Netflix’s newest original series, “Daredevil” debuted April 10, with all 13 episodes of the Marvel Comic adaptation’s first season available on the streaming service. Ed Carroll will review each episode here on Monkeys Fighting Robots without fear and let you know if the latest entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe meets the lofty standards of its predecessors.
If the first episode of Daredevil, “Into the Ring,” is any indication of what’s to come in the remaining 12 episodes of the season, fans of the character can rejoice, because even though blind lawyer Matt Murdock (and his alter ego of Daredevil) has been around since 1964, Netflix’s adaptation of the character seems to be the first show or film to get it right.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Daredevil character, you will be introduced to his origin story, albeit briefly, and learn how Murdock (played by Charlie Cox) lost his sight in a freak traffic accident. But Netflix (thankfully) doesn’t linger on the origins of The Man Without Fear for too long, before we follow Murdock and his friend and partner in law, Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) into their defense firm’s search for its first client, who turns out to be a bit more than they had originally bargained for before too long.
Netflix’s Daredevil doesn’t waste too much time in establishing its connection to the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe, as Murdock’s neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen had been ravaged by the destruction of the alien forces unleashed by Loki in the 2012 blockbuster The Avengers. Hell’s Kitchen itself feels well-realized and believable, but don’t expect these characters to do a lot of gushing over Iron Man or Captain America here. Unlike Marvel’s other major MCU series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Daredevil takes a tad more cynical view of superpowers, as the United Allied corporation makes big money cleaning up and repairing messes made by both villains and heroes.
Having only watched the first episode as I write this, I can’t confirm if any other established characters make appearances in this show, but Daredevil’s creators seem to embrace this idea of being in the same universe, but detached. When we get our first look at Murdock in action (wearing a ski cap over his face as a crude mask), he’s rescuing women kidnapped for human trafficking, and one of the kidnappers even taunts the women by saying “Scream all you want, nobody will hear you down here.” The Hulk wasn’t going to smash down into those docks, and these characters all realize that, yes, superpowers exist, but they have bigger issues. If S.H.I.E.L.D. allowed the MCU to explore what goes on “behind the scenes” for these heroes, Daredevil appears to take aim at some of the smaller-scale problems that plague this world, and Hell’s Kitchen in particular.
But Daredevil’s pilot is impressive in not only capturing the weight of the smaller problems on these characters, but also laying some of the foundation for much deeper and more sinister plots to come. There are a couple scenes in particular that aren’t given much explanation, but could likely have major significance as the show progresses. The pilot strikes a nice balance between setup and action, focusing most of the character development on the Murdock and Foggy characters. Unlike S.H.I.E.L.D., which took nearly a full season to find a proper balance, Daredevil hits the ground running, and I’m excited to see what’s next.
There were some issues with the pilot, but none that ruined my experience. Murdock’s abilities aren’t as ridiculous-looking as they were made to be in the 2003 film starring Ben Affleck (with the awful blue sonar effect), but they feel a bit too understated as of now. While it’s possible Murdock is often playing coy regarding his blindness (particularly when he’s with Foggy), I felt the show could have more firmly established how Murdock is able to fight crime being completely blind.
And while the action scenes are pretty cool, they’re also really dark. Not dark in the sense that everything is grim and violent (though the show IS violent, and earns its TV-MA rating) but dark in that there were times where I simply couldn’t tell who was Murdock and who was the bad guy during the fights (particularly during the first half of the second major action scene). Now, some of this is because Murdock hasn’t yet donned the red Daredevil costume yet (or any real costume yet, other than the ski mask), so hopefully it gets a little easier going forward.
Cox does a good-enough job of convincing the viewer he’s blind in the first episode, at least when he’s not out fighting crime, and his performance helps wash away the bad memories of the Affleck movie version. Henson has his moments as Foggy, but the focus here (at least for episode one), is on Murdock.
Yes, you will see the classic Marvel Comics villain The Kingpin in this series, but the best you’ll get of him in episode one is his voice, as the series decides to play up the mystery factor of the head of organized crime in Hell’s Kitchen. It’s effective, and there’s already a lot of stuff to digest in the pilot so his absence isn’t too painful.
All-in-all, this is an impressive start, which has me excited for the rest of the series. I’ll be reviewing every episode of Netflix’s Daredevil here on Monkeys Fighting Robots, and I’ll also have an overall season review, so keep checking back as you binge.