Hard to believe it’s been around 12 years since one of the most laughable Marvel films was dropped on an unsuspecting public, that of course being Daredevil starring Ben Affleck. The film was terrible and became such a punchline that it then seemed the blind lawyer by day, Hell’s Kitchen hero at night icon would never be heard from in several formats ever again.
Cut to 2015. We live in a much different world concerning all things superhero. The slate has been wiped clean by the Marvel Cinematic Universe, largely due to names like Whedon and Feige. Marvel is now tying almost everything together with major motion pictures and television shows. Fans new and old are reigniting their love of long time favorite superheroes and more importantly, making the brand mad, mad coin.
So here we are, never having a better time to see Marvel’s best and brightest across services such as Netflix. Allowing viewers to watch an entire season of shows at their leisure, Netflix and Marvel are testing the waters with the previously left for dead character, Daredevil.
The show itself is dark and gritty, much like its real life location of Hell’s Kitchen in New York. Attorney Matt Murdock is a man who lost his sight as a boy and developed heightened senses as a result of a chemical accident. The show primarily revolves around Murdock’s hunt to bring down the villain Wilson Fisk, aka as Kingpin in the comics. Played brilliantly by Vincent D’Onofrio of Law & Order: Criminal Intent fame, Fisk takes center stage in the series and even begins to steal the show. The crime boss with an ocean of storms hidden underneath gives viewers many puzzles to unlock or for those who have already seen the series, a painting to stare at. His performance cannot be understated: it’s incredible.
That isn’t to say our hero Murdock is poorly played by actor Charlie Cox, he’s just a bit upstaged. Viewers are given plenty of back story for Murdock, along with good characters from the comics such as his law partner Foggy and even a great episode featuring a visit from his former mentor, Stick, played by veteran actor Scott Glenn. The cast turns in solid episodes for almost the entire series, with a good balance being struck following the lives of not just our hero and villain, but the supporting cast as well. We’ll just overlook the fact that for some reason, Rosario Dawson just disappears for the second half of the season.
If the characters are the solid point in Daredevil, the weakness is the script. At times, the story is pretty linear and predictable, leaving the viewer waiting for something big to happen that really never materializes. Sure, there are epic battles and deaths, it just seems to be missing the hard plot twists that are provided with the other films and shows of the MCU. Don’t misunderstand me, no one is expecting Thor to show up at Murdock’s law office or even a mention of other major characters. However, to be nestled near Manhattan and refer to the Avenger’s “battle of New York” as an “incident” is a bit silly.
Daredevil is a series that wants to be a super hero show, but just can’t seem to pull the trigger. Murdock doesn’t even don a proper outfit until 12.5 episodes into a 13 episode series. His extraordinary senses? The season is three-quarters over before it’s actually admitted that Murdock’s heightened awareness gave him special abilities because of the chemicals during his boyhood accident. My point? Without those things established early on, the series becomes a violent version of Law & Order on steroids.
The setting of the series takes place down the street from where aliens invaded and a guy that morphs into a giant green wrecking machine battled them. Not the time to be shy about super powers or telling a bit of a fantastic story. The writers of Daredevil stayed in a safe zone for most of the series and it shows. The actual season finale is a bit cheesy and had the Rolling Stone’s Gimme Shelter played in the background, I would have sworn I was watching a Scorsese flick. Sub par and predictable, the last episode falls flat as a cap to an otherwise pretty decent show. D’Onofrio even gives a forced super villain monologue, just to make things really awkward. Yeah, it’s a bit like that.
Daredevil “joins” the MCU, but barely. It does not have the glamor of a Marvel film or even the plot twists of Marvel’s Agents of Shield. It is a fine first attempt by Marvel’s B team of writers and could be polished into something special. Daredevil takes no risks, gives no major rewards. It is a work in progress, as even The Walking Dead was in its first season.
At the bare minimum, Daredevil does an excellent job of wiping away memories of Ben Affleck proclaiming he isn’t “the bad guy”. And that’s more than enough. For now.