As a kid growing up, my two favorite comic characters were Daredevil and Green Arrow. Maybe it was the fact they were basically just men (not counting Murdock’s heightened senses), they had an unwavering faith in justice and the both got the girl. Okay, it may have been more about them getting the girl. Sure Batman falls in line with the two, but he always ended up with Robin. So my inner geek has been very happy lately with what I consider a very good Green Arrow television series going into its fourth season. And then Daredevil got announced and we started seeing casts and photos and finally trailers. I was eager as hell to see what Marvel, Drew Goddard and Steven Deknight came up with… and at midnight on April 10th I started watching.
The series doesn’t feel like a television series. There are no recap moments at the beginning of episodes nor does it feel like they’re are big cliffhangers to bring folks back. A few episodes had a complete-in-one plot like with Stick (Scott Glenn), but overall the whole thing felt like a 12 hour plus movie. Which allowed them time to focus on the characters. The relationship between Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) and Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) really stands out here. They genuinely seem to like each other and you can feel their friendship and the betrayal Foggy feels later on. You understand why they turned down the high-paying law firm jobs to open their own shop. And Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) easily slips into that dynamic.
As much as Matt and Foggy feel like they’ve come right off of the comic page, Karen is much more three-dimensional that how she was portrayed early on in the comic series. She has a history we don’t get into and we have a mystery that kicks the show off… she’s found holding a knife over a dead body. She is angered by the corrupt world she has been pulled into and her refusal to let it go puts her new bosses and Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall) in danger. Ben is one of the best civilian characters in the Marvel Universe, and though some tweaks were made, the series and Curtis-Hall brought the character to live well.
On the bad guys side of the street, Vincent D’Onofrio is simply amazing as Wilson Fisk. You end up caring about the guy and in some cases want him to succeed. And there is a child-like quality to him, a vulnerability that we don’t normally see in the character. His desire to be with Vanessa (Ayelet Zurer) and his relationship with James Wesley (Toby Leonard Moore) are both part of his strengths and his weaknesses. And there is almost a Lady Macbeth quality to Vanessa as she falls in love with Fisk… or with the power he has.
The other thing the show offers that none of the other entries in the MCU has… consequences. The show is about the greedy trying to make a profit off of the devastation caused by the Avengers battle in New York. Leland Owsley (Bob Gunton) coos that their bottom line goes up 3% every time a hero puts on a costume. But we also see the consequences for the hero when he puts on that costume. The character of Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) has the main role of stitching Daredevil up… something she has to do a lot of. We see the damage that is done to Matt over and over. This fight scene from the second episode is a great example… no one goes down in one punch and the fight is taking a toll on everyone.
Daredevil is exactly what you’d hope it would be. Gritty, street-level and morally gray. They showcase the heroes and the villains and show that the line isn’t so clear cut. They deal with the moral issues of taking a life and how one person acting bad doesn’t make you good. They give us both the lawyer and the vigilante and they give us enough of the most loved elements of the comic with hints of Elektra, The Hand, The Chaste, The Owl, Gladiator, Turk, possible references to K’un-Lun and even Stiltman if you look close enough. They even stuck in a Stan Lee cameo without making it stand out.
It’s not a 13-episode TV series, its a very long origin movie that doesn’t feel long and in the end, we have the Daredevil I grew up with as a kid.