You’ve heard a great number of things from me that praise the DC television universe and the path they’re taking. I even somewhat criticized Marvel’s approach by having their connected universe holding them back from making big picture stories that truly affected the universes they were in. An example I used was that the DCTV universe can use Ras al Ghul, Solomon Grundy, and even Deathstroke, all of which are fairly big names in the DC fictional universe, without needing to hold back on waiting for a movie adaptation green light. I thought this was a weakness for Marvel’s TV universe, which until Daredevil was only affecting Agents of Shield and maybe Peggy Carter. A weakness that was defined for NOT having super powerful and well known villains or heroes compelling the story. Enter Daredevil.
Daredevil is a perfect way to counter this argument as he is the common man’s hero, which makes the television layout, budget, and story to be a perfect and believable medium of introduction. The televised layout is great here. We’re given time to truly see how disgusting Hell’s Kitchen is, not just hear how bad it is through character dialogue. There is a glorious amount of time given to the rest of the main cast, making each person earn a place in your memory. The pacing is great and mixes a great balance of origin story and intriguing conflict.
Overall I was very satisfied with Daredevil. As a primary DC reader, the Marvel Universe only goes as far as their cinematics, and it’s incredibly exciting not knowing what happens to what and who becomes who. Daredevil was just so well put together and fired so well on so many cylinders of entertainment. Being this pleased with this show even made me consider whether or not I would actually enjoy DCTV if I didn’t exactly know every little aspect and detail in their TV shows and mistake getting the reference for actual entertainment.
Below is a light-spoiler analysis of Daredevil and why I think its particularly effective at making it a great season 1.
Welcome to Hell’s Kitchen, Marvel’s Equivalent of Gotham City
After the Battle of New York, as seen in The Avengers, New York is still somewhat putting itself together. Matt Murdock and his best friend Foggy have recently opened their new law firm in the heart of their hometown in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. Hell’s Kitchen is an absolute nightmare of a city. Corruption runs the streets, junkies and criminals have their way with the city, domestic abuse is rampant, and no one seems to be doing anything about it. Matt Murdock, a blind man with heightened senses and martial arts training, has taken it upon himself to try to clean up the streets as a “Man in the Black Mask” (very reminiscent of “Man in the Hood” from Arrow). In doing so, he keeps his secret from his best friend and their new secretary as he fights the city’s criminal kingpin (ha, get it?) as both a vigilante and a lawyer. What could possibly go wrong?
Not only is Daredevil in a darker setting in the Marvel universe, it’s easily the darkest piece they’ve done to date. Curse words like, shit, pussy, asshole, and dick, are thrown around like any other 30 year old living in that area would. There are back alley medical procedures with gore. There’s bone breaking, torture, and references to the sex trafficking industry. There are guys who are getting their heads caved in from a car door being jammed repeatedly. This show is bloody, as violence of this caliber should be. These aspects really sell the breathing and bloody heart of Hell’s Kitchen. It’s a perfect way to set the dark and forsaken tone of Hell’s Kitchen, something I think Gotham is sorely missing.
Daredevil Gets Knocked Down, But Gets Up Again…and Again
Matt does not have super healing, billions of dollars, or an alter ego that manifests as a green hulk. His useful powers do include listening to people’s heart rates and using his heightened senses for detective work and martial arts, but he’s not bullet proof. So while he kicks ass a lot, he also gets his ass kicked…a lot. As he should, for a new untested vigilante on the street. His pain, vulnerability, and constant need to train make him incredibly relatable from a viewer standpoint. Far more relatable than Captain America, who got injected with his powers, Iron Man who bought his powers, The Hulk who accidentally gave himself powers, or Thor who is a literal God. Daredevil is a man of the people, and boy does getting stabbed and punched a lot make you feel more human.
I Learned a Lot About Blind Culture
Charlie Cox, who plays Matt Murdock, was (what I like to believe) excellent at playing a blind person. Owen Sleater was one of my favorite characters in Boardwalk Empire and, a lot of his charm carried on from that show to this one. There aren’t many shows and movies that expose what some blind people have to go through (or at least ones that I’ve seen), but Daredevil was a nice doorway into seeing the types of key boards, brail boards, and how people interact and the fun they can have together. Matt’s line about “I’m not made of glass” when he meets Foggy, who isn’t afraid of making a lighthearted joke about Matt’s blindness, was a real eye opener for me. I’m not saying this show was the absolute defining blind culture show, but boy do I have an interest in blind culture that I didn’t have before.
