Daredevil Season 1 Review

Ok so I know I’m about six months late reviewing this, but this was a whole lot of show and I needed some time to rewatch it and wrap my head around it a little before I was ready to talk about it. I actually ended up watching the whole season three times, and I still don’t even know where to start. I guess I’ll start by saying it was awesome. If you haven’t watched it, I suggest you do immediately, and if not, I’m probably gonna spoil some stuff so beware. The first thing that immediately sets this apart from every other comicbook tv show you’ve ever seen is that it doesn’t suck. And by the that I mean it’s not crappy, low budget, unexciting filler bullcrap like Agents of SHIELD, or a whiny soap opera full of annoying stupid assholes like Arrow, or whatever the fuck Gotham is. The Flash show is actually ok, but it’s still totally silly. When you’re watching Daredevil, tho, it’s like the people writing it actually have respect for your intelligence and for what they’re making. The dialogue doesn’t want to make you kill yourself, and there’s actual effort put into filming stuff.

Ok,  I know I’m not doing a great job talking it up, but I really want to put into context just how awesome it is to actually see some quality made comicbook TV content instead of having to force myself to watch it like usual. But I think what’s really refreshing about it that they don’t treat their audience like idiots. There’s a point in the first episode where we see Daredevil use his powers to tell if someone is lying, and all the do is a simple perspective trick to let us know where he’s focusing and let us hear the persons heart beating erratically. They don’t stop the entire show to spend 5 minutes explaining it to us. They assume that we know how lie detectors work, we know he has enhanced hearing, and that we can put 2 and 2 together. It seems like a small detail but it sets a precedent of show-don’t-tell, and throughout the entire series I think you’ll find there’s very little hand-holding.

Which, in part, is probably because they know the show is for mature audiences. The major things lacking from any great superhero movie are blood, swearing and nudity, and this show has, well, most of that. I think the showrunner described it as “16A”, not quite R, but definitely worse than PG13, though because of Netflix there is no actual rating. And frankly I think it’s exactly what the Marvel universe needed. Don’t get me wrong, I would literally keep seeing Avengers movies until I died, but the formula is getting stale, and it seems like the more popular these movies get, the more they sand off all the rough edges to try to appeal to as many people as possible. I know these movies are for kids, I’m not suggesting that they go all Man of Steel on everyone’s asses, but when you’re watching Thor 2, where the whole universe is at stake and everyone’s just cracking jokes the whole time, or Age of Ultron, which is supposed to be the dark middle chapter of the trilogy, and is supposed to set the stage for Civil War, and it ends with everybody just shaking hands and smiling before going their separate ways totally worry free just like the end of the last movie, it’s more that a little unsatisfying, and kind of makes you wonder if Marvel has totally lost it’s balls. But then Daredevil fucking found them. It’s the prefect way to have your cake and eat it too, with the movies getting to be fun and comicbook-y while the Netflix series explores the darker, grittier, more consequence-heavy street-level side of the universe. And man, is this show ever willing to get gritty. They got no problem murdering long running comicbook characters, lovable old ladies, minor villains, and countless random thugs on the reg. Like remember the part where the one dude gives DD the Kingpins name, and then he stabs his own head through the spike and kills himself right there because he’s so afraid of what Fisk will do to him? Aw, man. Or in the police station where the cops just shoot that one guy for having information, and Daredevil hears the whole thing but can’t do anything about it? That was so fucking cool.

But it’s these moments of depressing hopelessness that help draw you into the world. You see this unbreakable wall of corruption, you feel this massive weight of crime pressing down on Hell’s Kitchen and Matt Murdock’s shoulders. You feel him struggle against it, even though it’s seemingly pointless, and it makes every eventual victory so much more satisfying. Every battle it so intense because you’re rooting for this regular guy going up against this huge force, and it really does feel like he could get taken out at any second. I will say one criticism of the plot is that the spend so much of the season establishing how hard impossible their enemy is to take down, and then in the last episode they turn the tide so quickly it almost seems unbelievable that everything could work out so well so fast. I understand that you need a satisfying conclusion to the plot, and I’m not saying that they should have ended the season without stopping the Kingpin, it just might have been nice to see the table turn a little more gradually.

