I must admit, Daredevil is not my favorite superhero.
In my mind, his one-sentence description is, “he’s blind...but he’s not.” Thankfully, Netflix's version of the character is about more than that.
The show switches between a CW's Arrow-style origin story for Daredevil, finding him just as he starts his vigilante career, and a Sopranos-style treatment of the tribulations of Wilson Fisk (known in the comics as “the Kingpin”), criminal mastermind and tortured soul.
I will warn you, this Daredevil takes place in the “all Marvel TV/movies must be in the same continuity” universe. For the most part, this is less intrusive than Agents of SHIELD’s tie-ins to both Thor and Captain America. But, in episode seven, there’s a character introduced that you last saw in the Jennifer Garner Electra movie, one who was related to all the super-magic martial arts ridiculousness. You will spend the entire episode saying to yourself, “no, Marvel and Netflix, don’t screw this up! You’re doing Arrow better than Arrow is, don’t introduce the hokiest of the comic book continuity!” It turns out the new character is only meant to establish how Daredevil, a.k.a. Matt Murdock, can parkour kung-fu despite being blind, because “his father was a boxer” is not really an explanation. I am happy to report that the next episode goes back to Daredevil being awesome.
Murdock’s not yet the superhero he will become, dressing for most of the show in a black getup that evokes Cary Elwes from The Princess Bride and having more of a general goal of fighting crime than any sort of plan.
Watching Daredevil (and his non-super friends) struggle as tiny individuals against the systemic rot and insensitivity of the show’s New York City is one of my favorite aspects of the show’s writing. The writers seem to be influenced by recent news about police and the media, where the police can justify all but the dirtiest killings and the media will still believe whoever the police say is the bad guy, even (or especially) when the police are corrupt.
Even if Daredevil successfully ends the current crime lord’s reign of terror, this Hell’s Kitchen is a place where the next could spring up to fill the vacuum unless something changes, and the deterrent effect of a blind practitioner of parkour kung-fu might not be enough. That said, there are still tiny victories in each person saved, and the show does make one feel them.
On Kingpin’s side, we are given the most vulnerable portrait of a real super villain perhaps ever to appear in superhero media. Wilson Fisk remains a gorilla-strong master of the underworld, but we learn that he still sees himself as the friendless fat kid on the block and he has nearly no game with the ladies. Sometimes, the viewer wonders, “how did you manage to get this crime lord thing together, Wilson, between the social awkwardness and the red-out rages?”
I think this is a factor, though, of seeing the show as a superhero show first; we don’t like to think that Victor Von Doom engages in Tony Soprano introspection, because then it kind of sucks that Reed Richards and his family totally ruin the plan. I ended up wanting Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk - even though the character basically looks and sounds like D’Onofrio’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent character crossed with Gorilla Grodd - to outsmart and outwit his way to success, even when he ordered the death of a little old lady just to taunt Daredevil out of hiding.
Fun fact: D'Onfrio has already played Thor.Bechdel Test” only because, in one episode, there’s one scene where two women talk about landlord and tenant law. For the most part, this is a show where there is at most one woman with a speaking role in a scene at a time. Which is to say: don’t expect significant thoughts about feminism from Daredevil.
1. Deborah Ann Woll, who plays Karen Page, looks way too much like she did on True Blood. I expected her to up and bite a guy while having sex with him; only mildly disappointed that she doesn’t. Her character is more interesting than at first glance, though; don’t write her off.
2. There is a crime boss named Madam Gao. She is basically a cute Chinese grandmother package of coiled menace. All new crime TV shows should hire Wai Ching Ho to be adorably elderly and threatening.
3. It’s not quite Game of Thrones, but Daredevil is willing to kill some characters you think are recurring at moments you find completely unexpected.
4. Everyone seems to pick the same spot in Brooklyn with the beautiful Manhattan skyline to have outdoor conferences. It’s a great spot; I went to a wedding in that part of Brooklyn once and you do not get sick of the view. But I do notice when it gets reused for a show about Hell’s Kitchen, which is on the other side of the East River.