Over the past decade or so it seems as if the entire world of pop culture has been taken over by one large, encompassing force known as Marvel. From the first Iron Man movie; from the first sardonic Tony Stark grin and the first taste of that fast paced, witty dialogue, we have never looked back.
Eleven movies and two TV shows later, Marvel is still going strong. And audiences are gobbling it up, myself included. (Yes, I know it’s actually Disney, but as they are obviously taking over the world one production studio at a time, I feel that Disney is all too terrifying to think about. I’m trying to stay positive.)
To add to the box office bursting movies is a second television show released solely on Netflix. This little gem is called Daredevil.
I freely admit that I, along with most people I’m sure, automatically groaned when we heard about the new series. It’s difficult to get that Ben Affleck monstrosity of a movie out of our memories, although we have tried.
Now, we can forget all of that.
Marvel’s Daredevil Netflix series is one of the best American made television dramas I’ve watched in a ridiculously long time. At thirteen episodes in the first season (like Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal series), Daredevil’s plot and writing are kept tight and focused. There’s no room for meandering, for asking open-ended questions that will make us feel lucky if they’re ever answered. No filler episodes are required.
The plot centers itself around the original comic book character, Matthew Murdock, played by the inescapably adorable Charlie Cox (Boardwalk Empire), who is a brand new defense lawyer in New York, wanting to make a difference in the city that he loves. Murdock was in an accident when he was a boy, which cost him his sight but also strengthened his remaining senses. In spite of Murdock’s altruistic day job, there are some people that the law can’t reach, which is why Murdock dons a black mask and runs across rooftops at night, using his heightened senses to fight for the innocent.
A blind lawyer by day, who goes out and beats on criminals at night. That’s new to the television world, right? It’s nice to have something new. New is good. New is fun. New is … new.
As usual, a good superhero needs a posse of plucky (and clueless) sidekicks. Matthew Murdock is joined by his friend and business partner, Foggy Nelson and their murder suspect turned secretary Karen Page. The dynamic between Murdock and Nelson is funny, refreshing, real, and delightful to watch. It is frighteningly easy to fall in love with Murdock and his friends and to cheer them on in their cause.
After the sidekicks, the next ingredient we need is an awesome while also scary villain. So far, the villain’s we have encountered in the Marvel movie universe have been basically one sided. Loki, Hydra, Ronain, Ultron – all share the same basic bad guy goals: Destruction of enemies and basically everyone else that I don’t like including the humans in some cases, world domination, etc. Yes, Ultron was a little different. He was completely artificial and just wanted to get rid of the humans in spite of being incredibly human himself. But I’d still say that he falls into the same category.
Daredevil’s villain, Wilson Fisk, or Kingpin, played beautifully by Vincent D’Onofrio (The original Thor in Adventures in Babysitting) is just as complex if not more so than our hero. In his mind, he is also trying to improve the city that he loves, though questionable his methods may be. Yet in spite of that, he is willing to do anything to reach that goal.
Good intentions mixed with a traumatic past and almost childlike view of people and the world create a deliciously complicated, intense, and wickedly intriguing villain. Fisk on his own creates a conflict for those of us watching from our couches. We’re sympathetic with his plight yet horrified at what he does and gets away with. Fisk is driven by refreshingly more than your basic desire for world/universal domination.
Now for a little disclaimer: With this villain comes a lot of violence. So much violence. Daredevil is rated TV MA for violence, and it is a just rating. There are breaking bones and blood and brains, just to give you an overview.
In spite of that, let me assure you that Daredevil is not just an action show made up of fight sequence after fight sequence. Instead of giving us only a couple of hours, we have a full season that takes time to deeply examine the characters of our hero and villain Murdock and Fisk. The skillful story-telling allows the audience to understand them and why they do what they do. There is so much emotion underneath the surface of the superhero setting, much more than we’re accustomed to in a Marvel story. It all is extremely satisfying, making the show nicely rounded and appealing to multiple demographics.
I obviously highly recommend giving this show a chance. Daredevil is a relief from the typical full season, make-it-up-as-you-go-along, one trick pony network American television dramas that have taken us over the past several years. It’s definitely time for something new, and Daredevil is it.
Because new is good.