The first of Netflix’s four Marvel series, Daredevil, set the tone drastically different from any Marvel content put out to date. Literally anything would have been better than the Daredevil movie starring Ben Affleck, but with its mature rating and bone crunching fights Netflix managed to wow every reviewer.
Matt Murdock’s (Charlie Cox) story seems pretty simple. Kid saves man from getting hit by a truck, but in the process gets blinded by chemicals that spill on his eyes. Unknowingly to everyone else, getting blinded heightens the rest of his senses. The young Matt is played in flashbacks by Skylar Gaertner and manages to find humor in his situation while at the same time being the most likable character on the show.
Gaertner comes across as a young, highly intelligent, boy whose positivity and wit shine through having the relearn everything, losing his father, and being sent to an orphanage. Gaertner really comes into his own when Stick (Scott Glenn) comes in to help Matt gain control over his out-of-control senses by teaching him how to fight. When Cox’s Matt encounters Stick again as an adult, his unflinching lack of morals helps catalyze Matt’s development into a fully fledged superhero.
As an adult Matt is a partner in the newly formed Nelson and Murdock law firm with his best friend, Foggy Nelson (Elden Hanson). Having met in law school, the socially awkward Foggy portrays the perfect best friend. Hanson never misses a step as he makes the viewer believe that he and Matt are truly best friends who have stuck by each other’s side through thick and thin. Not liking Foggy seems impossible, especially when the ever-charming Foggy tries to hit it off with women such as the beautiful Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll).
(Editor’s Note: slight spoiler in this paragraph) One night when he is out and about, Foggy passes by the “man in the black mask” who has been blamed for blowing up Hell’s Kitchen. Foggy goes up and sees if the man is all right, only to find out his best friend under the mask. Hanson’s performance after Matt awakens is the single most powerful and moving scenes in the entire show. Foggy’s absolute devastation that Matt is the vigilante hammers in just how close their friendship was. Foggy keep’s the Matt’s alter ego a secret, but their friendship is all but destroyed (for a couple of episodes at least).
Matt’s role as the vigilante is as dangerous as can be, with him spending nearly as much time recovering from fights as he does smashing skulls. These down times are often used to develop his character, but the viewer can’t help waiting in anticipation for the next fight sequence.
Although incredibly violent, and often sending his foes into critical condition, Matt never kills. His enemies have no qualms about clearing out their adversaries though. Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) at first glance is the clichéd kingpin who runs Hell’s Kitchen from top to bottom from the solitude of his high-rise apartment. This cliché only serves to set Fisk as far away from the traditional villain as possible. For starters, Fisk’s main story arc is not about Matt; instead his courting the innocent Vanessa (Ayelet Zurer) is his drive and motivation.
That is what makes Fisk such a great villain, he is clearly evil and violent, but you can’t help but root for him when he is trying to win over Vanessa. This relationship with Vanessa also drives the story forward, because Fisk’s biggest enemy isn’t Matt, but instead the people inside his organization.
Fisk isn’t the only character with an organization though, Matt slowly but surely builds his team around him through the episodes. In the first episode Matt and Foggy help out damsel in distress Page, who has been framed for murder. Matt eventually (through some vigilante work) discovers who set her up and clears her name. Contrary to this first meeting however, Page proves herself to be capable of handling herself through the rest of the season.
A morbid show with some dark humor, the Netflix style of pacing (i.e. binge-watching) fits in perfectly. Every episode was foreshadowing of what is to come, without the overdone cliffhanger at the end of every episode. Netflix did everything right with this show, including waiting to introduce the iconic red suit until the last episode (after which Matt was dubbed Daredevil).
With Daredevil, Netflix has managed to capture the brutal realities of what being a fledgling superhero entails. A show that keeps the viewer hooked from the beginning to end, this reviewer is excited for the other Marvel Netflix series down the road. Daredevil was a risk to take, but Netflix pulled it off perfectly.