Marvel properties have certainly become a towering presence on the big screen every summer, the studio’s TV offerings have been a mixed bag – the highly anticipated Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D for example is in no way a bad show, but it has failed to live up to fans’ high expectations.
Similarly the recent Agent Carter remains somewhat of an insider tip, but struggled with declining ratings despite positive feedback.
Marvel’s ‘failures’ on the small screen, while still relative to the massive profits of its films, seemed to somewhat topple the studio from its throne built of continuous fan excitement, but if you have lately seen the number of productions in the pipeline you know the train rolls on undeterred.
Quiet announcements are not Marvel’s style, and so Daredevil was announced, hints strewn like breadcrumbs, bare-bones posters and teasers announcing the revival of a superhero who was previously wronged, like many of his Marvel colleagues, by a lacklustre movie adaptation under 20th Century Fox, starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner.
While Affleck seemingly still has to atone for that one, Marvel has moved on and made a Daredevil TV series for Netflix, the first of, surprise, a 4-show deal.
All 13 episodes have been released April 10th, binge-watching strongly encouraged.
You can stop holding your breath now, it’s good. Very good in fact.
Daredevil is now played by British actor Charlie Cox, previously known for Stardust, the adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name, as well as his role on Broadwalk Empire.
The show also stars Rosario Dawson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Deborah AnnWoll and Elden Henson.
We follow Matt Murdock, a young lawyer who has been blinded in an accident involving a chemical spill as a child.
During the day he tries to establish a law firm together with his best friend and partner Foggy Nelson (Henson), but at night he prowls the streets of New York’s Hell’s Kitchen district as a masked vigilante with a mean right (and left!) hook.
Daredevil is probably Marvel’s most Batman-like property in the way that we are introduced to a man who has lost his parents, has no superhuman powers and fights for others simply because someone has to do it.
Whereas Batman soon acquires a whole sack of freakish nemeses however, the forces Daredevil battles stay the same for much of the series: the Russian mafia, the Japanese mafia… you get the idea. Bad people.
This largely undefined threat gives the show somewhat of a slow start, seeing as one likes to have a villain to focus the plot (and general dislike) on.
As Daredevil also takes place in a real suburb, this criminal overkill can leave you feeling either highly uncomfortable or ridiculous, “Are you kidding?” says Foggy in one episode, “I now see criminals everywhere, out for my blood. Let’s never sleep again!” Viewers will end up feeling much the same way.
It is however one of Daredevil‘s unexpectedly realistic elements, one man fighting against a larger-than-life force will immediately have you asking how much longer this can possibly go on and what will happen to give the show more of a plot.
Daredevil being a TV series makes a slow set-up of events like this possible, and thus it takes a while until we are being introduced to Wilson Fisk (D’Onofrio), the main villain who wants nothing to do with this particular mantle.
Instead Fisk is a calculating businessman, a true hulk of a man who doesn’t like to get his hands dirty and who believes violence a necessary if unpleasant tool to achieve his goal, which is ultimately making Hell’s Kitchen a better place.
Again it is up to the individual viewer to find this either flimsy or realistic, the absence of some overarching plan or psychotic behaviour from Fisk again points towards the latter.
About halfway into the series, Daredevil adopts different points of view to allow for faster plot progress whilst also, thankfully, still showing us more of Murdock’s past – beating up bad guys doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to lament, after all.
Some of these strands get regular exposure, like client-made-employee Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) and her investigation into Fisk or Fisk doing gangster stuff with other gangsters.
Some interesting developments are unfortunately cut short, it would have been nice to see more of
Claire (Rosario Dawson), a badass nurse who helps Matt survive the worst.
Speaking of the worst, Daredevil is not meant for squeamish people. The level of violence is definitely a departure for Marvel, again reminding us that this is a gritty show that has a hero who is by no means invincible.
What little comic relief is to be had from something that mostly takes place in the dark comes from Foggy and his relationships with his colleagues slash friends. With a show that starts out dark only to become, well… darker, this is understandable, however some might feel the need to interrupt their binge-watching out of the sheer need for more light-hearted material.
Daredevil leaves surprisingly little to gripe about. Cox’s blind-acting could use some improvement, and over large stretches of the series it is easy to forget we are dealing with a blind person at all.
His character can leave you cold for a rather long while, too, something that is partly rectified over the course of the show.
While Fisk is an interesting character, the rest of the villains are decidedly not, some of them over-the-top brutes the way you might expect them in Die Hard, but not in a show that otherwise gets so many things just right, and the ending is somewhat lacklustre compared to how hugely it is built-up to.
These flaws however can be considered minor, and what you are left with is a stylish show with great fighting sequences that, fan already joke, does Batman better than DC does.
Daredevil sets up expectations for a second season, and with the quality of this one, there is no reason why there shouldn’t be one.
Episodes: 13, approx. 50mins per episode
Starring: Charlie Cox, Vincent D’Onofrio, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Rosario Dawson