Netflix Binge

Netflix Binge: Daredevil Season 2

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Daredevil1This blog is primarily for posting book reviews and other reading topics, however once in a while I will deviate to talk about other things I am passionate about – mostly movies and TV. One thing I am currently obsessing over is the second season of Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix.

Last year I broke down the entire first season into a week-long series of blogs reviewing every episode. (If you’re interested, you can find them all here, under the ‘Netflix Binge’ tag.) Unfortunately, I do not have the time for that kind of review this year, even though season 2 is just as deserving of that kind of attention. However, I did want to share some thoughts I had as I was watching the season.

Once again Daredevil has proven how well this format can work for Marvel. I love the tightness of the storytelling and the way the episodes flow into each other. My viewing of Daredevil is near compulsive – at the end of every episode I had to hit play on the next one, because I couldn’t just stop it there (and I was really disappointed when I got to episode 13 and could not hit play on a new episode). Like the first season, this felt like watching a 13-hour movie, though there were several mini-arcs throughout the season that brought a little bit of closure periodically during the season so it didn’t feel like there were too many strings left dangling until the very end (although it did still feel like there were quite a few balls in the air going into the season finale).

After Vincent D’onofrio’s performance as Wilson Fisk last year I really didn’t know how Daredevil was going to top Kingpin in the villain department. D’onofrio was absolutely brilliant and brought so much depth to his performance – he actually made you feel sympathy for Kingpin. Fortunately, the writers and producers of Daredevil didn’t even try to top Kingpin, instead going for a completely different kind of story. Instead of one Master Villain, the Punisher and Elektra storylines were separate but weaved together throughout the season. I think this worked well and the change in pace in that way prevented too much comparison to the previous season as to cause disappointment at the lack of Fisk this season.

Daredevil2The entire principal cast is excellent. I know I sang the praises of Charlie Cox, Elden Henson, and Deborah Ann Woll last year, but they are just so good in these roles. Henson in particular steals the screen as Foggy Nelson in nearly every scene he is in; he is just fantastic. The addition of Jon Bernthal and Elodie Yung this year only increased the excellence of the cast. Both put in stellar performances, and I was particularly impressed with Bernthal’s Punisher. While I can’t say I’ve seen a lot of Bernthal’s work, from what I have seen this may be his best performance. I would love to see each of these characters show up again elsewhere, either in another season of Daredevil or one of the future series coming to Netflix. They are both very interesting characters, and very well-written.

I am a huge fan of all things Marvel, particularly the MCU. However, I think what Marvel is doing on Netflix may be some of the best storytelling they’ve done. First Daredevil and then Jessica Jones, each show has really nailed the characters and has been extremely well-written and compelling. Everything about each of these shows has been fantastic and I can’t wait to see what they do with the rest of the Defenders universe.

It’s hard to review an entire season of a TV show in just one blog post, but I can say that if you were a fan of season one, you will not be disappointed. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s better than season one – simply because Fisk made the first season so epic, and each season is different enough to make an equal comparison unfair – but it’s at least as good. And if you’re a fan of the Daredevil comics, but haven’t yet watched any of the series on Netflix, I definitely recommend you making the time to binge the show as soon as possible. They’ve really done justice to the characters and the comics.

So if you’re looking for a dark and gritty superhero drama done well, spend some quality time this week with the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.

Netflix Binge: Daredevil “This is the part where law meets reality.”

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Daredevil castI love superheroes. When I was younger I was a big fan of the X-Men. While I wasn’t able to subscribe to many comics myself, I had a friend who had subscriptions to nearly everything and he was kind enough to keep me up-to-date on what was going on in the Marvel Universe. Gambit and Rogue were always my favorites. I can’t even count how many times I’ve read through each of their solo titles from the early `90s.

While most of the popular superheroes tend to be the mutants, or the aliens, or the ones with some sort of special powers and abilities, what I love most about Daredevil is how human he is. It’s that humanity – and the strengths and weaknesses associated with it – that this series focuses in on, and it’s what makes it so compelling.

I love the opening scene of the season finale. No words, no action, just mourning. This was an appropriate tribute to not only the character of Ben Urich, but Vondie Curtis-Hall’s performance as well.

Daredevil14Our heroes all seem to be in a dark place at the start of the finale. Karen and Matt are each blaming themselves for Ben’s death – Karen for dragging him into the story, and Matt for not stopping Fisk before he had the chance to hurt someone else. Karen is also terrified Fisk will learn that Ben wasn’t alone when he visited Fisk’s mother. Foggy is conspicuously absent from the funeral, though he later finds Matt venting his anger on a punching bag at the gym.

In this scene we see Foggy and Matt finally finally come face to face and agree to try to work past their differences. It’s good to see them working together again, especially now that Foggy knows the truth. Foggy, however is a terrible liar. He and Matt are really going to have to work on keeping their stories straight if they plan to keep the secret from Karen for much longer.

Matt, Foggy, and Karen work together to track down where Owsley was keeping Detective Hoffman hidden, as insurance from Fisk. Matt pays Hoffman a visit, saving him from Fisk’s men, but forcing him to turn himself in and tell the police – the good cops – everything. This leads to a massive amount of indictments and the FBI finally coming to arrest Fisk.

Of course, nothing is that simple, and Fisk’s men mount a large – and very public – escape. Fisk’s speech about the Good Samaritan parable just before he is rescued may be one of my favorite Fisk scenes in the series. Vincent D’Onofrio delivered that perfectly. I also loved the shot of him walking away from the armored car – he is triumphant and has so much confidence; he doesn’t hurry, or look over his shoulder to see if anyone else was coming for him. At this time, he believes he still reigns over the city.

