You may remember that, unlike most everyone else in geekdom, I had kind of a meh reaction when I watched the trailer to Marvel’s Daredevil. (This is, by the way, the last time I will actually type out Marvel’s Daredevil. I have every confidence in you guys to figure it out.) Still, I obviously watched the show cause, you know. Nerd.
Holy shit, you guys. It’s pretty awesome.
There are some fairly mild spoilers in here — like I’m going to describe some character dynamics or the Fight Scene That Everyone’s Talking About — but major spoilers will be relegated to the usual Spoiler Section.
Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) got splashed with strange chemicals when he was a kid. As a result, he
became Alex Mack went blind but gained heightened senses that secretly aid him in his dual lawyer-by-day, vigilante-by-night gigs. When he and his best friend Foggy (Elden Henson) take on their first client, Karen (Deborah Ann Woll), Matt begins to learn who’s really pulling the strings in the criminal underworld, and wrestles with both the moral dilemma and practical logistics of how to take Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) down.
1. I’m currently enjoying a lot of new TV shows this year, but Daredevil is the one that’s totally and completely eating my brain right now. Mekaela and I marathoned all thirteen episodes in about five days, and it wouldn’t have taken anywhere near that long if Daredevil had aired on a weekend where we didn’t both have to work. (Mekaela works evenings and sleeps during the night like a semi-normal person, whereas I work nights and sleep during the day like a somewhat-less-normal person. It can, unfortunately, make geek-out TV marathons challenging.)
Anyway, I desperately want to see Season Two, like, immediately, but that’s not going to happen for a little while — sometime in 2016, apparently, although with a new showrunner because God both giveth and taketh away simultaneously, I guess. I’m glad it’s been renewed at least– I literally just had to delete an entire paragraph from this review where I worried about its return. Not because there was really any cause — Daredevil seems to have been a pretty massive hit, critically and commercially, and it’s hard to imagine there wouldn’t be a second season — but because Marvel is releasing three other superhero shows (A.K.A. Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist) on Netflix, not to mention team-up series The Defenders, and I didn’t have any idea what would come first. I was concerned I’d have to wait until, like, 2017 or something, which obviously would have been unacceptable.
Now, I only have one year to wait. Fanfiction, you must sustain me.
2. A lot of people have been comparing this show to other superhero shows. I have zero interest in doing that here, so if you’re looking for a list of reasons on how Daredevil is better than Agents of SHIELD or Arrow, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Those kinds of comparisons just tend to get on my nerves.
I will, however, agree with one thing that everyone else is saying: the fight scenes are bloody fantastic.
Guys. GUYS. There are all kinds of great fight scenes in this series — the choreography is just stunning — but the two that stood out for me is Daredevil vs Ninja in “Speak of the Devil” and the Hallway Fight Scene in “Cut Man” (pictured above). If you’ve read other reviews for this series, you’ve undoubtedly already heard all about the latter scene — and too bad, because I have to reiterate just how undeniably awesome it is. The fact that it’s all done in one-take is super neat, and I do enjoy how we stay focused on the hallway itself and only hear the action when the fighting occasionally moves off into the empty rooms. Still, what really makes this scene incredible is how we watch Daredevil, already seriously injured at the beginning of the fight, constantly stagger and trip as he loses energy against those bad guys who keep getting up. It is one of the most realistic superhero fight scenes I’ve ever seen and one of my favorite fight sequence, like, ever.
3. Now, what don’t I agree with everyone about? Probably Wilson Fisk.
Let me be clear: I don’t hate Fisk. While not particularly enraptured by him upon his first appearance — ugh, all those awkward dinner scenes — the guy does grow on me as an arch-nemesis. Several things are done well in regards to his character (particularly this one scene where he’s looking at his reflection — it’s just fantastically creepy), and he is certainly leagues above most Marvel villains. (Though let’s be honest: that’s not exactly setting a high bar at this point, is it? The fact that he even has character makes him better than Red Skull, Malekith, and the Abomination combined.)
