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 reviewed each episode here on Monkeys Fighting Robots without fear and you can read his reviews on every episode of Netflix’s entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe via the links below.
WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR THE FULL SEASON OF DAREDEVIL BELOW, DON’T READ IF YOU HAVEN’T FINISHED THE SEASON.
If you’re reading this review to determine if Netflix’s Daredevil is a good show, you can stop reading and go binge right now (but feel free to read my reviews as you watch!), because it is a good show. Whether or not you feel it’s a great show, however, probably depends on a few factors, such as how you feel about the Daredevil comics (if you like them or haven’t read them, you could love this show), the Marvel Cinematic Universe (if you like that, you’ll probably love Daredevil), and also your tolerance for violence in your shows (Daredevil is one of the most violent “mainstream” shows to air since maybe AMC’s The Walking Dead). None of those three, save for the violence, are particularly dealbreakers with Daredevil, but those who venture into Hell’s Kitchen will find some tremendous storytelling, acting, and fight scenes.
In many ways, the most shocking aspect of Daredevil was that it was an extended (perhaps too much so) orign story; both the “Daredevil” moniker and the iconic red suit didn’t show up until about the last fifteen minutes of the season finale. We learned of Matt Murdock’s origins, his relationship with his father, Jack, the relationship between Murdock and his legal partner, Foggy Nelson, how Karen Page got involved with Matt and Foggy, as well as an episode with Murdock’s mentor, Stick. For nearly the entire season, Murdock’s alter ego was only known as “the man in black.”
This isn’t necessarily a complaint; Netflix found a way to make an origin story interesting again, and really seemed to take to heart the idea of making their shows into “13-hour movies,” even though a couple of episodes had lots of filler content to help get the show to 13 episodes. Most of these episodes at least found ways to advance the story before the end, so they served their purpose, but part of me wonders if I would have prefered 11 or 12 heart-pounding episodes with less unnecessary stuff. That said, some of the subplots with the Russian gangsters really seemed to be filler in retrospect, even though having them as part of Wilson Fisk’s empire was not.
Of course, Daredevil is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so a lot of that “unnecessary stuff” could actually become necessary by season two, which seems like a given at this point, although we probably won’t get it until mid-2016 at the earliest due to three other upcoming serieses (AKA Jessica Jones will be next, followed by Iron Fist and Luke Cage serieses sometime after that) all leading up to the next time we’ll see Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, in Netflix’s The Defenders mini-series, but maybe Netflix can surprise us with another April release date. There were certainly some potential clues about those shows in Daredevil, particularly for the Luke Cage and Iron Fist. And while we did get some passing mentions of the Avengers, the Battle for New York, and a mention of a villain from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, but wisely Netflix made the show welcoming for newcomers and diehard fans alike. There were connections if you wanted to look, but you don’t have to have seen ANY of the existing Marvel Cinematic Universe to enjoy Daredevil thoroughly.
Netflix has taken to finding marquee actors and actresses (at least by name recognition) for most of its flagship shows, and while Daredevil had plenty of good acting from some less-well known names. Charlie Cox cleansed my bitter memories of the awful 2003 Ben Affleck film, being both likeable as Murdock and (mostly) believable as a blind man. His main supporting cast, led by Foggy (Elden Henson of “The Mighty Ducks” fame), Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll, best known for her work on True Blood), weren’t necessarily bad, but their characters did seem to suffer from a lack of development for most of the show, which was disappointing considering they were among the few to appear in all 13 episodes.
The rest of the supporting cast fared much better, though, with terrific performances from Toby Leonard Moore (James Wesley), Bob Gunton (Leland Owlsley) and especially Vondie Curtis-Hall as Ben Urich. Rosario Dawson was a bit of a disappointment as nurse Claire Temple, but she really wasn’t given much to do after the second episode other than “stitch Matt up.” Given who Temple was in the comics, I wouldn’t be surprised if her appearances here were to give a familiar face to the upcoming Luke Cage series, but if she returns to Daredevil I’d really like to see her do something other than, y’know, her job.