But what really makes this show great is their ability to nail character. Every aspect of Matt Murdock is perfect in this show. The inspiration from his boxer father, the vague mysticism and martial arts training, the catholic guilt, the terrible luck with women. It’s like he leapt right out of a Bendis or Miller comic and onto my TV screen. And the actor playing him is really good, too. The one thing is that you can kind of tell he’s British. Like he does that super broad generic American accent that all British dudes do when playing Americans. But its a small detail, and I really think he does a good job pulling of the small subtle dramatic moments. Most of the cast is pretty solid for TV (I have such a huge crush on whoever’s playing Karen Page), with the exception of the guy playing Foggy. AKA one of the Bash Bros from The Mighty Ducks. Look, I think he’s well cast, he fits the character, and he has great chemistry with the guy playing Matt, but when he’s given some more dramatic moments, particularly towards the end of the season where he finds out Matt’s secret identity, it’s  sort of like he’s in a bad high school play. He’s just like “I’M ANGRY NOW”. It’s kind of hard to watch. But the other big standout from the cast, obviously, is Vincent D’Onofrio as the Kingpin.

The Kingpin was always a huge favourite of mine. He was the big bad of the 90s Spider-Man show, and man he was such a badass. Just always had a trick up his sleeve, the big motherfucker. If you ever wanna see something really awesome, find the 2-part episode of that show where Spidey teams up with Daredevil, it’s great stuff. But I digress. This is such a fucking interesting take on the Kingpin. We really get inside this guy’s head, feel his vulnerabilities, his hopes and dreams. That episode where they go back and explore his backstory is all kinds of fucked up and maybe one of the best of the season. He’s almost presented as a child-like character, with obvious gaps in his social skills. I’ve even heard it suggested that this version of the character might fall somewhere on the autism spectrum, and after watching the series again that actually makes a whole lot of sense. And the performance is so great. There’s just so much going on in it. He manages to make you feel sorry for him but at the same time be afraid of him. He’s like a wounded little puppy dog, but then there’s something vicious behind those eyes, and when he lets it out it’s genuinely terrifying. Dude fucking turned a Russian gangster’s head into mush with a car door. That’s some fucking Tarantino shit or something.

The show’s also amazingly shot. First off, they actually went to Hell’s Kitchen, which is great. You can always tell when they just film shit in LA in a studio and then greenscreen in the New York background and it always looks terrible. Either that, or they’ll just use Toronto, which is really distracting if you live in Toronto because they always use that same block of Yonge Street and it’s super recognizable. (When you see the Batmobile chase in Suicide Squad, that’s the same exact place where they filmed the climax of The Incredible Hulk and basically all of both Kick Ass movies.) So yeah, it’s great to see real NY alleys and actually get a feel for that part of the city. And the action is all so cool. Like I’m sure I don’t even need to mention that hallway fight in episode 2, with the one long shot of him beating all those dudes. Man, the fighting is so great. It’s like he actually takes realistic damage, and the bad guys actually take the proper amount of punishment. Like I hate in action movies where the hero just does like one kick and the guys just fall off screen. In this show he has to put guys down like several times before the stop getting back up. But anyway something else I noticed about the whole look of the show is that they kind of make it hard to see. I mean not only does most of it take place at night in poorly lit alleys and warehouses, but even when it is day or the are inside the lights are very dim. There’s way more close ups and way less long or medium shots then you would expect, and there’s also a lack of establishing shots. In fact, they usually don’t give you a good sense of the space you’re in before a scene starts. Perhaps a subtle attempt to let us see the world through the main character perspective a little bit by giving us a limited range of vision? But maybe I’m reading too much into it.

Man, this went long. Ok, what haven’t I talked about yet. Uh yeah, all the stuff with him and the priest was really good, I liked the sort of progression of their relationship, and the kind of justification of what he’s doing through his own beliefs or whatever. I liked Rosario Dawson’s character, their relationship was interesting. I liked Kingpins weaselly little sidekick, and I liked even more when he got shot a bunch. I liked the accountant dude, who in the comics is a villain called the Owl. I loved the costume, lifted right out of the Man Without Fear. I’m a big fan of like, proto-costumes, in superhero movies. Like in the first Spider-man when he’s running around in the balaclava, or like in the New 52 Superman when he’s just got the t-shirt with the S symbol. But this Daredevil one was particularly awesome, I’m even a little disappointed we won’t see it in season 2. But I actually do like the red one, too, even though a lot of people have problems with it. The first time around I wasn’t fully sold on it, and I still think maybe the face could use a tweak, he looks sort of weird in closeup. But after some getting used to it, seeing him in action in it in the last episode is pretty sweet. Um ok that’s an awkward place to end this but it’s like 3am, I gotta go to bed, and I’m pretty sure I said everything I wanted to say. This next month I’m marathoning all the Bond movies, but I also wanna do something for Halloween. Maybe I’ll save up the Bond reviews and release em all after October, idk. Either way expect some more reviews coming soon. Bye, I guess.

Overall Rating: Oh shit I forgot also Stick is totally the coolest in this I wanna see more of that guy Season 2

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