***SPOILERS ARE MARKED. PROCEED WITH UTMOST CAUTION***
In short: Do you know how off-base I would be if I were to say “no”?
I want to shout about how good this series is from the rooftops, but I ain’t got time for that so…
As most of you know, Daredevil is the first of at least four—I would not be surprised if Marvel/Netflix added more shows—other Netflix series (which will eventually lead up to The Defenders). Coming off of superb Phase 2 entries like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of The Galaxy, I had extremely high hopes for this series.
Yet, I also had very low expectations because of Marvel’s current track record TV offerings. No matter how many people tried to convince me that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had gotten better after an abysmal first season, I didn’t feel like reinvesting my time in it. And as for Agent Carter, I felt the series was only decent, even though I do love Peggy (I also have beef with the omission of WOC, but that is a conversation for another day).
Daredevil obliterated ALL of my fluctuating expectations and turned me into a stan.
But before I get into how awesome this TV series is, here’s a brief summary:
Daredevil follows the story of one man—Matt Murdock—and his quest to save his decaying city of Hell’s Kitchen. It’s pretty Batman-esque…you know, if Batman was blind and had superhuman senses that were granted to him as a result of exposure to radioactive waste (and not Frank Miller writing him out of impossible sh*t. Yes, I WENT THERE).
Matt’s exploits as “The Man in the Mask” prove to be not as effective when they are not accompanied by some form of the law. To rectify this, Matt fights crime as a righteous lawyer by day (and a seemingly whacked out vigilante by night). He enlists his friends and allies Foggy Nelson (a fellow avocado [attorney] at law), Karen Page (his secretary), and Ben Ulrich (a reporter) in his crusade to legally save his city and take down the likes of crime boss Wilson Fisk (who, at the beginning of the series, is on a serious come-up).
The first season of this TV series has proved to be phenomenal and I am considering watching it again. However, here are my reservations—good, bad, and “eh” about it:
Characters (Growth, Development, and Screen Time)
Let me just start out by saying that Matt Murdock is one charming son-of-a-b*tch.
And no, I don’t mean “charming” in the same way that I mean it when I’m talking about people like Tony Stark or Peter Quill. Both Peter and Tony are assholes in the clearest sense (lovable or not…since Marvel has a penchant for such characters). Specifically concerning Tony, his charm is surface-level and he can be a schmoozer—ass-licker—or the complete opposite when the situation calls for it.
That’s not the case with Matt. Matt is generally a good, caring, and sweet guy (albeit f*cking crazy). He’s also comical, which never hurts…especially in a setting as bleak as Hell’s Kitchen. Charlie Cox (with his deceptively swindling, sexy ass voice [he’s English]) plays him to utmost perfection and I can no longer picture anyone else playing him. I forgive Marvel for passing on Michael C. Hall and I THANK them for erasing Batfleck’s Daredevil from my consciousness.
Foggy is hilarious, self-deprecating, but also kind. What I really like about Foggy is that he looks like he can be underestimated or that he might not have a backbone, but that is completely erroneous. Foggy’s got a strong will and he is also very clutch too. He completely steals the show. Kudos to Elden Henson for an awesome portrayal.
Straight-up: Karen’s life is garbage in the comics, so when I saw her treatment in this series, I was completely floored. Not only is Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) super pro-active and conscientious, but she is also in control of her destiny (well, as in control as you can be in a universe where Wilson Fisk exists).
Man. If Vincent D’Onofrio didn’t capture the most sympathetic villain in MCU history. Bye Loki. It’s Wilson’s time to shine.
Real talk, I am such a fan of his. He is painfully withdrawn and awkward, but he is also very sweet. Which makes his being prone to explosive fits of rage that much more terrifying. Dear God. He is terrifying.
Supporting Characters (Growth, Development, and Screen Time)
In the brief time that he appears in the series, Jack Murdock (John Patrick Hayden) leaves a lasting impression on us as an audience and his son, Matt. He’s not the richest or the smartest guy around, but he is a caring father and we love him for it.
I love Stick (Scott Glen). I love that he is a crotchety old man. He also takes no sh*t and kicks all of the ass. Granted, he is an asshole, but hey.