Still, I’ve read several reviews that say Vincent D’Onofrio nearly or entirely steals the show in Daredevil, and that just wasn’t my experience at all. D’Onofrio does a completely decent job with Fisk (although I couldn’t help occasionally mocking his speech, like his growling hissing of ci-ty,) but I also never considered him a serious MVP contender, and the characteristics that I keep seeing people praise — Fisk is socially awkward! Fisk likes culture! Fisk is so similar to Matt! — don’t strike me as terribly original. Especially that last one — I’d have had a lot more respect for the show if the writers hadn’t felt the need to have Fisk actually say, “You and I have a lot in common.” And for Matt to immediately follow up with, “We’re nothing alike.” Cause seriously, that dialogue is straight out of Villain Cliche 101. Trust your audience to put that shit together, guys, cause it really wasn’t all that hard.
I won’t say Fisk is necessarily the weakest part of the show, but I will say that, for me, he’s generally the least interesting part. If I enjoy a Fisk scene, it generally has very little to do with him and more to do with the characters who surround him. Like Mrs. Gao. Or Wesley.
4. All in all, though, Daredevil boasts a very strong cast. Let’s talk about the rest of them.
Matt’s a pretty compelling lead character. He’s restrained. Charming. Filled with attractive Catholic man-pain. (This is very different from whiny Catholic man-pain, but it’s hard to put into words on exactly how they differentiate. And no, it’s not just abs. Though, obviously, those don’t hurt. Also, he can pull off angsty scruff! This is big — not every man can.)
Cox does mild-mannered very well — he is British, after all — and he does this sort of backtrack stutter thing that I enjoy. But he’s also convincingly intimidating when he needs to be. There’s a lot of anger riding underneath the surface, and watching it explode can be pretty fun. (I will take all the scenes of Matt beating the hell out of a punching bag, please.) And his accent isn’t too bad — I catch it, now and then, but I’m not sure I would’ve noticed if I hadn’t already been familiar with Cox from Stardust. I don’t know if it’s really a New York accent, exactly, but then, nobody else really seems to bother with that on this show, either.
I’ve liked Henson in all kinds of things — Idle Hands, The Mighty, my very favorite episode of Psych — but Foggy is probably my favorite role of his to-date. Guy’s got comic relief down pat, but he also gets the chance to show some greater emotional range, especially in later episodes. His chemistry with Charlie Cox really sells their friendship — I adore their flashback scenes to college — and, well. He’s just so likable. He could’ve been a butcher!
I wouldn’t mind if Foggy had some secrets of his own second season. I’m not sure what those would be, exactly, but I am hoping to delve deeper into his character — as is always my wish when it comes to sidekicks and best friends.
Deborah Ann Woll
I like Karen a lot, but I think she easily has the potential to be the most problematic character. She does a couple of dumb and/or selfish things that have some pretty serious consequences, and I’m not even remotely interested in the love triangle that’s hinted at between her, Foggy, and Matt. (I don’t care if it’s in the comics or not. Please creators. PLEASE don’t do this.)
Still, for the most part, Karen works really well for me. A lot of that has to do with Deborah Ann Woll, who I really enjoyed in True Blood and was quite happy to see here. She keeps Karen interesting and likable, which is a neat trick, considering that too many actresses in similar roles of Truth-Seeker tend to shoot for conviction and end up at preachy and one-note.
The other thing I like about Karen is that she has her own story, both a briefly touched upon past and a driving goal throughout the season. Eventually, everyone’s main goals kind of merge together, but it means a lot to me that Karen begins the story with her own agenda, considering she’s clearly set up to be a love interest for Matt Murdoch. One of my biggest problems with superhero love interests is that they seldom seem to have lives of their own — everything they want generally revolves entirely around the hero. Karen doesn’t exist solely for Matt, and that’s awesome. What would be even more awesome? Karen continuing to exist for herself after she inevitably starts dating Matt. Let’s pray.
Claire is really more of a guest star than a main cast member on Daredevil, but she steals the show so hard in every scene she’s in. Seriously, I like the hell out of Claire. And this isn’t just about Rosario Dawson being sexy as hell (though, again, this doesn’t hurt) — she just has the most natural reactions. I love watching her work, and she has crazy awesome chemistry with Charlie Cox.
