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It's season 3 for my dynamic doppelganger. The last we saw of Matt Murdock, he had been crushed under a building whilst taking out the world's most boring ninja conspiracy. Now Daredevil is back to square one, shook by both the loss of his hearing and by the news that his nemesis, Wilson Fisk, is back out of prison.
Daredevil sneaks its way back onto Netflix, attempting to rekindle the audience goodwill that was lost over both the Defenders and every other Marvel Netflix sequel. It does this by slamming down hard on the reset button. Matt is back in black, as it were, no longer wearing his dopey looking, unstoppable super suit. He's also back to squaring off against - and losing to - ordinary street thugs. He's also back to fighting against the chess master, Mr. Fisk, who swiftly takes back everything he has ever lost. Basically we are getting everything we like about the first season brought back again. And it's great. The pacing is good, the conflict is palpable, the plots are focused and end on exciting cliff hangers, driving you straight into the next episode. Then there is the choreography, which surpasses every Marvel show we've seen so far. The season includes its obligatory, impressive one scene fist fight, but the standout battle happens midway through the season, between Daredevil and brand new villain Bullseye.
Yes, Bullseye. That Colin Farrell character from the Daredevil' movie with the target carved into his face. The villain whose super power is that he is really good at throwing things. That guy. Well he`s somehow great in this show too. Daredevil goes to a lot of effort laying out the groundwork for him: establishing his backstory, making him really sympathetic, and then turning him into a complete monster. Much like Fisk, this series presents him as a a guy uncomfortable in the skin he`s in, exhausted and confused by the people around him. It's all the right kind of groundwork that makes for gripping conflict and drama, and it turns out, there are lots of inventive ways you can build his character's hyper accuracy into action sequences.
In short, season 3 is a return to form, bringing back everything you could have liked about the first season, but without repeating itself or coming off as low risk. If you have any attachment to Netflix`s Marvel series, you really can't go wrong with diving into this show again, even if it means skipping out season 2 entirely.
...I am not a Punisher fan. I don't hate him. Done properly, I think the character can have a lot of depth and pathos. But I find the vast majority of writers don't do him properly, instead just giving him a lotta meatheads to kill and ignoring the supporting cast. And even when he is done right, he's often just not the kind of character I like reading about or watching unless I'm in a very specific mood.
In that sense, I can safely say this series does handle him well, with a remarkably even-handed treatment of the character, an incredibly strong performance from his actor, and a solid, believable examination of his impact on the setting.
...But come on, man. I came to a show called Daredevil to see some Daredeviling, not to get a huge plateful of Punisher with a bit of tasty Daredevil garnish.
That's not to say the garnish is bad. I liked the parts of what the character page calls the "Secret War," just as I did in the last season. Elektra makes a strong impression, and her character examination and development is compelling, as is her actress's chemistry with Murdock's. And watching Fisk start to rebuild his criminal empire while embracing the self-realizations he came to last season works pretty well.
But this isn't their show anymore. It's Frank Castle's. The Daredevil stuff is all subplot so that we can focus instead on the personal tragedy, rage, and pathos of the Punisher. His capture dominates the first third of the show, his trial the second, and his revenge the third. The primary mystery of the season involves him, not anyone personally connected to Daredevil. Compelling secondary characters from last season, like Father Lantom, are sidelined to make room for more Castle. And I place the blame for the fact that seemingly every episode must feature at least one graphic, dreary, extended torture scene squarely at his feet, since that's more of a Punisher thing too.
It's not a bad show, by any means. The action's still good, the writing's still sharp, the mystery's still well-plotted, the actors still top-notch. I still don't like Karen, but at least her subplot is actually important instead of boring filler, even if she still continually manages to get more-interesting characters killed. Foggy's expanded narrative role is actually quite refreshing, even if I'm not happy with the ending. And, again, I do like the subplots that feature actual Daredevil.
I just can't help but feel like a man who ordered a gyro and got a plate full of lamb souvlaki. It's not that I hate the dish, ma'am, it's that I ordered something else!
(Also, the DA is a terrible character. I can't deny that she fills her narrative role well, but I will never understand why it exists or what people need it in a story for.)
Daredevil is back for another season. In the great Netflix tradition, I've binge watched my way through the entire damn thing over a couple of sittings. Is it as good as the first? Just read the review, idiot.