I can’t sing Claire’s praises enough (bless you, Rosario Dawson). Even though we don’t see too much of her (I’ll get into that later), she commands attention when she does appear. I like that she is deeply concerned about the people around her while simultaneously not taking anyone’s sh*t. She shows that you can be kind and not a pushover. I love it.
Vondie Curtis-Hall does a phenomenal job as Ben. At the beginning series, we are introduced to an older, wiser, and more cautious Ben. He still has a yearning to do what’s right and expose the powers that be in Hell’s Kitchen, but he’s trying to be careful about it and I appreciate his carefulness.
– John Wesley
Wesley (Toby Leonard Moore) aka Discount, Blue-Eyed Colin Firth, almost ran away with it all to become my favorite character. Wesley is wonderfully snarky and very polite. He’s also a master of shade, which is great.
What I like about Vanessa (Ayelet Zurer) is that she is distinguished and aware. She will not be bamboozled and I love it (for example, she guesses right away that Wilson is dangerous). Part of the reason I’m beefing with the CW right now is that their self-proclaimed “smart” women—specifically on Arrow and The Flash—are written as low-key stupid and are forever kept in the dark (but that’s an article for another day). Vanessa is smart and consistently written that way.
Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) reminds me of my grammy, except more kickass. I love her because she is a hardcore pragmatist and female characters are usually not allowed be such without being portrayed in a certain—negative—way. She’s also business savvy; so there’s that.
Leland (Bob Gunton) is a wily bastard. He’s very funny, but his humor tends to be on the morbid side. Like Gao, Leland is pragmatic, but he’s also very cocky and over-confident, which can get in the away. Still, if you were a straight, cis, White man, who had probably gotten away with laundering money and evading taxes ten times the amount of my student loans, you’d be a cocky son of a b*tch too.
Nobu we don’t see as much, but when we do see him, he is no-nonsense to the core. He has no time for anyone’s sh*t. This makes his ties to The Hand—the legendary assassin group that likes to f*ck with Matt every now and then—that much cooler.
I f*cks with the Russians. Vladimir (Nikolai Nikolaeff) and Anatoly (Gideon Emery) are so bad (read: awful) and reckless, but that is legitimately part of their appeal (and even then Daredevil humanizes them, as it does with all of its villains). They don’t give a f*ck and anytime they are onscreen, they make it known.
– Matt and Jack
These two are clearly close and it is so apparent. Jack loves Matt and wants to make him proud. My favorite scene with them is the scene in Episode 2 where he whispers to Matt in the hospital when he complains about it being too loud. That moment is a poignant one.
– Matt and Foggy
Matt and Foggy. Nelson and Murdock. Avacados at law. Seeing these two bro out makes me very happy. Not only do they play off each other well, but I *love* that Foggy does not coddle Matt because of his blindness (even when he discovers the truth). Basically, I need more of them.
– Matt and Stick
As I mentioned before, Stick is the biggest butthole, which makes this relationship interesting. Stick shows up and attempts to train Matt at a young age, but when it becomes clear that Matt is in need of a father figure, he bounces. Thus, we are left with a contentious relationship at best. That being said, it is an entertaining one.
– Matt and Claire
There is mutual respect in this relationship and I am totally here for it. Claire respects—if not agrees with—what Matt is doing for Hell’s Kitchen and Matt appreciates the fact that Claire makes sure he does not die the process. On top of that, the chemistry between these two is astro-f*cking-nomical and I found myself shipping them. Hard (even though I’m aware she has ties to other people like Luke Cage and such).
– Matt and Karen and Foggy
So, I predict that this dynamic will get hella awkward hella quick. Yay for awesome office synergy and all, but I foresee much tea being spilled on the horizon. Like, it’s obvious that Foggy likes Karen and wants to be with her. On the flip side, Daredevil lore suggests that Matt will best him on that front and that it will probably be uncomfortable for all parties involved (if that balloon scene between Matt and Karen in Episode 11 did not give it away, I don’t know what will). They make a great squad, but I’m not sure how long it will last.