Claire isn’t a Badass in Leather type — this is a far cry from Gail in Sin City — but there is something undeniably badass about her here. I’m excited that she’ll show up in other shows; in fact, she’s the main reason I’m interested in Luke Cage right now.
Oh, I like Ben in this. I wish I had something more critically useful to say than that, but . . . . yeah, that’s about what I have. Curtis-Hall is very solid as a jaded reporter who once broke the biggest stories in the city and now has to write about subway station colors. (About the only thing I don’t like here, actually, are the cheap shots made to online journalism. Those rang a little false to me.) My favorite scenes with him might be the ones where he’s with his wife. There aren’t really that many of them, but man, Vondie Curtis-Hall and Adriane Lenox make them work.
Toby Leonard Moore
Wesley is Fisk’s second-in-command/best friend and he is just THE BEST. I don’t even know if I can properly articulate my love for Wesley. He’s just super calm, controlled, snide, loyal — the quintessential right-hand man. We get a decent amount of flashbacks in Daredevil (not, like, Lost or Arrow numbers, but still); sadly, however, there are no flashbacks dedicated to the origin of Wesley and Fisk’s friendship. Not that the show needs them, and like I said, I generally prefer the scenes without Fisk. Still, for Wesley, I would’ve had interest.
Also, fun fact: Toby Leonard Moore is Australian, and I never heard his accent slip once. Didn’t even think about it until after I finished watching first season. Not bad, man.
I wasn’t crazy about Vanessa initially, but I warmed up to her pretty fast. Unfortunately, I don’t want to say too much about her here because of Spoilers, so I’ll just say that I feared she was going to be one trope followed by another trope . . . and instead she turned out pretty okay.
Wai Ching Ho
Like Ben, I’m not really sure that I have anything particularly insightful to share about Madame Gao, but I didn’t want to leave her out because she’s pretty awesome. It’s true, sometimes, that she talks like a fortune cookie, but she never feels like a shitty stereotype to me. Maybe other people feel differently, I’m not sure. I just know that I was rooting for her the whole time. I enjoyed watching the respect and fear she commands from big, strong, (and emotionally unstable) men like Fisk.
McRobbie really works well for me as Father Lantom. His scenes with Matt are fantastic, primarily because Father Lantom is interesting and funny and full of character, not just some cardboard cutout of a priest saying, “Don’t do that, my son.” I mean, essentially, that is Father Lantom’s whole role in the show — he’s pretty firmly on the ‘Do Not Kill’ side of things, as you might expect — but unlike his counterpart in Daredevil the movie, he seems like an actual person as well as Matt Murdoch’s personal Jiminy Cricket. Which is nice. To Kill or Not To Kill is pretty much the oldest superhero conflict there is, but because it’s handled well here, it doesn’t make me wanna hit my head against a wall. (Unlike in other shows — Arrow and Teen Wolf being prime offenders.)
Cause for me, it’s never about what decisions the characters ultimately make — I like heroes who fall on both sides of the argument — but that I buy those decisions when they’re made, based on the journey they took to making them. And I do here.
Finally, I’m mostly bringing up Leland because Bob Gunton is one of the most typecast actors I’ve ever seen in my life. I don’t think I’ve ever watched this guy play anyone but an asshole. In fact, when he initially popped up, I was like, Dude, did you seriously just hop straight out of Broken Arrow? You appear to be playing the exact same part.
Despite this, Gunton actually makes me laugh several times as the series progresses. He’s obviously competent in the part — the man has had at least twenty years to perfect churlish and snarky — but just once I wanna see this man play some nice fuzzy grandfather type. Just once.
5. The two biggest complaints I’ve been seeing about Daredevil so far are a) violence to women, and b) torture scenes. These are important concerns, but I’ll be honest: neither of those things particularly bothered me in this show. I don’t object to violence towards women on television as long as a) violence is not only done to women, b) women aren’t present in the show only to get beat up. If they have actual character and character arcs, and the violence stems from natural consequence of their storylines, I take no issue with it. I felt both those conditions were met here.
