‘Daredevil’ came along when Arrow season 3 was in full swing of not being as good as its first two series. I was eager for a superhero show high. After all, ‘Daredevil’ received lots of praise upon its arrival and all the Internet reviews I came across spoke of hungry binge-watches in a race to the finale.
As you probably know, ‘Daredevil’ follows Matt Murdoch, a blind lawyer, who is far from limited by his disability, and armed with incredible martial arts skills he takes down the criminals in his patch of New York that he can’t reach through the courts. A Netflix original series it promised a darker real-world take on a superhero vs crime story that would set it apart from the brighter and lighter Marvel cinematic installments.
My initial reactions?
Meh. But I know I can be quick at dismissing shows. So, despite finding it slow and unengaging I stuck with it. The show was quick to establish Murdoch’s accident and how from an early age he had a strong sense of right in a gritty grey world that surrounded him and his single-parent of a father. And while I knew I was watching a show in the superhero genre which would have its kinks in reality, it was very slow to get around to explaining how Murdoch navigates his world better than all the sighted people around him. Sure, they showed how sound played a big part in his being able to match and better his fighting opponents, but they held off on the revelation that it was the chemical that had given him the sort-of-vision that was unique to him. I had to do a lot of suspending of belief without really knowing how this guy was able to do much of what he could do. I was a Daredevil virgin so knew nothing of his back story.
Speaking of back story… We got flashbacks. Okay, flashbacks can work and have their place, and in this they were fine, but I really didn’t get much from them. Sure, the young Murdoch gave you insight into the present–I just didn’t want so much of it. There was a lot of praise for the establishing of Kingpin and while I did like the battle of wills before the eventual physical blows between the crime boss and Daredevil, and while I did like the crime council scheming and Kingpin’s plotting, I didn’t need the amount of time with them that we had. Kingpin didn’t have any redeeming features to justify the indulgence, and his girlfriend–knowing what she was getting herself into–wasn’t a sympathetic inroad or balancing of Kingpin either. Although, that did make the finale all the more satisfying to watch.
The over-exposure of the villains was representative of one of the things that I struggled with in this show; padding. I get that not every plot thread has to go somewhere, and when playing the long game of having a second season planned the show didn’t have to do everything in one season, but it did seem to amble along, neglecting Murdoch’s companions in Karen and Foggy, who felt like quick sketches side-lined with the leg work and landed with an uninteresting love triangle in plot threads that didn’t really seem to climax.
But what about the action? I love a good fight. Watching one that is. This body was not built for fighting. However, Murdoch’s was. Wow. The physicality and the feats of those moves were impressive. The fights were brilliantly choreographed with a seemingly real world physicality, and given wide shots to show them off without ‘cheating’ with close cuts and quick cuts. Yet, the fights on ‘Daredevil’, while brutal and relatively grounded, struck me as being a little over played. I’m all for flourished and flamboyant fighting, but in a show that is pushing gritty to the forefront, the kind of moves that have Murdoch flip or spin through the air and leave him flat on the ground, and only resulting in delivering a punch or a kick that is just part of the exchange of blows and not a finishing move, seemed a tad OTT and impractical. Especially when there was more than one opponent on his case, it didn’t seem the most efficient fighting method. There were also few moments of excitement for me through the action, unlike the fights from other shows, like ‘Arrow’ or reaching back to ‘Alias’.
All that negativity I just piled on the show made it a tough watch. However, the paranoia that Kingpin and his paid goons created was great stuff, and really created a frightening world in Hell’s Kitchen where it seemed like Murdoch and crew were up against a shadowy all pervasive threat. The show grew on me as things began to hot up with the syndicate turning in on itself through Kingpin’s machinations and the revelation that he was perhaps not the biggest player, and that he had overstretched himself. The brutality of she show was brave of Marvel and shocking too (car door decapitation, anyone?), and the series had an uncomfortable edge to it where it seemed like anyone but Murdoch was fair game for a bit of reaping. I do agree with much of the comparison between ‘Arrow’ and ‘Daredevil’, and how this show really shines a light on how tame Arrow’s vigilantism is. It was the final episode of ‘Daredevil’ that sold the show to me. The show gave us one of the easiest cosplay outfits you could want (even if it is reliant on being fit to pull off a good impression) but Murdoch’s appearance in costume at his rise to becoming a costumed superhero was awesome and I had geekbumps. That was what I wanted from this show MUCH earlier on.
If this show had been a tighter and more focussed 6 episode introductory run it would have been much more enjoyable for me. As it was we had a 13 episode run that was a dawdle and lacked the excitement I look for from the superhero genre, and had it not been for the hype and what I took as a promise of greatness to come I probably would’ve given up on it. While I can’t agree with the praise piled upon the show by so many people I’m glad I stuck with it as I enjoyed the finale and hope it has found its stride for season 2. I would give this 2 masked vigilantes out of 5 as a perfectly watchable show for much of its run, elevated to 3 at its close.
What did you think?