– Matt and Father Lantom
Thank the LORD that they did not drag out the mystery of Matt’s extracurricular activities for 87531798712 more episodes as it pertains to this relationship. Father Lantom (Peter McRobbie) deduces right away that Matt is Daredevil and advises him accordingly. I like this relationship because it is honest and Matt doesn’t really have many people to be honest with about his vigilantism. The scene in which Father Lantom talks about the slaying of the Rwandan elder in Episode 9 and seeing the Devil in his murderer is one of the best moment of the series by far.
– Karen and Ben
Though Karen is driven, she can be quire reckless about searching for the truth and Ben is there along the way to rein her in. But during this, Karen ultimately reminds Ben of his younger days and inspires him to get back into the game. Their relationship immediately comes off as a very cheeky, father-daughter relationship to me and Doris—Ben’s wife—consigns this later in the series.
– Ben and Doris
Love is timeless, so seeing Ben and Doris (Adriane Lenox) interact proved to be so heartwarming. They have clearly been together for a long time and it shows. The particular bit in Episode 3 where Doris talks about how crazy Ben’s aftershave makes her is so goddamn cute (I almost exploded).
– Wilson and Vanessa
They’re cute together, but holy sh*t is their love scary. Vanessa is clearly a ride-or-die chick, regardless of the sh*t that Wilson gets into. I’m looking forward to seeing them in action—together—in the future.
– Wilson and Wesley
I really enjoyed this relationship. Despite the fact that Wilson could probably kill my ass with his pinky alone, Wesley is fiercely protective of him and extremely loyal to him, even though he doesn’t totally understand Wilson’s vision for Hell’s Kitchen. That is friendship.
– Matt and Wilson
The two are evenly matched (I’d argue), are equally menacing, and are aware that the other is a worthy ass opponent. Watching these two play cat and mouse with each other as the series unfolds is gratifying in the highest sense and their boss fight during the season’s concluding episode is ultimately rewarding because of it.
The Villain (And All Related Villany)
– Confederating Global Investments/Union Allied
To sustain an entire series, you’re going to need convincing antagonists and a convincing plot and Marvel brings both in the form of Wilson and company (Leland Madame Gao, Nobu, and the Russians). They are smart, they are formidable, and literally everyone in Hell’s Kitchen is in their back pocket. They’re combined threat level is over 9000 and that is great.
– To Kill or Not To Kill, That is The Question
Which we can also interpret as the Catholic question (aka faith). Catholicism—Catholic guilt—is a HUGE part of Matt’s character and I’m glad this series does not drop the ball on portraying it. I’m appreciative of how the writers use his Catholicism to explain his confliction with murdering people without letting it get into preachy/hokey territory.
– The Truth Will Set You Free
This series dwells a lot on how the truth is exceedingly powerful, but can get you killed in the end, especially in a corrupt ass place like Hell’s Kitchen. It just makes you question how trustworthy and honest you yourself would be in a place like this.
– Toxic Masculinity
So…EVERYBODY’S GOT DADDY ISSUES ON THIS SHOW. GAHDAMN.
In all seriousness, this issue specifically comes up with Wilson’s flashbacks of his father (who was a dick), who has a very warped view on what it means to be a man (and to be respected). I for one think that this was a great way to give Wilson some background and depth and I also think it gives way to some commentary that remains relevant and apt.
– The Man vs The Mask
Fans of Arrow will immediately remember what Oliver went through trying to keep the man and the mask separate (especially in Season 2) and Matt is no exception. Stick shows up earlier in the season and basically wants Matt to give in to the mask and forsake all his friends and family, citing that they make him weak and that his loved ones are vulnerable to danger with him around. It’s a tough situation to be in.
I cannot say enough how stellar the fight choreography is in this series. Prior to this, I held Arrow’s fight choreography in the highest regard. I still do; Daredevil has just raised the bar. My favorite instance of fight choreography is the much-talked about single shot hallway scene in Episode 2. The scene was sloppy, sluggish, and brutal. And I loved EVERY minute of it.
Even though this is a pretty dark series, Daredevil does not forsake us in the humor department. Using wisecracking and self-deprecating characters like Matt, Leland, Foggy and using the awkward tendencies of Wilson, there are some pretty light moments here and there (just enough to keep things from descending into DC-level bleakness, but not too much that we end up watching an episode of Full House).
