Marvel has finally embraced the dark side, and it’s glorious.
The juggernaut studio that’s weeks away from releasing the surefire mega-blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron on the big screen introduced Netflix viewers to a whole new side of itself with the long-awaited unveiling of Daredevil—a fantastic, beautifully dark adaptation of the decades-old comic that looks nothing like previous Marvel TV properties. A breath of fresh air, indeed.
Let it be known that I’m not a comic connoisseur nor do I pretend to hold an allegiance to any one supernatural vigilante. They all seem equally proficient at dishing out their preferred brand of justice. My fondness for the show has nothing to do with how effectively it stays true to the comic, either. Just give me good television. And that’s what Daredevil is. Pretty damn good “TV,” if that’s what you still call it these days.
Daredevil is the first of several assets Marvel intends to release on the widely-popular streaming service, which could turn out to be a major coup for the fledging media company. Netflix has already earned plaudits for political thriller House of Cards, the prison dramaedy Orange is the New Black, and more recently the socially-conscious Tina Fey-produced comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Now it has released in bulk one of its best shows yet.
Viewers familiar with Marvel’s more recent network TV projects such as Agents of Shield and Agent Carter—which is actually watchable—may not recognize Daredevil. It eschews melodrama and doesn’t try to be something it’s not. The show is incredibly dark, and that’s why it’s so appealing. There’s a feeling of doom that persists, not the doom that unfurls in other Marvel assets—no one is plotting to take over the world—but a foreboding that’s more human and relatable.
Daredevil centers around nascent attorney/crime fighter Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), who was blinded as a child in an accident. The tragic incident may have claimed his sight, but it also exponentially boosted his other senses, giving him the ability to fend-off bad guys with unmatched precision, despite lacking the ability to see bullets coming at him or fists pounding his face and kidneys.
Murdock and his business partner Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) take up space at a drab Hell’s Kitchen office building and begin to take on clients. But as we find out in the premiere, Murdock is more of an ideologue and prefers to represent clients he knows are innocent. That changes quickly, as Murdock grows suspicious of a man who hands the attorneys a case involving a murder suspect who bludgeoned his victim to death with a bowling ball. I did say the show is dark, didn’t I?
I’ve only watched a handful of episodes so far. (I work, you know.) But there’s a lot to like about Daredevil.
The father-and-son bond we see playing out in flashbacks is both heartbreaking and charming. Watching a young Murdock stitch up his father after a bruising boxing bout is quite touching. We then see a grownup Murdock seek out his own home-aid from a nurse whom he convinces not to take him to a hospital. Like his father, Murdock got knocked down, but he is eager to get back up. Always.
Turned off by superheros? Trust me, this is not your average pulse-pounding comics-inspired show rife with strange masked heroes possessing otherworldly abilities. This is a show about justice, and how the lines between legal prosecution and vigilantism quickly become blurred. And far more interesting than the costumed hero is the man behind the mask.