The Man Without Fear | A Review of Marvel’s Daredevil Series

I said I was going to spend the weekend binge watching Daredevil. Well that’s what I did, and as a result of my drooling at a nicely dark and violent drama streamed into my bedroom, I have gotten a bit behind on my intended projects so I’ll be playing catch up for the next week or so writing wise. I suppose it says something that I can manage to quit drinking only to end up spending the weekend consuming hours upon hours of streaming video, but that’s a conversation for another day.

Anyway since I obviously squandered my usual productive time over the weekend I thought it might be a novel experience to write a review of the series. Since I am new to this I guess I should warn that this article may become spoilerish as I go. But I promise only ish.

Now I’ve never been a comic book guy. I mean I read comics as a kid from time to time, but aside from the twelve months I had a mail order subscription to The Avengers in about fifth grade I never really followed them. To be honest most of my early exposure to the Marvel and DC franchises was through the Saturday morning cartoons of the seventies and eighties. I have grown to enjoy the superhero narratives but I never got too attached to a particular title to worry about canon. This lets me watch adaptations without caring if they are true the original and instead focus on whether they are entertaining.

Daredevil is most definitely entertaining.  Over thirteen episodes there is a clear, driven story that lets the primary characters evolve. Flashbacks are used well throughout the series and tell the back story in a convincing way, without seriously taking you out of the story. The look of the show has the dark, gritty look that a lot of modern tellings superhero stories are adopting. There is a refreshing absence of star contrasts between light and dark however. Most of the day shots are either interior or otherwise not overly lit.

The character of Matt Murdock/ Daredevil (played by Charlie Cox), though blind is gifted with preternatural awareness, making him in some ways superhuman but is in neither invincible, nor infallible. His decision to become a vigilante pushes him into a world where he clearly struggles with moral judgments and is led to question his conviction in that decision. The physical violence has a nice cinematic look to it while still portraying the physical and emotional toll it takes the combatants.

I have long been a fan of Vincent D’Onofrio who plays Wilson Fisk a.k.a. King Pin. He does not disappoint in his portrayal of a socially awkward criminal mastermind, traumatized by an abusive childhood. The character is clearly a monster but is allowed moments where his human element is allowed to flick across his face. This is something more easily accomplished in reverse, and speaks the ability of both the actor and screenwriter.

Overall a great job by the entire supporting cast. The character of Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) goes a bit further than the usual comic relief sidekick I have grown used to seeing in this type of show. While he does provide appropriate moments of levity I don’t find it to be in a typical or ham-handed way. Additionally as the story progresses there are moments when he provides excellent dramatic support. I hope that there is further opportunity for this if they decided to film a second season.

My only problem with the show is the treatment of the female characters. The performances are good, quite good, however there are some issues. The character of Karen Page (Debra Ann Woll) is introduced as a damsel in distress plot point in the first episode and joins the cast as the secretary of the law firm of Nelson and Murdock after being saved from her predicament first by the lawyers and later by Daredevil. She spends much of the series coping with trauma, and being a part-time romantic interest for Foggy, a piece of the story that seems to get dropped at some point.

Claire (Rosario Dawson), an E.R. nurse on her day off finds the hero badly injured and aids him in her apartment. This character is later kidnapped, and terrorized only to be saved by Daredevil. Afterwards she is sequestered in his apartment for her own protection, where their relationship becomes romantic in an almost Stockholm-Syndromesque way. This character seems to fall by the wayside after this relationship is tossed aside.

Lastly, Fisk’s romantic interest, Vanessa (Ayelet Zurer) is presented as a strong, capable and independent woman. She quickly comes to terms with King Pin’s monstrous plans and decides to join in and support him in his endeavors. Their relationship is ultimately viewed as a weakness in Fisk and his plans by his associates.

Even as an amateur writer I am aware all characters are ultimately plot points, they need relationships romantic or otherwise, and these relationships often become weaknesses. For this story though I found the women’s roles were often being defined by the men they were associated with. These characters did have their strong points, hopefully that will be further explored if the series continues.

Marvel’s Daredevil is available streaming on Netflix

Well that’s it. That’s what I did with my weekend.

Happy Monday