The first thing that strikes me about Daredevil is how adeptly they can still make Matthew Murdock come over as a nice guy protagonist, even though he takes an alarming amount of pleasure in punching crowds of people into submission. He has the same peculiar Batman code of conduct, in that murdering is wrong, but battery and torture is fine, however he seems to do a lot better job of justifying it than the Batman movies. The Devil's Christian observations on redemption come across as a lot more earnest, decisive and compelling. Much of the season early on is specifically trying to settle that whole argument about whether its better to just plain kill recidivist super villains. and I appreciated that it leaves it as an open question, rather than trying to force us to accept the moral superiority of Daredevil's (Batman's) way.
In terms of action, I think there is probably too much of the same. It tries to one up the "one shot" corridor scene from the first season, and whilst it was fun, I don't think it had the impact this time around. Truth be told, I started to get more than a little bored of watching Daredevil beat up yet another army of ninjas in a warehouse at night (yes, there are lots of ninjas now. I can't help but be charmed by how cheesy it looks).
As to the new arrivals to the story, I liked both Elektra and the Punisher. They acted as an interesting contrast to one another, with the former being a highbrow, sadistic, killer debutante and the latter being a blue collar, dispassionate, killer veteran. I had hoped they could offer more variety to the combat scenes as well, but unfortunately these two also operate at night, and mostly at a melee range. Meanwhile, the court drama and the supporting characters get a bit more attention this time around, especially as vigilante work ends up taking too much of Matt's time (with serious consequences for everyone at the firm).
Whilst I thought it was good, I think there is a little too much of the same thing. Like Jessica Jones, I felt the show had more episodes to fill than it really needed. I would actually recommend teasing this one out on purpose, restricting yourself to only an episode or two a week, rather than glutting on it and coming to the realisation that each episode looks a bit too much like than next.
[With the exception of Guardians of the Galaxy]
Before I go into the reasons, I should mention I have a really uncanny viewing experience of Daredevil, because I am the spitting image of Charlie Cox. It actually feels really odd watching myself on screen as a badass martial artist who gets to make out with Rosario Dawson. Ignoring the self-projection, I argue Daredevil still beats most marvel movies into a cocked hat in terms of constructing an engaging superhero story. There are a lot of reasons for this.
First and foremost, it has scale. Most Marvel movies depict a superhero as an unstoppable machine, capable of wiping the floor with hordes of mooks and being tasked with stopping a World destroying disaster. Daredevil is about a guy who can just about manage to beat four guys up at once and win, and who's mission is to save one district of one city. Ironically, ever superhero these days is over-powered, to the point that they might as well all be Superman. Nothing poses a threat to them other than other super humans, and nothing is worth doing unless an entire metropolis is at stake. That makes the hero less relatable, the threat less tangible, and the world less plausible.
Daredevil is grounded and "realistic" in a way that no Nolan movie or gritty remake has managed, by scaling everything down to a very human level. When you watch Daredevil fight through another -exceptionally well choreographed and presented - fight scene, you can clearly see how much he is struggling to stay on top. If he manages to save a person's life, that feels like an achievement, unlike in a movie, where there must me people dying by the thousand from collapsing skyscrapers or alien hordes.
It also makes the villain more dangerous too. Daredevil can punch a few gang members, but how is that going to stop a city controlling king pin? Speaking of Kingpin's character, I really like how he is presented. He too is this very human individual; a villain who hides in the shadows, not because he is some super-genius chess player, but because he is an awkward guy with social anxiety issues. He's a clever and dangerous son-of-a-bitch, but he is flawed in a temperate, uncommonly depicted way.
I had no idea I would enjoy Netflix's Daredevil so much, but goddamn, I most certainly did, and maybe you will too.
I completely understand why Daredevil has gotten the glowing reception it has. It's a well-made show that doesn't condescend to its source material, yet remains accessible to curious newcomers. But, while I liked it, I don't think I liked it as much as everyone else seems to.
I can finger the biggest problem with the show right off the bat: Karen Page. Where to begin... well, let's start with her constant parade of poor decisions making it difficult to watch her after a while. Her character barely has an arc, and while I'm sympathetic to the issues it portrays, it barely scratches the surface of her problems before veering on. And, while there are moments of genuine good work here and there, her actress's craft is generally below-par. She is never less than completely blown away whenever she is surrounded by other characters, which is often. Whenever the more-interesting parts of an episode cut to her plot, I sigh grumpily, and whenever she is onscreen I impatiently wait for time to fix that problem.
