TV Review: Marvel's Daredevil - Season 1

Crawling out of the dark shadows hidden within the highly-acclaimed Marvel Cinematic Universe, there came a hero like no other. Clad in a black mask and bloodied fists, The Man Without Fear was reborn with cinematic glory on Netflix just last month. With Season 1 already over (for the binge-watchers, at least), the reactions to Marvel Studios' Netflix debut are nothing short of amazing, with Daredevil captivating both fans of the comics and newbies to the character alike. Here to breakdown just what crazy good television this show is, I may find it hard to say anything bad about this one:

Telling the engrossing tale of New York City attorney Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), who protects the streets of Hell's Kitchen with both his words and fists, Daredevil doesn't waste any time, as it throws us right into the fight. Blinded as a young boy by a mysterious toxic chemical, Murdock grows up with no sight and little guidance, relying only on his boxer father to raise him. With his father teaching him to use his words rather than his fists and to always do the right thing, Matt grows into a conflicted man, burdened by his blindness but strengthened by his determination. When a menacing evil rises in present-day Hell's Kitchen, following the attack on New York by the Chitauri alien army, Matt is forced to take action, using his blindness to his advantage. Becoming Daredevil, a masked vigilante dead set on protecting the city at all costs, Matt puts his loyalties to his friends (Elden Henson, Deborah Ann Woll), as well as his own strength, to the ultimate test as he tries to bring down the brooding force of Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio).

If I wasn't one before now, I'm definitely a fan of Daredevil after watching this show. With little knowledge of the character's immense past in the comics, and my first encounter being the dark yet laughable 2003 film, Netflix's menacing debut for the character was just what I needed to catch up. Slapped with the logo of one of the most successful film franchises in the theaters today above its title, and teasing towards 13 episodes of great storytelling and gritty action, Daredevil gave me nothing but glorious anticipation until its April premiere. After seeing the first episode, you could say it was a bit difficult to stop watching. With a clear devotion to the source material (in which I may need to immerse myself in before Season 2), and an amazing cast of surprising new faces, I was instantly entranced by this show's brooding ability to keep me on my toes.

Speaking of keeping me on my toes, the thrills in this show are great. From the first time we see Matt Murdock take down some thugs in a surprise attack to the bloodiest finale ever (but maybe not as much as Hannibal's), Daredevil never ceased to bore me, with an action scene or an involving dialogue not too far around every corner. Every character as fascinating as the last, especially Charlie Cox's leading hero, the stories of these fictional people actually felt real, boosting the thrills and stakes further with each new episode. Feeling almost like less of superhero show, but rather a cut-throat crime drama throughout, the show managed to skip the glossy heroics, and stick to hard and thrilling storytelling.

However, we can't have a superhero show without a superhero. But this isn't your average polished and impenetrable Iron Man or Hulk, and he's no Norse god or super-soldier; He's just a man who seeks the best for his city. Unlike the CW's Green Arrow, who comes back from the dead more times than I can count, Daredevil isn't immortal, but like the Arrow, he manages to stay alive through his will and endless determination. However, while he may not have a bow and arrow or even a vibranium shield to protect him, what Daredevil does have is some keen senses. Blinded as a young boy, as we all know, by a strange chemical, Murdock's senses are incredibly heightened, transforming into not-your-average superhuman. But to become the true superhero that he's destined to be, he must put his skills to the ultimate test. A superhero show that fits perfectly in-between the super-cops of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and the colossal giants on the big screen, Daredevil is a delightful mix of every crime drama and every comic book fan's dreams.

The cast of this show is phenomenal, and a surprising jump from anything I've seen on TV lately. Among a pack of rookie lawyers and corrupt crime bosses, we have our leading man, Charlie Cox. A veteran of shows like Downton Abbey and Boardwalk Empire, Cox was a complete stranger to me (other than a minor role in last year's Theory of Everything). One of the most surprising and intriguing cast members in the show, as I would've expected, Cox delivers a wonderful mix of sarcastic and soothing dialogue, and doesn't do too bad kicking some ass along the way. Performing amazingly well for a not-so-blind guy, Cox plays a fantastic blind guy, looking and sounding slick yet conflicted in every scene. Now one of the most engrossing characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I'll definitely be looking forward to more and more exciting adventures with Cox's Matt Murdock.

