Marvel has undoubtedly produced some great material in the film community. Sure, not everything they make is golden (I’m looking at you “Iron Man 2”) but they have more hits than misses. Still though, as great and pioneering as the studio is, the tone of their films limit the type of characters they pull from the comic books. Ghost Rider, Pushier, and even (one of my personal favorite comic book characters) Daredevil would be hard to put in the cinematic world that Marvel created without taking some deviations from the a lot of what makes those characters great. While not saying there isn’t a way to do it but the characters I listed above are much darker and operate into a more violent and R-rated world.
Marvel though to their credit found a way to do it and in the form of a Netflix TV series. That while operates in the same world as the Avengers it could break away from the pigeon held PG-13 world of movies and switched the story over to the freedom of TV. “Daredevil” is among the best quality material that Marvel and Netflix has ever produced. With its gritty and down to earth realism, “Daredevil” separates itself away from its contemporaries with great and adult storytelling, incredible action, and well done and well written characters. “Daredevil” is a winner from beginning to end.
The 13 Episode series format follows blind lawyer Matt Murdock as he and his partner Foggy Nelson start a practice together vowing to be righteous in a city that is full of corruption. Murdock though in his blindness has developed enhanced senses and has trained in the martial arts. Taking his skills to the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, New York. A city that is still reeling from the Alien Invasion that transpired there just a few months earlier. In his battle on crime he discovers a terrifying threat to the city, the Kingpin. But, the people welcome him with open arms making him even more dangerous. Matt battles him from both the legal fronts and on the streets of Hell Kitchen.
This isn’t Marvel’s first venture into the world of TV. They brought (spoilers) Agent Coulson back from the dead in the very mixed bag of bones TV series that is “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D”. Very light in tone and more in line with the rest of their cinematic universe the show has much more in common with “The Avengers” and CW’s “The Flash” then this incarnation of “Daredevil”. “Daredevil” is a 13 episode serialize story that tells it’s story at a deliberate pace. There is no such thing as a filler episode in this show, with each episode building upon the last; developing all of its characters to multi dimensional form. The series opens up the story to complex emotions and themes. No character is perfect, not even our hero Matt Murdock.
Murdock is played by English actor Charlie Cox. He is sometimes soft spoken but cunning in the court room. That’s one of the many great aspects of the show, this is isn’t just a superhero show. It doubles up as a court room procedural in many sequences that are more involving and better written than “Law and Order” (a show that both helped and hurt current law drama). Cox is able to bring his talents to all aspects of the show. You buy him as much as lawyer then as a lone vigilante prowling the streets. He is able to capture all the emotional and diverse range of the character.
The character of Daredevil, despite being a “superhero” is written as someone whom is very much a human being. He isn’t “Iron Man”, he isn’t “Hulk”(hell he isn’t even “Hawkeye”), he is blind but has an incredible skill with martial arts. Murdock gets punched, he bleeds, and feel vulnerable. Despite his incredible skill he is written in a way that every episode it feels like something bad could happen to him and even one guy with a knife (if he gets the drop on him) could cause a great deal of pain for our hero. You can connect with him in a more significant way when our hero feels human.
Instead of having the villain of the week for Daredevil like “Flash” or (the horrible)”Gotham”, this show elects to stick with one antagonist throughout its season run. That antagonist is Kingpin played by Vincent D’Onofrio. To be completely honest I didn’t like him when he first appeared on screen. Boy, was I wrong on that first impression. I didn’t quite understand where they were going with his character at first but as the show continued it all made sense. He is a bit socially awkward with a women he has taken a liking too (which at first I thought was bad acting now I realize was deliberate choice and it works so well). D’Onofrio is menacing and also multi layered. We delve deep into his past which only makes him scarier simply because now…we sympathize with him. He has many different sides to him which makes for a great villain and one that isn’t just a mustache twirler. Aside from Loki this is perhaps Marvel’s best villain (which considering their current catalog of villains I suppose that wasn’t too difficult).
One of the things I was really worried about going into this series was the action sequences. TV sometimes has a tendency to skip over choreographing their fight scenes and just has quickly put together scene that doesn’t deliver anything close to movie level fight sequences. Either that or the fights look a little too choreograph and doesn’t feel real (that’s my issue with some of “Arrow” fight sequences). Of course TV doesn’t have the same time luxury as movies do.
“Daredevil” though has some of the best hand to hand fight scenes in the North American market on both mediums. The fights are so well done and professional looking that you are instantly drawn into every single one of them. The 2nd episode has one of the best designed set pieces on Television where in one take you see Daredevil take out a couple of rooms full of criminals. The camera glides between rooms and tight walls to set up these beautifully framed shots. Truly an incredible sequence.
The supporting cast are not to be outdone either. Elden Henson plays Murdock’s best friend and business partner Foggy Nelson. A hopeless romantic, wise cracker, but also a caring friend that calls out a lot of flaws within Murdock. He serves as a great counterbalance to Cox in his role. Vondie Curtis-Hall plays a solid supporting role as news reporter Ben Urich. Deborah Ann Woll plays Karen Page, a character whose role only grows as the season presses on and does a stunning job.
The finale of the series is excellent with plenty of twists and turns that will leave you wanting even more (but in the best type of way). This is how a superhero show should and can be done. Of the current comic book shows on TV this is by far the best and is some of the strongest material Marvel has ever produced.