But the standout performance from Daredevil came from none other than the show’s villain, Wilson Fisk, portrayed brilliantly by Vincent D’onofrio, who has starred in many movies and shows but is likely most famous for his portrayal of “Gomer Pyle” in “Full Metal Jacket.” I’ve always allowed television or movie adaptations of books or comic books to take some liberties with the source material (within reason) and tell its own story. In many ways, D’onofrio created his own nuanced version of the Kingpin, creating many of Wilson Fisk’s nervous tics and helping to bring some depth and sympathy to both an awful man and, perhaps more impressively, to the show’s main villain. Once we got our first look at Fisk in episode three, Daredevil became about the collision course Fisk and Murdock were on, and it was just as thrilling to watch Fisk’s scenes as it was Murdock’s.
Netflix’s Daredevil treated us to some breathtaking fighting scenes, and the show took full advantage of being rated TV-MA. They were well-choreographed and intense, and sometimes surprisingly gory, particularly when the Kingpin finally shows his face. I’m a 31-year old single person without kids, so I don’t care, but Daredevil probably isn’t for your 10-to-15 year old child who loves the comic books, or if violence upsets you. Blood is shown, faces are pulverized and mutilated, and more than a couple characters end up dying on screen. If you’re worried about the violence but want to watch the show, the level of violence is pretty well established in just the pilot episode, so watch that and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. But the end of the season seemed to trim the cast a bit while still leaving a lot open to the future. Whatever happens, just give us some more D’Orofrio Kingpin, PLEASE!
But this wasn’t just mindless action, Daredevil told some really great stories, with more than a handful of standout episodes; I loved “Rabbit in a Snowstorm,” “World on Fire,” and “Speak of the Devil” were my favourites, but the standalone episode “Stick” was terrific, too. Nearly every episode had something to keep me hooked or make me excited, and there was also usually D’Orofrino’s Fisk to keep me watching. And I know the title credits are a very minor part of most shows, but Netflix seems to be an exception in this regard, and Daredevil’s credits were every bit as fantastic as some of the streaming service’s other big shows.
But unlike another Netflix original, House of Cards, I found myself coming back to Daredevil even though the plot twists were pretty trivial compared to the soap opera of Netflix’s flagship series. This is good television, with the potential to be even greater in the future. My biggest complaint about the series turned out to be a flaw in Netflix’s Playstation 4 app (the lack of subtitles for the many non-English scenes), and my other main complaints were usually answered or addressed as the series went on, or were related to character use. None of these characters seem too far out of what we already might have been familiar with them from the comics, but this definitely feels like a new spin to most of them, which is quite welcome from a series based off their print counterparts.
I don’t regret the time I spent in Hell’s Kitchen, and I’d be excited to go back. If you’ve been looking for a darker take on Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, you found it. If you wanted a thrilling drama dripping with suspense, you found it. If you like your fight scenes heart-pounding and bloody, well, Daredevil is probably your show, too. Netflix’s take on The Man Without Fear is absolutely fearless, and Daredevil continues the high standards set by the MCU’s other entries, while providing something completely different from what we’ve seen from Marvel before; Daredevil quite fearlessly was excellent in its first season, and I am already craving more.
You watched Daredevil on Netflix, too? Leave a comment and let us know what you thought, and feel free to tweet Ed -@EdTheRevelator. Check out his thoughts on individual episodes below, he wrote each review after the episode, so no spoilers beyond any episode past the one reviewed.
You can find his review of episode one here.
Click here for his review of episode two.
Read his thoughts on the jaw-dropping episode three here.
Ed’s review of the fourth episode is here.
Click here for Ed’s review of the explosive fifth episode.
Episode six was dripping with suspense, Ed’s review is here.
A familiar face from the comics debuted in episode seven, read Ed’s thoughts here.
Ed’s thoughts on episode eight are right here.
Ed thought episode nine was another standout, his thoughts are here.
Ed leaned how to turn on subtitles just in time for his review of episode 10 here.
Episode 11 helped prepare characters for the finale, Ed’s review is here.
Here is the link to Ed’s review of episode 12.
Here’s Ed’s thoughts on the season finale.