Other members of the cast, especially Murdock's closest friends Foggy Nelson and Karen Page, add both humor and emotional depth to the show, something that was essential to making it so fun to watch. Starting with the clumsy yet critical Foggy Nelson, played by newcomer Elden Henson, he was basically the comic relief for the show; however, he becomes more than that as we move through the show. Developing his own background, from his college days with Murdock to his psycho ex-girlfriend, Foggy is a key part in making the show feel grounded and human. From his humorously sarcastic bouts with pal Murdock to his daring attempts at wooing their secretary Karen Page, Foggy is an awesome character to watch grow in the show. As for Karen Page, the murder witness-turned-secretary for Matt and Foggy's law firm, True Blood's Deborah Ann Woll performed greatly as the independent yet sometimes stubborn woman who steps into a world she may not be ready for. With blood on her hands already, Page should be an interesting character to see develop more next season.  

The final person I want to mention in the cast is the big bad this season, Wilson Fisk, played by the menacing Vincent D'Onofrio. In a role I'd never seen him in, D'Onofrio becomes the Two-Face of the Marvel Universe, with conflicting sides of a suave mere man and a devilish beast who stands like a towering boulder. However, at the beginning of this season, Fisk is less of the brooding monster he shortly becomes, but more of a whole-hearted soul who seeks to find something worth living for his life. When we first meet Fisk, he's not breaking necks or conducting business, he is impressing a woman. Built on not just Murdock's colored past, but also Fisk's harrowing tale of his upbringing and rise to power, Daredevil flips a coin throughout the season, moving elegantly between the two men's stories of redemption. Easily the one of the best villains on TV, if not the entire MCU (sorry Loki), D'Onofrio breathes profound life in Wilson Fisk, not just encompassing the character's brooding look, but also delivering calculated dialogue to give the man some true heart. Whether he's doing business with corrupt associates or swinging a fist or two at Murdock, Fisk was one of the coolest and most complex characters on the show.

With such an intense and deep-seated character now introduced into the expansive world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the burning question becomes: When will we see The Man Without Fear on the big screen once more? To that query, I remain skeptical. While on one side I truly want Cox's Daredevil to kick ass alongside Chris Evan's Captain America and Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man, one the other side, maybe it's for the best that the crimson crime-fighter remain on the small-screen. With Daredevil essentially ushering in TV's small-time Avengers aka The Defenders, birthing other Netflix shows for heroes like Luke Cage and Iron Fist, it may just be worth it to let Daredevil stay where he is for a while. With the hope of numerous future seasons (and lots of crossovers between the other Netflix shows) for the character, I wouldn't be that torn if I didn't see Murdock on the big screen until after the third Avengers film. While Marvel Studios may be trying to pile everyone into their upcoming movies (just look at Captain America 3 aka Civil War), it might be worth it to have the Avengers doing their thing up in the sky, while Daredevil (with a young Spider-Man possibly by his side) tackling his own issues on the streets of Hell's Kitchen.  

Overall, this daring jump in the dark side of the MCU is worth watching, even if you're not that familiar with the characters. With few restrictions and many Marvel easter eggs throughout, Netflix's next hit takes you past the typical origin story and cheesy one-liners, and delivers a thrill-ride of action and adventure. With a crime-procedural meets gritty superhero premise, Daredevil doesn't shy away from much, showing you even the most grotesque morals of a person, and what those morals can ultimately lead to. A fantastic addition to a world I already loved, Daredevil grabs you from the first episode and pulls you deeper and deeper into the shadows of corruption and secrecy.

I gave this season a 9 out of 10, for its powerful cast of characters, its fantastic cinematography and fight choreography throughout, and its fresh take on the dark reaches of the superhero realm. Before Season 2 rolls around in 2016, I may have to make my own daring jump into the immense lore of this awesome character.

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