I finished my mandatory Netflix Daredevil binge a while back, but weeks after the rest of my peers did. Consequently I wasn’t sure if there was a point to sharing my impressions so belatedly, since Daredevil is now yesterday’s news and everyone else has already moved on to their next binge. On the other hand, I can point to dozens of entries over the past three years that I released into the wild without first asking myself, “Would anyone want to read more about this by now?”
So! Netflix’s Marvel’s Daredevil, then.
The TL;DR version: I was impressed by a significant portion of it. Daredevil comics vary in quality, and the cast and crew captured the essence of several of the good ones. And now, some bullet points:
* I didn’t get why Vincent D’Onofrio played Kingpin for the first several episodes as a slightly more erudite Tor Johnson. For a while I thought Wesley was the better Kingpin and was looking forward to his long reign of terror. After his exit, only then did Wilson Fisk finally step up and truly come alive for me as a malevolent force.
* I want Charlie Cox to play this role forever. The wry humor, the pathos, the pain, the internal struggles, the questioning, the eventual nobility — he put all of it up there and nailed it.
* I expected to hate Foggy on hair principle alone and can’t believe I somehow didn’t.
* I like Ben Urich way more in comics than I did here.
* Bob Gunton as Owlsley was a true MVP who’ll be dearly missed.
* I’m happy they didn’t rush to go back to Bullseye up front. I loved seeing other faces I know — e.g., Gladiator, even in his simple Melvin Potter costumer’s role and with only a passing saw-blade as a nod to his comics backstory.
* I wish the showrunners had been forced to pare down episodes to a maximum of 45 minutes. It’s nice in some ways that the streaming medium is free of broadcast limitations such as time slots and commercial breaks, but some of those early episodes seriously plod and stall. Little scenes that add very little are twice as long as they need to be. Emotive moments are held, and held, and held, and sustained, and paused for gravitas, and held some more, and held, and held, and I wish there’d been a Knight of the Round Table on set to yell, “GET ON WITH IT!” I have a feeling the eventual DVD set will include zero deleted scenes because no one made them cut a single thing, not even for the sake of tightening up the writing.
* Episode 9’s feature-length title bout with Nobu was amazing and horrifying, possibly one of the greatest Marvel screen bouts of all time. I was less impressed by fights where DD was passing off obvious, non-damaging, pro-wresting tumbles as kung-fu. I don’t hate wrestling, but I’m not a fan of seeing its style of entertainment in ostensibly dramatic works. Completely related note: the rest of the world loves the second episode’s tracking-shot hallway fight a lot more than I did. Any and all comparisons of that scene to the jaw-dropping feats of The Raid and its sequel were off the mark. I’ll concede the abrupt appliance toss was an inspired moment, and the moments of Our Hero and his opponents wearing down and losing their pep was an interesting real-world touch. But it wasn’t The Raid.
* I saw a couple of interviews in advance from participants trying to compare this to The Wire. Unwise. Yes, there are drugs, grimy streets, bureaucracy, file cabinets, title searches, and long stretches of narrative where no one punches or shoots anyone. You need to do much, much, much, much more than that to reach the same time zone as The Wire. I don’t even have time for all the necessary paragraphs on this. Just stop.
* Absolute best treatment of religion in a modern TV show of any genre that I’ve seen in years. Matt’s long talks with Father Lantom are a sterling depiction of faith at its most realistic yet least charismatic. Hollywood generally doesn’t get religion and treats it as a poison, a palliative, or a dessert that characters eat to make themselves happy, without any resonance beyond the feel-good surface. Faith will be tested. Faith can be challenging. Faith can make us uncomfortable about what we think we know or what we wish were true. Faith forces us to make hard choices. Sometimes we’d rather run away and hide from what our faith reveals to us. Despite what TV and movies think, faith isn’t the easy way out of every corner. Matt’s journey through darkness exemplified that in so many painstaking ways, and Father Lantom, for all his careful hesitation and his latte addiction, was a fitting mentor.
* I grew so accustomed to the black costume that it was kind of a letdown when we got to the obligatory swap-out for the classic, skintight, red-horn suit. Sure, the fabric and density are more practical for safety purposes, but I honestly wish he hadn’t been married to the horns.
Overall: yes, I’ll take some more now, please. And if the casting of Jon Bernthal for season two doesn’t deliver the scariest Punisher in Marvel’s Hollywood history, then the character should be retired or permanently reduced to the role of Deadpool’s sidekick across all future media.