With the second one arriving shortly, we finally catch up with season one of Marvel’s much acclaimed TV series…
Despite really enjoying Marvel’s burgeoning universe on the small screen in the likes of Agent Carter and Jessica Jones, I somehow hadn’t got around to watching possibly the most well-received of all their shows; Daredevil. I’ve now put that right and really wish I had watched it sooner.
You could write the show off as Marvel’s Batman, as it also follows a vigilante with a tragic past being driven to clear up his city, but this would do it a disservice. While its grittier, more ‘realistic’ tone might pay lip service to Nolan’s Dark Knight films, it is an engrossing drama in its own right. Also, an issue I have with those films is that the dark tone is pushed to the extent that they seem almost ashamed of being a superhero story which Daredevil, though it mixes in elements of crime and legal drama as well, never does. It is merely stripping away the excesses of the comics to get to the heart of the story and the characters. These two factors are one in the same, actually, as the narrative is driven by a cast of characters that are easy to invest in, including Foggy Nelson, Karen Page and Ben Urich. However, the series really belongs to the two enemies at its heart…
A lot of the series’ praise has been directed at Vincent D’Onofrio’s powerhouse performance as antagonist Wilson Fisk. With a growling voice but a detectable vulnerability, he makes Fisk into a monstrous man-child. Unlike a lot of villains in comic book adaptations, though, he feels like a real person; Fisk clearly did not begin with ill intentions but life has just led him down that path. His burgeoning romance with Vanessa also adds another dimension. Usually a villain might lose a love interest as a means of motivation but it is rare for such a bad’un to be allowed to show a more caring side at the same time.
My favourite performance in the show, however, is Matt Murdock himself, blind lawyer by day, masked vigilante by night. I already liked Charlie Cox from his lead role in hugely underrated Neil Gaiman fantasy film Stardust but he is tremendous here. The idea of the hero worrying whether they are doing the right thing isn’t a new one but Matt’s inner conflict is so convincingly portrayed that it becomes the core of the show. The character’s religious guilt over his actions is also an interesting angle and one I haven’t seen before. What with Fisk’s multi-faceted personality and Matt’s darker edges, this isn’t a simple tale of hero vs villain.
It’s a close draw between which of Daredevil and Jessica Jones is superior, but it is probably the former. JJ is certainly the more ground-breaking and original but due to this it does have a few teething issues along the way. Daredevil, however, utilises familiar tropes (the secret identity, the corrupt city, the crime boss in the shadows) so well that they feel fresh and new again. As such, it is a definitive superhero story. If like me you have for some reason put off watching the show, I would urge you to reconsider. Go on, I dare you.