Cinematography and Story-Telling Choices (Lighting, Transitions, etc)
Some people have complained that the lighting was too dark for this series, but I disagree. I love it and thought it was perfect. I mean, as I mentioned earlier, Hell’s Kitchen is supposed to look dark and grungy. It helps with its seedy atmosphere. In fact, one of the reasons I couldn’t get into Gotham—you know, besides it being God-awful—was the fact that Gotham was lit better than the f*cking alley down the street from my old dormitory. Gotham is supposed to be the bastard child of the worst parts of Detroit/Chicago, Russia, and Bangkok. Why is it so bright?
I am so proud of various showrunners/producers/creative minds that banded together to make this series because their painstaking attention to detail and color shows. Matt’s apartment in particular, with all the shades of orange and yellow (the windows specifically), looked like it was ripped straight out of a comic book panel and that is seriously cool.
– Non-Linear Narrative Story-Telling, Linear Narrative Story-Telling, and Pacing
Generally, the show follows the present day, linear plot of Matt trying to save Hell’s Kitchen from Wilson and his cronies. But what I really LOVED about this series was the decision to break away from the current plot and flashback to an earlier time in these various characters’ lives. And said flashbacks were never drawn out, which I appreciate as flashbacks are such abused devices across all entertainment mediums.
Moving on, I was really impressed with the show’s pacing. I never felt bombarded by 39874398743287 events, but I also never got bored, which is not an easy balance to find for anything, be it a TV show, a movie, and such.
– Shots, Transitions, Etc
The show was so overwhelming to watch (in a good way) as the film student in me freaked the f*ck out particularly when I saw a well-done shot or transition. One example that I vividly remember is the transition from Matt and Karen entering the building of their office to Fisk entering his cell and sitting down to stare at the white wall (another brilliant choice, as it brings everything concerning Fisk full circle and that is how we as an audience were introduced to him to begin with in episode 3). Whoever shot this particular sequence matched up the doors in each scene perfectly.
– The Unfolding of Plot Points and Reveals
This show is very good at subtlety. There are several points in this show where a big reveal technically happens and instead of incessantly pointing at it and saying “LOOK! LOOK AT WHAT WE JUST DID! AREN’T WE SO CLEVER OMG”, the creative minds of the show present said reveal and let it breath. This allows us as an audience to take it in for ourselves and make our own judgments and I LOVE that.
I’ll recall two examples of this:
1. Wilson’s reveal in episode 3:
No one drops some corny ass line about him being the “king” at “pinning” or some sh*t (you know that would totally be up The CW’s alley), while he’s staring at a painting. Nope. We find out who he is and then the scene blacks out. That’s it. No muss. No fuss. Simple.
I am also appreciative that he is never really called the Kingpin during this series. Frankly, I think it will make more sense to call him that in later seasons when he makes his ruthless comeback.
2. Daredevil’s costume reveal in Episode 13:
First of all, waiting until the last episode of the season to debut his official suit was smart. Not only did Matt (and the writers) earn that reveal, but once again, we were not hit over the head with it either. Matt didn’t go around burning “DD” logos into everything (yes, I am totally shading you, Batman) and he didn’t stop every few seconds to do some out-of-pocket superhero pose (this is general superhero shade). Nope. He just showed up one day and was finally Daredevil and I appreciate that.
Soundtrack, Sound Mixing, and Score
Overall, the sound mixing across the entire series is fan-f*cking-tastic. For starters, I feel that the creators of this show were very sensitive when it came to how they used sound. I’m of the belief that this allows us as an audience to connect more with Matt and how he experiences things/takes things in. However, this is not just me talking about the awesome showcasing of Matt’s special abilities in general. No. This is me talking about the various weird and fascinating sounds they managed to call attention to across the entire series. My two examples are:
1. The scene where Matt confronts Officer Hoffman in episode 13
In this scene, Matt pulls out a chair before he sitting down in front of Hoffman and spelling out his options (death or basically death…but more painful). As Matt pulls out the chair, the way in which it scrapes against the floor makes a very distinct sound. It is something I would not have noticed if the creators hadn’t intended for me to notice.
