Image via Newsarama.
I have four words for you regarding Netflix’s Daredevil series: Go watch it. Now.
Seriously, it is so. good. My husband and I binge-watched the whole season (as you do with Netflix shows) a few weeks ago, and just wow. I am hooked.
First, let me share two quick disclaimers:
1.) I love the Marvel cinematic universe. I may be of the fangirl opinion that it can do no wrong, even if/when it can/does. We saw Age of Ultron last week, and while no, it wasn’t the greatest Marvel movie of all time, I did quite enjoy it. Was part of that simply because it was a Marvel cinematic universe film? Quite possibly. I also am a big fan of the spin-off TV shows–Agent Carter, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D–so it makes sense that I would love Daredevil. However…
2.) I had no intention of watching Daredevil. Honestly, I didn’t even realize it was premiering in April at all, and probably knew more about AKA Jessica Jones at that point than I did about Daredevil. I can’t tell you why exactly I wasn’t drawn to Daredevil, but that was one Marvel venture I was going to let slide by. I am so glad I didn’t.
Not long after the show premiered, my husband Terry decided to sit down and watch the first episode. He texted me after watching it and said, “You need to watch this with me. It’s amazing.” This doesn’t happen terribly often–that he’ll watch something and love it and know I’ll love it, too–but in this case, he knew. So he held off on the second episode until I got home so we could watch it together.
Ho. Ly. Crap. I was drawn in during the very first scene, and completely hooked by the third (the first fight scene).
The first season of Daredevil is Daredevil’s origin story, which is always important when [re]introducing a superhero to the greater media world beyond comic books. The first scene establishes how Daredevil could even become Daredevil at all through an emotional depiction of how young Matt Murdock gets blinded by chemicals in an accident in New York City*. As we see peeks of throughout the first episode, and learn more in depth throughout the season, while Matt is technically blind in that he cannot see as you and I can, he can “see” through other means such as echolocation. He can listen to people’s heartbeats and know if they’re lying or telling the truth, and he can perceive where things are around him by hearing the faint noises they make (especially useful in fights where guns or other weapons are involved).
This leads us to the first fight scene, which quite possibly is one of my favorite fight scenes in all of television. Several mob henchmen are attempting to load some young women into a cargo ship container when a man in all black with a black mask drawn down over his face shows up (spoiler: it’s Matt). The stunts, the parkour, and, yes, the violence, were just what the first episode needed to draw a viewer in and keep them watching. There were just enough punches, just enough flashy flips, and just enough dodged bullets that I never wanted to stop watching the fight. I even yelled out multiple times throughout the fight, which doesn’t happen often considering the amount of action movies I watch. Truly, brilliant choreography and staging made that fight scene a success–and it was just the first one! Now imagine an entire season of fight scenes of this caliber…
But I promise there’s more than just well-filmed fight scenes. If you’ve read a couple of my reviews, you may notice that I’m a fan of well-written, compelling, authentic characters. Daredevil is full of them. Matt Murdock (played by Charlie Cox) is a complex character–as all masked superheroes must be. He’s very Catholic, and the Catholic Guilt is strong with him. He’s also a fairly brilliant lawyer, as we learn he and his best friend Foggy Nelson (played by Elden Henson) are just opening up their own law practice. Matt and Foggy’s friendship doesn’t seem overly complex at first, but as the season progresses and Matt’s little masked vigilantism gets harder to hide, their relationship necessarily progresses, and the viewer can’t help but hurt and root for them simultaneously.
We also meet several more characters throughout the first episode and season who both aid–and try to kill–this man in the mask. There’s Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) who is Matt and Foggy’s first client-turned secretary, confidante, and friend; Brett Mahoney (Royce Johnson) who is Matt and Foggy’s friend on the police force, and one of few non-corrupt cops; Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall), a reporter at a local paper who provides quite a bit of assistance to both Matt and Daredevil throughout the season; and Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), a nurse who does the same.
Then we have the villains–a multinational crime and racketeering operation headed by Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio), also known as Kingpin in the comics, who is trying to rebuild NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen in his [warped] image. He is the ringleader of the Chinese, Japanese, and Russian mobs through their respective leaders: Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho), Nobu (Peter Shinkoda), and the Ranskahov brothers Vladimir and Anatoly (Nikolai Nikolaeff and Gideon Emery). Together with his right-hand man James Wesley (Toby Leonard Moore) and his accountant Leland Owlsley (Bob Gunton, aka the Warden in Shawshank Redemption), Fisk basically has the run of Hell’s Kitchen.
But Matt Murdock has something to say about that. He doesn’t like the crime that’s corrupting his city, to say the least, and he’s here to kick some ass, take some names, and stop the corruption. Throughout the first season, we meet all these characters and learn to love them, hate them, or love to hate them as needed.
I especially appreciate that they’re all very real characters–and I’m not just referring to the authenticity of how they’re written. These are Christopher-Nolan-Batman-esque heroes and villains, not Avengers-aliens-magic-and-mutants heroes and villains. These are people we can relate to, who don’t have to be raised up on pedestals as gods and super soldiers. As much as I love Thor, he’s a demigod alien. Daredevil is a blind guy who is fighting for his city–not the universe–and can take a pretty wicked punch or two before he prevails (or doesn’t, as is the case).
If you’re looking for a new show to binge-watch, or even if you’re getting kind of sick of over-the-top superheros and want something more grounded to watch, I cannot recommend Daredevil enough. I talked a lot about the first episode (really, two scenes in the first episode and the characters who join the fray. I didn’t even get to Matt’s and Fisk’s childhood flashbacks), but there’s a lot of drama, a lot of fighting, and a lot of character- and relationship-building that happen throughout the first 13 episodes that make Daredevil a unique, compelling, and excellent show. Binge-watch it over a few days like I did, and try not to get hooked.
I dare ya.
*This is the same accident that created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Don’t believe me? Check this out: “The Fascinating Origin Story of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”