The Unintruding Surrounding Marvel Universe is Great
Other than the quick references to the Avengers and the Battle of New York, there isn’t a reliance on using the names of headliner characters to induce hype or get the audiences excited. And that’s a good thing. This is Daredevil’s show, and not having the need to make an Iron Man reference every episode is a great step in the right direction. I mentioned earlier that I thought being unable to use villains on the caliber of Red Skull or Loki would hinder the universe because of wanting to save them for cinematic villains. That’s what was so great about Daredevil was that his main villain, is a crime lord, not hellbent on blowing up a city or taking over the world. Like Daredevil, he is incredibly grounded and down to earth. His actions don’t warrant a call-in from The Avengers (or even a webbed slinger who is supposedly just across town).
But I digress. In a Marvel cinematic world that has magic, flying suits, and aliens already declared, it is nice that the show doesn’t constantly remind us about the already successful mythos established and instead focuses on the real nitty gritty of what is happening in Hell’s Kitchen.
Karen Page is My Favorite Female Character in Almost Any Superhero Movie/TV Show
Let’s talk Karen Page. She’s incredibly attractive. Yes. They did a good job casting Deborah Ann Woll in playing Matt and Foggy’s secretary. I at first loathed the oncoming love triangle that I knew would exist between Matt, Foggy, and herself. It even started getting more irksome when the triangle was forming under almost no pretense (a common flaw in many superhero movies and tv shows). But over halfway through the season, she didn’t find herself a damsel-in-distress. She didn’t find herself always swooning over the hero. She didn’t find herself doing stupid stuff just to get a word with the hero. She didn’t wear overtly revealing clothing for no reason. She didn’t follow a lot of the common tropes that plague attractive female characters in these types of shows. Instead she carried her own plot in a direction that was surprisingly in-depth and crucial to the rest of the story. There was even a section where the other characters were crying about their own problems and she was the one telling them to get their shit together because they have work to do. She’s smart, funny, charming, fun to hang out with, and kicks ass. I standby saying that she’s probably one of my favorite female characters in any superhero movie/television show.
The Other Main Cast is Great Too
But let’s not forget the rest of the cast. Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk was a sight to see. The television format allowed plenty of development as the show’s primary villain. We were able to be introduced to his backstory and motivations. He was fairly captivating as a ticking time bomb of rage, especially when contrasted with how was with his loved one. Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson served as the bulk of the comedic relief. Foggy was written really well, having legitimately funny lines and showing a great degree of heart, even in the darkest of times. I wasn’t entirely onboard with Rosario Dawson’s Claire. She was great in the 3 or 4 episodes she was in, but presence was always more of an intrusion than feeling like she belonged on the show. Overall, having a television format truly shines here when you can devote a solid 20 minutes to characters developing their personalities, habits, and create believable motivations for their actions.
Daredevil vs. DCTV
As a non-comic book reader, I thoroughly enjoyed Daredevil. As a television show, it set up a great balance between an origin story and intriguing plot. The choreography was excellently done and the style played excellent to emphasizing Matt’s blindness and how he interprets the world. The budget for this show could be guessed higher than shows like Arrow or Flash, both of which occasionally show constraint at times.
Compared to Arrow and Flash, would I say Daredevil is better? It’s a tough call. Sometimes I get so wrapped up on Arrow and Flash making references to their bigger DC universes and getting excited over that, that I forget some of their pitfalls. Both are ultimately more ambitious in scope. Arrow’s latest arc has it going through one of Batman’s primary storylines and the Flash’s special effects can’t be cheap. At times, this and having a 24 episode order can make the budgetary cracks show. Flash and Arrow have often dropped the microphone in some holy shit inducing ways, but as a season, Daredevil is a tighter, more effective, and just plain better put together show.
Oh gosh I hope Daredevil shows up in Civil War, even in a cameo spot. I don’t know too much about Civil War other than the basic plot line, but nothing would solidify the incredible universe Marvel is building more than having people like Daredevil, Spider-Man, and Captain America on the same screen.
I hope you all have been enjoying Daredevil as much as I have. Please let me know what you think in the comments!