I’ll admit it. I have spent a good part of the last couple of days hiding away in a dark room binge watching the new Daredevil series from Marvel and Netflix. I’m not too ashamed of that for a couple of reasons. One is that I have been feeling pretty ill over the last couple of days, and I haven’t really felt like moving at all. In fact, I have felt downright miserable, so having a new show to binge watch has been ok. I also felt like this was a pretty big deal, so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
Before I get into my actual review, I wanted to have a disclaimer here at the beginning. For the most part, I try to discuss and review content that is appropriate for most ages on this site. As a father, I am sensitive to what I watch and what I let my kids watch. That being said, Marvel’s new Daredevil series is absolutely not appropriate for all ages. It carries the TV-MA rating on Netflix, and that’s not by accident. I only bring that up because people who may not be familiar with the Daredevil comics, and are familiar with the Marvel movies up to this point may be in for a shock when they sit down to watch this series. The language in the series is not great, but it seems like they won’t cross the “F-Word” line, so that’s a bonus. However, any other word seems ok. There is little to no sexual content in the series. I think there is one scene in the pilot where Karen is changing into one of Matt’s shirts and you get a side shot of a breast, but that’s really all, and it isn’t sexual, it’s more to demonstrate that he can’t see. What really earns the rating for the show is the violence. There is plenty of it, and lots of blood. Again, fans of the Daredevil comics will not be shocked by that, but fans of the MCU not familiar with the comics might be. I just want to send out that fair warning.
I was interested to see this show because it feels like this is Marvel’s first attempt at a costumed hero series since starting the whole MCU. Yes, they have Agents of SHIELD and Agent carter, but those series hardly involve costumed heroes. This is something I have struggled with concerning the MCU. I really enjoy what DC has done with Arrow and The Flash, and have been disappointed with Marvel’s offerings on the small screen. I was eager to see how this series would be.
I am not a huge Daredevil reader, but from what I know about the comics, this series seemed to stay pretty true to the source material. It was gritty and dirty and dark, and all of that seems to be what the comics are like. In a lot of ways, it didn’t feel like it belonged to the same Universe as Captain America, Thor, or Iron Man. In fact, there is little mention of the Avengers at all. They mention the incident that destroyed huge portions of the city, and there are a couple of random statements, but other than that, this series could stand alone from the rest of the MCU. You don’t have to be super familiar with the MCU to watch this series.
The story takes place primarily in a part of New York City known as Hell’s Kitchen. The name alone should tell you that this not a nice part of town, maybe it’s a little rough around the edges. Daredevil, or the “Man in the Mask” as he is called for most of the season, takes on the organized crime that tearing that part of the city up. This includes not pretty things like heroin distribution and human trafficking. The real down and dirty kind of stuff. It would appear, as of right now, that Daredevil is the only person trying to stop this stuff in his neighborhood, including the police and the press and everyone else who seems to have been bought out.
The Daredevil is Matt Murdock. He’s a blind lawyer by day, and crime fighting vigilante by night. He may be blind, but his other senses have all been heightened to the point that he can really “see” the world better than a person with vision. Helping him, at least on the lawyer side of things, is his best friend from college, Foggy Nelson. The casting for Foggy, I thought, was spot on. The character was well written, and really likable from the beginning. They make other allies along the way, including Karen Page, who we meet in the beginning as Foggy and Matt’s first client. They also bring in Ben Urich, an honest reporter who will never back down from telling the truth, as well as Claire, a nurse who finds and helps Matt after he has been beaten almost to death. These are pretty much the good guys.
On the other side, we have the Kingpin, Wilson Fisk as well as the Russians, the Japanese mafia, and the Chinese heroin distribution. These are all working under Fisk to bring forth his vision of a better New York City, starting with Hell’s Kitchen. Of course getting to that vision is going to involve drugs, human trafficking and racketeering, the usual building blocks for urban renewal. As Daredevil discovers more and more about what is really going on, he finds himself coming up against different parts of the organization throughout this first season.
We also meet Stick at one point. This is the blind martial arts expert that took Matt under his wing after Matt’s father died and taught him how to be a fighter. Stick hints at a bigger war that Matt is going to be a part of, but that is only hinted at in this season, and I am sure we will see more of it down the line.
That’s the basic premise of the series. Overall, I would say that it is true to its source material, and it seems well done. I had a few issues with some of the characters and some of the acting. There were times when I felt like Fisk was well-played by Vincent D’Onofrio, and there were times where it all just seemed so forced and unnatural. Similar could be said about Charlie Cox as Daredevil. He spends most of the first season in his black mask costume, which looks a lot like Christian Bale’s first costume when he meets with Gordon for the first time in Batman Begins. Sometimes, it sounds like that too. Cox seems to at times break into a Batman voice when he interrogating his victims. You can almost hear the director telling him to tone it down, and finally just going with it.
The whole feel of the series is dark and ominous. Not a lot of sunshine or cheeriness. All of that is very true to the comics, so it could be a positive. For me, however, it was a big negative. It was hard to get through that many hours of heavy, dark story. That’s just not how I prefer my superheroes, but if you do like that then this series was great.
This was supposed to be the beginning of Marvel’s world building for the Defenders, but there was little to connect to the next series coming. It really felt like it was going to be completely stand alone and not attached to anything in the MCU, whether it’s the Avengers or the other titles to come. That’s just strange to me when talking about a Marvel title, because they al seem to be so linked most of the time. This one just wasn’t.
Overall, I think this show was good and well written, it’s just not for me. Too dark, too heavy. I feel like I need to get out and get in the sunshine for the next six hours to balance out what I have just watched. Just be warned that it might be better to take this series more as a one episode at a time kind of show, instead of a binge watch.