So I finally signed up for Netflix. Partly it was on the advice of my friend Charlie, who recommended a series called Sense8 to me; since it was Charlie who first recommended Harry Potter and the Gentleman Bastard Sequence to me, I have a lot of faith in her judgement. And partly it was because I really wanted to watch Daredevil, another TV addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, created via collaboration between Netflix and Marvel Studios. For the record, I quite liked the 2003 Ben Affleck film – there just wasn’t anything really spectacular about it; I have yet to see the Director’s Cut, which I’ve heard is a lot better.
It has taken me less than a week to get through all 13 episodes of Daredevil; when I first started, I watched the first three episodes in one evening. Among other Marvel TV series, Daredevil is definitely better than Agent Carter, and – it pains me to say it – possibly a little bit better than Agents of SHIELD. It just does so many things right.
It’s certainly a very dark and violent show, but it doesn’t feel deliberate, like the producers are rubbing it in your face, going, “Look how dark and gritty we are! This is what’s fashionable, right?” Instead, it feels natural, fitting the characters and the setting very well. There’s also how well Daredevil’s activities are integrated with the legal intrigue as Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson and Karen Page work from their little office to take down the Kingpin. It’s a bit like The Dark Knight, in that at its heart, it’s a crime drama which features comic book characters – but it’s much better than Gotham, which just felt generic and boring, like you could have changed the names of the DC characters and it wouldn’t have fallen apart. This series is anything but generic. Considering it’s the first season, the overall story takes some unexpected and daring turns, with a few important characters – who you might have expected to still be major players in seasons to come – getting killed off.
Regarding Daredevil’s abilities, there’s plenty of emphasis on his super-functioning senses – particularly his hearing – but not so much on the ‘radar sense’ he has in the film. We only get one brief moment of ‘Daredevil-vision’ in this series. Some elements are left quite vague, but the descriptions we get seem to indicate that Matt doesn’t need ‘radar’ – his other senses are so fine-tuned that he can pull them all together to get an awareness of his environment. I would have liked this to built on a bit more, but it works OK as it is. I was also initially unsure about Daredevil’s black costume – he doesn’t get the traditional one until the last episode – but it grew on me: the fact that it’s a simple design, which doesn’t offer that much protection, emphasises that Matt is still settling into his role as a vigilante. The action scenes, meanwhile, don’t hold back in showing how tough things are for our hero – he takes a lot of damage, and lasting damage at that. The second episode has a long one-shot scene in which Daredevil fights a whole gang of Russian thugs; at every pause, we can see how tired and in pain he is, but rather than falling unconscious with just a few punches, his opponents are just stunned for a moment and then get up to carry on fighting.
Definitely a highlight of the series is what it does with its main antagonist: Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin. Both the script and Vincent d’Onofrio’s acting combine to turn him into a really fascinating character. Early on, somebody says of Wilson, “You know why he doesn’t like people saying his name? Because it reminds them that he’s just a man.” Soon after, we see Wilson walking his love interest Vanessa home after a date, and looking very awkward as she’s not sure whether she’ll see him again – as if to make sure the audience knows that yes, Wilson is just a man. At the beginning, he already wields a lot of power, but still has to struggle to keep his criminal network going. Even in normal situations, the way he speaks makes him seem constantly uncomfortable. And he reminds me a bit of Professor Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective, in that while he shows off a lot of class and charisma, he definitely has a more animalistic side – and when he lets it out, he really lets it out. I also liked how the show treated Matt’s partner, Foggy Nelson: it would be very easy to turn him into a simple comic-relief sidekick, and while Foggy does provide a lot of the show’s humour, he’s also a complex character who has some great dramatic moments and manages to be very heroic in his own way.
It’s going to be a long wait till Season 2 of Daredevil – but it won’t be too long before the next series of Doctor Who and Agents of SHIELD can keep me occupied, and at this point, I guess I’ll just do as I was told and watch Sense8!