Stream Police: 'Daredevil' Season 1 Review
Daredevil is the first of the Defenders shows that Netflix has brought to life. After the much maligned Ben Affleck-led adaptation of the film, the new Daredevil brings a previously established character into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and integrates him seamlessly without weighing down the narrative with the events of the previous films. Aside from a few brief mentions of the "incident" and its effect on real estate prices, The Avengers are a non-entity, which works in the shows favor.
From top to bottom, the cast is uniformly excellent. Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) is an orphaned boxer's son, who through a chemical accident, loses his sight. Yet, he gains additional senses that allow him to see without actually "seeing". He and his best friend/partner, Foggy Nelson (a regularly hilarious Elden Henson), begin a law firm to fight for the weak, while Matt masquerades through the night, fighting crime on a street level. They save Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), whose accidental discovery of a major money trail leaves her at the mercy of Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio playing a very interesting portrayal of the Kingpin) and his ever reaching clutches throughout the city.
Dark and gritty is almost a cliche at this point, especially when talking about re-imaginings of characters, but in the case of Daredevil it's kind of hard to describe it any other way. Despite being a part of the larger MCU, it's so much darker and horrifically more violent than anything Marvel studios has produced. You'll never look at a car door the same after watching this series. The first thing that pops off the screen is the fight choreography. Murdock has martial arts training, and the showrunners have no problem emphasizing it. While he may have enhanced senses, Daredevil lacks physical powers, so he's given easily the most impressive fight scenes of all the Marvel products. He has to rely on technique and agility, rather than brute force, so there's an air of deadly elegance to all of his fight scenes, many when he's barely dangling to life, since he's quite vulnerable to injury. Along with the excellent fight scenes, limbs are mangled, bodies are impaled, and a lot of people are killed in horrific ways. The lack of restraint greatly benefits the show because if you want to make the stakes life and death, you can't skimp on the horrors of organized crime and how the most powerful man in New York achieved his position via bloodshed.
Although he's in the background for the first quarter of the show, mostly mentioned rather than seen, Wilson Fisk is just as important of a character as Matt Murdock. Unlike most shows or films that would mention Fisk's development and show him as on top of the world, we're introduced to a vulnerable, yet fierce man-child, who in his own twisted way, is trying to make the city a better place. Granted, this theme of Fisk "improving" the city is somewhat under cooked, but it adds a layer of sympathy that makes him not completely unlikeable, and at the worst, humanizes him in a way most villains never are given the opportunity to be portrayed as.
While definitely an action oriented show, Daredevil benefits from the procedural aspect of it afforded by being focused on a show ostensibly about two lawyers. I found the courtroom drama and day jobs of Murdock and Nelson to be a nice change of pace from the constant brutality that follows Murdock around during his evening quests. That's not to say there aren't missteps, story-wise. While the Fisk/Daredevil conflict is the most central and interesting, we have a couple of side plots, one featuring Karen Page's ongoing investigation into her murder attempt, and at a point, she puts herself at risk so often it just becomes repetitive. Fortunately, her plot line gives us the first introduction to the MCU version of Ben Urich (a scene stealing Vondie Curtis-Hall). Also, the last 1/3 of the season features a necessary conflict between Nelson and Murdock, but it drags out about two episodes too long and grates on the viewer. Rosario Dawson's Claire Temple is also underutilized. Her and Murdock have a clear connection but she disappears and reappears at random moments in the series.
Although not necessarily a negative, the introduction of Daredevil's instructor, Stick, leads to many interesting plot threads that are never resolved. I can only assume these will be further explored in season 2 because otherwise it seems like a pointless setup with no payoff. A complete nitpick, but Charlie Cox, an English actor, has a weird enunciation for certain words in his American accent that just struck me as off. It hardly affects the shows quality, but was something I noticed a few times. Also, while I loved the black costume that Daredevil wears for most of the show, his actual suit is underwhelming. I couldn't help but think the Ben Affleck suit captured the spirit of the comic better. Granted, Marvel has shown more than a willingness to tweak costumes in future installments, but for a moment that should have been one of the best in the season, it lacked a huge impact.
Despite these (mostly) minor qualms, Daredevil really brings something new to the Marvel universe and shows that the Netflix shows leading to the Defenders are something to look forward to, and I can't wait to continue with Matt Murdock's story in the visual medium.
Final Say: Watch It