VOD REVIEW: DAREDEVIL / CERT: 15 / SHOWRUNNER: STEVEN S. DEKNIGHT / CREATOR: DREW GODDARD / STARRING: CHARLIE COX, VINCENT D’ONOFRIO, ELDEN HENSON, DEBORAH ANN WOLL, VONDIE CURTIS-HALL / RELEASE DATE: AVAILABLE NOW
So Marvel’s first Netflix-exclusive series has finally arrived. It feels like Daredevil has been an age in waiting, but at last we get to see if this incarnation of the Guardian Devil’s tale is actually any good.
You likely know the basic gist of the story by now, but if not then let’s get you up to speed. Matt Murdock (Cox) is a lawyer by day and an ass-kicking, brutal “hero” by night. We pick things up with Murdock when his hero days are in their infancy, with him patrolling Hell’s Kitchen as he attempts to clean up its dirty streets. The corrupt world that Murdock and others call home is dominated by crime syndicates, and even the purest of souls are hiding murky secrets. Known as The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, Murdock’s alter-ego is on a mission to find the man responsible for so much of the torment and terror served up in his neighbourhood. That man goes by the name of Wilson Fisk (D’Onofrio) and is more than just your usual comic book villain, much like Daredevil is far more than just your usual comic book series.
The Netflix-exclusive Daredevil is a show that manages to appeal to both long-time fans of Hornhead and also to those who are complete newcomers to the show’s titular character. It’s a series that is largely faithful to its comic book counterpart (with nods aplenty) yet does still throw out some curveballs that even the most ardent of DD fans won’t see coming. As such, it’s lovingly familiar yet refreshingly new in how it portrays Daredevil and the Hell’s Kitchen landscapes he strives to protect.
Given how Daredevil is a show that takes place in the same greater Marvel Cinematic Universe (of which there are subtle references to at various times) that is inhabited by the likes of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and Hulk, the action here is tonally so, so different to what we’ve become accustomed to in the MCU. This 15-rated show is full of brutality, broken bones, bloodshed and bad language. In amongst the very adult action there are decapitations, sniper shots, gore, spikes through skulls, and regularly snapping of bones – and that’s not even touching on a massively raw and physical battle between our hero and Peter Shinkonda’s Nobu (decked out in a Hand costume!). And as for the man at the centre of the action, don’t be expecting the quips and charm of a Tony Stark or Steve Rogers, for Matt Murdock is truly a troubled soul. With Murdock’s comic book stories so often dark and operating on multiple levels, the show follows suit and gives viewers the same. This is very much a Matt Murdock who is full of anger, Catholicism and an unrelenting refusal to stay down as he wavers on the fine line of being a little too close to becoming exactly what he fights.
As Matt Murdock, Charlie Cox is impressive (and mighty buff in comparison to his Boardwalk Empire tenure) and gives a performance that has you truly feeling for Murdock yet also a little uneasy at some of his methods. Yes, the Guardian Devil is a “hero”, but he’s far from a nice human being… and he knows it, and this is something that Cox gets across remarkably well. Additionally, the writing for the series is beautifully crafted and expertly paced, juggling several major and supporting characters and giving them all great characterisation and depth. Then there’s the action, which is truly grimy, hard-hitting and wince-inducing as you feel every hit and fall that Matt Murdock takes on his reckless trek through Hell’s Kitchen grim underbelly. Ultimately, Matt Murdock is a product of the neighbourhood he strives to protect, although like said neighbourhood he’s often riddled with bad intentions.
Away from the central character, there are something fantastic supporting turns on display. Elden Henson brings a wonderful presence to Matt’s best friend and legal partner, Foggy Nelson, encapsulating the jovial charm, humour, tantrums and occasional jealousy so often depicted in the comic book Foggy. Then there’s Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page, who in the show is as vital a piece of Nelson & Murdock as both Nelson and Murdock. Woll brings the innocence and strong will of Karen to the screen, with just the slightest tease of romance in the air for Miss Page going forward. But still, even she finds herself with her own dark secrets at points in the show. Others, such as Vondie Curtis-Hall’s Ben Ulrich, Ayelet Zurer’s Vanessa Marianna, Bob Gunton as Leland Owlsley, the coldly charismatic Toby Leonard Moore as Wesley and Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple, are all brilliant when called upon and showcased, but it’s Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk who devours the landscape of any and every scene that he’s in. To many comic book fans, Fisk is known as The Kingpin, but this version of the character is unlike any Kingpin you’ve seen to date. With the thirteen-episode season, Fisk is given time to be slowly brought out of the shadows and given elaborate dips into his backstory and nuances that make him far more than just the usual fodder so often placed in such a position in these type of tales. With Daredevil, Wilson Fisk is shown to be a tender, caring, nervous, shy, cold-blooded, merciless and extremely violent hulk of a man, giving fans an outlook rarely seen when looking at a comic book-based villain. When all is said and done, though, Daredevil is a show that has pitch-perfect performances from all, literally stripping the characters straight from the pages of a comic book and giving them a new injection of life.
Daredevil is a unanimous success for Marvel in their first Netflix adventure, with the rich story peeled back and unravelling like a beautifully dark orange and giving fans the dirtiest thing we’ve seen from the MCU to date. The bar has been firmly set for the following A.K.A. Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Defenders shows to reach, and it’s mighty high already.