And honestly, I just can’t seem to get worked up about fictional torture. I know there’s a discussion to be had there, but it’s not one I’m particularly passionate about at present.
I feel like I’m leaving stuff out — maybe the discussion on how this is different, darker territory for Marvel? Cause it is and that’s really cool — I’m so excited about a superhero show having rated-R levels of violence — but as much as I like Daredevil and Marvel in general, I kind of feel like they’re patting themselves pretty hard on the back about it? Anyway, I guess I’m just sorta done with that discussion, so that’s all you get from me.
Everything else I can think of involves bigger Spoilers, so let’s away to Spoiler Country, shall we? (Unless you haven’t seen the show yet. If that’s the case — go watch the show.)
First we must take a moment to mourn the fallen — and by that, I mostly mean Wesley.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m sad about Ben too. I like Ben and I was actually a little surprised when they killed him off, mostly because I figured he was a bigger player in the comics and assumed he’d last past the first season.
But Wesley — look, I’m glad that Karen shot Wesley and rescued herself. I certainly didn’t want her to get killed, but man. Even expecting it, I was still like, “Jimmy, NOOOOO!” when Wesley bought the farm. (Actually, it was a cross between Independence Day and The Mummy Returns — you know, when Rick spears the Scorpion King and Imhotep runs on screen and screams? Yeah, it was basically that.)
Some Other Surprises on Daredevil:
A. Bob Gunton doesn’t die until the very last episode.
That he was going to die was inevitable, of course, but that he survived all the way to the finale, outliving every single Russian — not to mention ninja Nobu — is actually kind of impressive. I imagine that’s fairly small consolation for Leland, though, since Fisk found out about his involvement in Vanessa’s attempted murder and promptly threw his ass down an elevator shaft. Then again, that’s what Leland gets for thinking Fisk would prioritize his money over giving into his violently childish temper tantrums. Jesus, guy. Didn’t you hear about what he did to poor
Deucalion Anatoly? Men who decapitate dudes with car doors for making them look shady on first dates aren’t the kind of people you can really depend upon to be logical.
B. Vanessa doesn’t die.
At first, I assumed that Vanessa would eventually be on the receiving end of one of those very violent temper tantrums. Then I figured she’d get shoved in a refrigerator to serve as the motivator for Fisk’s even darker turn to the Dark Side. I wasn’t wild about either option — actually, I wasn’t really wild about anything to do with Vanessa at first. We’re sitting through this supremely awkward date between her and Fisk, and I’m just banging my head into the back of the couch, going, Do I really HAVE to watch this?
Still, Vanessa improves for me in the very next episode when she and Fisk meet again. Why any woman with any kind of sense at all would continue to date Fisk escapes me, but I found myself kinda enjoying the Lady MacBeth vibes I got from her — it instantly made her more interesting. That she survived her poisoning at the hands of Leland and Mrs. Gao surprised me even more. I read an article hoping that Kingpin would come back as the villain for Season Two, but actually I’d love it if they took a year off from him and focused on someone else as the Big Bad. Vanessa taking over Fisk’s empire could actually be somewhat interesting to see.
C. Foggy finds out about Matt’s vigilante activities way before I thought he would.
I definitely considered the possibility that Foggy or Karen would find out in Season One, but I’m not sure I would’ve put money on it, and I certainly didn’t think it would happen before either the penultimate episode or the season finale. But Foggy literally unmasks Daredevil in Episode 9, and the episode that follows — “Nelson vs Murdock” — is probably one of my favorites in the whole series. (My actual favorite probably goes to “Cut Man,” though: it has the best fight scene, the introduction of Claire, and all the man pain. Seriously, that bit where Matt’s lung is collapsing? I think my seasonally asthmatic lungs were just tightening in sympathy.)
Finally, two things that weren’t surprising:
A. Ben’s editor wasn’t a bad guy. HA. Called that shit immediately. I wonder if he’ll come back and have any kind of role to play.
