This world is one we come to understand over time as an audience, and allows the creators to do certain things while inhibiting them from doing others. With Daredevil, the creators had the responsibility of creating that world, but the luxury of attaching it to the MCU. Anyone who has been following the MCU, is familiar with the world to a certain extent, and Daredevil allows us to view that world from another perspective.
For this reason, Daredevil appeals to both cutthroat Marvel fans and series newcomers. There are enough references to make you remember that Iron man and Captain America are running around the same world, while focusing on the character and his own struggles. This is one of my favorite things about the show because I feel there was less compromise in the way of the character. They didn’t attempt to cut corners, take short cuts, or drag out who Daredevil is over ten years and eventually put him in the suit—they took the source material and adapted it for television using every useful aspect of the medium.
One of the most crucial aspects of the show is the cast. Charlie cox plays the roll of Matt Murdock (Daredevil), and is joined by esteemed cast members: Vincent D’Onofrio (Wilson Fisk), Elden Henson (Foggy Nelson), Rosario Dawson (Night Nurse), Deborah Ann Woll (Karen Page), and Vondie Curtis-Hall (Ben Urich). Many other actors assist in holding up the cinematic integrity of the show, but it must be said that the city of New York is equally as responsible for adding character to the world of Daredevil. The gritty yet rich texture of the city is the perfect backdrop to compliment the darker, more complex characters of the show.
Too often in these super hero shows, the villain is some definitively evil guy with an agenda and a half-hearted reason for doing what he does. Too often the hero is some definitively good guy with a “tortured past,” and a need to make things right with nothing but their skills, and an inexhaustible amount of money. With Daredevil, it seems like the creative minds behind the show (Drew Goddard and Steven S. DeKnight) made a conscious effort to keep the show as grounded as possible in reality. They make the effort to explain where Daredevil gets his outfits, how he affords his apartment, how his powers work, what his limitations are, and what led Matt to live the life he does. There are no one dimensional characters, including the villain.
Like Matt, Fisk is a child of the city. He attributes his making to Hell’s Kitchen and to his father, from whom he inherited his animal brutality. However, this isn’t something we see Fisk embrace until the end of the show. For the majority of the episodes we watch Fisk struggle with his empire, his past, a pain in the ass vigilante, and falling love in the midst of the most important time in his criminal career. We can even sympathize with his situation at times, but there is never any doubt in our minds that he is the bad guy. The writer’s, directors, and actors have all done a fantastic job of making sure that the show is deeply rooted in emotion without sacrificing the super hero flare and style that we all love.
Perhaps another gift of not being on a network is the shows appearance. By this, I mean both it’s visual aesthetic, and its attitude. The decision to show bones breaking, torturous interrogation, blood pouring from our hero, and even decapitation, give the show a more comic book feel. With street-level heroes especially, there is a need for more dramatic physical story telling. It reminds us that Daredevil doesn’t have an Iron suit or a magic hammer, and that the greatest strength he possesses is his sheer power of will. The marriage of all of these elements, coupled with great writing and pace make for a refreshing drama. The hallway scene at the end of the second episode is a perfect example of this attitude, and it is a consistent aspect of the show’s overall charm.
Originally this article was pages and pages of in-depth analysis from the perspective of a writer, and comic book fan, and sucker for Rosario Dawson, but those views don’t necessarily tell you anything except that I liked the show—you know I liked the show, I said so in the beginning. However, I know what people will say about it and I know what they will compare it to. I would rather let the show speak for itself, and not try to convince you of Daredevil’s excellence by hitting you over the head with my opinion of every little detail. Instead, what I’ve tried to do is honestly tell you why this show stands miles ahead of others in its genre, and hopefully you will watch it and come to the same conclusion.
Daredevil has been confirmed for a second season on Netflix, and is just the beginning of what is shaping up to be a bright future for Marvel’s television aspirations.
(Photos: Courtesy of Netflix © 2014 Netflix, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)