Sunday, March 27, 2016

Daredevil Season One

You wanna know why I'm reviewing Daredevil this week? Because I woke up and felt like I wanted to review it.
My first thought when I heard about the series was "Why does it have to be on Netflix?" My first thought after watching the series was "Boy am I glad this is on Netflix!"
Yes, it seems like a contradictory point of view, but hear me out. I didn't have access to Netflix when the show premiered, so I was disappointed that I wouldn't be able to see it until the day that it maybe came out on DVD or Blu-Ray. That day still hasn't come, but I do now have access to Netflix.
As someone who actually quite liked 2003 Daredevil film with Ben Affleck, I was interested to see what improvements the Netflix series could make. With the passing of Michael Clarke Duncan, I couldn't think of who they could get to play Wilson Fisk. And with Ben Affleck taking Christian Bale's place as Batman, I couldn't come up with a single person I would pick for my first choice as Matt Murdock. Then, when I found out who'd been picked and seen them in action, I realized that there couldn't possibly have been any other choices. Vincent D'Onofrio was a great choice for Wilson Fisk, and Charlie Cox is awesome as Matt Murdock.
This series is basically what I've been saying superhero series need to be like for years now. First, heavily character based, since they give all the characters a decent amount of screen-time and development. Second, incredibly well-paced. They didn't try to rush to a conclusion or "the exciting bits" or even to the time when the hero has their costume. Third, understated. They didn't try to make things too flashy or too exciting, or too dramatic. With the binge-release nature of the series they don't feel the need to tease every single episode all week long, nor do they feel the need to attempt to keep the audience interested enough to make time in their week for a show that's packed with commercials. Thankfully, Daredevil takes advantage of the lack of commercials and adds an extra fifteen to twenty minutes of runtime, which also helps get around some of the issues that Agents of SHIELD has. Plus, without the FCC on their backs they don't have to Bowdlerize the dialogue the way they had to for Agents of SHIELD. Not to mention they can make the fight-scenes as brutal as they are in the comics without having to censor it with creative editing or bloodless carnage. Sometimes even more brutal, since the comics used to be forcibly censored.
Spoiler warning, if you haven't seen the show (Or know nothing about the character) you should go watch it now.
For the uninitiated, Daredevil is about a lawyer named Matt Murdock (Played by Charlie Cox and Chris Brewster) who was blinded by a toxic waste spill as a kid. Over time though, he developed the (mutant) ability to basically see with his other senses, and through the idea of "Great power and great responsibility" decided to start cleaning up the streets of Hell's Kitchen to get back for the death of his father at the hands of a gangster. By night he protects the city, and by day he runs a law-firm with his buddy Foggy Nelson, played by Elden Henson. Alone, Matt fights injustice on the street. With Foggy, he fights it in the courtroom. Together, they take their first case to defend a woman whose roommate was murdered and falsely accused of his killing. They get her off of those charges and she becomes their receptionist after that.
Throughout the course of the series, Matt runs afoul of the coalition of crime forged by Wilson Fisk. At one point, he almost gets killed trying to rescue a boy they abducted and winds up in the care of a nurse named Claire Temple, played by Rosario Dawson. After being patched up, Matt brings the pain to the gangs in the famous hallway fight-scene, and rescues the boy.
As he works his way through the various gangs and other criminal organizations run by Wilson Fisk, he gains allies and enemies alike. Eventually, Wilson Fisk begins the take a public turn with his plans to take over the city with a legitimate face on it, since the silent approach was no longer working thanks to Matt's alter-ego, The Devil of Hell's Kitchen. Despite character-assassination and actual assassination attempts however, Matt manages to overcome and bring the power of Fisk's empire down on the streets and legally, finally getting him arrested, but corrupt-cops within the force free Fisk and he attempts his escape. Finally, Matt gets his iconic gear and recaptures Fisk before the series ends, and becomes The Man Without Fear.
Right out of the gate, we get a bunch of improvements over the movie. Everything I mentioned above? Almost all of those plot-threads get their own episode. In all thirteen episodes no concept goes unexplored, and they never tried to pack in more than would possibly fit in each episode. Unfortunately, this leads to a content deficit in certain episodes. While it was probably a good idea to wait until the second season to introduce characters like Elektra and concepts like The Hand, there was a perfect opportunity to introduce The Punisher in one episode that they completely missed!
At one point, Matt has taken a criminal into a building to interrogate him, but a cop stumbled in on him and he had to restrain him. He gave the cop a chance to report in that everything was fine, but he shouted about being held hostage, and the cops laid siege to the building. In order to frame Daredevil for the murder of cops, Fisk has a sniper take out a few members of the police-force, but a bunch of the cops that get taken out are corrupt ones. I figured that this would be an interesting time to stealth-introduce Frank Castle, since some of the cops who were being killed were corrupt. Maybe at the scene of the crime you could see the actual sniper with a bloody skull painted on him, or some kind of offhanded remark about how the actual sniper was found with his spinal-cord severed and his sniper-rifle gone.
Another small gripe I would have with the series is that the fight that almost kills Matt, the one that leads to him meeting Claire Temple, the one that leads up to the legendary hallway scene happens off-screen. Yes, you can infer from the results of the fight how it went down, but I'd have liked to see what kind of gang could take down Daredevil like they did. It'd just add to the punch of the hallway scene. The movie might have started out with Matt having gotten the crap beaten out of him, but at least it later showed him getting beaten up. At least it showed how they got to where they were.
There's also the fact that they don't spend as much time as I would like on legal drama. The courtroom parts of Daredevil are some of my favorite aspects of the character and the concept. I like the idea that he does what he can in the courtroom and what he has to on the streets, and I didn't particularly care for the lack of exploration of the concept in the series.
Now, let's get into the biggest problem I can find in the series, and the major thing that the movie did better than the series. This show is just too freaking dark! No, I don't mean in tone, I mean in brightness. Sometimes you can barely tell what's going on it's so dark! Yes, it's realistic for a character who fights crime in the dead of night, but it doesn't make for an easily-followed scene. How does this make it inferior to the film? Because the film had Matt's radar-vision displayed on-screen whenever they needed to make things easier to see, or just to let you know how Matt sees things. This show does that a total of once. Guess what? It's not even in a fight-scene, it's just in a scene when Matt is talking about how he sees a world of fire.
Fortunately however, the complaints I have are small compared to the overall quality of the series.
All in all, I liked Daredevil, and despite the issues with brightness, the action is still entertaining and the drama is brilliantly written. It's the superhero series we need, but considering how people keep eating up Supergirl, I don't know if it's the one we deserve.
In the end, Daredevil Season One was awesome, and I give it a 9.9* rating.
Next week's review is a tossup between Senran Kagura Burst and the first season of Jessica Jones. You'll have to wait to find out!

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