After a trio of binge-watching sessions, I finally got around to finishing Daredevil on Netflix. The first of several direct-to-Netflix series of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), all 13 episodes of Daredevil were released on the streaming service on April 10, 2015. A few of you RPadholics and many of my friends binge-watched the show over the release weekend, but I spaced out my viewing sessions (partially to savor it and partially due to other commitments). After finishing Daredevil and thinking about it for a day, I’ve come to the conclusion that I really, really enjoyed the series, but absolutely love what it does for the MCU. I’ll break down my likes and dislikes below, but first a bit on why I love what Daredevil means for the future of the MCU.
As I mentioned, Daredevil is the first of several Marvel series coming to Netflix. For various reasons, the company chose Netflix to highlight its “street level” superheroes. Following Daredevil, Netflix will have shows starring Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron First. While the Avengers combat alien invasions, Captain America battles giant Nazi organizations, and Thor faces off against demigods, the street level heroes fight everyday crime. Daredevil beats on muggers, Luke Cage fights gangs, Jessica Jones has a private investigation firm, and Iron First has girly yellow slippers. I love that this facet of Marvel is being explored. While these heroes aren’t as powerful as a Norse god or a man in billion-dollar armor, they’re easier to relate to and arguably more interesting because of their vulnerabilities. The street level heroes are a brilliant contrast to the Avengers and help diversify the MCU.
I also love that all 13 episodes were released at once on Netflix. Yeah, you don’t have the weekly water-cooler chats about the show, but I love that I can watch as much Daredevil as I please whenever I please. People love to binge-watch these days and being able to binge-watch a brand new show is very, very cool.
Now let’s move on to some random thoughts (binary style!) about Daredevil. I know that many of you have finished the show already and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Please share them in the comments section. Now activating binary mode. (Activate your spoiler shields!)
Good: I’m sure some parents’ and/or Christian groups will be appalled that I’m celebrating Daredevil’s violence, but that aspect of the show was unique compared to the violence in the MCU movies. Sure, Cap, Thor, and the gang take their fair share of punches, but the violence in Daredevil is far more bone-crunching. There are several episodes where you think the hero’s powers aren’t enhanced senses, but the ability to absorb a decade’s worth of ass-kicking in 30 minutes or less. Daredevil takes several beatings throughout the 13 episodes and unlike a Norse god getting smacked by a frost giant, you can imagine what those beatings were like.
Daredevil gives as good as he gets too (otherwise, he’d be dead after two episodes). The beatings Daredevil doles out are straight-up nasty and Kingpin’s use of a car door makes me a little bit scared of my Ford Focus Electric. Appropriately, the street level heroes face street level violence.
Bad: Television shows have a certain rhythm, usually planned around commercial breaks. Since direct-to-Netflix shows don’t have such annoyances, the directors are liberated. In some cases, the unusual pacing can be pleasantly surprising. In others, there are dull stretches. While I liked Daredevil’s lack of predictable beats, there were several episodes that could have been better with more traditional pacing. Sometimes giving directors and editors freedom isn’t the best.
Good: Kingpin absolutely ruled. Between Vincent D’Onofrio’s performance and the material he had to work with, this version of Kingpin is my favorite live-action portrayal of a comic-book villain ever. I’ve never watched a villain so nuanced and layered. D’Onofrio’s Kingpin was powerful, gentle, ruthless, caring, maniacal, child like, romantic, and sadistic. Sure, he had 13 episodes to develop the character, but his performance was flat-out impressive no matter how you slice it. It’s awesome how you can find be terrified of Kingpin in one scene and feel sorry him in a scene where he’s on an awkward date.
Bad: While Kingpin owned and the supporting cast was strong, I found Charlie Cox a little bland. In the comics, I enjoy reading as much about Matt Murdock as I do his alter ego. In the show, I couldn’t wait for Murdock to put on his costume and kick some ass. Part of it has to do with Cox’s stupid grin, which is just asking to be smacked. It’s not that he was bad; I just found the rest of the cast more entertaining.
Good: As I mentioned in the last paragraph, the supporting cast was strong. My favorite episode was probably the seventh, which featured Daredevil’s trainer Stick. I love this character in the comics and was thrilled to see him on television. Scott Glenn’s interpretation of stick was lots of fun.
A close second was the tenth episode, “Nelson vs. Murdock.” In the previous episodes, I enjoyed Elden Henson’s version of Foggy Nelson, but he killed it in this one. It would have been easy and lazy to rely on Foggy purely as comic relief. Having him challenge Matt — questioning his existence as Daredevil and their decades-long friendship — made for a powerful episode.
Good: There were lots of cute nods to fans of the comics. I loved the crack about Vanessa dating a guy that wore white suits with purple cravats (Kingpin’s traditional outfit in the comics). Mentions of the Greek girl Matt dated in college set the ground for a future appearance by Elektra. While Karen Page was victimized throughout the series, the use of heroin in the show made me worry that the writers will follow the books and make her an addict in the future. While they were forgettable asides for people new to Daredevil, they were also nice bits for longtime fans of the character to hear.
Bad: As expected, Daredevil took a few episodes to come together. The first few episodes ranged from decent to good. It wasn’t until the fifth episode that Daredevil really took off.
Good: Rosario Dawson is amazingly sexy.
Bad: Poor Ben Urich. I was hoping to see him in the upcoming Spider-Man reboot, but his MCU version is no more. (Note to RPadholic Smartguy: Why aren’t you complaining about Daredevil Ben Urich being black?!? :p)
Good: I loved the way that the first season ended. Ultimately, it was about Wilson Fisk throwing away his altruistic (though misguided) side and truly becoming the Kingpin, just as much as it was about Matt Murdock finding his way (and an honest tailor) and fully becoming Daredevil. It was a great build that left me wanting more. On a side note, I’ve always wondered why other superheroes never messed with Daredevil on April 1, replacing his red costume with a turquoise and fuchsia getup…but perhaps that’s just me.
Good: While I wouldn’t go as far as saying that Daredevil is the best part of the MCU (which some others have proclaimed), I very much enjoyed the show and love that it laid the groundwork for future street level exploits. Bring on
Jewel Jessica Jones!