Saturday, April 11, 2015

Daredevil Season 1: Reviewed (Spoiler Free)

Disney's "Daredevil" premiered exclusively on Netflix on April 10, 2015



Daredevil has typically been one of Marvel's Tier-2 heroes, never quite achieving the fame of Spider-Man or others. Disney and Netflix look to change all of that with a wholly original take on the Man Without Fear, brought exclusively to Netflix for Marvel's darkest, grittiest outing yet. The result is arguably the best show on television right now; a brutal, intelligent and unflinching look at Matt Murdock and the fictionalized version of Hell's Kitchen he has given so much to defend.

Daredevil succeeds on so many levels that it's difficult to know where to begin. It never condescends, nor feels rushed. It expects you to at least have an idea as to how Daredevil came to be and then does the viewer a service by not cramming the entire lore into a single episode. The storytelling is taut and breathless, executed by less cuts and more circular, sweeping takes.

Hell's Kitchen makes Gotham City looks like Sesame Street. It is a city so infused with grime and corruption that one almost becomes exhausted at searching for even the tiniest ray of hope; there's none to be found. Almost no one can be trusted and when you think you have a certain character figured out, they delightfully surprise you.

It is in it's characters and the stars that portray them that Daredevil truly stands out. Nothing is so black and white as good and evil. There are no heroes, no villains. There are simply characters of varying moral ambiguity, dropped into this snake pit of a city trying to figure out who they are.

Charlie Cox's Matt Murdock/Daredevil is magnificent. He is a font of barely-suppressed rage, struggling as much with trying to save his city as he is dealing with his ever-increasing acts of violence, knowing what it will cost him in the end. Daredevil is a character of faith, and some of the best scenes in the series have him speaking with his preacher as he watches himself become the monster he is trying to slay. Elden Henson's Foggy Nelson fills the sidekick role nicely, never quite sure as to what's happening, never quite certain of the decisions being made, doing his best to be supportive until things finally reach a tipping point. Deborah Ann Woll's Karen Page, a tragic character in the Marvel canon, has an interesting character arc, beginning innocently before simultaneously evolving and devolving into the stalwart companion. Vondie Curtis Hall is relentless as Ben Urich, Rosario Dawson needs more screen time, and Bob Gunton as vivid as always.

Vincent D'Onofrio is absolutely horrifying as Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. Though not as physically big as some would have liked, his presence is felt in every scene from his first, and he is never larger than when he has his first, riveting encounter with Matt Murdock. Wilson Fisk is pragmatic, ruthless, and singleminded until an event begins to change and shape his focus. D'Onofrio plays this with such force that you end up empathizing with the character, even pulling for him. He is also a terrifying physical presence who's acts of violence may even have the most desensitized of viewers catching their breath. If there was any flaw in the production, and this is stretch, is that this is not the Kingpin I would have liked to see. D'Onofrio plays him almost manically, as if he's always on the verge of losing his grip on sanity.

All told, Daredevil is the best series to hit TV since HBO's Game of Thrones. With family-friendly hits such as Agents of SHIELD and darker entries such as Daredevil, Disney is free to continue its domination of the ratings as long as it continues to produce quality such as this.

PS: Spider-Man, the grown man, the teacher, the husband, and occasional Avenger, would fit perfectly into this universe. Make that happen, please.

Thanks for reading.

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