Warning: minor spoilers below.
Everything has a beginning.
Daredevil is a superhero that hasn’t gotten a lot of treatment over the years. The last major thing I can remember about him was the Ben Affleck movie, which I remember being an okay movie at the time I watched it. I can’t honestly tell you much about it (I was like fourteen or something when I saw it). But now that Marvel is kicking up their expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). For those uninitiated MCU is a term that refers to the interconnected movie universe they’re building, where all the superheroes essentially exist in the same world.
The new Netflix Series Daredevil is the latest in a line of Marvel television shows. For those of you who don’t know him, Daredevil is a superhero who was blinded as a kid by an accident involving some kind of toxic waste. However, this accident gives him heightened reflexes and senses, making him an incredibly powerful fighter. He is based out of New York (Hell’s Kitchen specifically, at least in the new television show).
I’ve already talked about the one-shot fight scene at the end of the second episode, so I won’t mention it again here (you can read my thoughts on it if you like). In any case, the show kicks off by immediately showing the aftermath of the accident that blinds Daredevil (real name Matthew Murdock). His father runs to him as he lays in the middle of the street, injured and covered in a strange liquid. A passerby reveals to his father that if it wasn’t for Matt pushing him out of the way, he would have died. And so begins the hero’s tale.
Daredevil is definitely a slow-burner type of show. The first few episodes focus more on his character, who he is and why he does what he does, rather than showing a bunch of epic fight scenes. Murdock is a lawyer by day, trying to set up a practice with his best friend Foggy Nelson. In the first episode, they help out a woman named Karen Page, who becomes their intern secretary and one of the main characters for the show. Of course, there are still fight scenes in these early episodes, but they’re few and far between. Most of the second episode deals with the aftermath of a failed rescue attempt by Murdock to save a kidnapped boy (we don’t actually even see the attempt…the episode jumps in right after he fails and we see him being rescued by a nurse). One of the show’s biggest strengths is its use of tension, and the second episode is great at that.
Speaking of tension, the big bad in this first season doesn’t even appear until the last minute of the third episode. We hear vague hints of him and we see his followers enacting his plans, but we don’t actually get a glimpse of him until then. He is played by Vincent D’Onofrio (who you might remember from Full Metal Jacket or, more recently, Law and Order Criminal Intent), and he pulls off a masterful performance in this season. One of the things that struck me is that the villain is a complex and complicated one, which is different from most comic book style shows. Instead of being a one-note bad guy with a lust for destruction and/or power, the villain in this show seems to believe he is doing the right thing for his city, despite his methods being extremely destructive and violent. There’s even a romantic subplot that develops between him and a curator at an art museum.
I particularly liked that the villain in this particular season wasn’t super-powered or anything. He’s just a big, strong guy who happens to wear a lining of armor underneath his suits.
Let me put this out there: this show is dark. Very dark, and not just in the lighting. The phrase “darkest before the dawn” comes to mind. Before things inevitably come to their conclusion, things get very grim for the main characters. I won’t spoil anything, but the latter half of the season is incredibly intense and doesn’t let up.
The grim nature of the show translates to the fight scenes as well. Bones snap and break the skin. People are impaled, bludgeoned to death, and burned alive among other things. I can definitely say that if you are squeamish at all, you probably shouldn’t watch this. But if dark and gritty is your thing, and you don’t mind a bit of the old brutal violence, then by all means go right ahead and watch to your heart’s content.
I hesitate to say much more about this show for fear of spoiling some of its finer moments, but I will say this: it’s probably one of the finest superhero origin stories I’ve seen in a long time. It reminds me a lot of the Christopher Nolan Batman movies, both in tone and in the character of Daredevil himself. Peppered throughout the episodes are flashbacks to Murdock’s childhood, where we see him coping with his blindness as well as other tragic events. Daredevil’s story is one of joy and sorrow in equal mix.
I honestly don’t have anything particularly bad to say about this show. I griped about the one-shot fight scene (link here), but that was really the only part of the show that fell flat for me. Once the show gets going, it doesn’t let up. It’s quite the roller-coaster ride, pardon the cliché. The only other thing I can say is that there are some vague elements of mysticism that don’t really go anywhere in the season, but that’s mostly because it’s setting up what I’ve heard are some of the more bizarre elements of the Daredevil story, which we will most likely see in the next season and maybe beyond, depending on how far they decide to go with the show. I know this particular series is a lead-in for The Defenders, which is a TV series that will see Daredevil team up with several other heroes in New York City.
In any case, I highly recommend the show for those of you who are into gritty, character-based stories. It’s one of the finest origin stories I’ve seen yet.
That’s all I have for this week. Tune in next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week everyone.