***Don’t forget to check out the Top 5 Best & Worst Things About Daredevil Season 2 right HERE***
Daredevil on Netflix is great, and you should give it a chance, even if you aren’t into the whole “comic book thing” I finished it the weekend it came out and discussed what I loved and what I didn’t love with ANTiFanboy Steve and friend of the podcast Chris McDonald. Feel free to give it a listen here.
Daredevil changed the game for a lot of people involved in the comic book TV world, easily solidifying itself as one of the best treatments of a comic character on film or television. However with as much as the show gets right, it’s not perfect. Here are my top five best and worst things about Daredevil.
1. The One Shot
Really the fight choreography as a whole deserves a standing O, but the crown jewel is the unbelievable 3 minute one shot in episode 2 ‘Cut Man’. There were no clever edits here, it’s just 3 minutes of stuntmen beating the hell out of each other in a scene that plays out like an homage to Old Boy’s hallway fight.
Daredevil attacks a safe house full of Russian mobs and proceeds to beat the hell out of every one of them in a surprisingly (for a comic book property) realistic way. This isn’t guys standing around in a circle waiting to be bludgeoned, mobsters who get knocked down get back up again only slower. Eventually Daredevil outlasts/beats them all and the exhausted hero takes time to lift his mask and reconfigure his body language to look less threatening and rescues the boy that the mob had captured.
2. Vincent D’Onofrio as Kingpin
When Vincent D’Onofrio was cast as Wilson Fisk AKA the Kingpin, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. Sure he was a big guy but not Kingpin big. It turns out that size doesn’t matter as Vince put out the single best performance in the entire show with his turn as the Kingpin of Crime. He doesn’t play the character, like an end boss in a video game either. Our first introduction to Wilson is him awkwardly asking a woman out on a date and it’s ADORABLE.
What we have by the end of the season is a real person with layers, someone who isn’t “evil for the sake of evil”. He doesn’t want to do the horrible things he’s done but he feels like he’s on the side of the angels. It’s only his Lenny-inspired freak outs where he horribly maims/kills his subordinates that we really see the beast unleashed. D’Onofrio plays the part perfectly weird and menacing enough to the point, where I almost found myself rooting for the guy. Plus how can you hate on a guy who proposes AS he’s getting arrested? Baller status
References to outside connected works always has a chance to go sideways. It can end up being corny and eye roll-inducing. Daredevil managed to play everything off with grace and eventually add anticipation for what could be in store for a second season.
The main plot, the gentrification of Hell’s Kitchen wouldn’t even be possible if not for the ‘Battle of New York’ in the first Avengers film which left death and serious destruction in its wake, opening up opportunities for Lex Luthor like moguls to buy and sell property for their own nefarious needs. In addition there is Leland Owlsley, who plays criminal accountant and Melvin Potter, the guy who makes Kingpin’s suits who eventually become Daredevil villains The Owl and Gladiator respectively.
For possibly season 2 prep there are mentions of “That Greek girl” in the ‘Nelson v. Murdock’ episode. The Hand, Marvel’s go to ninja bad guys is all but mentioned by name and references to a future Marvel show, Iron Fist, with the Steel Serpent insignia on Madam Gao’s heroin packs.
There are a ton of references and nothing nearly as hammy as Fox’s GOTHAM which is enough to land it on the best list.
4. The Violence
I had heard that Daredevil was going to be more gritty and violent than your typical Marvel property, but I still didn’t see it being THIS violent. We see a guy snap a mobster’s bone out of his arm, we see Wilson Fisk smash a dude’s head into a car door until it explodes into mush, we see a dude head butt a spike because he’s scared of the repercussions for giving up Fisk’s name. THIS IS ALL IN THE FIRST 4 EPISODES.
Not all of this is violence for violence’s sake. This immediately tells us the tone of the show. Things are real here on the ground. This isn’t a Norse god fighting Viking aliens with a magic hammer, there are dudes committing brain seppuku because a fat dude in a power suit scares the shit out of them.
