Netflix’s Daredevil : Midway Point Review

I’m currently six episodes in to the series, so just a little less than halfway, and I’m loving what I’ve seen so far.

Charlie Cox however is absolutely killing it as Matt Murdock/Daredevil. He captures the range of anger, pathos, charm and humanity of the character. His first scene, in the confession booth, was a gutsy intro to him in the series since it was so bare and still. Yet Cox manages to pull the viewer in with his delivery.

The tone and scope of the show so far is exactly what they advertised and what I had hoped. The setting is dark and gritty New York, and the way the story weaves around is reminiscent of The Wire, which is the highest praise I can give it.

And I like how the show isn’t afraid to focus on the superhero-less aspects for large portions of the episodes. It’s actually quite a juggling act of being equal parts super hero action, crime procedural, and court room drama. I’m impressed with it.

I’m also enjoying how the show takes its time bringing on more characters. Charlie Cox as mentioned comes out of the gate on fire. Foggy really is the weak link in my opinion. The typical Marvel levity just doesn’t seem to come out as naturally out of the actor as, say, Robert Downey Jr.. I’m hoping he’ll get better as the show goes on.

Then in successive episodes, you add in Rosario Dawson, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Vondie Curtis-Hall, each of whom have been giving great performances. I haven’t even seen Scott Glenn yet!

All the characters are being fleshed out more successfully than most other shows. I was worried that Karen was just going to be the damsel in distress love interest, but she’s beginning to have some agency of her own; actually diving into her own investigation outside of the awareness of Matt and Foggy. She certainly passes the Bechdel test better than most supporting female characters in comic book shows.

And one of the major complaints about the Marvel movies is the lack of compelling villains, outside of Loki. So it’s refreshing to see how committed Daredevil is to exploring and charting what makes Wilson Fisk tick. Good villains enrich the story of a comic book hero, which was the strength of Batman. And it looks like this show is going down that same line.

I was initially worried that Netflix’s all-at-once model would hurt the show. Not just in terms of staying in the cultural lexicon for more than a week, but most shows take a few episodes to really find their footing. Maybe more so with comedies which sometimes take an entire season to figure things out, but I think having an episode or two out there helps gauge what’s working and what isn’t.

However, Daredevil starts out doing so much right, it’s maybe not as big of an issue. Plus, the thing that the show figured out is how to use the format to its advantage. No commercial breaks and no needing to recap previous episodes really help propel the story, as well as not feeling the need to cover each story beat in each episode. That’s something that I feel like hurts Game of Thrones. It’s as if each character needs to make an appearance or it feels left out and the whole episode can feel like it’s just checking in on plot points.

The fight scenes are brutally real. This isn’t the super acrobatic, skilled fighters of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I like how the fighters look visibly exhausted by the end.

And that hallway scene in the second episode… wow! I thought maybe the shot was stitched together with clever editing but turns out it actually was one long take! Talk about an ambitious show.

So far, the show has shied away from talking too much about Matt’s extra abilities. My friend wasn’t even aware that he had any special powers except maybe just really good hearing. I know they’re going for a grounded feel but I hope they end up somehow showing that he has that sonar skill. In the comics, his other senses are also augmented to an incredible degree. He could actually feel the ink on paper, or pick out individual smells in the air from afar. It makes him seem so far from the level of any of the Avengers.

Which leads me to wondering how this show will fit in with the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe. Before seeing the show, I wasn’t really concerned. But now, I see how they’re so committed to the grounded, grittiness that it’s hard to imagine this being in the same world as Iron Man and a talking raccoon.

I think some of that might be answered when we finally see Matt suit up in the red costume. I’ve actually come to love the black ninja gear, which fits well with what’s happening so far. But the red suit is inevitable. Speaking of which, I tried not to get spoiled on what that would look like, but Netflix is plastering it front and center when you try to select the show to watch. I’m not loving the headpiece… Cox just looks a bit awkward in it. But I see the similarities with it and what Captain America wears which helps ground it in the MCU. And with a precedent in the comics, I’d love to see Daredevil establish some sort of relationship (romantic or professional) with Black Widow.

Overall, I’m loving the show and happy/relieved that it’s living up to the hype. The feel isn’t quite at the epic scope of The Wire, but it is certainly within reaching distance of that. The equal development of Fisk into the Kingpin, mirroring Matt into Daredevil is absolutely the right direction. The acting (outside of a sometimes shaky Foggy) is pretty superb. I’m looking forward to diving into the second half, and also hoping that we see more of Daredevil sooner 4 years for the Defenders or beyond for a Season 2.

Also, I love the dark look of the show. I’ve noticed that they’ve been lighting it, especially in the night scenes, heavily in yellow. I’m not sure why that is. Possibly as a subtle nod to Matt’s original yellow costume? Or a reflection of how Matt sees the “world on fire” and everything is yellow for us to help reflect his viewpoint? I’m not sure and I want to find out.

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