Superheroes Unite... on TV - Daredevil

Ensign Lestat's TV Log, 25/05/15

Daredevil

I have, over the years, brushed up on bits and pieces of the life of Matt Murdoch (Charlie Cox). As a rarity in comic books, this disabled hero gives hope to many.

After a disastrous feature film, which tanked I think due to its uninspired performances more than anything else, a TV show of the same seemed far-fetched. But Netflix put its money where its mouth is and an entire season was born.

I'm the only one in the family who sat through the entirety of the 13 episodes. There's a lot not going for it. Charlie Cox would never have been my choice for a comic book hero, there's religion thrown into the mix, which is never a good idea, and our leading female characters are, secretary, nurse and love interest.

Yes, somehow or the other, Netflix and Marvel felt it logical to keep conventional job roles for the ladies. I'm guessing the roles reflect their comic book personalities, but we've had upgrades for a lot of female characters in comic book adaptations.

Having said that, we can't knock the secretaries and nurses of this world - these are tough jobs, but often looked down upon because, hell, a woman can do it. I just ask for there to be a balance. It would be interesting to see Claire (Rosario Dawson) as a practicing doctor and Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) as a paralegal, or even an accountant - she could have got into the mess she ends up in through either of those job roles as well.

But we don't get that. So no point dreaming. I was able to look past it, though, because despite being just a secretary, Karen does a lot on her own and is shown as being competent enough to not only defend herself (in the first episode at least), but also to keep pace with the legal side of her job and make some tough decisions along the way.

'Daredevil' is a gripping, angst-ridden tale of two men with the same goal - the devil himself, and Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio). It's the choices they make that pit them against each other. The devil chases the secrets Fisk so desperately attempts to hide, and their playground is Hell's Kitchen.

The series is dark and gritty, pitted with humour in the form of Matt's far-less intelligent (or likeable) business partner Foggy (Elden Henson). While I like that Foggy and Karen share a decent camaraderie that I can hope doesn't evolve into romance, per se Foggy does nothing of note throughout. He's the devil's advocate (or not) when it comes to opinions regarding Daredevil's activities, and... that's it.

The glaring lack of diversity in the show shouldn't surprise me, but it does. Dawson is barely in the show, the only other character of colour comes in part way and won't be seen again. Fisk's allies are horrible bad guys from Russia, Japan and China. That's the extent of the diversity here.

I'd already heard about how much people loved this show and how good it was, and truth be told, it really is good. It brings superheroing down to ground level and gives our hero one sole mission. It weaves in his origin story through several episodes. It's on point when it's Daredevil's brawn against Fisk's wits.

The only time it felt less genuine was the bit about him learning his martial arts skills - it's obviously leading on to a greater storyline, but at no point did it feel a part of the overarching plot of the first season.

And the greatest sin is many of the characters' actions. Karen's decision to keep a legal document secret from her lawyer friends, as well as investigate a big crime boss on her own didn't seem to make any sense at all. It divided her plot from Matt's, when essentially they were looking for the same thing. They could have fed off each other's knowledge, neither knowing why the other needed it.

There's a lot to be said about D'Onofrio's Fisk. People have placed him on the autism spectrum, and frankly, that makes a lot of sense. It didn't matter to me, because his character was compelling. A man so desperate to hide away his past and hide from his present, the lengths he goes to achieve this, his reliance on his 'friend' to keep his name out of any transaction, they were all precise moves. His peculiarity and his quirks, so deftly showcased in the episode (I don't remember names or numbers) about his daily routine, drew me into the show.

This show is not for everyone. The violence is explicit. I think the death of the Russian pretty much put my family off the show for good (though the following episode with the disturbing domestic violence scene makes me think we need to add trigger warning disclaimers before episodes).

Cox is remarkably suitable for the role of Matt. I was pointing out to my mum that I'm sure he was chosen due to the fact that his distinctive lips would be the only distinguishing factor under his mask. The mask was also helpful in disguising the swap between stunt double and Cox (you could tell sometimes, though).

This brings me to the reason that kept me glued to this show - the action. More precisely, the shooting of the action scenes. I am not an expert, but what made 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' come alive for me was the action scenes. The actors and stunt doubles rehearsed those scenes so we didn't have ugly jump cuts and edits. The scenes felt real and raw. They were shot at ground level.

Alternatively, the only good thing about 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' was the weaving camera that captured the majesty and the epicness of this team of heroes doing what they do best, fighting together.

Daredevil combines the two and creates some spectacular fight scenes. Pretty much everyone will agree that his barely recovered body fending off the evil gangsters in a narrow corridor is up there with some Oscar-worthy cinematography. That was a spectacular scene, and promises of many more to follow kept me going.

Part way through, as is usually the case, the show does get derailed. Fisk's see-sawing abilities don't help the matter. Internal squabbles between the bads seemed overdone, and some of the plans a bit far-fetched in their results.

For me 'Daredevil' wasn't as memorable as it was interesting. A second season has been promised, but I remain wary of it. It can't just capitalise on its success, but grow on it. They also need to flesh out their characters a bit more and write them as logical human beings. They've got the emotional scenes down pat. Foggy and Matt's heart-to-heart pulled at the heart strings, especially with Cox. Never knew he had such a range. It was really impressive. But more diversity is essential in the next season (how many times do we have to keep saying that). And the suit - ditch that suit. Somehow or the other, it hurts my eyes.

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