I also worry a little about tonal inconsistency with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This movie is not so much "dark and gritty" as "turbo-dark and hyper-gritty." And while previous Marvel films have been careful to strip out any and all outright supernatural elements in favor of Star Wars-esque Science Fantasy, between the Hand, Stick, and the Steel Serpent, I wonder whether that will hold.
Really, I think the first piece of advice I would give a first-time viewer is that it gets better. The story doesn't really pick up until around halfway through episode 5, when an exploding building kicks off a much faster and more-engaging pace for the rest of the show.
Everything else you've heard is still true. The other actors are great, deeper thematic elements are at least explored, and the story works very well as a standalone crime drama. Characterization is very strong all around, with practically every character displaying at least a few layers by the end. And while the action was a bit violent for my taste, I was still always excited to see a good boss fight. But the best work still isn't perfect, and it's important to be honest about that when one of its faults is a slow start.
Firstly... there may be spoilers for all 13 episodes. With that out of the way... well, I could probably just retype the review title until I hit the word count and it would sum the show up pretty darn neatly.
The atmosphere is spot on, there is a darkness (literal and tonal) that really suits the character in a way that would jar in the MCU proper. Whilst not perhaps accurate to the Hell's Kitchen of real life NY, there is a highly evocative sense that in the Marvel Universe, it's a pretty grim place to live. The fights too are absolutely brutal; Matt is fit and strong but not superhuman - beating thugs unconscious is bloody and painful and by god do we know it. Matt himself is on the receiving end of some particularly brutal beatings (in particular at the hands of Nobu, whose mysterious backers will surely be back if there is a second season.)
The plotting is impressive as well; it's an origin story of both Daredevil and the Kingpin and sets them firmly up as recognisable to comics' fans whilst leaving plenty of room to develop. Unlike the ill-fated film, Matt's identity as a lawyer is every bit as important as the identity of the 'Masked Man' vigilante.
The acting is uniformly superb - Charlie Cox nails both aspects of his character, Elden Henson makes Foggy suitably comic but really makes the dramatic beats count too. Vincent Donofrio as the Kingpin is absolutely fantastic - unfortunately it makes the movie line villains (who aren't Loki) ever more apparently shallow and dull, although the long form storytelling does of course help with the portrayal of a monster who remains somehow pitiable - until he resorts to murder with his own hands.
There are problems - one death late on seems more for shock value than any particular service to the story. Sometimes fights, whilst excellent, do seem to go on a little too long. It must also be said that once the (excellent) Rosario Dawson vanishes it's left to the (also excellent) Deborah Woll as Karen Page to serve as only significant female character, though this is perhaps due to the source material not the adaptation's failings.
Despite this missteps it STILL feels SO MUCH like Daredevil without ever mentioning Bullseye, or Elektra- just imagine what they could do with a second season.
The bar has been raised for small screen superheroics. I for one can't wait for what's next.
Daredevil, the second attempt at adapting the character, and Marvel Studio's true first foray into adapting their heroes for tv.
I'll be blunt: It's the best superhero tv show ever produced and possibly one of the finest comic book adaptations ever produced. And that is not a hyperbole. Out of all the superhero tv shows I've ever watched, none matches the finnese of Daredevil.
Most fall short in scope. Daredevil doesn't. It has all the scope it needs, featuring Hell's Kitchen in its many complexities from the perspective of civilians, criminals, businessmen and vigilantes. A city built on blood and violence, in atmospheric darkness and streets you can nearly feel the dirt underneath your fingernails.
A criminal atmosphere handled with subtlety and good writing, respecting the audience's intelligence.
The characters, acted with expertise, and all explored to their depths (Daredevil, a sadistic vigilante or a messianic hero? Kingpin, a savior or a tyrant?), wonderfully casted and appearance wise, knock it out of the park (Kingpin borders on a bizarre inversion of Ink-Suit Actor)
The plot is nuanced, portraying every side and every subplot with varying shades of morality and focus, and full of twists and turns everywhere. Writing so sharp you could slice a bullet with it, writing you don't see in most superhero movies, much less tv-series.
All of that complemented by the gem of the crown. The fight scenes. Old-school stuntwork and martial arts, done in the grittiest style imaginable, construct the simple brutality that grandifies the series: broken bones, shattered skulls, mauled bodies, sucker punches. Everything is permitted. and it's all the better for it.
Realism, grittiness, moral ambiguity, multi-dimenstional charactes, excellent fight scenes, soundtrack, Daredevil has it all and more in what may be one of Marvel studio's best entries.
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