B. Fisk speaks Chinese and Japanese. Because seriously, duh. And then when Fisk says to Mrs. Gao, “You speak English,” and I’m like, Um, yeah. That’s pretty obvious from the fact that Wesley isn’t translating English BACK into Chinese. I mean, I know it can be harder to speak than to comprehend, but come on. OF COURSE she speaks English.
And . . . yeah, I guess that’s about all I have for you today. (I’m sure the second I post this I will think of at least three awesome things that I forgot to mention.) By the end of the finale, Fisk is behind bars — yet again staring at a white wall — Mrs. Gao has retreated to somewhere much farther than China — is she supposed to be an alien? — Foggy and Murdock’s friendship is on the mend, and Karen still hasn’t told anyone that she killed Wesley.
I am so excited to see where Season Two goes. Here’s to more awesome fight scenes, awesome banter, and Catholic brooding in 2016!
Foggy: “Oh, hey, real estate agent. Not your type. Very homely, might be genetic, don’t need to be charming. And she kind of told me that blind people are God’s mistake.”
Matt: “That’s a horrible thing to say, Foggy.”
Foggy: “I know! In this day and age? All right, shake it. I’ve gotta go bribe a cop.”
Brett: “Officer of the law. Defense attorney. We’re supposed to be enemies.”
Foggy: “First off, we’ve been enemies since we were four, Brett, so let’s not blame it on career choices.”
Foggy: “Okay, I’m going to say this once and then we can move on: you don’t always show the best judgment when beautiful women are involved.”
Matt: “How would I even know if she’s a beautiful woman?”
Foggy: “I don’t know. It’s kind of spooky, actually. But if there’s a stunning woman with questionable character in the room, Matt Murdock’s going to find her, and Foggy Nelson is going to suffer.”
Matt: “I’m supposed to say I don’t miss it. That’s what they tell you in trauma recovery. Value the differences, make no apologies for what you lack. And that’s all true for the most part but . . . doesn’t change the fact that I’d give anything to see the sky one more time.”
Claire: “Your eyes are non-responsive to light, so either you’re blind or in way worse shape than I thought.”
Matt: “Do I have to pick one?”
Claire: “Look, let’s just say for the sake of discussion I buy this whole ‘we can’t go to the hospital because whatever’ story you’ve got going on, but we need to talk about what happens if you give up the ghost here in my living room because I’m listening to myself explain to the police how I let this happen and every version ends with me in handcuffs, so convince me it’s worth it.”
Matt: “There’s someone in the building, a man going door-to-door.”
Claire: “How do you know that?”
Matt: “Shhh. He’s on the third floor already. He smells like Prima cigarettes and discount cologne.”
Claire: “You can smell a man on the third floor?”
Matt: “You’ll smell him soon enough. He really likes that cologne . . . you’re looking at me like I’m crazy, right?”
Claire: “Seems the appropriate response.”
Wesley: “I know your people delight in extolling the amount of pain they can endure, but maybe next time you could try ducking?”
Vladmir: “We have not heard of this.”
Wesley: “That’s because we’ve been talking behind your back.”
Fisk: “The Ranskahovs are no longer a part of this organization.”
Leland: “Since when?”
Fisk: “Since I removed Anatoly’s head with my car door.”
(Madame Gao says something angrily in Chinese)
Wesley: “She’s upset that they weren’t consulted.”
(Nobu clearly swears something in Japanese)
Wesley: “He isn’t happy either.”
Foggy: “I can’t go to L&Z alone. They’re going to shark attack me, Matt. Look at me. I’m delicious.”
Matt: “I want you to walk me through stabilizing him.”
Claire: “It’s not as easy as it looks in the movies, you know.”
Matt: “I don’t really go to the movies.”
Foggy: “All right, let’s not jump to things people jump to.”
Foggy: “I’m going to go look for him.”
Karen: “Whoa, whoa, no. The hell you are. Lay back.”
Foggy: “I’m the closest he has to family. He’d do the same for me.”
Karen: “I know. And I love that about you guys, but don’t be an idiot.”
Fisk: “Not everyone deserves a happy ending.”
Matt: “It would be his right.”
Foggy: “What about my right to punch him in the melon?”
Matt: “Everyone has secrets, Foggy.”
