Daredevil on Netflix
by Andy Bartsch
Matt Murdock has led a troubled life. His mom left him as a small child. His dad was killed by mobsters after not throwing a boxing match. He was blinded by toxic material after saving an old man from getting hit by a truck. His girlfriend was killed by an assassin. His comic book sales have always fluttered off and on throughout the years. His first live action appearance was Rex Smith in a black leotard. There was a promising video game in the works in the early 2000s but was cancelled. To top it off, his big screen debut (excluding the cameo in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), was a film written and directed by a guy whose only good movie on his resume is Simon Birch. Who the hell even remembers Simon Birch?
Now it's time to pay the devil his due. On April 10th, 2015, Netflix premiered a thirteen episode season of Marvel's Daredevil, starring Charlie Cox as the blind lawyer/vigilante Matt Murdock and Vincent D' Onofrio as the evil Kingpin of Crime, Wilson Fisk. Within a two day stretch, I binge watched the entire season (I would've watched it all in one day if not for that SLEEPING thing).
This series more than makes up for a long career of disappointments, and now the Man Without Fear has his time to shine. From the cold opening of the first episode to the end credits of episode thirteen, this show does not fail to entertain. The highlight of the show is the incredibly inventive fight choreography. The fight scenes take up roughly 60% if the entire show but it never gets tiring. Daredevil's fighting skills really shine in a particular scene at the end of episode two, where ol' Hornhead (sans the horns), exhausted and in severe pain, fights a group of thugs in a narrow hallway until every last one of those punks is knocked out.
The story is well written, too. It takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and while there are some references (and Easter eggs) to the other Marvel films, Daredevil is very much it's own entity. The focus remains on Matt Murdock's struggle with a double identity, the people involved, and their battle against the corruption in Hell's Kitchen. Great time and detail are taken to explain Matt, Foggy, and Fisk's back stories and all given full and satisfying character arcs. I even found myself feeling sorry for Fisk at times.
Speaking of Fisk, I'm not going to lie, Kingpin always seemed like a joke. He never seemed like a serious threat. I mean, look at him! Five hundred pounds, white suit, diamond topped cane, completely round. I'm supposed to take this guy seriously? Well by the end of episode four, I was flat-out frightened of this guy. The amazing thing is this episode began with him trembling at the idea of asking a woman out to dinner. By the end of the season, I somehow found myself empathizing with Fisk.
D' Onofrio isn't the only actor who shines in this beautiful ensemble cast. The acting is simply top notch. There isn't a single bad performance in this series. Elden Henson is great as the lovable Franklin "Foggy" Nelson. Usually Foggy is written as the annoying comic relief, but Henson actually has a lot to work with here. As the series progresses, we see the backstory of how he and Matt met in law school and how they became fast friends. Their friendship, however, is really put to the test near the end of the season. Henson's character also starts to have some light romantic chemistry with the show's leading lady, Deborah Ann Woll, who plays Nelson and Murdock's secretary, Karen Page. There's a moment when Karen is attacked by some of Fisk's henchmen, and Foggy appears with a baseball bat, and gives them a good beatdown (if you know Henson's background, it would've made more sense if he used a hockey stick). This is not the Foggy I knew of, the chubby guy with the goofy bow tie. Thug life, Foggy. Thug life.
Of course, we can't look over our hero. Charlie Cox is prefectly cast as Matt Murdock. He plays the part of a strong willed blind man with a lot of charisma (and doesn't need contact lenses to convince us he's blind). Cox plays Murdock with so much charm and has that right amount of crazy, where it's not hard to question why he would dress in black and beat up on criminals every night.
Did I say dress in black? I did. For the majority of the season, Daredevil's trademark red costume and horns are absent. His costume is supposed to be a take on Matt's costume near the end of Frank Miller's "Man Without Fear" miniseries, by honestly, I can't help but think of Rex Smith's black leotard in the TV movie, "Trial of the Incredible Hulk". However, the black costume does work and I found myself getting used to it pretty early in the show. In fact, the fact that all pretty much Matt wears as (what he is dubbed) "The Man in the Mask" is just a black sweatshirt and pants becomes a running theme throughout the series. Many comments are made about how he needs to put body armor on to protect himself. He takes a TON of abuse, particularly in the earlier episodes. Matt, however, comments that the use of body armor would actually slow him down, and that his current costume is "a work in progress".
Will longtime fans of the Man Without Fear be satisfied? Well, I was. Very much so. As I said earlier, there are tons of Easter eggs littered throughout the season (keep an eye open in Ben Urich's office). Matt is a devout Catholic who frequents confession and chats with the Priest every few episodes. Turk makes a few appearances and becomes Daredevil's secret informant. There's even mention of Matt's "Greek ex-girlfriend". There's only one disappointment in the series; the lack of ninjas. There is only one, count em, ONE NINJA in the entire season. However, that single ninja does have a silly bright red costume, so that more than makes up for it.
Now where does the show go from here? Well there are already rumors that season two will have appearances from Daredevil's longtime rival Bullseye and Matt's long lost love Elektra. Also, keep in mind, this is now part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are other surprises that have yet to be touched upon. Typhoid Mary, Matt's mother, hell, I don't even think the comics covered where the radioactive waste came from. I'm personally hoping Frank Castle is hiding somewhere in the shadows. Even though it probably won't happen, I'm hoping to see a crossover with Spider-Man. Until then, I eagerly await the further adventures of Marvel's Daredevil.