In these past few years, Netflix has gone from an online movie delivery service to one of the best original content providers in television today. Shows like “House of Cards” and “Orange Is The New Black” have put cable and primetime channels on their heels. And if “Daredevil” is any indication, Netflix isn’t letting up.
Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has grown to be an unstoppable juggernaut, a success in every sense of the word. There are drawbacks to the “Marvel method”, though. It has at most a PG-13 level of maturity, and it is shamelessly campy at times (which is, of course, not necessarily a bad thing). But the problem is that this aspect is shared across every single movie the studio has put out. From “Iron Man” to “Guardians of the Galaxy,” every character is a factory of quips, comebacks, and one-liners. Even the most serious of the MCU films, “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” had plenty of moments of levity, of banter that didn’t always need to be there. If you’re not a fan of this type of storytelling, then even the best of them might not be to your liking. Even so, Marvel has in many ways been limited by this requirement, and so now with the massive success of its universe, the studio can finally try a different approach by partnering with Netflix.
“Daredevil” stars “Boardwalk Empire” alum Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer who goes out at night to fight crime as masked vigilante Daredevil. The last attempt to bring Daredevil to the big screen saw current Batman, Ben Affleck, step up to the plate in an incredibly mediocre movie. This is a much more successful run at the Daredevil story, and with 13 hours to fill, the showrunners and writers are allowed to breathe and really stretch their legs by fleshing out every part of Daredevil’s unique corner of the Marvel universe.
Charlie Cox does an admirable job as Murdock, both in and out of the suit. As the lawyer, Cox is measured and methodical, but avoids coming across as too robotic. The actor had actually trained with a blind man to learn how to accurately convey what a blind person looks and speaks like, a fact that makes the performance all the better. My only real gripe is that the actor is clearly not American, as you can hear his accent slip through in certain parts of the dialogue. The other major performance of this show is delivered from Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk. As I said before, Fisk was previously played by Michael Clarke Duncan in a charismatic and memorable performance that outlived the rest of the movie. D’Onofrio’s turn has the potential to be just as, if not more, memorable, but it will probably also be a lot more polarizing. Wilson Fisk in this show is slow, awkward, and socially stunted. But he’s also calculating, methodical, and viciously brutal. It’s a layered performance that is hard to get behind at first, but by the end of the season you’re left feeling more than a little sympathetic to Fisk and his goal. In fact, if anyone should have a character arc this season, it’s Fisk, who is backed by a surprisingly entertaining group of supporting characters, especially his reliable assistant Wesley. That is not to undersell the performances of the rest of the cast here, as there is, for the most part, not a weak performance among them. However, where the show finds its niche, and presumably its audience, is in its action sequences.
While there have been other superhero shows that have attempted respectable action sequences (CW’s “Arrow” and “Flash”), we haven’t really seen a lot of amazing fight sequences in live-action TV. Daredevil is probably the closest anyone has come to having a TV show with fight scenes on par with a movie. The fighting is quick and brutal, with no quick cutaways to avoid the bloody consequences. Cox gives as good as he gets as Daredevil, and he gets a lot. Daredevil can’t seem to go two episodes without taking a prolonged beating, and there are parts which are even surprising with how far the show pushes the envelope in terms of violence.
That said, the fight scenes are meticulously choreographed, and each episode has at least one stand-out sequence. One must look no further for examples than the hallway fight at the end of the second episode to know what I’m talking about. However, there are certain clichés in play here that are a bit obvious. Daredevil falls for the same trick at least two or three different times over the course of the season, and each time it almost costs him his life. The fight scenes, while excellently done, rely on the fact that if there is more than one goon fighting the hero and that all of the henchmen are incompetent pushovers.
If one were to compare this Netflix series to the Marvel films, then “Daredevil” is the new “Iron Man,” a revitalization of the format. And I do hope this means we can get more series with this quality, as well as a second season for the Nelson and Murdock firm. With “Jessica Jones,” “Iron Fist,” and “Luke Cage,” as well as the team-up miniseries, “The Defenders,” on the horizon, I see no reason to be worried about Marvel’s prospects. In fact, the continued success of these shows might prove that superheroes might find a permanent home in the realm of our televisions. So go watch “Daredevil,” it’s a great first season and a promising indicator of what’s to come.