This past week I finished watching through season one of Daredevil, the Netflix series produced by Marvel Television. The series expands upon the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), following Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), an attorney in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City. Blinded as a child, Murdock developed extrasensory abilities that allow him to perform extraordinary feats despite his lack of sight. Fed up with how corrupt and dangerous his city can be, he became a masked vigilante to fight for justice when the system isn’t enough.
While I am not a particularly big Daredevil fan, I was excited for this series because the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in my opinion, was in dire need of a street-level superhero. While great things have been done with each Avengers team member, they dealt with conflicts at a much larger scale. Whether it was Iron Man or Hulk engaged in military combat, Thor fighting out-of-this-world beings, or Captain America involved with espionage, none has been concerned with crime-fighting at a smaller scale. Daredevil finally brought the universe to the stage where the superhero genre has thrived since its inception.
What I appreciated immensely about the series from the beginning was that it didn’t waste its time, yet still managed a careful build of its narrative world. It’s the very early days in Murdock’s vigilante career, but he is on the streets from the onset. As the season progresses we slowly learn more about who he is, his abilities, and his motivations.
The series skipped the more drawn out establishment of an origin story we’ve seen before — using the beginning of a story to slowly build to the eventual action. Instead, the story has the whole season serve as an origin for the characters. They still need to become who comic book fans know them to be, but they’re very active and involved during this process, which I appreciated.
Murdock’s story is juxtaposed with that of Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio), a prominent crime lord in Hell’s Kitchen. Fisk is infamous in the Marvel Comics world as the Kingpin, though at this time he isn’t quite at that level of status. The story has the two clash in interesting ways, often making them look like two sides of the same coin rather than complete oppositions. They both seem to want something similar for their city, but each stands in the other’s way.
The series’ tone is significantly darker than any we’ve seen in the MCU thus far, which is befitting for a more grounded story. The fight scenes are grittier and well choreographed, especially a particular scene early in the series, which was very confined and appeared to have been done in one take. It showcases the more brutal nature of what heroes like Daredevil face. Flesh is torn, bones are broken, and falls from great heights cause serious injury.
The series is well acted with a great cast of characters. Cox does a great job as Matt Murdock, an amiable but serious attorney whose social life is on the rocks thanks to his drive to fight crime. D’Onofrio’s portrayal of Fisk was a little jarring at first, since what I was expecting contrasted with what was presented. He’s a lot more vulnerable as a person than I would have expected, but could be an absolute monster when he needed to. Ultimately, it was a much deeper interpretation of the character.
Supporting characters don’t wane in the face of the hero and villain. On both sides of the spectrum characters are given a good amount of depth and screen time, making the story feel a lot richer. The series also hasn’t been afraid to spill blood, leading to upsetting losses on both sides.
The only criticism I do have for the series is that it left me hungry for me. In many ways the season barely scratched the surface for what a Daredevil series could offer. The story was still enthralling with a satisfying conclusion, but I know there’s more to see, and a lot of elements only served as a glimpse into future plot points. Fortunately, the series has been renewed for a second season, so hopefully Daredevil is only getting started.
If you’re a fan of the MCU, I would definitely recommend watching through it, especially for the glimpses it gives into the lives of everyday people and some of the blowback they experience from larger scale events like in the first Avengers film.
Knowledge of the MCU is definitely not required, however, the show having been written in a very accessible way. It makes more marginal reference to the extended universe, rather than requiring significant details in order to follow along. It is important to note that it is a lot more violent than the rest of the MCU. If that’s something that appeals to you, like myself, then you’ll enjoy it all the more. If not, you may want to pass this, though I think you’d be missing out.
All in all, Marvel’s Daredevil series is definitely worth checking out.