2. The scene where Matt does some intense ass parkour across several rooftops in Episode 12:
First of all, I laughed my ass off while I was watching Matt parkour across these rooftops with his suit on. It was so ridiculous, but just the right amount of ridiculousness for me to keep my suspense suspended. That being said, I really enjoyed the melding of classical music (pianos, violins, and all) with the almost frantic parkour music playing in the background. The drums in said musical track blended well with the classical music and left me wanting to look up the score/soundtrack.
Stellar Background Cast
I’ve found that not a lot of reviews/recaps have talked about this, so I will. Daredevil’s background cast is stacked and there is a lot of variety (diversity is a played out word) in it too. My main beef with a show like Agent Carter—which is also set in New York—is its lack of POCs/WOCs even in its secondary/tertiary cast (and no, being set in the 40s/50s is no excuse. That’s like saying that POCs did not exist until after the 60s which, you know, would be false).
One thing in particular that stayed with me is the incorporation of Melvin Potter. Now I may be reaching, but it seems to me that this version of Potter exhibits signs of being on the spectrum. There are a number of things that tip me off to this (his repetition of the line “You could/can do that” in episode 11 for example). Two things in particular that convince me of this are his lines in episode 11 where he tells Matt that he is “good at making things” and when Leland rudely refers to him as “half an idiot” in episode 8.
The first sign tells me that Melvin is particularly skilled at what he does—costume making—or else, why would Fisk come to him? Frankly, it reminds me of savant abilities and people and how half of most savants lie somewhere on the spectrum. The second sign tells me that people like Leland perceive Melvin as stupid, even though he just processes information differently (another hallmark of the spectrum) than most.
What I’m getting at here is that while—overall—Marvel could still use some work in terms of representation, I am appreciating their efforts so far, especially with the cast I just witnessed in the show (Elena Cardenas, Brett Mahoney, etc). I appreciate the inclusion of various residents of color in Hell’s Kitchen/New York. I also appreciate the inclusion of aneurotypical people (shout-out to Drax) in this universe.
Basically, I am all for anything that strays away from the pasty and the norm.
I found the lack of Evanescence in this series disturbing.
No, but real talk, I don’t have anything overwhelmingly bad to say about this series. I was briefly worried about the portrayal of Wilson/The Kingpin, but it turned out that I was worried about nothing. A+, Marvel.
I love me some Rosario Dawson; so you could imagine that I was very hyped when she showed up. However, that quickly died down when I realized how much screen time she got in the end. Granted, she makes some substantial appearances in several key episodes (notably 2, 4, and 5) and then some more appearances here or there afterwards, but I wasn’t totally satisfied by that because I still know so little about her. In fact, besides her allergy to cats and her being a nurse, I know diddly sh*t. Hopefully, we’ll see more of her in subsequent seasons.
*****BEGIN MAJOR SPOILER*****
I’m not going to lie to you: I’m not happy about his death. I mean, I am willing to give Daredevil a lot more leeway on this because, unlike Agents of SHIELD and The Walking Dead, Daredevil has been dropping everyone, not just Black guys. But, on the other hand, Ben is a large part of Daredevil lore and I thought for sure that he was going to stick around longer than he did. Like, why can’t a brother ever make it to the season finale, huh? Seriously. He was literally one episode away.
I’m also disappointed because I was looking forward to Ben and Matt/Daredevil building a relationship—much like that of Batman and Commissioner Gordon—but I guess we won’t be heading in that direction. Ah well.
*****END MAJOR SPOILER*****
The Semi-Ambiguous Nature of Wilson’s Plan to Save Hell’s Kitchen
So maybe it’s just me, but besides the buying up of all the apartments and forcing tenants out of them, I didn’t understand Wilson’s plan. I especially didn’t understand how it fit with his extracurricular criminal activities. I mean, was he trying to save Hell’s Kitchen by super-la-ultra-mega gentrifying it? Or was he trying to pull a Malcolm Merlyn and destroy the city before re-birthing it from the ashes?
