Netflix Daredevil Review

       A Devil with an Angel’s Heart

Credit: Netflix and Marvel
This is a non-spoiler review But I do talk about seasons one and two so be cautious

So I just got through binging the two seasons of Netflix’s Daredevil and I can tell you it is one heck of a ride. I was wary to start watching it, beacise of the travesty with the movie, but this show is nothing like that movie and I quickly forgot that mess as I began with this series. Daredevil (rated MA for Violence, Language, and Suggestive Content) is nothing new in and of itself. The synopsis sounds very much the same as some other things Marvel has put out in the last few years. Read this and you’ll see what I’m talking about:

Matt Murdock, with his other senses superhumanly enhanced, fights crime as a blind lawyer by day, and vigilante by night.” — Written by Kenneth Chisholm

Nothing quite so new here.  Most of the Defenders are this way too. And the story, while beautifully built and filmed to perfection (more on that later) is not what made me press play on the next episode again and again. So what exactly makes this show so captivating?

It’s not the themes on revenge and justice, hope and loss (although it can be), it’s not even the story lines, which are expansive, and are filled to the brim with interweaving threads and twists. It’s the characters.

To date, I can’t think of any show where I’ve cared about all the characters. Even one in particular, who drove me up the wall with every word she said, still made me want to know more about her and why she is who she is.

These are characters with flaws. They are real people dealing with real problems, and not just the ones that make this story a superhero one. These are people trying to be good but ending up the opposite. We all know that The Punisher and Elektra join the cast in season two, and we probably know how great The Punisher is (not the Thomas Jane version I grew up with, but something much darker and probably more canonically accurate), but we lose sight of Matt’s best friend, Foggy, or Karen, the ever-so-curious one. Not to mention the brilliant villain played by Vincent D’Onofrio. I completely and 100% invested in all of them because they felt real and human, not cookie cutter shapes that puts out an agenda or promotes an idea. The relationships were quite nice as well, and, although I wished some things were changed, ended up investing in whatever the show decided to throw out, mostly because it wasn’t thrown, it was given slowly to allow digestion and adjusting.

But now let’s talk about the title character. The main character, Matt Murdock,, blind lawyer by day, vigilante by night, who prowls the streets in a simple costume (the main costume doesn’t come until late season one) trying to defend Hell’s Kitchen, New York. He does such a good job at this, that his nickname is “Devil of Hell’s Kitchen” before he gets his other more well-known title.

Credit: Netflix and Marvel

Matt Murdock is a fighter. His father was a boxer and you can see that in the beautiful action scenes in this show. Matt loves fighting; but he also hates it. You can see that he’s divided. On the one hand he wants to do things the right and legal way. It’s why he’s a defense attorney. To help the little guy struggling in New York. But on the other hand, he sees that the law won’t help. He sees firsthand that the legal way is not going to help as much as he wants.

This is that classic “Is is better to save the world by breaking the law or let people die by following it” argument that scores of heroes and superheroes have had to deal with throughout the years. And, of course, Matt decides to do…both. I mean, he will literally be throwing people off buildings in one scene and defending someone in the next. Matt will use any means possible to get justice. Except kill. Yep, you heard me. Matt Murdock won’t kill. He’ll bring people to the brink but won’t actually do it. Him and Batman have that in common.

The biggest reason for this is his Catholic faith. He grew up in it and tries to practice it.  So when he’s faced with the decision of possibly having to kill someone because it’s the only way to stop them, you can see the struggle.

Matt desperately wants to do good. To be good. But he doesn’t feel like he is. In fact, he sees himself as a devil, which is why he begins to wear a devil’s costume. This struggle is played out in numerous ways and means in this show. And it’s all fascinating.

I’m going to put a scene between Matt and his priest to show you exactly what I mean.

