As Marvel’s newest venture into televised adaptions, “Daredevil” is the dark and gritty answer to its more adult audience’s prayers. The Netflix series focuses on Matt Murdock, the son of a boxer who was blinded at the age of nine in an accident that elevated his other senses to superhuman levels. Charlie Cox brings Murdock to life on his first outings as a masked superhero Daredevil.
The story follows shortly after the events of Marvel’s “The Avengers,” centering in on the rubble of Hell’s Kitchen in New York and the many new faces trying to help rebuild it. Newly graduated lawyers Murdock and his best friend and partner Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) have just opened their own firm; it’s the first step in Murdock’s plan to help the people of Hell’s Kitchen through the legal system. As for those living above the law, he plans to take them down at night as the Daredevil.
As the show explores the beginnings of Matt Murdock’s journey, the same is done of his enemy, Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio), the notorious crime boss otherwise known as “Kingpin.” The simultaneous unraveling of Fisk’s backstory as well as Murdock’s plays out in very similar formats: The characters make certain decisions in present day, which is often followed by a flashback to help elaborate on the reasons defining these decisions and the characters. While this presentation style often feels sluggish, the efficient writing limits moments that could bog down the story.
There wasn’t much talk about the casting of Vincent D’Onofrio. However, it is difficult to say the show would be successful without him after experiencing the entire season of excellent writing that flourished with his immense talent. Late in the season, Fisk delivers what may be the most memorable lines of the show. His speech made him appear omniscient to an extent, while poetically using a religious allegory — a common theme for the show — to draw connections between himself and the “Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.” His gravitas draws you in; every time he spoke there seemed to be an odd mix between the confused child he is on the inside and the absolute mad man he truly is.
On the other hand, Foggy Nelson is a character that helps keep the series light among the more serious situations. One staple of the Marvel cinematic universe has always been that no matter how dark and gritty the action becomes, there is always a way to squeeze in a joke or two. It’s impossible not to fall in love with the character, as Nelson’s witty banter brought a refreshing touch from the moment he appeared on screen.
As a Netflix series, the show is allowed many opportunities that were not otherwise constricted by episode length and normal TV regulations. With the exception of one episode late in the season, the plot never felt as though it dragged the viewers along; every scene felt as important as the last.
The lack of pressure to condense moments to just the bare necessities allowed the show a great deal of depth many others seem to lack. The action scenes are long and fleshed out, giving them a sense of importance rather than just a plot break to cut up boring dialogue. Longer episodes also meant that devoting an episode to some of the sideline characters wasn’t cutting them short.
The filmography in this show can be a statement on its own at times. In the second episode, Murdock goes to take down a Russian mob hideout. Even though he’s outnumbered 15 to one, he is fighting to save the life of a boy who was stolen from his father as a payment for a debt. The scene was shot as one continuous take. With an excellent performance from Cox, it not only shows off the Daredevil’s abilities, but also his weaknesses, as he pauses every chance he can to try to catch his breath. The scene is so brilliant in that it boasts of how well shot the show can be while explaining Murdock’s convictions without ever saying a word.
One advantage “Daredevil” has on some other shows is how you find yourself fearing for its characters. There is a constant sense of danger due to Murdock’s lack of experience and Fisk’s ferocity. Murdock isn’t made of steel or a god from another realm; he is just a man. This is something that separates shows like “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead” from others on TV — at any moment a character you love can be stripped away from you. That added sense of danger keeps you watching episode after episode, well that and Netflix’s auto-play feature.
“Daredevil” has done its job with well-shot action, a phenomenal plot and one of Marvel’s best villains to date. The show can be tacked up as another success in the fashion Marvel always seems to achieve: They’ve brought in new viewers and excited existing fans who watch to see the extended universe. On Netflix, the MCU will continue to expand into three other hero-based shows with a team-up show soon to combine them as the titular group, “The Defenders.”