The Brutalization of Women
Let me just start out by saying that Daredevil manages to craft three female characters that are compelling, complex, and caring. And, you know, who I don’t get the urge to punch (Yes, I’m looking at you, The CW. The whole of your female character roster on both The Flash and Arrow needs work).
That being said, I take issue with all three of them being brutalized (Karen in the pilot, Claire in the second episode she appears in, and Vanessa near the end of the series). I’m tempted to attribute this to the general awfulness that is Hell’s Kitchen, but it is still very concerning.
Hollywood’s Obsession with that One Black Guy from The Wire
Let me be clear about this. I am so sick of having that one black guy—Turk Barrett in this series—show up just so the writers have someone who can say “SHIEEEEEEEEEEEEET” for them. Are you serious? Look, I know everybody and their mama is still up The Wire’s ass after all these years, but you need to let that particular trope go.
Before I close, here’s some food for thought:
– TL;DR: Daredevil is marvelous (*winky face*)
– The opening sequence/title sequence is dope as f*ck. All red everything. Red everywhere.
– Lovers of the Zoo, Netflix and Marvel weren’t playing when they talked about that TV-16/MA rating. Blood, bones, and guts everywhere. This show isn’t for the squeamish at heart. I am notoriously desensitized to violence, but I swear to God my mouth dropped open like 921832189302718 times.
– Most memorable quotes:
“How do you comb your hair?”- Karen
“You hope for the best” – Matt
…[You] can take an unbelievable amount of punishment without a single complaint – Claire
The last part is Catholicism – Matt (CATHOLIC GUILT, YASSS)
“Kill me somebody takes my place.”–Russian Bad Guy #1 (HYDRA IS THAT YOU)
“Idiot parents don’t want to vaccinate” – Shirley (F*ck yes. I am here for people subtly/not-so-subtly calling out the inane)
“Are you one of those billionaire playboys I’m always hearing about?” – Claire
“No. I have a job.” – Matt
“Damn. I thought I lucked out.” – Claire (LOL. I feel you, Claire)
“He’s like a sexual Rain Man” – Foggy talking about Matt (It’s true. Matt says the weirdest sh*t—“ I smell copper in the air”—and STILL pulls chicks like there is no tomorrow. The f*ck?)
“It is the clever man who plays a fool…and the foolish woman who does not recognize it” – Madam Gao (Madam Gao droppin’ that wisdom on you mofos)
“I’m not a killer” – Matt (BUT DON’T PUSH ME. HEYOOO)
“..We must dissent from the apathy…from the fear” – Matt reciting Thurgood Marshall ( MATT READING MOTHERF*CKING THURGOOD MARSHALL. YES)
“I’m with you…for better or worse” – Matt talking to Foggy (I fully expected Matt to finish that with “to the end of the line”, but that’s okay. It’s still cute)
“There’s nothing you can do but swim in shit and hope you don’t get too much in your mouth.” – Karen (Thank you so much, Karen. I totally love picturing sh*t. Almost reminds me of Minny’s delicious chocolate pie. Yum)
“Everything’s gonna be alright.” – Foggy (Hell’s Kitchen is Marvel’s equivalent of Gotham, Foggy. Don’t tell that lie)
“Everything’s gonna work out. I promise – Matt (Matt out here lying and this is the second time one of these mofos is saying this. I bet someone is about to di—well. That was fast. Nevermind)
“The wind blows the hardest the closer you get to the mountaintop.” – Leland
“This world is preoccupied with celebrity weddings and videos of cats.” – Fisk (Wilson must have finally discovered Buzzfeed)
In essence, Daredevil is 13 episodes and over 689 minutes of a gritty ass thrill ride done RIGHT. I am honestly shocked that Marvel had this in them—credit to Drew Goddard and Steven S. DeKnight—though I am simultaneously aware of the fact that Netflix is on their come-up grind; so I do not think they would have settled for a sh*tty show if this project had gone south. That being said, I am utterly and completely satisfied with this show as it stands. I want to say that if the other Netflix shows are half this good, I will be okay, but I cannot. I’m gonna be greedy. Let me be greedy! I NEED the other Netflix shows to be as good—if not BETTER—than Daredevil.
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