Daredevil (2015, TV)
Creator: Drew Goddard
Showrunner: Steven S. DeKnight
Beyond the Avengers, this collaboration with Netflix is Marvel’s best team up yet!
Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox, ‘The Theory of Everything’) lost his sight as a boy when chemicals burnt his eyes in an accident, however it enhanced his other senses in a remarkable way giving him a highly developed ‘sight’. Principled lawyer by day, Matt turns vigilante by night, trying to improve conditions in his home of Hell’s Kitchen, which puts him at odds with violent criminals including Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio).
I love how just blocks from the site of the ‘Attack of New York’ there’s Hell’s Kitchen with a hero who is not as ‘super’ as Earth’s mightiest heroes whose methods are far more brutal but he still has his place. There are many references to ‘The Incident’ and the Avengers, though only name-dropping one of them just once. By brilliantly explaining that what happened in New York is the reason why the key villains have gained such power it makes the ties to the Marvel Universe clear and far from tenuous, though the style is distinctly different.
The show avoids getting bogged down in the origin story at the start, there’s a brief scene of the key accident early on, then filling that in more throughout the season, often returning to pieces of backstory when Matt loses consciousness. They don’t mess unnecessarily with the original story, it’s all there, right from the first episode the key points are established such as his legal profession and partnership with Foggy, as well as effectively setting up the intrigue that will be developed over the whole season.
As you may now already expect from Netflix the episodes were released simultaneously and they make full use of this technique and the potential for ‘binge’ watching, particularly with this show. All the episodes follow on smoothly from one to the next, there aren’t huge gaps in time between the storyline in each one. I watched the whole season in one sitting, and the character and storyline development was clear, coherent and made sitting for 13 hours a pleasure rather than a struggle. The production values are so noticeably high, with a 13 episode season seemingly the ideal length. Watching at your own (likely rapid) pace highlights how everything is developed, it takes the full 13 episodes to see him go from inept vigilante to fully developed superhero as well as explain his motivation. Things aren’t rushed, for example showing how Matt ‘sees’ is kept to a real minimum, it’s not shown for the first few episodes, then when it is finally revealed the scene is short, then thankfully they resist the temptation to overuse it throughout the rest of the season. The show is brilliantly shot, making clever use of lighting and darkness, from the slick opening titles to every single scene it looks truly excellent and absolutely up to cinematic standards yet available to stream to whatever device you want.
Being on Netflix also allows for some very tough fights. It’s worlds apart from what we would see in even the roughest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, tougher than even ‘The Dark Knight’, but that’s part of the reason for these characters being developed for this platform. The fight scenes vary from detailed and graphic, to one particularly well choreographed fight in a corridor where less is more and people are fought into rooms and out of sight before returning for another try at our hero just to be battered again. Many of the fights are hard to watch, it’s worth considering before watching, especially with teenage viewers. I do know at least one person who was put off by the roughness, though it’s worth noting he’s younger than the show was aimed for and despite warnings wanted to watch it anyway as he loves Marvel and superheroes.
Without a doubt one of the keys to this being so brilliant is the impeccable cast, with every member fitting their role excellently. A lot has been said by other reviewers about how great Charlie Cox is in the lead role, and he really is, able to blend the charm of his normal life with the steely determination of his nightlife. The rest of the cast though are equally excellent. Personally I warmed quickly to Foggy played by Elden Henson who is such a great fit in this usually side-lined part. I loved how the show does flesh out the ‘minor’ characters really well, Foggy and Karen are fully developed characters and not just making up numbers, and when the show follows them rather than Matt I didn’t feel in a rush to get back to him as their scenes were important and just as engaging.
Partnering with Netflix to bring some of the lesser-known and tougher heroes to the screen has been one of Marvel’s smartest moves to date, so far it really feels like a perfect fit. I’m looking forward to seeing how they develop the three other heroes, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, eventually bringing them together for ‘The Defenders’. If this first series is anything to go by they’re likely going to get things right with a series of brilliantly crafted shows that are among the best examples of superhero TV ever made.