When I first started watching Daredevil, I wasn't sure what to expect at first. I've seen the movie starring Ben Affleck, and though I didn't dislike it nearly as much as lot of other people did, I wasn't a big fan of it either. Knowing that this takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe however, I had high hopes that it would be good, and boy did it deliver.
For this review, I will be listing each different aspect of this show and my thoughts on each one.
Daredevil takes place in New York City three years after the events of The Avengers which get vague references like 'the incident' to refer to it. The underworld of New York is in disarray after the Chitauri invasion rattled things up quite a bit, and different crime families are trying to gain more power over each other. This is an ideal setting for the show, given that Matt Murdock comes from New York in the first place. Also tonally, this show is very dark and unlike anything the MCU has done before. While the Marvel movies have had, for the most part, a very formulaic feel to it, this show has a tone unlike anything Marvel has done before. It's darker, grittier, and very much deserves its TV-MA rating. Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this is not.
So personally, I believe that Daredevil isn't for everyone based on this one fact. It's more for the group of fans that desire for darker storytelling, not the people who want light, fun comic book fare, although if you know anything about Daredevil from the comics and the Ben Affleck film, the tone of this show shouldn't surprise you. I for one very much welcomed its dark tone because it was a risky move by Marvel that was played out very well. I hope some of their future Netflix Marvel endeavors attempt more risks like this.
Though you probably already know the gist of it, I will briefly lay out the premise in order to adequately give my opinion on the story. Set to take place three years after the Battle of New York from The Avengers, Matt Murdock is an attorney at law alongside his best friend Foggy Nelson at day and a shadowy vigilante alone at night. In a lot of ways, he's like the 'Batman' of the Marvel Universe, intending to strike fear in the hearts of those who pursue criminal injustice. He knows martial arts, but he is also blind thanks to toxic chemicals he got in his eyes when he was a child. With his physical blindness however, he gains the superhuman ability to hear things from a great distance that most other people would not be able to hear.
In this show, he battles Wilson Fisk, otherwise known as the Kingpin, who is a troubled criminal businessman bent on reshaping Hell's Kitchen. To do that however, he's willing to kill anyone who dares to stand in his way or try to expose his horrifying backstory to the rest of the world. Matt on the other hand, feels bent to stop the Kingpin from rising through the ranks.
If there's one complaint I have for the story, it is that it sometimes drags a little bit. The third episode 'Rabbit In A Snowstorm' for example, while it did bring some of Matt's charisma as a lawyer to the forefront, the episode was overall boring and didn't advance the plot very much, despite the fact that the season is only thirteen episodes long.
At the end of the day though, this is really only a minor complaint. Most of the episodes each bring forth something new to explore about one of the characters. The episode 'Nelson vs. Murdock' was an emotional and riveting episode about how Matt and his friend Foggy met and got their way to becoming lawyers. 'Shadows In the Glass' was a beautifully tragic look at the Kingpin's backstory, making him a much more sympathetic character despite his position as the antagonist. The last two episodes are fast-paced and makes you feel like you're watching the last half hour of a superhero movie, all of this being said in a positive way. Despite the fact that this is a show and runs for thirteen episodes, by the time you're done watching it, you're going to feel like you just watched a long movie. An entertaining one too.
There is really not much to say about the acting in this show, and I mean that in a darn good way. Charlie Cox' Matt Murdock is charismatic, upbeat at the right moments, and dark at the right moments. On top of that, he has a charming smile. When he plays the role of an attorney, he fits it perfectly like a glove, and when he's a vigilante, he brings a Christian Bale 'Dark Knight' vibe to it, but also softens up when the need arises.
Elden Henson's Foggy Nelson got me the second he gave the cigarettes to a police sergeant as a gift to his mom. So many of Foggy's lines in this show are now part of my 'quote book'. He's comical and witty, but also great at being serious when he has to. His attachment to New York and his hatred towards Wilson Fisk bleeds through perfectly in a particular scene when he's drunk in a bar. I would love to see a whole show where he's the main character.
Also, I would be remiss to not mention Vincent D'Onofrio, who plays a brilliant Wilson Fisk. His acting is a huge reason why Wilson is now one of my favorite villains in the MCU. He's a great breath of fresh air from the one-dimensional villains from the movies like the Red Skull and the Abomination. His intentions seem noble, but you know his actions to complete his goals are immoral. You feel a great sense of sympathy for him when you learn his backstory, and you can't help but feel sorry for him despite his actions. Vincent doesn't just play a villain, he plays a troubled, confused individual who believes he's doing the right thing, which is a classic point of view of a villain done extraordinarily well here.
Other actors such as Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page, Vondie Curtis-Hall as Ben Urich, and Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple all made great additions to the cast and I can't write this review without mentioning Toby Leonard Moore who plays Fisk's right hand man Wesley. Toby proved through his performance that he himself could've made a fine role as a central antagonist.
There is almost no wire-fighting or CGI action to be found here. This is probably some of the closest action we've ever gotten to raw martial arts and combat in the MCU that is real, and it makes the action all the more suspenseful for it. Matt Murdock is an absolute joy to watch taking down the bad guys, particularly in a scene at the end of the second episode that runs for almost three minutes without any camera cuts whatsoever. Most of the fight scenes in this show not only gives us good action, but also gives the cinematography and camera work some real time to shine. For me personally, I will take raw martial arts and hand-to-hand combat over CGI laser battles any day.
Significance To the MCU
Believe it or not, despite the fact that this show is set in the MCU, there are very few references or connections to previous entries in the MCU. Besides a few indirect references to a few of the Avengers ('man in an iron suit' as an example), an indirect reference to the Battle of New York, and a few vague connections to Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., this show stands fairly well on its own. Anyone who has not seen anything else from the MCU will be able to sit down and enjoy this on its own without getting confused. The show's lack of connectivity is actually one of its biggest strengths, because it doesn't rely on MCU references or connections to carry the story, but instead focuses on being its very own thing.
So with all that being said, this show gets a strong recommend from me. I will not only recommend it for Marvel fans, but also for casual fans as well who just want something new to watch. Daredevil is a comic book hero that has lasted a long time at this point, but this show manages to approach it in a fresh and even fun way despite its dark tone.
What did you guys think of this show? Do you agree with most of this? Sound off in the comments below!