I’ve finally seen all of Daredevil, the first of Marvel’s (current) 5 Netflix shows. So here’s a quick rundown of what I thought of all 13 episodes. TL;DR version? I liked it, but I didn’t love it. Also, this review will contain spoilers. I’ll keep it to a minimum but it is just not going to be possible to avoid them all, and since I like it enough to recommend you watch it, well, … you’re warned anyway.
Daredevil walks a tightrope. It’s dark and gritty but it’s also not so dark and gritty that I don’t believe it takes place in the same universe as a super soldier, a norse god, and a hulk. It’s a fine line and even though the episodes tend to have some pretty radical tone shifts (now it’s a legal drama, now it’s a ninja kicking ass!) it manages to work, which is good.
What feels weird about the show is that it takes forever to embrace the fact that it’s a super hero show. I don’t know about you guys but I’m having a really hard time enjoying origin stories at this point. They’re played out for me, and Marvel has even said that they are avoiding them in future films. Furthermore, we’re living in a world that had had 10 films set in the Marvel Cinematic UNiverse, where Captain America wears the stars and stripes proudly and Iron Man has made over 40 Iron Man suits, but Daredevil doesn’t put on his costume unti the last episode. It just doesn’t jibe for me that a powered hero (more on that in a moment) who has decided to go active wouldn’t at this point think “well, I’m gonna be a hero, I need to get myself a suit” pretty much right out of the gate.
Surprisingly (to me) I ended up liking the black ninja costume though and I was worried I’d hate it. I’m not a huge fan of the final costume (too much black!) but it could be a lot worse.
The guy in the suit is great though. Charlie Cox is about as good as one could hope he’d be in the part. He’s charming and likeable and totally badass when he has to be. He’s got a great subtleness to him as well. In an early episode a corrupt cop threatens to kick Matt Murdock’s ass and the barest hint of a smile flickers across his face, it’s a great early moment and one that really got me invested in the character.
And opposite him Vincent D’Onofrio is pretty much fantastic as Wilson Fisk. If you’re familiar with the comic book version of the character then stuttering, emotionally stunted man-child isn’t exactly what you’d think, however it works really well and makes his story work all the better.
The supporting cast is fairly uneven though. I loved Toby Leonard Moore as Wesley, Kingpin’s right hand man. A quiet assuredness and a quick wit made him fun to watch. Vondie Curtis-Hall is great as Ben Urich and Bob Gunton steals every scene he’s in as Leland Owlsley. Deborah Ann Woll and Elden Hansen are another matter though. Woll is fine enough as Karen Page but I didn’t like the way they interpreted the character. Much of the series is based on Frank Miller’s run on the comic book and his version of the character is a heroin addicted porn actress because Frank Miller doesn’t know how to write a woman who isn’t damaged. I wish they’d done something different. Henson’s portrayal of Foggy Nelson is terrible though. I can see what he’s going for as the comic relief but it just doesn’t work. At best his performance is entirely mismatched to the tone of the show, at it’s worst it’s just all around bad.
I do find that I wish the show had been a little more episodic . On the one side Daredevil is investigating Wilson Fisk and on the other Nelson + Murdock is but the law firm only have a few cases throughout the entire run of the series and Karen is the driving force behind the investigation, not Foggy. They’re often investigating things that Daredevil (and we the audience) already know the answers to as well which is just kinda boring. If they had gone with a slightly more episodic structure then perhaps Nelson + Murdock could have had a client of the week that ties back to Fisk, and they could uncover new information via the legal system while Daredevil beats it out of punks on the streets and the two plots could compliment each other. I dunno, just an idea. Because karen and Foggy felt like so much filler material it also felt like the series could have been shortened to maybe ten episodes to help pick up the pace. The series plods along and a shorter run could have corrected that.
Overall though, I liked Daredevil. There’s plenty else I could say here but I feel like I’ve rambled enough. It’s uneven but mostly good. It’s dark but not too dark and still manages to have fun, and there are plenty of easter eggs if you’re a fan of the comic books. It doesn’t tie into the rest of the universe much but there are just enough references that you remember it’s part of that universe.
So there you go. It’s good. So go watch it if you haven’t already.