By Jacob Hurt
Daredevil isn’t a hero who garners much attention from the public eye. Assuming we ignore the 2003 film starring Ben Affleck (which we really should), he’s seldom seen on screen. However, Marvel and Netflix’s new Daredevil TV series is launching the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen into the spotlight. Daredevil is the third TV series to launch into Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, following the sleeper hit Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and the prequel series Agent Carter.
Charlie Cox stars as the titular blind hero, who by day is the lawyer Matt Murdock. The show demonstrates Matt sharing his time between his fledgling law firm – which he runs with his best friend Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and their secretary Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) – and his superhero origin. The supporting cast show a more grounded side to the show, demonstrating that heroism does not always require a costume. The relationships between characters feels very naturalistic, and the chemistry between the actors comes across very well on screen, creating relationships as well as characters which you care about. Even Wilson “Kingpin” Fisk’s backstory does a fantastic job at humanising, and Vincent D’Onofrio’s portrayal of the character shows the vulnerability and insecurity which facilitate his decent into supervillainy.
Despite its place with the more family friendly MCU, Daredevil does not shy away from the gritty, bloody side of vigilantism: bones are broken, blood is spilled, and the characters look genuinely exhausted after fights. This really captures Frank Miller’s run of the character from the comics: Daredevil does not have super strength, or advanced technology; if he wants to keep a man down, he has to beat him until he can’t get up again. This darker tone is a perhaps a bit of a risk from Marvel, but as Guardians of the Galaxy shows, they are not a company to shy from a risk. The darker tone is executed excellently, with just enough self-awareness to avoid being overdone.
The fight scenes are the best part of the show – the choreography is on par with anything on TV at the moment, and the cinematography is fantastic. There’s no Michael Bay quick cuts here, fights are shown in long takes, demonstrating the brutality in its fullest. Once scene in particular stands out: towards the end of episode 2, Daredevil takes on a group of thugs in a corridor. The fight takes places as one long take, with the camera panning around the action. Men are thrown through doors, microwaves are thrown at men, and bones are shattered: it is a disgusting, visceral fight which really captures the brutality of what Daredevil is doing.
The decision for Marvel to partner with Netflix has served Daredevil well. The production value is noticeably higher than that of similar shows such as DC and CW’s Arrow and Flash, and the shorter series length ensures the pace does not let up. Furthermore, the whole series being released on the same day allows fans to binge-watch, a format which is targeted at the Marvel fans who make up Daredevil’s target audience. However, the shorter season length does mean that there are lots of threads left open, perhaps for the other Marvel-Netflix shows to tie up. It also results in some character arcs feeling somewhat rushed; there is a period in the middle of the series of 3 episodes in which we don’t see Matt the lawyer once. Another subplot which suffers from lack of screen time is the role played by Sin City’s Rosario Dawson, Claire Temple. She is introduced as nurse who helps tend to Matt’s many injuries; however she all but disappears half way through the series, meaning the romantic relationship between her and Matt is rushed, and never properly resolved.
Perhaps the most impressive thing that Daredevil has done is live up to the hype. One of the most anticipated events of the year for fans of all things comic-related, Daredevil had big expectations to fill. Expectations made all the bigger due to the success of other Netflix originals Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. However it met these expectations, and in many ways exceeded them. Whilst Daredevil doesn’t come close to the television pantheon of Breaking Bad, it is a bold, new direction for the MCU, and sets the tone for the rest of The Defenders shows. Let’s hope that AKA Jessica Jones – which is billed to be released later this year – can build on Daredevil’s success.
Jacob is in his second year studying English and Film at MMU. He is a gamer, film fan, and music lover. At the weekend Jacob is often found drowning his sorrows of Tottenham’s tragic season. Find him on Twitter: @shinyjaker