This past weekend, the much-anticipated Marvel/Netflix television series was released. I spent much of the weekend watching this show, and thought I would share with you my musings.
Overall, I thought it was an excellent show, and hope a second season arrives quickly. I know there are fanboys saying that this is the show “Arrow” should have been. Personally, I disagree, but we’ll get to that. This show is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and there are references to the events of the first “Avengers”. There aren’t any cameos from other MCU actors, so you don’t need to have watched any of the movies to easily follow the show.
There were times when the violence was too much for me. As I get older, I have no desire to see men getting their eyes impaled, being decapitated with a car door, and things like that. Admittedly, it’s nowhere near as graphic as “Game of Thrones”, so if that show doesn’t bother you, the violence here shouldn’t, either. Having said that, the fight scenes were AMAZING. I’m a big fan of “Arrow” and “The Flash”, and the fight scenes in “Daredevil” are easily on par with “Arrow”, and quite possibly slightly better choreographed, if only because of the nature of Daredevil’s fighting style. He uses far more gymnastics and capoeira than Arrow, so it makes sense that the fight scenes need to be different. Regardless, they alone are worth watching the show for. Now, while the violence at times was too much for my personal likes, it was at least realistic. This is a Daredevil who’s constantly breaking ribs, needing stitches, fighting with a concussion…all things that would happen to an ordinary man who’s not wearing some kind of body armor. Given that he’s an ordinary man, with some extraordinary abilities, his injuries made sense, even if this is a “superhero” show. He does not possess healing abilities or invulnerability, so anything less would have made it slightly ridiculous.
I greatly enjoyed the characterizations. They are the second-best reason to watch this show. (The fight scenes take the top reason to watch.) This is basically a 13-hour origin movie, so they were able to really flesh out the characters, especially the Kingpin, who gains a sympathetic backstory. Think Doc Ock from the original Spider-Man movies. You’ll find yourself actually agreeing with him at times. Daredevil, Foggy Nelson, Ben Urich…you’ll fall yourself falling in love with them.
Karen Page, to me, was annoying overall. I wanted to like her a lot, and the actress did a great job, but the second half of the series saw her character’s personality change, and not for the better. To be honest, at times she reminded me of Bella Swan from “Twilight”. She’s the one main character (out of Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson, Kingpin, Ben Urich, and Karen Page) who gets no backstory. We know she has secrets, but we never really learn anything about her. It’s somewhat irritating, and I think that having some backstory might have mitigated her annoying transformation.
Vincent D’Onofrio and Charlie Cox were perfect for these roles. The Kingpin was every bit the intimidating businessman he should be, but we also got to see his softer, human side, which was a delightful change. Matt Murdock is a very soft-spoken, unobtrusive character, which makes his electrifying, menacing appearances as Daredevil a more jarring difference, much like Chris Reeve in his turn as the dorky Clark Kent and the confident Superman. Murdock does deliver several low-key, humorous lines, mainly self-deprecating “blind man” jokes, but the show’s humor is primarily carried by Elden Henson’s Foggy Nelson. (You’ll recognize him as Fulton Reed from the “Mighty Ducks” movies. I couldn’t figure it out for the first few shows; I just knew that I knew him. Thank goodness for IMDB.)
Foggy is, quite simply, absolutely hilarious. He comes across as a total goofball, but then he suddenly shows you that he really is a brilliant lawyer and a caring, decent human being. As Matt’s best friend, he is the best friend we all want to have. (I’m fortunate to have a couple of guys like this in my life, so yay!) Every time something bad happens at night, and he doesn’t know where Matt is, we feel his fear for his friend. When he gets to have his “big moment”, he absolutely nails it with his emotions; it’s an amazing scene. I won’t tell you what he’s emotional about, or when it happens, but when it does…you’ll know.
Ben Urich is the grizzled old reporter who still cares about news, not about sales, and who many consider to be past his better days. Given his importance to the “Daredevil” world, I had hoped to get more out of this character, but to me, he was pretty limited in this version. Vondie Curtis-Hall is just as great as all the other actors, so I blame the storyline for sort of neutering a major Marvel character like this.
It was weird seeing Ayelet Zurer, who appeared in “Man of Steel” as Superman’s biological mother, showing up in the MCU, but she was very good in her part as Wilson Fisk’s love interest. She doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but they had great chemistry together.
Rosario Dawson is terrific as Claire, a nurse who winds up as Daredevil’s personal mobile emergency room. She only appears in a few episodes, although she’s referenced in others, and her primary purpose is to serve as his moral compass as he starts his journey as the “devil of Hell’s Kitchen”.
Peter McRobbie’s turn as Catholic priest Father Lantum joins the list of amusingly supportive religious figures. Sure, he’s a priest, but he was amusing to me. I just enjoyed his delivery, and the way he tried to guide Matt to make the “right” choice, while still being supportive of Matt’s right to make his own decisions. Great character. I’d love to see a scene with him talking with Thor or something, just for the potential humor.
The primary gang leaders seemed pretty cookie-cutter to me, with the exception of Leland Owlsley, played by Bob Gunton. If Foggy Nelson carried the humor for the good guys, Leland carried the humor for the villains. His sardonic tone and snide comments to the Kingpin were absolutely hilarious. How many people, in response to bad news, could say something sarcastic like, “Well, that just fills me with confidence,” to the Kingpin and live to tell about it? He was deliciously sarcastic.
Finally, we had Toby Leonard Moore as Fisk’s right-hand man Wesley. He did a great job as the devoted servant, acting as the face of the Kingpin. His calm demeanor and even tones hide his menacing nature. He’s really good, and I wanted to know more about him.
As I mentioned earlier, people are comparing this to “Arrow”, but I think it’s a limited comparison for one reason: “Arrow” is on network television, and so is limited in what it can say or do. “Daredevil” doesn’t have that problem, so to say it’s what “Arrow” should have been is completely unfair. It’s like saying that “Sex and the City” is what “Friends” should have been. Two very different situations. (Admittedly, “SATC” was a great show, and “Friends” was a waste of my time, but that’s neither here nor there.) As far as I’m concerned, “Arrow”, “Daredevil”, “Flash”, and “Agents of SHIELD” are all really good, really entertaining shows, and I’m glad we have them all.
As for Daredevil’s powers, I feel like the show kind of cheated us on that. I actually liked the movie with Ben Affleck, and really enjoyed the way his powers were displayed in the movie, giving us a glimpse of what he “saw”. We only got a scene or two of that in the entire 13 episodes, with primarily Matt’s verbal description of his powers to others. (Yes, there are a few people who discover who he is. It works, though.) The descriptions work really well, but I would have personally liked to “see” what he saw during a fight scene, even if only once. It’s not a big deal, though.
Finally, the costume. This was an origin story, so the black costume makes sense and, in my opinion, looks much cooler than the red costume. Then again, I’ve always thought his red costume was kind of lame, but that’s just me. When we finally see it, we feel like he’s earned it, and while it’s different from what we’re used to seeing, much like the costumes in the movies and the DC shows, it makes sense. Definitely inspired by the comics, but different enough to not just be red spandex with devil horns.
Overall, I loved this series. I am no Marvel comics fan, although I do enjoy their movies and shows, and don’t really care about Daredevil, so the fact that this show sucked me in, forcing me to constantly watch the next episode, is testament to the show’s quality. Be prepared to binge-watch; it’s going to make you whether you want to or not.