The second season of the hit Netflix show "Daredevil" makes its debut this coming Friday and in anticipation for it, I've recently rewatched the first season in its entirety and now here are my thoughts on the show thus far. Keep in mind that this review may contain some spoilers for season 1.
"Daredevil" stars Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, a man left blinded in an accident as a child who now serves as a lawyer by day and a masked vigilante by night. This show is basically a telling of Murdock's rise as a crime-fighter and how he goes up against Vincent D'Onofrio' Wilson Fisk, AKA the Kingpin, a crime lord with a plan that involves wiping out Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan. In his trials, Murdock is joined by his close friend Foggy Nelson, (Elden Henson) newly acquired client Karen Page, (Deborah Ann Woll) and a mix of new allies as well as old figures from his past.
This show takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe meaning that it's inevitably going to have connections to the Marvel films we all know. While there are small nods every now and then to the movies, this show takes it upon itself to focus solely on its own story and becoming a darker, grittier addition to this shared universe. Whether or not this show will crossover with the movies remains to be seen, but as a show on its own, it holds up very well and makes for something in this universe that we don't get to see very often.
Charlie Cox is the lead of the show as Matt Murdock and he gives a very good performance. I bought him as a lawyer who genuinely believes in doing the right thing and I liked seeing the character played up with a sense of mystery to his past, but what really stood out to me were the small nuances Cox gives throughout the show. These are extremely minuscule details that a lot of people might not even notice, but little moments where Murdock is simply walking around and fumbling for something in reach or carefully walking as a blind man would really gives the vibe that you're watching an actual blind person. You can even see in the dead look in his eyes that he's giving off the impression of being blinded. And with blindness comes heightened senses such as hearing and smell and Cox nails everything going on with Murdock when he's using his sense to his advantage.
With the supporting roles, you also have good acting from everyone else. Elden Henson did a good job playing the down-to-earth best friend who clearly wants to do right in every situation and Deborah Ann Woll gives a particularly strong performance as a troubled, yet still loyal and resourceful ally to Murdock and Foggy. However, the one performance that steals the entire show is Vincent D'Onofrio as Wilson Fisk. The character of Fisk is a very intimidating figure who's physically superior to everyone he comes across and he has a very suave, collected side of him when it comes to performing villainous actions, but there's a stark contrast when the show displays him doing everyday human stuff such as asking a girl out on a date. We actually get to see Fisk as a human being who's socially awkward at times and despite his antagonistic schemes, he's still more than capable of genuinely caring for certain people in his life, most notably his henchman Wesley and his girlfriend Vanessa. Given everything that we see of him (including a very tragic, disturbing backstory) we get a very layered, complex villain who stands out as one of the MCU's very best, played exceptionally by D'Onofrio.
The thing that works so well in this show is the sense of realism and grit it brings to the table. These things are put on display in many different ways ranging from brutal, unapologetic death scenes to how the the character of Daredevil is portrayed. A good example of this is virtually every episode in which he gets hurt in some way. When Daredevil gets hurt, he stays hurt and his wounds don't magically heal by the next episode. They stay and affect him later on in the series unlike in the 2003 Ben Affleck film version where he's jumping off buildings from extreme heights and he manages to survive without so much as a scratch anywhere on his body. The Daredevil in this show falls from a simple 15 story building and he actually suffers from it as someone in real life would. This makes for a more realistic, vulnerable take on the character that I really like seeing in a show that delivers on being gritty and more grounded.
This show also has great action set pieces. The one action scene that everyone talks about is the one take in episode 2 where Daredevil has to rescue a child from a large group of guards. The entire sequence is one uncut shot of Daredevil fighting off a group of men down a hallway and the best thing about it is how authentic it feels. It isn't like in most action movies where one guy goes down permanently after one punch. Despite all of the hits and moves Daredevil pulls off, the men keep swarming to the point where you feel Daredevil's exhaustion as the fight draws to an end. You're so invested in the fight that by the time Daredevil takes down the last guy, you simultaneously want to cheer for him and take a nap after the scene because of how real it felt. This show definitely has plenty of well done action throughout, but this particular scene is the show-stealer and for good reason.
If we're talking about this show and what I liked, it's also fair to talk about some of the things I didn't like, one of them being that the show does have some predictable moments as far as storytelling goes. There's a point late in the season when Fisk's girlfriend, Vanessa, is poisoned and the show couldn't make it anymore obvious that she was poisoned by Leland Owlsley, supposed associate and ally of Fisk. The scene is edited to where Vanessa is being poisoned and it keeps making random cuts to Owlsley just standing around doing nothing with a feeling of fake concern clearly emanating from his voice.
Another flaw I have is that I personally found the show's pacing to be a bit too slow for my taste. The slow pace is specifically felt in episodes such as "Nelson v. Murdock". The actual episode is no where near as exciting as the title makes it out to be unfortunately, as the whole episode is basically just Murdock and Foggy standing in the former's apartment while Foggy whines about him not wanting Matt to be a vigilante. It was compelling at first, but it eventually started to become very stale and repetitious, such is the case with other subplots such as reporter Ben Urich teaming up with Karen to learn more about Fisk. Again, it's interesting when it starts, but it eventually grows to be a bit monotonous as it plays out.
All of that said, this first season of "Daredevil" is a solid, albeit imperfect way to kick off the show. It not only shows us the dark tone that the MCU is capable of, but it also lays the groundwork for tying in with the MCU films as well as other Netflix shows that also happen to take place in the same universe. We also have a successful season 1 of "Jessica Jones" that recently debuted and with other shows also in the works, we look to have a hopefully solid lineup of Marvel shows.