Speak of the Devil

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A review of the complete Netflix Daredevil series.

When Marvel announced their deal with Netflix to develop multiple series for the streaming platform, I was pretty excited. I’m a Marvel boy. Daredevil and the more street-level heroes are probably the characters I read the least when I was a kid, though. I’m familiar with Miller’s run and have read a few runs here and there. But for whatever reason I drifted more toward the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and the more cosmic characters in the mythos. But I always liked the variety of the Marvel universe and having these characters (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist) join the MCU (well… er…. MCU/MTVU?) in this fashion seemed like a great idea. One of the joys of comics are ongoing, serial narratives. It’s something that’s impossible to recreate on the big-screen and something that’s proven somewhat difficult on network television for Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter. As much as network TV has tried to embrace heavily serialized television, there is a delicate balance between serving more casual viewers turning in every week and providing ongoing story lines. At least in the head of network executives, who seem eternally tortured about the best path. See the recent talk about Fox’s Sleepy Hollow for an example of this.

I’m happy to say, Marvel’s first foray into the world of binge-inducing streaming TV on Netflix is a definite success. Is it perfect? Of course not. But it really shows the advantages of being able to basically present a 13-hour story when adapting a comic book. The show is so gloriously cast. So even when you do get the sense that the show isn’t necessarily doing anything revolutionary in the wider sense of crime dramas… you just don’t care. I was thoroughly taken with these characters and cared about them instantly.

Spoilery thoughts…

Charlie Cox is fantastic as Daredevil. I wasn’t familiar with his work before, really. But he imbues Matt Murdock with a great mix of humor and pathos. People keep talking about how dark and gritty the show is. And, it is, relatively. But there’s still actually a lot of humor. And, more importantly, a strong streak of humanity. I’m an atheist myself, but I really appreciate that Matt is a Catholic and that’s such a large part of who he is. It’s a great character wrinkle. This is a good time to call out Peter McRobbie’s great work as Father Lantom. It’s an example of how great the casting is, when even bit parts are so well cast.

Deborah Ann Woll and Rosario Dawson are an interesting contrast as the main women in Matt’s life. I liked that Karen was not really explored as a love interest for Matt. I mean, you could maybe see that happening, but I actually think it’s more interesting for Matt, Foggy and Karen to be friends. Even if their is sexual tension burbling between Matt/Karen and Foggy/Karen. Karen enters Matt’s life because she needs Matt/Daredevil’s help. Claire enters Matt’s life because he needs her help. Claire is such a great character, that I wish she had a bit more to do. She’s a great foil for Matt because she’s a hero in her own right, and is a great moral compass without being annoying about it. I’ve liked Woll since True Blood (a show I stopped watching at about season 3) as she remained likable while playing a character that could get annoying very quickly. Karen is, of course, immediately likable but also very flawed. We don’t know much about her past in the series, but you can pretty much see it in her eyes. I kind of hope they don’t go the same route with Karen as the comics, that’s all I’ll say.

Elden Henson as Foggy was the biggest, most pleasant surprise. Foggy could easily be your stock comic relief sidekick. But Henson imbues him with far too much humanity for that to happen. Foggy is funny and warm and probably the character that easiest to identify with. The tension between Matt and he after he finds out that Matt is Daredevil is surprisingly moving and terrible to witness, which made me realize how invested in these characters I was.

I was so happy to see Ben Urich portrayed in the series. He’s a great character in the Marvel Universe, and long overdo to get a spotlight. He’s incredibly well realized in Vondie Curtis-Hall, who gives a great lived-in performance. His death was really the one moment that really made me mad. I think it’s a HUGE mistake. I get that there probably had to be a sacrifice on the “hero” side of things after Wesley died. You don’t want your heroes to come through totally unscathed. And even though we liked sweet old Mrs. Cardenas, her death didn’t hit home quite as hard. But… Ben is such a great character. I was really hoping we’d see him pop up in some of the other series. I guess it all depends on where Marvel and Netflix plan on taking these Netflix series. Are they getting a second series? Is there another plan? If this is a one and done season for Daredevil, maybe this made sense. It just feels like a waste.

Much has been said about D’onofrio’s Kingpen/Wilson Fisk. It’s all well-deserved, and the flashback episode was great as far as getting into his head. His relationships with Vanessa and Wesley are well drawn. I like how each of them both bring out his humanity and enable his worldview. I find Vanessa fascinating. I would love to know a bit more about her and what makes her so readily accepting of what Wilson does and his methods. With Wesley, you get the sense that he’s more of a sycophant. But Vanessa is different.

The arc of the series is actually a bit simple, over all. But there’s a lot of interesting characters along the way with some fun easter eggs. I can’t wait to find out more about Madame Gao. There seem to be hints that she’ll tie in with Iron Fist, at least. Oh, and the Stiltman legs in Melvin Potter’s workshop? Genius. The character work is the reason I love the series, although the action did give us some of the best action scenes on TV. I loved how thoroughly beat to hell Matt was at times. The much-lauded hallway fight scene… where he’s barely standing and it’s a knock-down drag-out fight… genius. If i had one criticism, I wish the final fight between Matt and Fisk had been a bit more epic.

The actual final costume seems to have divided people, but I loved it. I want a Hot Toy. I like how the idea for it evolved over time. I’d get bored if this happened on every super hero series (Arrow spent a similar long, tortured process to just be CALLED Arrow even though his costume was pretty much there from the start sans mask) but it works here to ease us into this section of the MCU. It’ll be interesting to see how they treat Jessica Jones who (if they follow the comics) will almost be going through the reverse process of trying to leave her superhero life behind her. Will Luke Cage get a costume? He’s been pretty costume-less for much of the modern era. What about Iron Fist? Will all these shows get a sequel season? Or maybe Danny and Luke will team up for a series? The possibilities are endless and exciting, and I think Daredevil has functioned very much like Iron Man, as far as being a great way to ease people into it.

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