— Guest post by Wolff —
To wrap up the first week of posts I will go over the 13 episodes of season 1 of Marvel’s Daredevil. Like most of the other Marvel movies and series out there the source material for the show is the Daredevil comics. Again, I don’t read them so I can do very little comic comparison/analysis. Just like the last two posts you can expect spoilers in the first two paragraphs so if you care to avoid them skip ahead!
The show begins with a flashback to an accident; a young Matthew Murdock (Skylar Gaernter) saves an old man from being hit by a truck carrying toxic waste, in the process being permanently blinded by the material that got into his eyes. In the present we see an adult Matt (Charlie Cox) opening a law firm in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC with his best friend Franklin “Foggy” Nelson (Elden Henson). (I use the term ‘firm’ loosely; it’s only the two of them in some rooms that can barely be called an office.) Their first case comes that day: Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) has been found unconscious in her apartment next to a fresh corpse holding the murder weapon, but claims she is innocent. Foggy and Matt proceed to prove her innocence and get her off murder charges, and Matt, dressed all in black complete with a mask covering the top half of his face and head and sporting some seriously awesome martial arts skills, saves her life when mysterious assassins come to permanently prevent her from spilling criminal secrets about the company she works for. She is grateful for their help and begins working at the “firm” as a secretary to help pay her bill.
The rest of the series is spent following the trio, plus veteran news reporter Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall), as they try to take down the man responsible for the American part of the organized crime in the city, and for the hit placed on Karen, Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio). Along the way Matt meets Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), a nurse who helps patch him up when he gets in too far over his head. We learn about Matt’s past though flashbacks: his father, boxer “Battlin’ Jack” Murdock (John Patrick Hayden), how his mob-related murder provided the spark to Matt’s vigilante flame, and his blind martial arts teacher, Stick (Scott Glenn) who helped him overcome his blindness and use his heightened senses to his advantage. And Matt and Foggy’s friendship is tested when Foggy finds out about Matt’s double life.
This show is about the gritty underbelly of New York City, Hell’s Kitchen, and the people that live there. As such, the series itself is not shy about showing said grit. A non-flowery way of putting it? Graphic violence and lots of it. Plenty of night scenes, shadows, rain (like pouring rain, but lets have a chit chat anyways, why not?), harsh daylight, and a lot of Matt getting beat up or beating up other people. Oh and Wilson Fisk, the big bad, has a very nasty and unpredictable temper; and he has a tendency to get physical. Guys, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t mind gore. It’s never bothered me, I don’t have a problem watching war movies and the like. But this show made me wince big time on at least three separate occasions, so if you don’t like violence this is not the show for you. That being said, I appreciate the realism. Matt gets hurt very badly twice, and both times he is given necessary time to rest, none of this bounce-back nonsense. It is remarked that he can “take punishment” better than most people, but his bruises and cuts carry over episodes, and in the aftermath of the second beating he actually spends an entire episode on his couch recuperating. And it’s not in a “hey let’s just lay around shirtless with a few cuts so I can show how manly I am” way, it’s more like a “holy banana boat this guy got the crap beat out of him how is he conscious right now?” kinda thing.
Part of this is definitely gotten across by acting, so major props to Charlie Cox for being able to sell bodily fatigue and injury. There is a fight that occurs shortly after Matt’s first beating where he is up and fighting, but it’s very obvious how much it hurts him. (Quick addition about this particular fight scene: I heard part of an interview about it so I rewatched it and it’s about a 6 minute scene with no cuts, so some pretty excellent camera-work and sleight-of-hand in terms of switching out stunt guys and Cox) Part of this is credit to his stunt double, obviously, but part to Cox, who also gets major props for acting blind. Cox is sighted, and while most of the time Matt’s eyes are covered by his mask or his glasses, Cox still has to do scenes where he interacts with other characters with his face in full view. Matt may be able to use his other senses to move and fight as well as any sighted person, but he still can’t SEE, which means that Cox has to prevent his eyes from reacting to movement, making direct eye contact, etc. etc. However Cox also doesn’t opt for the thousand-yard-stare, which is not realistic so far as what blind people actually do. He is also good at portraying Matt’s “blind act” versus when he doesn’t have to hide exactly how much he can sense around him. Basically he does an awesome job.
Speaking of, I also have to give props to Vincent D’Onofrio for his portrayal of Wilson Fisk. The man is an underworld crime boss, where the buck stops as far as organized crime in Hell’s Kitchen. But he’s also painfully socially awkward and reacts to situations with a fairly childish mindset, albeit also with extreme violence. This means he’s unstable and unpredictable, aka scary as all get out. Every show needs a good villain and this guy sells it.
That being said, the show does have some areas that could use improvement. I feel that more could have been done with Matt being a lawyer while leading a vigilante double-life. He obviously has a very strong sense of justice and has stated belief in the law carrying out that justice, however he acts out at night to go where the law can’t. This is all touched on briefly, but it was not explored to the point that I think it could have been, especially considering the level of violence at which he does dispense justice while in the guise of “the devil of Hell’s Kitchen”. There’s also the question of Matt’s Catholicism, which I found interesting as it’s not often you encounter a very violent vigilante who’s also a devout Catholic. But again, the way it was handled was awkward in my opinion. I really couldn’t say what I would want to be done with it, but I feel it was something that could have been explored more.
Final thoughts, overall I liked it. It’s gritty, it’s got some good characters, and impressive physical realism. Some nice cinematography moments plus a moderately engaging plot makes for a good watch, whether you binge it or not. Definitely for fans of Marvel or vigilante genres, with maybe a little gritty PI and intrepid reporter thrown in, but just as definitely not for the faint of heart; Daredevil is a nice addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“Yeah, trust me. I can’t see worth shit but my hearing’s spectacular.”
–Guest post by Wolff —