If you take a look at Marvel’s cinematic universe which also encompasses its TV shows, then Daredevil is the odd one out. It keeps its distance from the lighter tone of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and is less concerned with the MCU’s history than Agent Carter. In addition, it largely avoids mention of the films, even though The Avengers does tie into its material. Daredevil’s protagonist is Matt Murdock played by Charlie Cox, an attorney who was blinded by an accident as a child leaving him with enhanced senses. Season 1 follows the early stages of his career with flashbacks to his accident and subsequent training as he fights injustice as an attorney at day and a masked vigilante by night.
One aspect of the show that makes it stand out is that it is decidedly darker and grittier than Marvel’s counterparts, Daredevil is essentially Marvel’s Batman but that’s not a bad thing at all. Everything from Murdock’s fighting style, Hell’s Kitchen’s criminal underworld to the fact that characters die on a regular basis demonstrates that this show belongs in a decidedly different, darker area of the MCU. Speaking of fighting, the stunts and choreography of the fight scenes in Season 1 are incredible (keep an eye out for an extended shot of Daredevil fighting Russians in a hallway) and they give Daredevil an edginess and brutality that we’ve not seen in the likes of Iron Man, Thor or Captain America. The fact that there’s a high body count in the show makes it a much more realistic and darker series and actually probably has more in common with DC’s recent films than Marvel’s.
Another notable difference in Daredevil is its release format and overarching story. Season 1 was released on Netflix and all 13 episodes were released simultaneously. This meant that the audience could watch the show at whatever pace they liked but also allowed creator Drew Goddard to take a different route thematically. Consequently, Daredevil plays out like a 13-hr movie rather than a procedural TV show. There is a clear arc to Murdock’s establishment as a vigilante and an arc to the major villain in the show. While this makes a pleasant change from the usual televised format, it does mean that Daredevil is best seen in long stints, preferably taking in several episodes at a time. That’s not to say that Daredevil isn’t entertaining if seen more spread apart (which is how I saw it) but the pacing of it can seem at odds if you take this approach. It’s a slow burning, thoughtful show telling Matt Murdock’s story and its a story that can be quite complex and demands your attention.
The first season is definitely Matt Murdock’s story but significant screen time is given to Vincent D’Onofrio’s villainous Kingpin. A major villain in the comics, Kingpin aka Wilson Fisk manipulates and pulls the strings of the criminal underworld. There’s lots to like about the interrelationships and dynamic between the criminal bosses that is interesting. Nevertheless, he’s not a straightforward villain, he at times appears to be sweet and affable, particularly when on-screen with his love interest Vanessa. He has the same goal as Matt Murdock, to cleanse his city but goes about it in a different manner to Daredevil, instead choosing to use criminal methods. Flashbacks to his childhood give the character depth and D’Onofrio instills Wilson Fisk with a simmering anger threatening to burst forth at a moment’s notice. He commands a real presence in his scenes and is certainly a worthy villain for Daredevil to face in Season 1.
Matt Murdock faces a lot of challenges and tough questions in the show. Whether or not he should kill is a strong theme throughout Season 1 as is the extent to which he should involve his friends in what he is trying to accomplish. There is sufficient development of the supporting cast such as fellow attorney and best friend to Matt, Foggy Nelson and Karen Page. There is a sense of history to Matt’s relationship with Foggy, some of which is explored in flashbacks and although Foggy’s aloof attitude can be tiresome at points, he is someone who can bring Matt back towards reality. Karen, meanwhile is rescued by Daredevil in the pilot and throughout Season 1 plays the role of amateur investigator often just getting herself into more and more trouble. Importantly though, as an audience you feel that Murdock’s lifestyle puts his relationships and his friends in danger making way for good dramatic material.
Daredevil is a worthwhile show because it stands apart from the rest of the MCU thematically, tonally and in its more mature material. It comes with some fantastic performances particularly from Charlie Cox and Vincent D’Onofrio. Unlike Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D it does not concern itself with tying itself and linking with the rest of Marvel’s cinematic properties making it a good jumping on point for those who are newcomers. Overall, Daredevil is a well-rounded show with interesting characters, stunning action, a firmly dark tone and a fantastic arc for its hero and villain. It stands out as the best Marvel property on TV and one of its best efforts on any screen.
What are your impressions of Daredevil? Let me know by commenting below.
For another recommended show, The Mentalist, click here.