Here we are, less than a week away from the debut of Jessica Jones, the second of Marvel’s Netflix Original Series. I thought it would be a good idea to do a quick review of the first of Netflix’s Marvel series: Daredevil.
To be honest, when I first heard that about this endeavor, and that Daredevil would be the first of the series to be released, I was worried. Why would I be worried? It’s not like there’s ever been a Daredevil movie that was awful.
And I in no way hold a grudge against Ben Affleck for that terrible movie. And I OF COURSE hold no negative opinion regarding Mr. Affleck’s upcoming performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman.
But I digress.
Daredevil debuted on April 10, 2015, and in typical Netflix fashion the entire season was available for viewing all at once. I love Netflix.
Our hero is Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox). In the opening scene of the first episode, we see the aftermath of a terrible accident, where young Matt was exposed to some chemicals that left him blind, but left his other sense supernaturally enhanced. It takes a few episodes before we get information on exactly why he’s such a good fighter, but from the beginning we get some background on Matt’s father: he was an old school boxer that didn’t win very often, but he could take a hit. His son inherited that legacy and then some.
What Daredevil Does Well
The first thing that I love about this show (and I assume the other upcoming Netflix Marvel series) is the casual way they still connect into the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe. A heavy part of the storyline for the show involves a company, Union Allied, benefiting from the efforts to rebuild the areas of New York City that were destroyed as a result of the Avengers’ battle against the Chitauri in The Avengers.
The fight scenes are amazing. And I mean absolutely, completely amazing. It’s not that they’re grittier or more gruesome than the fights we’ve seen so far in the MCU. The fights involving Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America all involve people that are in some way superhuman. They’re stronger and more durable than normal people. But physically at least, Matt Murdock is a normal human being. Granted he’s highly trained, but he’s very much human as far as his physical capabilities go.
That is evidenced by how the fight scenes are choreographed, which is done beautifully. Not that I can speak from experience here, but I have it from multiple sources that being in a fist fight is very physically exhausting. These fights actually allow the characters to display that exhaustion, taking a few seconds to catch their breath, to recover a bit of strength, before moving back into the fight.
The extended fight scene in the second episode is practically perfect as far as a cinematic fight scene goes, especially since it’s all one extended, uncut sequence. You should watch it. It’s amazing, especially when you think about the fact that everything that happens during that sequence, had to be done in one long continuous take.
Up until the end of the season Matt wears a very DIY costume that is incredibly basic, and works really well for the character. It’s simple and affordable, which makes sense for a brand new attorney striking out on his own. The hood (balaclava?) that covers most of his face and head works great for the character as well, emphasizing that the character doesn’t rely on typical sight in order to deal with his opponents.
Sadly we only really get one episode in which to see the actual Daredevil costume in action. It’s an OK costume, and does fairly well at trying to be representative of the Daredevil costume from the comic books. But to be honest, I prefer the black Ninja-style costume he spent most of the season wearing. I would almost prefer to see a more armored version of that costume instead of the red ‘devil’ motif of the new costume. But that’s a relatively small complaint.
Overall the writing is great, the characters are fun, and the show gets down to the business of superhero action pretty darn quickly. After the extremely slow burn that was employed with the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., that was a HUGE and welcome change.
Where Daredevil Could Improve
It’s 45 minutes into the first episodes of the season before we even hear the primary villain’s voice. But that character, The Kingpin Wilson Fisk, doesn’t actually appear in the episode at all. We are introduced to the Kingpin’s primary henchman and the various criminal ‘masterminds’ that the Kingpin is in business with. But the ultimate villain himself is completely absent from that first episode, and doesn’t actually appear until the second episode. Granted it’s only one episode, but holding back on the reveal of Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk doesn’t accomplish anything.
That problem is made worse by the fact that this interpretation of Wilson Fisk is unreliable. While Daredevil saves lives and tries to make a difference where he can during the course of that first season, he accomplishes very little as far as dismantling the Kingpin’s criminal empire. At multiple points throughout the season I found myself thinking, “You know, Matt could just take a vacation at this point, and the bad guys will all just kill each other off.” Because, SPOILERS, that’s basically what happens. Matt does take down the Kingpin in the end. But Wilson Fisk did most of the damage to his own criminal empire as he eliminated each of his own partners for reasons that aren’t ever explained, other than the fact that he is mentally unhinged.
As much as I wanted to root for Matt Murdock to triumph over the Kingpin, it was really hard to do so because it didn’t feel necessary. Fisk was likely always going to self destruct, and like a black hole, he would destroy everything around him as he did. Granted the cost of that explosion would likely be enormous, but none of Daredevil’s actions throughout the season felt particularly necessary in brining Kingpin down.
That’s one of the reasons I’m so excited for Jessica Jones, because this time the villain and our heroine already have a pre-existing history, and it’s intensely personal. Whatever else Jessica (Krysten Ritter) does as she attempts to save other people and the city around her, it’s all going to be layered on top of the fact that she’s fighting a war to save her own soul. And that’s going to be fascinating to watch.
If you haven’t watched this show already, and have even a cursory interest in comic book superheroes coming to the big and small screens, you should watch this show. Even with its flaws, it’s incredibly fun to watch, and I’m excited to see what Netflix has in store, both for the other three shows they have in the pipeline as well as for Season 2 of Daredevil.