On April 10th, time stood still…….at least that’s what it felt like as I, along with many other Fans without Fear made a point of putting whatever else was going on in our lives on hold to sit down and watch a full 13 episode of the Netflix original series, Marvel’s Daredevil. Created in the mid-sixties, Daredevil is one of the heroes created in the Marvel age of comics when Stan the Man and a crew of uber-talented artists made their mark on the four colour world of funny books. At the time, nobody knew just how far the blind lawyer from Hell’s Kitchen would go in his quest for justice. Over 50 years later, the character has 4 comic series, countless miniseries, a number of cartoon appearances and one shitty movie to his name. Not bad for a guy who was considered a “second stringer” for most of his comic career. Now a television show can be added to his acheivements. But is this a grand accomplishment or another setback like in 2003 (the year of that shitty movie)? Thankfully, DD fans can hold their heads high knowing that justice was done on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen.
For those that still might not know, the series focuses on Matt Murdock, a young attorney who was blinded in an accident as a boy but was left with special heightened senses that allow him to do extraordinary things. Murdock, along with his college pal Foggy Nelson set up practice in the neighbourhood they grew up in: Hell’s Kitchen. The Kitchen has fallen on hard times as organized crime has targeted the area and conspire to uproot its good citizens for reasons unknown. Matt finds himself fighting a two front war against the problem – in the courts as a lawyer by day and on the streets as a masked vigilante by night. After meeting Karen Page, a woman wrongfully accused of murder, Matt is set on the path to weed out this corruption and come face to face with the mysterious figure who is pulling the strings from the shadows. What it boils down to is an origin story…..make that two origin stories. Make no mistake, the life and history of Matt Murdock is laid bare in this season of t.v. We are shown his motivations in great detail and come to know the character intimately. But this story is just as much about the rise of Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin. Starting as a man who no one sees or talks to directly but undeniably fears and ending up as a infamous figure in the community, we see Fisk’s story unfold in equal measure. Every hero needs a villain and we’re shown in great detail why these two characters are destined to be eachother’s opposite number.
As a fan of the Daredevil comic, I have to say that a great deal of respect was shown to the source material without it being a slave to it. I can’t help but think that a great deal of this care being shown is due to staff writers Christos and Ruth Gage. It helps to have someone who’s written for both comics and television as part of your team. Regardless if they were the reason, I am glad to see that the comic book was shown it’s due. The tale of this 13 episodes brought Hell’s Kitchen to life. It’s a living, breathing city and it’s citizens feel just as real. From Fogwell’s Gym to Josie’s Bar, the streets of the Kitchen are well represented. And the scenery is not the only thing that feels authentic.
When it comes to casting the Marvel cinematic universe, I feel that Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evan will always stand as perfect examples of Marvel Studios ability to cast the right guy in the right role. The same can now be said for Charlie Cox. Cox is Matt Murdock. I look at his performance, right down to the moments where he’s just standing there, listening to the heartbeats of the jury in court, and all I can see is the blind lawyer from Hell’s Kitchen. More than any other character in the Marvel U, Daredevil is a hard one to pull off in live action because not only is he blind with heightened senses, he’s also a man just barely keeping it together. He such a tortured soul who at times is unsure of his mission. He beats himself up both physically and mentally but does so completely in private. To others, he gives the guise of a man completely in control, even being a bit flirtatious at points to cover up the cracks under the surface. It’s hard to pull all that off on screen but Cox manages to portray it perfectly.
And he has excellent chemistry with all his supporting players. You feel the bitter rivalry between him and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Fisk, two characters who share not as much screen time as one would think. When they do, it is magical as the viewer’s senses are heightened with the anticipation of what’s about to go down. His moments with Claire Temple (played by Rosario Dawson) are tragic and painful as she’s the only person he can turn to help him through his physical trama as well as some of his personal demons. He also has some great moments fighting those metaphorical demons in talks with his parish priest (which are some of the most interesting scenes whether you’re a person of faith or not). But where the magic is most present is when he shares the screen with Foggy Nelson and Karen Page played by Elden Henson and Deborah Ann Woll respectively. The three compliment eachother so well, I could watch a straight-up courtroom drama starring the three and not even miss the superhero antics.
When it comes to other stand out performances, I have to tip my hat to Elden Henson. Out of the entire cast, he’s taken the most flak for his portrayal of Foggy. There are those who are critical of his choices with the character. Others just find him annoying. To the latter, I’m not sure exactly what you find annoying, so I don’t think I can change your mind there. To the former, I would like to bring up that just like Daredevil himself, the character of Foggy has been around for over 50 years. While many of us have a particular version of Foggy in our minds, the character has changed a lot over this time. He’s been a loud mouth over-compensator, a bumbling goof, a quiet confidante and a trusted friend who’s always there when you need him. I think Henson did a great job of touching all those bases in this series. He also brought a much needed levity to an otherwise serious piece of television. No matter what others think, he was the MVP of this show in my book.
My only real complaint is not one with the story but with the possibility of more stories with Daredevil. There is a character death near the end of the season that I feel was not needed. This character plays an integral part throughout the series and his death is both shocking and motivating. I can totally see why the character was killed off in the context of the story. I just feel if the plan is to revisit this corner of th Marvel Cinematic Universe, losing this character is a detriment as he’s the perfect connection between the heroes and the common man. I’m trying to be ominous here for the folks that still haven’t gotten the chance to check out the show but anyone who knows their Daredevil might already know who I’m talking about.
The story itself is a strong one and something that fans of the character will love. If this is your first time checking out the hero, you will find the story riveting. Fans of crime shows like Breaking Bad and The Wire will like this show. Fans of Japenese action films will like this show (especially the hallway fight scene!). Fans of comics will like this show. Fans of mystery will like this show. This program has something for everyone (except maybe kids as it gets a bit hardcore with it’s violence at points). If you haven’t already, check out Marvel’s Daredevil. It’s a great hero origin and fun ride.
Marvel’s Daredevil is available now for viewing on Netflix.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!