Daredevil (2015) reviewed

Today we’ll be tackling arguably the finest Marvel series on Netflix. While there are a number of Marvel iterations around, Daredevil’s production, scope, action sequences, and characters set it apart from the field. The programme forms my holiday watch; I’m currently on the third season. I’ve tried streaming Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but I didn’t like it. The latter reminded me of The Flash, an anthology series that’s basically Groundhog Day. Meanwhile, I liked The Punisher, which was the sequel to Daredevil (DD). However, the latter has a better balance of character investment, dialogue, and action. Daredevil ran for three seasons from 2015-2018. Each of these series were critically acclaimed. DD may have been decomissioned in November 2018, but it sure was fun to watch.

The Punisher (Castle) with Daredevil

Season 1 (2015)

The first season introduces audiences to the main players on the show. Matt Murdock is the star, a blind lawyer who transforms into a vigilante by night. Though visionless, he has heightened senses, which enable him to serve his own brand of justice. Murdock is a devout Catholic. The Church took him in after his father died and he has remained loyal. Hence, he operates under the guiding principle of killing no one, just inflicting damage. Early on, he decides to build a law firm (Nelson and Murdock) with his best bud, Foggy Nelson. They agreed to fight for the good guys and change the world. While initially a dedicated partner, Matt’s night-time crusades gradually wreaks havoc in their relationship.  

We also get introduced to Karen Page, who was one of the firm’s clients. She then goes on board as the duo’s office manager. The latter’s research skills are a difference-maker to the partners. Her presence and diligence make the office more organised. As a fledgling initiative, they have a dearth of clients. Regardless, DD bails Karen out of trouble a few times. Indeed, DD is a bit of a Casanova. He romances Claire (Rosario Dawson), a nurse from Metro-General who is left to stitch him up after his sword fights. He likewise manages to find an ally (Bret Mahoney) in the corrupt police force. Mahoney (Royce Johnson) would reprise his role in other Marvel series.

Wilson Fisk is the biggest albatross in DD’s cleansing of Hell’s Kitchen. The kingpin (played by Vincent D’Onofrio) has been a killer since he was a child. Fisk has remained a faceless man, preferring to do his infamy in the shadows. He is reminiscent of Voldermort, where people are not supposed to say his name. The mastermind has postings in all manners of institutions. He joins ranks with the Yakuza and the Triads to control the area; Fisk likewise manipulates the Russians, who will pay for their lack of foresight.

He intends on monopolising all of Hell’s Kitchen and save his city. The ogre would stop at nothing – not even murder – to fulfil his plans. DD has to battle the other factions before finally facing Wilson. The first season would culminate to a dramatic conclusion and Nelson and Murdock would be front and centre. In the aftermath of raids, not even Fisk’s beloved Vanessa would get a reprieve.

Season 2 (2016)

This collection is more of an origin story. There are flashbacks to Matthew’s youth in the Church. More archive material from college, when he meets Foggy and they become inseparable. We also get to know Elektra, Matt’s former flame, and walk down memory lane. Viewers would remember the latter from the movie version, which Jennifer Garner played. In this edition, Elektra has a British accent, and is equally adept at hand-to-hand combat. However, Elektra c. 2016 is a bit more bloodthirsty. She would later be revealed as a protégé of Stick, who also mentored Matt. Stick is an ageing samurai who aims to stop the Black Sky, a weapon of unprecedented proportions. The scenes cut to happier times between Matt and Elektra, who pushes him to recalibrate his moral compass.

Meanwhile, a vigilante is on the loose. He takes apart the Irish hoodlums and is out for blood. DD and the renegade are on a collision course. The contrast between the latter and DD is an interesting one. Frank Castle has no regard for human life and killing is second nature to him. Meanwhile, DD becomes a different human in the suit, but he draws on his Catholic upbringing and not just his super senses. While their tussles are intense, the two vigilantes actually have a lot in common. They both desire the same thing: to cleanse the city of the trash. When the charges come, Matt agrees to take on Frank as their client.  

In this season, he is once again pitted against a ninja army. They are after something – or someone – that he has. Matt fights an unwinnable war and scrambles to protect those he holds dear. Being with Elektra would cost him his life’s work and alienate him from everyone else. He barely shows up in the Castle trial, thrusting Foggy to take to a premature starring role. Moreover, Fisk returns midseason, intent on taking over the jail. As he tries to reconstruct the pieces of his life, he struggles to hide his mask. Long stretches away from work springs doubt in his colleagues. He is forced to admit that he’s DD to Foggy and his lies endangers their friendship. Due to his nocturnal activities, there may be no Franklin and Nelson to call home.

Matt and Karen

Season 3 (2018)

This chapter opens with a wounded DD. His scars are tended to in the Church and one could not help but feel that his life has come full circle. There are shades of Spidey 2, where he is forced to deal with his own mortality. He seems to have lost control of his abilities and the world thinks that he’s dead. In a parallel storyline, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has come up dry against Fisk. He refuses to hand over information, until Agent Nadeem gets through. Fisk gives him the names of Albanian cons and graduates from prison to house arrest. The former seems to hold all the cards. Agent Nadeem is hell-bent on being promoted and Fisk plays him like a puppet. Even when confronted with new evidence, Nadeem refuses to see the bigger picture. He has eyes only for that promotion, and to ‘stop, look, and listen’ would jeopardise all his hard work.

DD Season 3 tenders the new character of Bejamin ‘Dex’ Poindexter. He is an elite sniper who saves Fisk’s life. The latter tells him that he has a gift. Dex lost his parents early, before killing his baseball coach. For decades, he’s been seeing therapists. When he’s in trouble, the taped interviews are his happy place. Dex spends his evenings stalking this girl, a link that Fisk sabotages. When he is placed on leave, Dex turns suicidal and subsequently does Fisk’s bidding. The role bears similarities to the ruthless Dexter Morgan. In the comics, he is known as ‘Bullseye’.

This season is particularly trying for DD. He has lost his allies at the hands of his adversaries. His remaining friends think he’s dead. He is still recovering from his injuries and is trying to regain his abilities. Nadeem sure won’t help his cause, and Frank Castle has disappeared into the night. He has to fight to clear his name. He ends up seeking answers from the Albanians in prison, but Fisk is too fast.  At the same time, someone is framing him, and the Bureau wants him. His nemesis looms large. Every day that passes is another win for the madman.

Final word

The series has been hailed as one of the best comic book adaptations ever. The show offers some excellent storytelling and awesome characters. The programme also has a talented cast to pull that off. DD is unpretentious, focusing on its strengths. DD also has some epic action scenes and the perfect villain in Wilson Fisk. The latter may not be very fluid in his killings but he’s certainly detestable. The show, while only set in New York, functions as a microcosm. With the people – good and bad – that populate its streets, Hell’s Kitchen could well be your neighbourhood. In sum, DD’s a gem from the Marvel universe.

Rating: 4.9/5

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