There is a realism to it all as well, Matt is often hurting in the later episodes because he was almost graphically disemboweled by the guy in Shinobi 3. When Rosario Dawson’s character, Claire Temple gets kidnapped by the Russian Mob, she’s not just tied up, they beat the hell out of her with baseball bats. When stick wants to kill some evil ninja kid and is stopped by Murdock, he doesn’t run away after being foiled, he follows the kid to a car and “finishes the job” a real go-getter. You’d think with as many times as Felicity gets kidnapped in Arrow that someone would have done more to her then monologue.
5. The Journey of Karen Page
When we first meet Karen Page, she is covered in a man’s blood holding the murder weapon. She is a mess and as a result meets up with Foggy Nelson, Matt Murdock and eventually Matt’s alter ego Daredevil. They play off some sexual tension when Matt takes her back to his apartment for “safe keeping” and she undresses in front of him, seeing as he’s “blind” I guess it’s no big thing but WE KNOW and MATT KNOWS so we all smirk and high five. Eventually she sneaks out to grab some evidence that can exonerate her but is attacked by one of Fisk’s men and Daredevil karate’s his way through him, saving the girl and handing in the evidence.
Why did I just run through the entire pilot like that? Because think about where the show went instead of every other show in existence. Not once does Karen swoon after her savior, at no point does Matt in his Daredevil outfit come find her again and maybe sort of flirt with her. I don’t even know if she ever has more than one interaction with Daredevil in the entire season. She was propped up to be the prototypical damsel in distress and the one time she successfully gets captured she unloads an entire clip into the guy’s chest. There are also hints to her dark past that may or may not involve prostitution and heroin. She’s got more layers than an Ogre.
Instead of being the love interest which is 99% of women’s involvement in these types of shows, Karen moves the plot forward with action and involvement. she is capable and smart, but doesn’t play the hard-ass. The aforementioned kidnapping she undergoes a violent change that may alter her sunny disposition on life. Karen; probably more so than any other character in the show, undergoes the biggest transformation.
She is the opposite of Foggy Nelson in almost every way.
1. Foggy Nelson
Let’s call a spade a spade here guys and gals. Elden Henson may have some street cred for the Mighty Ducks films but the guy just plays it all wrong here. Foggy Nelson is comic relief sure, but he’s also likable. Something that Henson can’t seem to nail down. His portrayal of Foggy is like if an alien watched a bunch of Danny Tanner clips on YouTube and tried to wing it.
Maybe it’s on purpose, but every time Foggy is on screen it feels like an entirely different show is happening. The character is supposed to be unfazed by the awfulness surrounding him but Henson plays it so bland that I have a literal reaction when he’s on the screen. Add on to the fact that he sort of has feelings for Karen but one explosion later he’s uninterested and ends up back with an old ex. The only change Foggy goes through is that he finds out that Matt is Daredevil and he learns what an avocado is. Eat shit Nelson.
The trio of Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll and Elden Henson, Matt Murdock, Karen Page and Foggy Nelson respectively, seem to lack any.
I’m not sure who is to blame for some of the awkwardness in the majority of their scenes together but whenever they are in a room, all the energy seems to get sucked out. Charlie Cox may make a fine Daredevil but his Matt Murdock is a stilted wooden awkward mess. Matt is supposed to be charming and smooth, not a guy acting like if he talks with any sort of emotion that his real accent will fall out of his face. Murdock and Nelson are supposed to be best friends but Matt talks to Foggy like an old professor being overly polite to a peer in public. Their closest moment they have is a “bro fist” and a joke about avocados. It’s pretty cringe worthy
When Karen Page is involved with the group we get some groaner lines like “I thought I caught a whiff of virtue in there” and “Foggy is a kick ass lawyer, and he just plain kicks ass”. For a distilled example just watch the “drunk scene” in episode 2 ‘Cut Man’ where Foggy and Karen are trying to get Matt to come out and party with them. The whole scene feels just weird and everyone looks uncomfortable.
