Again, spoilers will go with this item. I'm not 100% sure of what makes either Daredevil or Bosch (to be reviewed later) an actual "TV series," since neither of them never really aired on television and would only have been seen on a TV set if you had the proper web-based hookup (I watched them on an iPad while on the treadmill). But since everyone else uses the TV-related words "series" and "seasons," so will I.
Daredevil is the story of Murdock, who was blinded as a young boy
when he was hit by a truck hauling hazardous chemicals (in the comic
book origin from 1964, it was nuclear material). The same chemicals
enhanced his other senses and gave him such sensitivity to his
surroundings that he can function almost as though he were sighted.
Murdock combines his abilities with training from the blind martial
artist Stick to become a skilled fighter who eventually cannot stand by
when wrongdoers escape the law's punishment. He takes to the streets and
eventually finds himself up against a conspiracy of corruption, headed
by Fisk. The irony is that his "day job" is lawyering, with his longtime
friend Frankin "Foggy" Nelson. In the first episode they meet Karen
Page, a young secretary in a big firm who uncovers secrets she is not
meant to know and who finds herself targeted by Fisk's minions. They
prevent Karen from being framed for murder and she goes to work for
them, eventually becoming an ally in the fight against Fisk's plans to
obliterate Hell's Kitchen and replace it with pricey upscale
developments. But Fisk is ruthless and will use legal and illegal means
to win the game, meaning all of them could be in danger and Murdock
could have to cross lines that would make him little different from his
A neighborhood priest hears his semi-confessions and ruminates with him
about the existence of evil and the devil, and what human beings should
do when confronting it. Do we stand on our principles and refuse to take
up the devil's weapons, possibly guaranteeing our defeat? Or do we do
whatever works and take whatever steps we have to, even if those steps
leave us more the devil's mirror-image than his enemy? Where is the line
between them, and is it always in the same place or does it shift?
Veteran character actor Peter McRobbie's Father Lanton offers Matt
someone who can try to point him towards answers to those questions.
It's a rare thoughtful and positive portrayal of religion in mass
media and it definitely works for a character who grew up Roman
Catholic but who now wears a mask with the devil's horns.
Charlie Cox plays Murdock and creates a great character, using parts of
George Clooney's Danny Ocean, Robert Downey's Tony Stark and Christian
Bale's Bruce Wayne and melding them into his own performance. Murdock
fights against injustice, but he also battles the idea that he is
somehow a victim because of his blindness. He shows a genuine tension
between allowing his crusade to swallow him up in its own violence and
remembering that he's supposed to represent something more than just a
bigger bully with a bigger stick. Deborah Ann Woll makes Karen Page a
driving force in her own right. Her determination to beat the people who
tried to frame her for murder and killed an innocent man starts Matt
and Foggy on their path towards a legal operation against Fisk and her
commitment to doing so according to the law, as Matt initially insisted
on, keeps them going. Elden Henson's Foggy Nelson offers much of the
comic relief of the show but also continues to drive the fight against
Fisk and keeping it in the legal arena. His disillusionment with Matt
when he learns his idealistic friend has spent his nights subverting the
laws he swore to uphold shows plainly and it's ultimately the fence
that keeps Matt from simply killing his enemies.
The show isn't perfect. The "Nelson v. Murdock" episode is talkier and
flash-backier than it needs to be, and the roles of some of the other
crime outfits allied with Fisk aren't completely clear. They exist
mainly to give Murdock a layer of villains to fight through before
tackling the next one and the next one to get to Fisk.
And Vincent D'Onofrio's Fisk has several problems. Part of those come
from D'Onofrio's performance. Pitched somewhere between his interstellar
cockroach in a human suit from Men in Black and his quirky detective in Law and Order: Criminal Intent,
it's probably supposed to come off as restrained, but more often than
not it just seems mannered, stilted and artificial. The first time Fisk
trades in his refined persona for a paroxysm of violent rage shocks us,
but the third and fourth and fifth time he starts to sound like a child
initiating a tantrum. The script doesn't help much with this. We watch
Fisk woo and fall in love with Vanessa Mariana (Ayelet Zurer) and deal
with his own sufferings, as a way for the story to build a human being
instead of one-dimensional baddie, but this is after we've seen
him decapitate a man by slamming a car door on his head until it comes
off (the head, that is). That's the kind of memory that sticks with you and storyline-wise,
seeing it happen before we see Fisk the Grown-Up Lonely Hurt Little Boy
Looking for Approval and Love really doesn't work.
But overall, Daredevil is a good addition to Marvel's growing
list of quality stories featuring their costumed characters, and the
news of a second season is welcome. It is indeed much darker in tone
than the big-screen stories we've seen so far, but it is also good. It
seems like a lot of people equate darker stories with higher quality
stories, but that's not true very often and certainly not here. Daredevil is dark because that's the story being told. It's good because it's good.
ETA: For some reason this post disappeared for a few hours this afternoon. Sorry about the inconvenience.