Foggy: “I don’t. I’d like some.”
Nobu: “There is a point to all your words?”
Matt: “I’ve learned a lot since you’ve been gone.”
Stick: “Like what?”
Matt: “You’re a dick.”
Stick: “That’s true.”
Mrs. Fisk: “Get the saw.”
Daredevil: “Then I’ll have to stop him some other way.”
Ben: “That has a ring of finality to it.”
Daredevil: “I’m not a killer. I keep telling people that.”
Father Lantom: “Seal of confession still applies, even over lattes.”
Matt: “Basic tenet of both law and war: know your enemy.”
Foggy: “Thank you, Sun Tzu. What does that actually mean?”
Vanessa: “You don’t need sight to appreciate art, but you do need honesty.”
Matt: “Sight helps.”
Father Lantom: “There’s a wide gulf between inaction and murder, Matthew. Another man’s evil does not make you good.”
Father Lantom: “Proverbs 25 something, I never can remember.”
Matt: “You religious, Karen?”
Karen: “My parents were. That’s probably why I’m not.”
Foggy: “See? This is what I’m talking about. Me and you, Maverick and Goose. No secrets.”
Matt: “Goose died. And he was married.”
Matt: “What did you expect me to say, Foggy? Hi, I’m Matt, I got some chemicals splashed in my eyes when I was a kid that gave me heightened senses.”
Foggy: “Well, maybe not lead with that!”
Matt: “It was all Fisk.”
Foggy: “He did this to you?”
Matt: “Him and Nobu.”
Matt: “Yeah, I think he’s some kinda . . . ninja.”
Foggy: “A ninja.”
Matt: “I think.”
Foggy:”A blind old man taught you the ways of martial arts? Isn’t that the plot to Kung Fu?”
Foggy: “You listened to her heartbeat without her permission? We’re lawyers. You can’t do that! There’s a system in place, and it’s weird and invasive!”
Foggy: “Look at me! I’m Blind Matt Murdock!”
Matt: “Most people just say ‘Matt Murdoch’.”
Foggy: “Why do you have that look on your face?”
Matt: “What look?”
Foggy: “You know what look.”
Matt: “I’ve been reading Thurgood Marshall.”
Foggy: “Aw, shit.”
Foggy: “Misspelling Hanukkah is a mistake. Attempted murder is a little something else.”
Matt: “What is it, a napkin?”
Foggy: “No. This, my friend, is our future.”
Matt: “Huh. Feels like a napkin.”
Karen: “Little early for beer, isn’t it?”
Matt: “Depends on the kind of day you’re having.”
Wesley: “Speak with Gao. If she wasn’t involved, we might need her support against further unpleasantries.”
Leland: “And if she was involved?”
Wesley: “Then it’s been an honor doing business with you.”
Matt: “You know what I do? Who I am?”
Father Lantom: “The sacrament of penance, like I told you. You don’t have to worry — ”
Matt: “That’s not what I’m asking.”
Father Lantom: “Yes, Matthew, I’m not an idiot.”
Daredevil: “I want you to keep your head down till this is over.”
Ben: “My head’s fine where it’s at.”
Daredevil: “Yeah? Vladmir’s brother probably thought the same.”
Father Lantom: “How you holding up?”
Matt: “Like a good Catholic boy.”
Father Lantom: “That bad, huh?”
Foggy: “You go after him in the mask again, he might kill you. Or you might kill him, which would probably have the same effect on someone as Catholic as you are.”
Foggy: “There’s nothing I want more than to find a way back to what we were. But I don’t know if we can.”
Matt: “No, we can’t. Maybe we can find a way to move forward, Foggy.”
I’m so into this. I think my biggest concerns are about the probable Foggy/Matt/Karen love triangle — it was mostly handled okay in this season (although one of my least favorite moments of the whole show was Karen asking Foggy to feel her face like his blind best friend would, like, oh okay, that’s normal), but I worry about it how it will develop. Still, a huge enjoyable helping of violence, humor, and superhero angst. Why isn’t it 2016 yet?
There are other ways to see.
Killing is kind of wrong.
Body armor is a must.