3. Daredevil’s Origin
This may not be a popular opinion but Daredevil has a dumb origin story. It’s a kid who saves an old man from getting run over by a truck and as a result the truck crashes and it just happens to be carry some sort of mystery chemical and blinds him. That’s no more silly than a kid getting bit by a radioactive spider so what gives?
What gives is that Matt’s father, Jack Murdock had a perfectly good lawsuit on his hands and did nothing about it. A truck carrying at best an unsecure chemical compound that is still unknown has blinded a hero-child after crashing. If that’s not an open & shut case than I don’t know what is.
At least Peter Parker hid his abilities. The kid was sick for a day and it’s debatable if anyone even saw the spider bite him. Matt is very clearly blind and physically maimed. So Jack Murdock’s situation goes from bad to worse. A single father who’s also an average pro boxer who’s best attribute is his ability to take punishment. Now he has a blind son who needs specific treatment and special school books. He’s practically living in poverty and has to take dives in the ring to make ends meet. If not a full on lawsuit then how about some hush money? A large out of court settlement, at least enough to keep Jack from having to throw fights. It all seemed so avoidable. I’m all for suspension of disbelief in these things but at least a comment about how “the court system screwed us” would have been appreciated. The fact that Matt grows up to become a lawyer himself is just salt in the wound.
4. That Costume
You know what I mean. The iconic outfit that the main character finally before the final battle. Well in this case, the suit sucks, like, a lot. His black outfit didn’t have a lot going on but the more I watched, the more things I noticed, the armored gauntlets, the padded gloves, and the cool red line that ran through the torso.
The red one though? The suit bit is fine, but it’s that head piece. I mentioned it once already but I’ll dig a little deeper. Matt wears a helmet basically, that is rounded on the top which gives him a baby skull. The cheek/chin area are laced with some sort of fabric that kind of squishes his face. Since Charlie Cox has a wide nose naturally so when it’s exaggerated on the mask, it looks like it was molded after LeBron James’ head. He looks like a sex offender with that thing.
The good news is that since it played a minor part in the season, there probably wasn’t as much R&D put into it, so hopefully the costume department goes back to the lab big time on that monstrosity.
5. The Violence
Yes I know, violence is also some of the best things about Daredevil but it isn’t without its problems.
I mentioned earlier that the first four episodes are chalk full of shocking stuff and considering how the hyper violence peters out as the season continues it feels like just that. Shock value. So while maybe sacrificing some unevenness for the sake of tone is forgivable, you’d be hard pressed to say that the level of violence in specific Marvel product is acceptable. Yes Daredevil is a pretty harsh guy, but I don’t think I’d ever saw him stab a dude’s eye nerve with a knife in the comics. When Matt goes that dark, it’s generally reserved for nutjobs like Bullseye or insanely personal battles with the Kingpin. The violence we see here is more appropriate for The Punisher, not the guy who believes he is Frank Castle’s moral superior in every way.
Upside is that this shows that Marvel has the stomach for a Netflix Punisher show… maybe… hopefully…. Please?
I’ve been split when it comes to the ability to binge watch shows. On one hand, not having to wait between episodes is awesome and when a show like Daredevil is optimized for binge watching it makes the whole thing run smoothly. The problem is the same as always, the episodes tend to blur together because we are all in a rush to consume as much of the product as quickly as we can, so the smaller more deserving details can be left out.
Binge watching is a lot like eating your favorite food way too fast. It’s all gone, you didn’t savor it like you should have and now your stomach hurts. I mean what the hell? Now I have to wait a potential 12 months or more before I can enjoy it again? What do you mean you didn’t finish it yet? Well how long before you are done? I want to talk about it with you!
The worst part is that we did this to ourselves.