Father Lantom: Yes, Matthew, I’m not an idiot.
I have a pretty good idea who you are and what you do.
How you do it [exclaims] That’s something else entirely.
Matt: Accident when I was a kid. Used to think it was God’s will.
Father Lantom: Used to?                                                                                                Matt: Yeah, he made each and every one of us with a purpose, didn’t he? A reason for being.
Father Lantom: I believe so, yes.
Matt: Then why did he put the Devil in me? Why do I feel it in my heart and my soul clawing to be let out if that’s not all part of God’s plan?                                        Father Lantom: Maybe you’re being called to summon the better angels of your nature. Maybe that’s the struggle you’re feeling deep within you.                             Matt: And how do you know the angels and the Devil inside me aren’t the same thing?                                                                                                                                         Father Lantom: I don’t, but nothing drives people to the church faster than the thought of the Devil snapping at their heels. Maybe that was God’s plan all along. Why he created him, allowed him to fall from grace to become a symbol to be feared warning to us all, to tread the path of the righteous.                                     Credit: http://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/view_episode_scripts.php?tv-show=daredevil-2015&episode=s01e11

So while not entirely biblically sound, it does talk about predestination and ordaining which is rare to find in any modern show. But the infinite meanings that cane be taken out of this one scene alone, is what makes this show different. While most shows try to make their main character good or at least believing they are, this one go the other way. Matt really thinks he’s the devil, believes at times that the Devil is inside of him, while everyone else struggles with thinking the opposite or agreeing with him. He doesn’t have the kind of friends of family who is there for him always. No, quite the opposite. What few friends he has he has to hide his identity from, especially since he can hear their mixed reviews of him on a daily basis. He never seems to be able to win over anyone to his side. It’s funny how people are more inclined to side with Punisher than him (and Punisher does not have the same code of not killing anyone). Of course, he’s not a devil. The audience can see that. We can see him fight, see him try. We get the whole story and are ever so frustrated that no one else does (which is part of storytelling). He isn’t the devil, although he looks it. He’s more like an angel, although he could be a fallen one, which leads down a different road.

So if that hasn’t won you over yet, let me tell you about the filming. Charlie Cox (Daredevil) does most of his own stunts (not to mention, he’s just a brilliant actor). Not only that, but the action scenes feel like you’re there. No shaky cam or multiple shots taken from every angle for every scene (although, admittedly some scenes use multiple shots to put you closer to the action). The camera puts you in the center of the fight; and it doesn’t stop until the fight is over. It’s raw, it’s bloody, but it’s also alive. You feel worn out, tired, and pained after some scenes. You can feel what Matt is going through and wince with each landed blow. Because, unlike some other heroes, Matt is not invulnerable to bullets, knives or fisticuffs. He is human; human with super senses, but human nonetheless. So maybe he can land a punch or do some amazing moves, but when he gets hurt, he really gets hurt. But, like good ole’ Rocky Balboa said, “It ain’t about how hard hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” (Man, I love Rocky).

Here’s a scene that shows exactly what I’m talking about. The camera just sits there and you are forced to watch the whole thing. It became so popular it was titled “The Hallway Scene” and was repeated several times after that.

Wrapping up here, I will tell you that the rating is deserved. While the language doesn’t come in until later on in the show, the violence is pretty heavy-handed as seen above. The violence gets far more bloody when Elektra and Punisher join the ranks. There’s only one sex scene and it’s brief, and doesn’t show anything. Don’t take my advice to the grave, though. Make sure to check out PluggedIn or CommonSenseMedia if you have concerns about it.

Netflix has been known to put out some pretty brilliant shows. Stranger Things, and Jessica Jones, just to name a couple. But, in my opinion, Daredevil may be the best one so far. Not the perfect one, for I do have a few issues with it that I can’t discuss unless I wanted to spoil the show, but the potential is there.  Not just because the story is rich with millions of layers, or that the characters are three-dimensional, well-built, and feel real and alive, but because it seems as though you are living in Hell’s Kitchen with all of its problems and pain, hope and beauty. Matt’s friends feel like your own and he really does seem like that friend you love and want to protect.

So check it out for yourself! If there’s anything you think I missed or disagree with, let me know!

All video/photo credit goes to the owners. Copyright Netflix and Marvel’s Daredevil.