“DAREDEVIL” or “How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Streaming”
More and more people are walking away from traditional cable plans and migrating to online streaming services like Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, and Netflix. We made this switch earlier this year at the Asylum in St. Paul and haven’t looked back; except when it comes to watching sports, but that’s a post for a different blog on another day. Our switch came at the right time. The streaming services noticed that more eyes were on their screens and started to capitalize on this. All of them have created their own television series, and these series are great! For example, Amazon has Transparent and Alpha House (side note: watch Alpha House. It’s written by Gary Trudeau of “Doonesbury” fame and John Goodman just eats up scenes.).
However, the grandfather of streaming TV shows has to be Netflix. They did it first and they did it right. Netflix came out of the gate with award winning shows like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. Now they’ve teamed up with Marvel for 4 superhero TV series: Daredevil, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. Lucky for us they released Daredevil first.
I haven’t seen a TV show like this in a long time. They establish Daredevil’s origin story before the opening credits of episode one: Nine year old Matt Murdock loses his sight when a truck carrying barrels of chemicals crashes and said chemicals splash him in the face. Done. There was really no need to spend any more time with this than necessary. We know how he gains his “super powers”, so let’s see what he does with it.
Murdock’s childhood is shown through a series of flashbacks when it helps to explain his actions. For example, young Matt would help sew up his dad after his boxing bouts. Dad wasn’t a very good fighter, but he taught young Matt to get up when you get knocked down. Grown up Matt gets knocked down. A lot.
The series begins right after Murdock and his best friend from college, Foggy Nelson, open their own legal practice. Business isn’t very good. Nelson and Murdock land their first case after a young woman, Karen Page, is found kneeling over the body of her very dead coworker, and his blood is all over her. Karen found some sensitive information about her employer and someone wanted to make sure that this info never saw the light of day. Turns out someone is trying to buy up all of the land in Hell’s Kitchen, but all of the businesses associated to the development are phony baloney businesses. Murdock, Nelson, and new secretary Karen Page (she naturally starts to work for the law firm after they clear her murder charges) try to figure out who’s really behind this “development” and bring them to justice.
At night Murdock seeks his own version of justice when he puts on his black mask (don’t worry, he eventually puts on the red super-suit) and becomes the vigilante the locals call The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. He tracks down and beats up bad guys as he tries to save his city. The chemical spill that took his eyesight heightened his other senses. Murdock can sense where things and people are located. It’s like he sees everything using all of his senses, except his vision.
Charlie Cox kills it in the role of Matt Murdock. An actor relies heavily on his facial expressions to convey emotion and inner thoughts. Since Murdock is blind and, well, his eyes aren’t exactly expressive, Cox has to utilize the rest of his face and it totally works. Murdock also takes his licks during his fights with the bad guys. This is something we don’t see in Marvel’s movies. Daredevil’s street fights are exceptionally well choreographed and exceptionally violent. We also see the consequences of these fights throughout the season. Our hero is left broken and bloody on many occasions. Finding an ally in Nurse Claire Temple (the Night Nurse in the comics) saves Daredevil’s life many times in his young career.
Vincent D’Onofrio stars as Daredevil’s nemesis, Wilson Fisk/Kingpin, the powerful business man behind the shell businesses buying up property in Hell’s Kitchen. There is a lot of build up before we hear Fisk’s name or even see him. D’Onofrio shows is range in this role. The Kingpin is clearly unhinged and has some anger issues, especially when dealing with his business partners. For example, he decapitates a lackey who failed at his job by repeatedly slamming a car door on his neck. However, D’Onofrio plays Fisk as very controlled with his love interest, Vanessa. Viewers can see that he’s doing his best to keep it together on their many (uncomfortable) evenings out.
The Daredevil show flips the script by giving the villain the love interest, instead of the hero. A lot of time is spent developing Wilson and Vanessa’s relationship and what it means to him. Foggy Nelson likes to hint at Murdock being a lothario, but he is in no way the playboy that Tony Stark is. Murdock is too busy obsessing about saving his city from ruin to worry about ladies.
The storytelling in Daredevil is tight. The show’s writers might be able to move the story along faster because viewers don’t have to wait a week between episodes. All of the episodes are released at the same time and we can either watch all 13 hours of the show in one sitting or spread it out over a couple days. This immediate viewing means the writers don’t have to spend time recapping the previous episode or explaining exactly who our hero is. Also, the Daredevil “season” isn’t 22 episodes long, like traditional network seasons. There aren’t filler episodes where we get a “villain of the week”, as we saw in The Flash on the CW. The Daredevil season starts with how he got is powers and just keeps moving everything forward.
People have said that this is a “Golden Age of Television” and I agree with them. Give me amazing actors, fast-paced storytelling, and excellent production, and I’ll watch it. If Daredevil is any indication of what we can expect from the upcoming Marvel/Netflix shows, I’m in for the long run.