TV Review - Daredevil (2015)

Charlie Cox stars as Matt Murdock, a New York City lawyer by day and crime-fighter by night. He was blinded as a child in a truck accident that exposed him to a radioactive substance, which also enhanced his other senses. He now has super hearing for example. He's like Batman and Spider-Man's illegitimate love-child, minus the money, the gadgets and over-all science.

Written by Drew Goddard, this series is based on the character created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett for Marvel Comics in 1964. Like Batman and Superman, Matt is spurred by the death of a relative. In this case, it's Matt's father who was a boxer. Non-surprising, Matt's chief super power is his ability to fight. He's a highly-trained boxer but is also skilled in various martial arts.

Elden Henson co-stars as Foggy Nelson, a fellow lawyer who works with Matt on various legal cases. He started a two-man practice with Matt called Nelson and Murdock. They have a stark office in Hell's Kitchen. Foggy is the comic relief. He's a smart and reasonable lawyer, but he'll insert a funny line or a line that will be the obvious audience-surrogate.

Deborah Ann Woll also co-stars as Karen Page. She becomes the legal secretary at Nelson and Murdock. She becomes such after first becoming Nelson and Murdock's first client. Karen is framed for murder and that murder is linked to a larger conspiracy involving mobsters connected to a man named Wilson Fisk, played by Vincent D'Onfrio.

Fisk is trying to takeover the city, or at least Hell's Kitchen, a section in lower Manhattan between 34th and 59th Streets and bounded by 8th Avenue on the east and the Hudson river to the west. According to this series, Hell's Kitchen was significantly damaged following the climactic events in The Avengers (2012). Fisk wants to repair it, but repair it in his vision, a criminal and possibly maniacal vision. Matt as Daredevil is fighting against Fisk. Of course, Fisk catches wind of Daredevil and tries to stop him.

Unfortunately, Fisk and the other mobsters go about stopping Daredevil stupidly and at first haphazardly. Given these mobsters have access to guns, which Daredevil refuses to use in the first season, then it's a wonder why the mobsters simply can't shoot him. Rosario Dawson plays Claire Temple, a possible love interest and nurse to Daredevil. She warns of him getting shot, but the series never follows through with that idea. In what can only be described as cowardice on the part of Goddard and his writers, moments when mobsters can use guns are delayed in very contrived and ridiculous fashion. The hallway fight at the end of Episode 2 is an example and the fight between Fisk and Daredevil in Episode 9 is another.

Every conflict with Daredevil devolves into a fist fight. It's understandable at the start, but episode after episode it ceases to make any logical sense. The logic the writers try to craft reduces Daredevil to being a hammer and every bad guy or problem being a nail for him to hit. It culminates in the 13th episode where the fist fight between Daredevil and Fisk is unnecessary. In fact, it looks silly because D'Onfrio is obviously yielding to his stuntman.

Clearly, this series did not learn the lesson of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. That 2008 film's resolution is not hinged on a fist fight. The dynamic between the hero and villain comes to a head not with one guy punching another. There was a bigger issue or theme at work, like the soul of Gotham, which made all of the action better.

This series isn't like Buffy, the Vampire Slayer or Angel because a lot of the villains on those supernatural shows were literal demons and monsters. Foggy makes the argument that simply beating people up isn't the solution. Foggy also says being a lawyer and using the law is the solution with which Matt agrees, but, in the end, Matt still wants to use fists.

The breaking point occurs in Episode 3 titled "Rabbit in a Snowstorm." There is a brutal fight scene where we see a bad guy named John Healy kill a guy in a bowling alley. He does so by supremely and severely breaking the other guy's arm and then super aggressively crushing the guy's skull with a bowling ball. The sound effects starting with Episode 1 are enhanced and really intense. Every punch, kick and bone break are seemingly amplified for maximum impact. The violence climaxes when we see the blood splatter across John Healy's face.

Afterward, John Healy walks away. The camerawork is such so that we don't see the dead man's crushed skull. We see the body from a distance but the head is obscure. It was with this camerawork that something became clear. The show wants over-the-top violence and it wants the audience to feel it to some degree, but it doesn't want us to experience the true consequence or effect of that violence. It doesn't want us to see the crushed skull. Why? Would that image be too gruesome or brutal? Yet, that's what this show traffics. Why deny the money shot? Is true gore a line it's too scared to cross? A man who has a spike driven through his head is partially obscured by darkness, which is what this show constantly is.

Yet, this is not dissimilar from other TV shows, but few shows revel in violence as this one does. Few shows see violence as the answer to everything as much as this one does, while not balancing it with a significant amount of compassion and empathy. Episode 1 does have a long monologue, delivered by Cox, that is actually a confession to a priest, but again the series never follows through with Matt's Catholic guilt and takes it to its logical conclusion, which would be having Daredevil commit murder, which is in contrast to the CW's Arrow.

The series wants to have it both ways. It wants its cake and eat it too. It wants to have the gritty and realistic to hyper-realistic violence. It wants the audience even to cheer it, but it never wants us to realize how that violence is wrong or how it shouldn't be cheered. It wants us to like the brutality and the blood, when in reality we shouldn't.

In Episode 3, there is also a scene involving an old African-American reporter named Ben Urich, played by Vondie Curtis-Hall. Ben has an argument with his editor or boss where the boss shoots down Ben's effort to pursue a hard news story and instead the boss assigns Ben a fluffy story. It becomes an argument about traditional newspaper work versus online tabloids and blogs. It's such a cliche and hackneyed argument that it felt like conflict for conflict's sake and totally unnecessary.

One Star out of Five.
Rated TV-MA.
Running Time: 1 hr. / 13 eps.
Available on Netflix Watch Instant.


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