With ComicCon coming up next week and me back from tour, I’m finally able to get back to wrting articles for AlphaNerd. I’ve actually wanted to do a love letter for this series, but it’s just taken me so long to get to it. So without further ado, here is my review of the first season of Marvel’s Daredevil.
Marvel Studios has always been a mixed bag for me. When they’re able to be very true to their characters and make the plot hit the beats of the big storylines, we can get a Guardians of The Galaxy or Winter Soldier out of them. Or, we can get a convoluted bag of half thought-out ideas with numerous plot holes, but they’re so visually interesting on screen we try not to think about it (aka Avengers: Age Of Ultron). When Marvel is able to make me believe all of these things share a continuity, it’s when I get most invested in theses movies of theirs. But one thing that is easily found in the source material that I don’t see in the movies are the normal people, the neighborhoods, and the rest of the world. Enter “Marvel’s Daredevil,” the first of five planned Netflix shows, which provides the exact storytelling boost that the MCU needed in my opinion.
“Marvel’s Daredevil” begins as one would expect - with the origins of Matt Murdock and his abilities - but from the beginning we’re thrust immediately into the accident that blinded Murdock and heightened his other senses. The opening ten minutes are a perfect encapsulation of the character as they showcase his origin, his commitment to his faith, his disturbance with the crime around him, and his abilities as a fighter. It's with those opening minutes of the series that make me feel how any Marvel movie would function, establishing the character, his motives, and his style that makes him special. But once the roller coaster takes off from the station, it’s like no ride Marvel has created yet.
There’s a dichotomy to Daredevil that makes him one of the best comic book characters I feel Marvel has ever created. It is with newcomer Charlie Cox, who seamlessly captures it in his performance in the ways that he speaks in court vs. with his friends, how he moves as a blind lawyer vs. as a vigilante, and how he makes the seamless transition between the two (Ben Affleck he is not). In fact, all the cast members of “Marvel’s Daredevil” bring their A-game and there’s not a weak link in the bunch - from Elden Henson’s hilarious portrayal of Foggy Nelson to the damaged Karen Page as brought to life by Deborah Ann Woll. Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple and Vondie Curtis-Hall as Ben Urich provide an even deeper root into this “real world” of the Marvel universe, and elevate the story around them.
But of course there can be no hero without its villain, and that is where Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk (King Pin) comes in and literally steals the whole show. Fisk is the most terrifying villain to come out of the MCU, bar none. He’s ruthless, cunning, and deranged to a level that no villain within a two-hour movie can achieve. Like all good villains, his heart is in the right place but his motives are flawed - he’s not just evil for the sake of being evil. If there was any chance of this show getting an Emmy nomination this year, it will be for Vince’s performance. Plus an extra layer to his character is produced in Ayelet Zurer’s performance as Vanessa, who provides the eyes and ears for the audience in the most subtle but clever ways. Toby Leonard Moore turns Fisk’s assistant Wesley into a regimented and emotionless cog that actually makes the character interesting (a step above his weak portrayal in the comics). Another “bad guy” in the cast that I cannot gush about enough is Rob Morgan as the petty crime guy Turk, a dopey regular character in the comics that very often takes a beating, but in this series would fit right in with the likes of Avon Barksdale from “The Wire.”
Visually, “Marvel’s Daredevil” is one of the best adaptations of a comic book I’ve seen, as the framing and depiction of the city look exactly like a Daredevil comic come to life. Citizens walk about their day, people ride the subway, cops talk to each other, and it’s perfect. There’s also a level of action found in the series that reflects its comic book basis very well. The way fights are choreographed reflects the scrappy and semi-grounded world of Daredevil. The shadow of Matt’s boxing father is felt as he knocks teeth free from criminals, but the way he bounces around and throws his cane look like comic book visuals in reality. It’s enough to turn this decades long Daredevil fan into a little kid. I should also note, however, that the violence level in Daredevil reflects the nature of the story. This isn’t a big cartoon, so the punches are felt, the blood flows, and sometimes body parts are severed. In no way is it like a “Saw” movie, but there’s gore not found in any other Marvel production. Daredevil’s patented “radar sense” is also included as a visual cue, though done in a less-obvious and potentially controversial way.
I cannot applaud “Marvel’s Daredevil” enough. From its succinct telling of the origin, to the dynamic character drama, to the stellar fluid action, and the underlying thorough narrative - the show is another home run for Marvel. Drew Goddard’s script for the first two episodes is flawlessly put together with the same melding of reverence and new flavors that make the other Marvel products work. And with the recent announcement of The Walking Dead alum Jon Bernthal cast as the Punisher, I immensely look forward to this series continuance. Executive Producer Steven DeKnight has developed a world within the Marvel Universe that is both unique and lived-in, but also now integral to the scope of the MCU. If only the GOTHAM show was done with the same amount of heart, guts, and edge that “Marvel’s Daredevil” has, then there would be nothing at all to worry about.