Created by: Drew Goddard
Starring: Charlie Cox, Vincent D’Onofrio,
Anticipation has been ridiculously high for the Marvel/ Netflix projects, the first of which is Daredevil. To me, Daredevil was always Marvel’s answer to Batman. He thrives in the dark just like Batman but with Marvel the darkness is literal and symbolic. Our hero lives in proverbial darkness all the time both in his heart and in his lack of vision. In the best of the comics Murdock struggled with his inner demons, his willingness to kill for the greater good, and his inability to kill due to the weight of his Catholic upbringing. While he doesn’t kill he does get as close as he can get to it. This series, to fairly represent this complex character, had to go darker than any other Marvel project to date.
Matt Murdock, played by Charlie Cox, was blinded in a chemical spill as a child and the chemicals somehow enhanced all of his other senses. He can hear at near Superman levels, his sense of smell is stronger that any hound dog and his sense of place in the world is unmatched. He’s not invulnerable, he’s not super strong or super fast, and he doesn’t have a “magic hammer”. Daredevil is just able to utilize his combined senses to anticipate things before they happen. During the day Murdock is a partner in a new law firm with his best friend from college Foggy. They hire a young woman, who is a part of their first case, to be their office manager. The trio has set up shop in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York City. Matt and Foggy grew up in Hell’s Kitchen and their love for the area is the driving force for them to set up in the neighborhood and to try and save it one case at a time. Meanwhile Daredevil spends his evenings fighting crime as only he can, also determined to save Hell’s Kitchen.
Enter Wilson Fisk the uber villain in the world of Daredevil played brilliantly here by Vincent D’Onofrio. In the early comics Fisk, also known as the “Kingpin” was a pretty standard villain but over the years he too became quite complicated. This version of Fisk is shy, socially inept, violent, scary, and just as intimidating as his thugs feel say he is. He was also raised in Hell’s Kitchen and loves the city. He wants to clean up the city and completely reinvent it. He is willing to go to any length necessary to see his vision come to life. He’s truly fascinating because at times he’s sympathetic and relatable and at other times he’s horrifying, but the same can be said for Daredevil.
This series could easily fall into a case of the week scenario, a procedural if you will, and I was afraid that is exactly what was going to happen. Happily the procedural formula does not come to fruition. There are court cases but they are integral to the greater story and they play a second fiddle to a serialized element that makes the show addictive. The balance of drama, mild humor, character studies, and action is pitch perfect through the first nine episodes. The show has an epic story-building feel to it, which is amazing considering just how small the show really is. The focus isn’t on global destruction here; it’s on a few miles, barely more than a neighborhood. Episode nine of the season is so powerful it feels like the balloon that has been expanding with each episode finally pops. That leaves a couple of episodes to clean things up and they feel like just that; clean up episodes. With that said those clean up episodes feature some great action and suspense and they lead to a really satisfying season close. Every trap that this show could fall into gets turned on its ear, even the idea of the TV love story takes a twist here. Charlie Cox nails the pain and determination of Matt Murdock and Elden Henson offers some melodrama and a little humor to break up the heavy weight of darkness. Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page, the office manager, could easily have fallen into the damsel in distress role but she gets to be so much more here. Rosario Dawson as the “Night nurse” and Vondie Curtis-Hall as the “I’m too old for this sh#t” reporter searching for the truth are both also great. Dawson’s character could have used a little more attention though.
Daredevil most assuredly had a limited budget but for the most part you wouldn’t know it. The fight scenes and special effects are well done. The one thing that’s missing in this season is getting to see Daredevil use his environment, the neighborhood he knows and loves, as a tool to travel. He can’t fly or run fast but he can feel all of the right places to make a human sized leap to gain advantages. We see him perched atop areas Batman style here and there but that’s it. Overall my complaints are nitpicking at best. Daredevil season one was truly exciting and addictive TV.