On April 10, Netflix will be launching all 13 episodes of Marvel’s Daredevil, a series adaptation of the Marvel Comics character created over 50 years ago by Stan Lee and Bill Everett. If you’re a fan of the comics, or just want to see a good TV drama, you might want to request to have the day off because it’s worth binge-watching… though, if it’s like some other recent Netflix shows, there might be an emptiness once all is said and done, because you’ll be wanting more. Fortunately, there are more Marvel-Netflix shows on the way… and hopefully they will be as good as this one.
Charlie Cox stars as the show’s lead character, who we know from previous adaptations as Matt Murdock, a lawyer who, as a young boy, was blinded in an accident. Elden Hensen plays his best friend and law partner Foggy, and Deborah Ann Woll quickly enters the picture as Karen Page, another character we know from the comics. The talented cast also has some other great characters sprinkled in, including John Patrick Hayden as Matt’s father, Jack Murdock; Rosario Dawson as a “night nurse” who quickly gets brought into the world of Daredevil; and Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk, a kingpin whose presence looms over the whole thing, even when you don’t see him.
All of the members of the cast stand out in their own ways. Cox in particular is great as Matt Murdock, as he plays a man who is blind yet isn’t handicapped by it. Matt is also popular with the ladies, a notion that falls into the comic book series often as well. That popularity lends some humor to an otherwise dark production, as does the input from Hensen’s Foggy, who often says things that are funny without ever taking the character over the top. It’s a tough balance, but he pulls it off. I will also say that these characters sometimes make you fear for them, as some brutal things happen within… and you’ll also feel a sadness if anything might go wrong in their respective journeys. (This review has to be spoiler-free, so I’m battling against saying more.)
I was happy to see many folks whose work I’ve enjoyed from other projects including early Heroes within the production and creative credits, and I was especially excited to learn that Steven DeKnight, who I had interviewed about Smallville’s “Justice” years ago, was involved. He and Drew Goddard, who got this Daredevil ball rolling, both “get” the right mix of comic book action while still remaining accessible to an audience that might not even like comic books. Jeph Loeb, who has been present for the best eras of Heroes and Smallville and is now responsible for overseeing Marvel Television, is also one of the talents involved with this project, which also includes folks like Joe Pokaski and Christos N. Gage.
The show has dark themes, and it’s often lit very darkly, but that also serves to give it a look unlike what you usually see on television. Filming in New York gives Daredevil an authenticity, a realism, and a danger. Even the sets – from the Nelson & Murdock offices to the gym where Matt’s father would do his boxing, all the way to Matt’s apartment – seem very unique.
At its core, Daredevil is probably more like something like the original Equalizer than it is like something like Arrow. I don’t think we’ll run into love triangles here. It’s a dark crime drama where the lead character happens to wear a mask and beat up bad guys sometimes. As I said, if you’re not into comics, don’t let the fact that it’s a comic book adaptation keep you away, because it works. I’ve been writing about TV – especially comics-related TV – for a long time, and it’s fair to say that Daredevil has a very strong start. I don’t know if it’s because all of the episodes will drop at once, making it more like a 13-episode movie while still serving self-contained stories, or if it is that the Netflix schedule gave them planning time, but it’s strong. They’re not waiting to adjust their story around Avengers movies, though the “battle of New York” is obliquely mentioned. They’re here, they’re now, and it’s a show without fear. And, no, it’s not a show you’ll want your kids to see, as it’s pretty violent.
And, damn it, I know the red Daredevil costume is awesome and all, but this black costume looks really cool on screen.
Yes. As ambitious as the Netflix-Marvel Defenders initiative is, I’d be completely content with just having 13 episodes of Daredevil a year for a long time. But who knows… maybe the other series will be just as good as this one. So far, though, I’m impressed, and could go so far as to say this is one of my favorite comics adaptations I’ve seen to date. More, please!