Daredevil: Man Not Without Fear

dared12016.7: Daredevil Season One (Blu-ray)

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m rather late to this one. Season Two has already been and gone and fans looking forward to a Defenders spin-off and an eventual season three further beyond that, but I’ve only just finished this first series. Blame it on how television shows are sold/distributed these days, and marvel (pardon the pun) at my powers of avoiding spoilers. For years.

Daredevil is, pretty much, every bit as good as people had been telling me. It takes many of the standard tropes of the superhero genre and gives them a fresh spin, which is pretty amazing considering how many superhero tv shows are on the air right now and how many superhero blockbusters are in cinemas. Its dark, its grim, it has a few  really effective twists and turns, and has a genuinely likeable lead who has enough doubts and fears to make him seem more realistic and interesting than your standard genre good-guy in a spandex suit might. Funnily enough, whilst I mention that, I would just point out the show seemed, in hindsight, more interesting when he was dressed in his simple black mask and suit disguise, like a shadowy vigilante. When he finally acquires his full Daredevil costume that doubles as protective armour, somehow the show veers uncomfortably close to self-parody and looking silly. Its another hero in a funny costume, this gritty and realistic film-noir story suddenly turning into, well, a typical Marvel flick. Its a tricky line to cross when a show has been as realistic and gritty as this was before turning into yet another super-costumed drama. Hopefully I’ll get over that when I eventually see season two.

The one thing Daredevil suffers from -if suffers is indeed the right word- is the usual strange thing about the villain stealing the show. It almost always seems to happen, and Daredevil is certainly no exception. Here we have the fascinating, vicious local crime boss, Wilson Fisk , who is played with such nuance and depth by Vincent D’Onofrio, it seems that he thinks he’s in a Shakespearean tragedy. His Kingpin is a monster who thinks his actions are justified by his goal to ‘fix’ his blighted city that he grew up in a child. Its clever how Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) shares the same background of being a child of Hell’s Kitchen, New York, and shares too a desire to ‘fix’ his blighted city .The guys are polar opposites yet be alike, both creations of this crime-ridden metropolis that needs either a hero or a monster, or maybe both.

Charlie Cox is great as the hero by the way- it’s just a pity for him that he is pitched against D’Onofrio playing a meatier character, but his Matt Murdock is pretty interesting and conflicted enough to be a rewarding hero. A lawyer by day and a vigilante at night, he is well aware of the perverse dichotomy at work and agonises over whether his violent actions are justified or his courtroom antics a waste of time. Corruption is rife throughout the system, and good guys are eaten up by it – who can you trust when you can’t trust the cops or the justice system? Is an honest lawyer the answer or a masked vigilante?

The show might have benefitted from being ten episodes rather than thirteen – ten seems to be some kind of magic number for these tv shows- as the story seems overly stretched over the run but on the whole, yeah, a great show, and a breath of fresh air for me, as I’ve gotten bored of (and stopped watching) Marvel’s Agents of Shield and Arrow, Flash etc. Maybe these Netflix shows are indeed the answer.

 

A Bit Late to the Party: Daredevil

dare1I’ve just started watching the Netflix series Daredevil, thanks to having received the season one Blu-ray set for Christmas. So yes, I’m rather late to the party with this one, as the show was particularly well-praised and a second season has already aired. I can imagine most people reading this thinking I’ve just come out from under a rock or something. Its a symptom of the bewildering fragmentation of the television industry these days-unless you are willing to pay for everything (Sky Atlantic, Netflix, Amazon, etc) you simply aren’t going to be able to access everything , not legitimately anyway. Years ago most of the best American shows aired on terrestrial channels, then eventually they started to migrate over to satellite subscription channels,  and now there’s the internet services (and even cable provider Virgin Media) competing with unique content.

Its rather unfortunate, as we are living in something of a Golden Age for quality television, that due to this fragmentation of the market, viewing figures are going down, not up.The subscription method largely offsets those diminished ratings, but it does have some effect on, well, the cultural impact of the shows themselves. How many people have seen The Man In The High Castle, or Outlander? What were the viewing figures for Daredevil? Sky TV seems happy for shows like Arrow to number viewing figures in hundreds of thousands, whereas such a show back in the late-70s/early-80s on terrestrial tv would have audiences in the millions.

So anyway, I’ve seen just the first two episodes of Daredevil, but already I can see why there was so much praise and fuss over the show. Its great. The cast are impressive with some great chemistry already, and the take on the character (going for a slow-burn introduction to the character and his origin/world) cleverly profits from the season-long arc and having plenty of screen time to get it right, showing the advantages of the episodic format over a short-duration film. And it’s clear that the artistic and technical maturity and sophistication of television production these days doesn’t necessarily reveal the huge gap between small-screen and silver-screen like it did in the  old days. Television holds up these days, and what television inevitably loses in pure bang-for-your-buck spectacle, it clearly trumps with character development and extended plot arcs.

And yes, binge-watching is clearly a bonus. I watched those first two episodes back to back and will likely do the same with the next two, the 13-episode series likely watched in a week or two, easy. As its my first Netflix show, I have to say I’m very impressed, and it has me considering that Jessica Jones set recently released.

Interestingly, Daredevil is very dark and very violent, and it is clearly showing how that can be done superbly well with a superhero character – a clear lesson that perhaps the DC movie division should have heeded with its Man of Steel/Batman v Superman properties that seem to be struggling with the darkness and ‘reality’ they are aiming for. Of course I’ve only just started the show and will need to see how the season unfolds, but so far they seem to have nailed it. Avoiding all those spoilers/reviews seems to have paid off.

dare2.jpgThe only thing that kept bugging me was where had I seen the actress who is playing Karen Page? Every scene she was in I was distracted by the “where the hell have I seen her before?” brainworm that kept burrowing into me. I hate it when that happens. Eventually, well into episode two I had to resort to a visit to IMDB. The actress is Deborah Ann Wolf, and I’d seen her in True Blood, a show I had watched a few seasons of before giving up on it several years ago. I remember she was one of the best things in True Blood, and it’s  great that she seems to be a regular in Daredevil.