When I first heard that Netflix was producing a Marvel Daredevil series, I was skeptical. I remembered the Daredevil movie, starring Ben Affleck, and shuddered. Slowly my curiosity climbed as I learned more about its cast and its inclusion in the Marvel universe, where Avengers, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy take place. It’s just the first of the Marvel properties Netflix will produce, and it was better than what I had hoped it would be. It was so good, that I watched while on the treadmill and lost track of time. One thing I did have to keep track of was Netflix’s trick to start a new episode ten seconds after my current episode ended, or else I might have overextended my cardio.
The cast was the first obviously great thing about the series: Rosario Dawson, Scott Glen, Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll and Vincent D’Onofrio. This might not have been enough, since I got fooled by the likes of Colin Farrell, Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck once before, so I crossed my fingers and pressed play.
The atmosphere and tone of the series was quite dark, and it worked very well. Daredevil has always been, to me, a champion of the people of Hell’s Kitchen’s mean streets, and they are mean indeed. The poor are being pushed out of their homes by real estate developers, crime and decay abound, and I began to cringe if I saw any of the major characters walking around at night. It was easy to see the people of Hell’s Kitchen as victims of ruthless power, and most of the main characters had relatively realistic lives, including other people people depending on them, something overlooked too often in these kinds of high-action properties.
The treatments of both Daredevil’s and the villainous Wilson Fisk’s origins also unfolded with obvious care. Matt Murdock (Daredevil) gained his powers as a boy, and this along with his evolution into a hero were portrayed without the show falling into typical training montages and other tropes. The series even took care to offer enough background on Fisk to establish sympathy. Even as he committed atrocious acts, I was left wondering if a few simple acts of love and kindness during his childhood might have made him a completely different man. In fact, Fisk’s back-story sometimes seemed to overshadow that of Murdock’s, but I didn’t mind in the least. It felt important to me to learn more about the Fisk, aka the Kingpin, since I knew little of him from scant reading of the comic books. D’Onofrio excelled in his portrayal of a driven and tortured antagonist, and the series did well to paint his obsession with a deep shade of righteousness.
The format gave ample opportunity for developing other characters in the series as well, and I appreciated the depth that these scenes added. Foggy Nelson, frequently comic relief and Murdock’s law partner, was especially endearing and even more so when the origin of his friendship with Murdock got some screen time. Woll’s character, Karen Page, could have been relegated to a “pretty secretary” role, but thankfully her character’s importance to Nelson and Murdock only increased as the series progressed. Her intelligent, determined character quickly became one of my favorites.
The action was superb, and I have to confess that it was the main draw for me. I love martial arts movies and Daredevil didn’t skimp on the fight choreography and stunts. At times, I wondered why Daredevil would execute a back flip with a twist when he could have simply jumped or vaulted a railing, but it didn’t reach farcical proportions and was easy enough to forgive. What made the fights even more enjoyable was the realism found in the price Murdock paid for his heroics. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw a superhero have to take some time off to recover from his last bout with criminals. The anguish Murdock felt during the conflict between his body’s need to heal and his sense of responsibility was palpable. It only left me admiring the character more.
If you’re a fan of comic books, martial arts or just plain action, Daredevil is definitely worth your time. Netflix has definitely set the bar high for the rest of the Marvel properties it produces, and I look forward to the debuts of each and every one of them.