Actor/director James Gunn (late of the monumental hit Guardians of the Galaxy) recently wrote how pleased he was with the new Daredevil show from Marvel on Netflix. Reading what Gunn said, I found myself mirroring his opinions on the subject, and was compelled to voice my own. When I do reviews I always try to point out the good, with the bad, and give a well-balanced opinion for those who might be on the fence. I’m afraid this article might be a little different from my regular fare, because I can’t find anything wrong with the show, and I’m afraid I’m only going to gush.
Daredevil, Matt Murdock, was my first, and probably still my most beloved superhero. Just like Gunn, I had a mixture of emotions over the upcoming Daredevil show, because it had some extremely big shoes to fill. Daredevil has had one of the best track records in comics for great creators bringing their magical touch to the book. Everyone knows about the Frank Miller run, but there were also many other great creators, a list long enough to be an article on its own. My favorite pairing of creators on Daredevil, though, was Ann Nocenti and John Romita, Jr. That being said, I was doubtful that they would be able to bring the gritty vigilante from the comics that I love so much to the small screen faithfully.
I’m unashamed to say, like Gunn did, that I too teared up (twice) while watching it. It might sound crazy, but Daredevil was the comic that connected with me when I was young, and it’s that connection that made me want to tell my own stories. Seeing something that had had such a big influence on my life brought to life was very emotional. Watching these episodes took me back to another time and place. I remembered how I would lose myself in the pages of a Daredevil comic book, and come away feeling inspired and moved. I love how they handled the relationship between Matt and his father, Battling Jack Murdock. Being a father of a son myself, and never having been particularly close to my own father, it brought up some old emotions from when I first read the books, and how I envied the relationship between Matt and his father.
Okay, enough about me and how I geeked out over this show; let’s take a critical look at what the show is about. If you’re a Daredevil fan, then you know, but if you’re not, then I should say that this series is about a man of contradictions at his core. He is a lawyer by day, striving to bring justice to those who need it the old-fashioned way, but by night he’s a vigilante who takes the law into his own hands. He is a son wishing to honor his father’s memory by not resorting to violence, which is why he became a lawyer. Jack Murdock wanted his son to be better than him, and to be above the violence that was his trademark, and all too often his solution to problems, a promise that Matt breaks every time he puts on the costume. A devout Catholic in the series, Matt constantly wrestles with these contradictions in his life, a core element that is essential to his character. This series is dark, violent, and gritty, just like the comic. It presents us with the dark side of life without any excuses, and then allows us to ride along with Matt as he tries his best to figure out how to handle the situations he grapples with, be it through the court, or with his fists. I particularly like the fact that Matt feels guilt for being Daredevil; it comes across in simple ways, like the scene where he confesses to a priest for what he is about to do as Daredevil, before he even does it. The good guys don’t win cleanly in this series, and there are plenty of innocents caught up in the crossfire, and that is a main motivation for Matt to keep putting on the mask.
Now, I could break down the casting, and how well they have done it. Or how well a particular actor plays a character, but I won’t. Those are all things that will become apparent to those who watch the series. What I will say is this: they hit the nail right on the head with the motivations, the feel, and the grit that is Daredevil. The creators of Daredevil have realized that they don’t need to mess with the basic premise of the story, because it already works. It’s funny how all of the movies and TV shows have been able to use the existing framework to tell great stories, but in the pages of the comics we find more gimmicks than great stories these days.
If I had to point out anything of concern, it would be this; I hope they don’t put all their eggs into the Wilson Fisk basket. While the Kingpin is essential to the story, I don’t think that he should be the only main antagonist for Daredevil to rail against. I’m also sure this will be taken care of in future episodes and seasons. If you are a fan of Daredevil, then you will absolutely love this show. If you are not a fan of the character, but like a good action drama, then you will like it too. I’m now filled with excitement for the next round of Marvel shows to come to Netflix.