I reviewed Jessica Jones two weeks ago, and I should probably review these Netflix/Marvel shows from the first one that started it all. If you aren’t familiar with Daredevil, then you probably didn’t grow up reading the comic, and hopefully never saw Ben Affleck’s first attempt to play Batman in the bad 2003 movie attempt.
Daredevil is essentially a superhero story, but he is one of those who doesn’t really have any super-powers, but one. Daredevil had an accident as a child due to some spilling of some chemicals that removed his sight, but heightened all of his other senses. So he can hear a whisper across from a room, and he also has some kind of “radar sense” which allows him to be more of a bat-man than Batman. That really is the only speculative fiction element in this otherwise crime fiction story.
I won’t get into why the 2003 film failed, but it was done in a time where audiences were beginning to take superhero films seriously after X-men and Spider-Man. The film was probably one of the first superhero films that tried to do too much with its source material as that film had Elektra, Bulls-eye, and the Kingpin, in some weird mash-up.
Sadly, the second season of Daredevil had the same problem, but I’m getting a head of myself. I want to talk about Season 1, as it was quite good as a story of one man trying to change the system. Most of these films start with someone in a costume who starts beating up criminals, and this one is no different.
At the beginning of the story, Matt Murdock (Daredevil’s real name) and his partner Foggy Nelson are starting a law firm, and they take their first case with Karen Page. Matt is able to help Karen in his lawyer persona and his superhero identity, but it never seems like enough. These characters are developed very well, and they work well off each other.
As it turns out, there are several crime families that control the suburb of Hell’s Kitchen, and they are controlled by a man named Wilson Fisk. Now, it would have been very easy to make Wilson Fisk some motiveless villain that the audience loves to hate, but the show didn’t do that. This shows a man who was raised in an abusive household, trying to have a normal dating life, has a best friend, and believes that he is trying to help the city, even though he has criminal methods.
So yes, the villain is very sympathetic, and the hero isn’t certain whether he is doing the right thing using vigilante justice. It’s something that you usually don’t see in a superhero film, and it feels very refreshing. You get the feeling that this man likes beating up criminals, but is constantly worried about what it will do to him.
Eventually, Matt gets to the point where he has to decide whether or not he will kill. There are some superheroes that will kill, such as Wolverine and some interpretations of Batman. It’s not that they don’t value life, but they often commit manslaughter in the line of duty. I’ve never had to put in a decision where a life should be taken to save others, and this series addresses this issue better than others.
The issue of killing for the sake of justice really comes to a head in Season 2, when the Punisher gets revealed. This character has already had three movies based on him, and they are best described as mediocre. Daredevil the series managed to capture this character perfectly, at least at first. The first few episodes of the season were pretty golden, and the contrast between the two characters works on so many levels.
The sad part is the series kind of “jumps the shark”, and I would love to say that the introduction of fan-favorite character Elektra introduces some kind of depth into the show, but it doesn’t. Instead, the show becomes kind of a huge mess as it looks like the Elektra plot involves bigger than the show itself with ninjas, a thing called Black Sky, and a big pit in the middle of the city that never gets resolved.
Now, the advantage of Daredevil is that it is part of a bigger universe, so it is possible that later Marvel/Netflix shows will explain some of the loose threads, but they felt wrong on Daredevil. Trying to tie in the Punisher was not smart, and now this superhero problems that plagued the movie have come full circle. Perhaps introducing Elektra is a bad luck charm.
So yes, I would recommend Daredevil Season 1, and then stop in Season 2 after it becomes boring. I’ll let you decide when to quit.