Daredevil Season 1

netflix daredevil season 1 posterDaredevil, Netflix, Premiered 2015
Created by Drew Goddard
Starring Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Toby Leonard Moore, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Bob Gunton, Ayelet Zurer, Rosario Dawson, Vincent D’Onofrio
Rating: four stars
Reviewed by David L. Felts

I was pretty stoked to learn Netflix was going to produce a Daredevil series. Daredevil has always been my favorite superhero. Maybe because he doesn’t really have super-powers, just a bit of super perception and lots of training. It seemed that he was always the underdog and we all love to root for the underdog.

I read somewhere the DC comics are about superheros trying to be human and Marvel comics are about humans trying to be superheros. I think Daredevil is the embodiment of this approach.

Matt Murdoch was blinded as a child when he knocked an old man out of the way of a speeding truck. In the comic, the truck was carrying radioactive waste; the TV series has retconned it just just be some sort of chemical.

In any case, said chemical/radioactive waste from the wrecked truck gets into Matt’s eyes, blinding him, but at the same time heightening all his other senses. He can hear heartbeats from across the room, smell perfume from two blocks away, “read” a book with his fingertips by feeling the impressions of the ink on the page. In the comics, it’s also explained that he has heightened body awareness, giving him extraordinary balance, agility and strength.

He also has some sort of “radar sense” where the combination of all his heightened senses allows him to “see” in much the manner of radar. It’s less defined in the TV series, simply being described by Matt as though he’s “seeing” a world that’s on fire. The show touches briefly on meditation and training, but a plain and simple explanation of Matt’s abilities isn’t offered. This works in the context of the show, as we are able to see what he can do, rather than having it told to us.

The Netflix Daredevil series is an origin tale. We’re treated to the genesis of Daredevil. He’s the man in the mask, a vigilante fighting crime in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York. His vigilantism is at odds with his career as a lawyer and causes no small amount of personal conflict, as does reconciling his violent actions with his Catholic faith. All good, complex character stuff.

We’re also introduced to Daredevil’s nemesis, Walter Fisk, AKA Kingpin, a ruthless organized crime boss who wants to rebuild Hell’s Kitchen in his own vision. Fisk loves the city, see, and he sees the poverty-stricken and crime-ridden Hell’s Kitchen as a blight he intends to cure. If he has to kill a few innocents on the way and bride some officials and police officers to make that happen, well, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, amirite?

We meet Foggy Nelson, Matt’s longtime friend from college and now partner in their law firm Nelson and Murdock. Karen Page has a large role as well as first a victim of Fisk’s machinations, and later as secretary for the budding law firm after she is defended by Matt and Foggy.

The series is 13 episodes in length, for a total of about 11 hours or so of Daredevil goodness. Short of giving a review of each episode, there’s really no way to cover everything that happens or all facets of the show, but I’ll try to hit the high points.

It’s a gritty, street level representation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the world Marvel is working in for its movies and television shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Agent Carter. Daredevil takes place in New York after the events of Avengers 2, amid the massive destruction caused by the alien invasion the Avengers ultimately thwarted. The city is beat up and downtrodden, and that’s reflected in the residents and tone of the series.

We (the American public) have been trained by the fast-moving plots of action movies. As a result of this lifetime of exposure, the pacing here will feel slow. But consider–were this a movie, all the characters would have been introduced on the first 15 minutes and then WHAM BAM POW action, resolution and ending. Here we get a much deeper and satisfying dive.

The extended format of the series provides much, much  more opportunity for character and relationship development, opportunity I think the series takes good advantage of. Each of the characters is unique, well-developed and possesses his or her own motivations, failings, traits, etc. It’s nice to see so many characters so thoroughly explored. Fisk as the Kingpin is exceptionally well done. A villain, yes, but a villain whose motivations we can understand and even make a twisted sort of sense of once we learn where Fisk is coming from and the formative events in his life.

As you can imagine, with ten hours of run time, there’s quite a few characters. Here are the main ones:

Charlie Cox  Matt Murdock / … (13 episodes, 2015)
Deborah Ann Woll  Karen Page (13 episodes, 2015)
Elden Henson  Foggy Nelson (13 episodes, 2015)
Vincent D’Onofrio  Wilson Fisk (11 episodes, 2015)
Toby Leonard Moore  James Wesley (10 episodes, 2015)
Vondie Curtis-Hall  Ben Urich (9 episodes, 2015)
Bob Gunton  Leland Owlsley (9 episodes, 2015)
Ayelet Zurer  Vanessa Marianna (9 episodes, 2015)

James Wesley is Fisk’s personal assistant
Ben Urich is a reporter investigating city corruption
Leland Owlsley is Fisk accountant and money man
And Vanessa Marianna is Fisk’s love interest

I though all the actors, particularly D’Onofrio and Zurer did a commendable job. Woll was also as standout. Cox, for the most part, wears the red tights well enough, though some of his emoting felt insincere and forced to me. He needs to work on acting distraught and upset. Or maybe he just has an ugly sad face.

Henson, although physically almost the very spitting image of Foggy from the comic, often seemed to me as though he was acting. His performance was the only one that failed to rise to the level the other actors brought it to the show. In places, it was downright horrible.

The action is good, lots of fights, although I could easily see when the occasional punch hit nothing but air. I also thought the amount of damage Daredevil absorbed time after time, only to win his fights in the end, was a bit over the top. Daredevil is just a human after all, not a superhero akin to Thor or a prime human like Captain America. The make a stab at explaining his extraordinary recuperative powers by talking about some meditation mumbo-jumbo, but that didn’t work for me.

In looking back, I see I failed to mention Stick. Stick is a Matt’s blind mentor, who showed up after the death of Matt’s father and took him through some of the aforementioned mumbo-jumbo ninja meditation training. Scott Glen did a great job here.

So what does all this mean to you?

Well, if you’re a Daredevil fan like me, then obviously this is a must-see. It has some bumps, but in the end it was a fine and very enjoyable ride. I plan on watching it again in the not-too-distant future.

If you’re a comic book movie hero fan, you might find it slow and ordinary and maybe even a little depressing. The hero(es) are just ordinary people trying to do extraordinary things. No ray guns, flying suits, magic hammers, or big green monsters. It’s gritty and dirty and the hero gets his ass kicked repeatedly, unlike in the movies. There’s also a fair bit of navel gazing as Matt seeks to reconcile his religious upbringing and lawyer sensibilities with his desire to see justice served at the end of a billy club.

Those of you who enjoy crime drama might find something here to like. In that sense, it’s akin to the TV series The Equalizer (recently redone as a movie with Denzel Washington). You know, underdogs seek to bring down uber crime boss sort of thing.

One thing to be aware of it the violence. This is rated TV-MA and not for the boobs. There’s quite a bit of violence, some of it a little over the top. It’s definitely not on par with the PG-13 MCU movie releases we’ve all grown so used to and that we take our 12 year-olds to see. They would need a PG-16 for this one.

For Daredevil fans I give it 4 out of 5.
For the super hero aficionado, a 3 out of 5.
For the crime drama Equalizer crowd, a 2.5 out of 5.

I eagerly await the remaining series of shows in Netflix’s street-level hero series.

Liked it? Take a second to support SFReader on Patreon!

Leave a Reply