After Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter, Marvel’s third TV series debuted on Netflix. It’s fantastic and you should watch it. Here’s why.
Mild-mannered and idealistic lawyer by day, vigilante by night, Matt Murdock is also known as Daredevil. Like justice, Matt is blind. He lost his eyesight in an accident during his childhood, but all his other senses were amplified. Frustrated with the failings of the justice system and the steady decay of the neighbourhood he grew up in, Hell’s Kitchen, he dons a black mask and metes out justice with nothing but his fists.
The Origin That Is
Daredevil is quite a different animal from all previous incarnations of the character, most prominently the one portrayed by Ben Affleck in the 2003 movie. Whereas Affleck’s portrayal wasn’t horrible – seriously, watch the Director’s Cut of the film – many fans felt that the portrayal of the titular hero did not do the character from the comic books justice. The movie was too bright, Daredevil was too heroic. Still, the movie was pretty faithful to the character in terms of story, but had a pretty badly done romance plot in it. Sure, Daredevil and Elektra had a thing in the comics, but it was slightly better handled. With Affleck’s Daredevil being a thing of the past, the red mask has been passed on to Charlie Cox and the movie forgotten.
What makes Daredevil such an interesting character is that he is a complete madman. He has no super powers apart from enhanced senses. He has everything going against him and he just won’t quit. He gets hurt, he bleeds, he gets up again and goes on. This is what makes Daredevil such a joy to watch. Because if there’s one thing this story needs, it’s time.
Matt Murdock is nowhere near the hero we know and love. He’s a guy with no body armour, fists wrapped in boxing tape, wearing a black shirt and a black mask. No red mask with horns, no escrima sticks, no grappling hooks. A man. Fists. Iron will.
Take Your Time, Matt
In addition to the frankly brutal fights, Daredevil makes use of the time a TV show provides. The plot doesn’t have to progress at break-neck speed and thus dwells on things, namely the fact that Daredevil isn’t quite Daredevil yet and that Matt Murdock can be hurt.
It’s in the second episode, titled Cut Man, where audience members can first really worry about the success of Matt’s mission. He tries to free a boy the Russian Mafia has kidnapped. The problem: The Russians kidnapped the boy to lure Daredevil in a trap. And it worked. In the beginning of the episode, Matt is in a dumpster, broken and unable to move, no matter how much he would like to walk and go on. He gets picked up by Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) and patched up. But three broken ribs, air in his ribcage that threatens to kill him by collapsing his lungs and at least one stab wound don’t stop him for more than half an hour.
This is a trend that carries on throughout the show. Matt Murdock gets hurt. A lot. It’s only about midway into the season that people recommend Matt wear armour and the blind vigilante actually considers it. Because of that, it’s obvious from the get-go that Daredevil is not the lone crusader he thinks he is. He’s a vulnerable man, even though he doesn’t want to be.
The show does take its time with things. The creative team makes it a point to let the plot, the characters and their actions as well as consequences sink in. What it also likes to sink in is the scenery. The scenes are shot in long sequences, lingering on characters and sometimes nothing at all while people talk. There are bright colours and a lot of shadows. It speaks for the cast and crew’s ambition that they have scenes like the one in Cut Man.
The Man Who Steals the Show: Wilson Fisk
As good as Charlie Cox is as the titular hero, it’s not him who makes this show. The man who steals the show is Wilson Fisk, known as The Kingpin to comic book fans. Vincent D’Onofrio plays a wonderfully complex, highly intelligent, faceted and all around incredible antagonist.
The most incredible thing about all this is that Wilson Fisk is very much the hero of his own story. He genuinely cares for the people around him and he is passionate about Hell’s Kitchen. He is slightly unhinged, that one is for certain. When a man ruins his date with a woman he truly loves, the man is beaten to death by Fisk himself.
When speaking, Wilson Fisk has an odd manner of speaking. His sentences are cut off in the middle and his intonation is very peculiar. And even when he speaks Chinese, Vincent D’Onofrio keeps his act up. Besides, it’s the long dialog scenes that make this show something with substance and something that was done with love.
Marvel’s Daredevil features a great hero who is really heroic by ways of refusing to be beaten and refusing to stop. During the season there are a number of ways Matt Murdock could just walk away from it all. But he doesn’t. He has a caring and lovable supporting cast with Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) and mighty opponents.
All in all: Go watch it.