Skip to main content

Netflix's Daredevil

Daredevil, the new Netflix series developed in partnership with Netflix is a wonderful, if somewhat frustrating, origin story for one of Marvel’s oldest and most interesting super-heroes. A lot of this story works exactly as designed. Reflecting the gritty source material, the brutal fights have repercussions, and the needs of the characters drive the story. The cinematography is top-notch, creating a world of neon glittering in the damp murk of New York’s Hell’s Kitchen.


Still from Netflix's "Daredevil" Trailer

The entire series functions as one long origin story for Daredevil, introducing quixotic defense attorney Matt Murdock (played by Charlie Cox) as he attempts to fight injustice on the mean streets of Manhattan. The show offers sketches of Murdock's beleaguered father (John Patrick Hayden), his best friend Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson), and the semi-love interest of Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) with an economical and wrenching style. One of the advantages of a 13 episode run is that the entire show steamrolls through plot-lines that fans of Agents of SHIELD get tired of in the  second episode they appear in. The disadvantage of this approach is there isn’t a lot of time to simply ‘be’ with these characters. Henson has a good chemistry with the other two leads and it would be nice to see them have more than a moment or two of down time to flesh out the relationships.

This series doesn’t have down time, though. As much as the show spends time with Murdock, it spends an almost equal amount of time with his primary adversary, a corrupt businessman by the name of Wilson Fisk. Fisk, who I believe we are meant to assume with develop into the iconic Daredevil baddie the Kingpin, has a backstory nearly as convoluted and emotionally traumatic as Murdock. Except where Murdock gains his hard-edged perspective from overcoming adversity -the loss of his sight and his father - Fisk endures a childhood in the shadow of brutality and failure.  His father humiliates him and his mother to the point that Fisk finally beats him to death. This violent, shameful past provides motivation for him, a wounded man attempting to hide his insecurities in lethal outbursts. Vincent’s D’Onfrio’s portrayal, especially in the first episodes, is fascinating. There is something of the pathos of Tony Soprano mixed with the tragic blindness of Walter White. In another series, Fisk might even be the protagonist, an anti-hero like Frank Underwood in “House of Cards,” or a sympathetic monster like Dexter Morgan.

Mild Spoilers for end of series ahead.

Unfortunately, a comic book needs a super villain and one gets a sense in the later episodes that D’Onfrio is cramming his nuanced portrayal of Fisk into something more serviceable as a traditional bad guy. Even as Fisk bellows louder and louder, his motivation thins. In the final scenes of the show Murdock catches up with his White Whale and they do battle. It’s an awesome, well-staged but largely empty spectacle. What were the stakes of that final confrontation? Daredevil had defanged Fisk by exposing his corruption so how does thrashing him serve any purpose other than catharsis for Murdock?In Dark Knight, Batman is not only confronting his demons in capturing the Joker also preventing further tragedy.

Perhaps that’s an unfair comparison. Although Daredevil is a Marvel version of Batman, what makes the show special is the many ways this hero becomes its own distinct being. The world of this series is very detailed and filled with intriguing hints to what might come in future Netflix series such as Jessica Jones and Iron Fist.

Ultimately, much like Agents of SHIELD, the most compelling reason to watch Daredevil might be that promise of future greatness. I don’t think this series has found its full voice yet, but with recent news that the show will be back for a second season, there’s time for Marvel and Netflix to get this right.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Reading Response to "A Good Man is Hard to Find."

Reader Response to “A Good Man is Hard to Find” Morgan Crooks I once heard Flannery O’Connor’s work introduced as a project to describe a world denied God’s grace. This critic of O’Connor’s work meant the Christian idea that a person’s misdeeds, mistakes, and sins could be sponged away by the power of Jesus’ sacrifice at Crucifixion. The setting of her stories often seem to be monstrous distortions of the real world. These are stories where con men steal prosthetic limbs, hired labor abandons mute brides in rest stops, and bizarre, often disastrous advice is imparted.  O’Connor herself said of this reputation for writing ‘grotesque’ stories that ‘anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.’ This is both a witty observation and a piece of advice while reading O’Connor’s work. These are stories about pain and lies and ugliness. The brutality that happens to characters …

Arisia 2019: Wrap Report

Arisia 2019 is over!

It’s back to the real world this week after an entire weekend in Arisia 2019. I go to this convention every year, but this one will definitely be special to me. For one thing, this is the year that felt, at least for a moment, like it wasn’t going to happen. If the debacle with the e-board wasn’t enough, there was the strike at the Westin. The convention felt slimmer this year for sure. A lot of people self-selected to not come this year and honestly with the smaller, more confined venue of the Boston Park Plaza, that was a decision enormously beneficial to my enjoyment of this con.
I had a blast. I was more invested in the panels this year because I wrote a portion of them. It’s one thing to go to a panel and listen for reading suggestions, or new ideas, or people to follow on social media, but it’s quite another to put together a panel of people to create a very specific conversation and then get to sit back to see how the discussion plays out. I loved that aspect…

Thoughts on the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Anything that persists for an entire decade as a recurring entertainment event begins to mean more than simple entertainment. It’s inevitable that once a franchise like the MCU has continued for long enough that its overall significance has to be factored in. I don’t think fans quite appreciate what genre movies like these used to be like before MCU.

It’s really not the special effects or effective mix of humor, action, and character development. It’s the fact that all three of things happen within the persistent universe. Because no Marvel movie is the last Marvel movie, and there’s always another one to develop the characters, fans have a different relationship to this franchise.

It’s more like what comic books are, obviously, where no matter what crazy stuff goes on in a crossover event, you have a reasonable expectation that your favorite character will be back the next month or the month after that.

There have been good MCU movies, mediocre movies, and one that I’m pretty sure quali…