Daredevil - red suitAnd here is where we get what all Daredevil fans have waited 13 episodes for – Matt Murdock puts on the red suit. The moment was definitely worth waiting for. Throughout this entire season you can see how he struggles with his mission, and how his fighting style and technique evolves. Matt doesn’t become Daredevil overnight, and by this point in the series if feels like he has truly earned the right to wear the suit. He fought his way from the ground up, and now he is Daredevil.

In his new suit, Daredevil tracks down Fisk one last time, but he does not cross that line he’s been wavering on all season. Fisk lives, and Daredevil turns him back over to the police.

This episode had a little less action than I was anticipating, but I think it was well-planned and executed, and it was a great ending to a brilliant first season. The final confrontation between Daredevil and Fisk was very well done and yet it didn’t feel final – especially when Fisk sat down in front of his cell wall. The ending left plenty open for a second season, and I really hope we get one sooner rather than later.

Other random thoughts:

I love Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but I think Daredevil has proven how well the Netflix model works for shows like this. While S.H.I.E.L.D. floundered a little in it’s first season, and didn’t really find it’s footing until Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out, Daredevil feels focused in a way S.H.I.E.L.D. did not. Every little detail of this show has been plotted out – even little comments that Foggy might make, which have no bearing on the overall arc, will pop up later in the series. For example, how much he loved the free bagels at their internship, or the story of his mom wanting him to be a butcher, or the avocadoes. There are very few throw away plot points in this series. Charlie Cox described it as a 13-hour movie during the panel at NYCC and he was absolutely correct. All the detail and careful plotting really does make it feel like one big long film.

Speaking of very few throw away plot points – what’s the deal with that last scene with Stick in episode 7? I’m sure if I were more familiar with the comics I would already know, but in the series we never found out who he was speaking to, or what they were talking about. Since every little detail has been carefully planned, I can only think that this is a setup for either a second series, or for The Defenders or one of the other Marvel series coming to Netflix. (Edit: I’ve done some research and apparently this, as well as Gao’s further than China comment, are all allusions to Iron Fist. Since I know nothing about Iron Fist, it’s no surprise I missed that.)

I have watched every episode of this series twice, and it wasn’t until yesterday I realized I missed an Elektra reference in episode 10 both times. As I was reading The Man Without Fear for the first time I was wondering whether or not they would ever introduce Elektra in the series, if it gets more seasons, and would they make her a college acquaintance of Matt and Foggy? That’s when it hit me – that is exactly what they did. In one of the flashbacks in episode 10 Foggy accuses Matt of only taking Spanish because of that “Greek girl.” That is one reference I should have caught, even with my limited Daredevil knowledge, but it went completely over my head. It also took two viewings to finally catch Stan Lee’s “cameo.” I was disappointed when I didn’t see him on the first viewing. I’m still a little disappointed he wasn’t actually in the show, but since his cameos are usually humorous it probably would have felt a little out of place. What other Easter Eggs were planted in the series that I missed?

As I mentioned above, I have now watched every episode  twice (my excuse is that it was necessary in order to write these reviews) and it was just as good, if not better, the second time around. I have always been a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but with Daredevil they have really stepped up and created a near-perfect superhero show. The bar has definitely been set high for the other series they have planned with Netflix and I’m looking forward to seeing how those turn out, but at this point I’m mostly just hoping there’s more Daredevil in the future.

Netflix Binge: Daredevil episodes 9-12

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Here we are, coming down to the home stretch where everything really starts to pick up momentum as we head towards the finale. While the series on a whole has been excellent, and there have been a lot of great moments to point to, I honestly think everyone is giving some of their best performances in these four episodes leading into the finale.

Daredevil9Episodes nine and ten, much like five and six, are basically two halves of a whole. In episode nine, “Speak of the Devil,” Mrs. Cardenas is murdered and though it appears to be drug-related, Matt suspects Fisk. The episode is punctuated with scenes of Matt in a brutal fight with Nobu, which we eventually learn was part of a trap set for Matt when he went after Fisk in revenge. In the end Fisk himself shows up and Matt barely manages to escape alive. After a night of drinking and blaming himself for Mrs. Cardenas’ death, Foggy shows up at Matt’s apartment and, upon hearing thumps inside, lets himself in only to discover the man in the mask bruised and bleeding on the floor. Foggy begins to dial 911, but something makes him stop. He reaches for the mask and is shocked to discover who is underneath.

Daredevil10AEpisode 10 deals with the fallout of Foggy’s discovery and the effect it has on his and Matt’s relationship. The episode frequently flashes back to their college days and shows how Foggy and Matt met, their internship days and their decision to start their own firm. Flashbacks also reveal for the first time how and when Matt made the decision to put on the mask. Elsewhere in episode 10 Karen and Ben discover Fisk’s mom alive and hidden away in a nursing home, where she tells them the truth about Fisk’s father. While attending a public function Vanessa, and several other guests are poisoned.

These two episodes are possibly my favorite of the series. Episode nine was intense – I squirmed so much as I watched Nobu dominate the fight with Matt throughout the episode; every time those blades sliced into him, and when he was being dragged along the floor? It was intense and brutal and almost physically hurt to watch. I also loved how the episode explores whether or not Matt is ready or willing to go so far as to kill Fisk if it comes to that.

In episode 10 I loved how they took a step back from the action and focused on Matt and Foggy’s friendship. Often when secret identities are revealed a show will quickly move on, but Daredevil really took the time to explore the consequences of Matt lying to Foggy for all those years. Charlie Cox and Elden Henson each gave incredible performances in this episode – absolutely brilliant and heartbreaking at the same time.

Daredevil10In episode 11, “The Path of the Righteous” Matt and Foggy still are not speaking and Foggy drowns his betrayal in alcohol and Marcie, while Matt learns where he can get the nifty light-weight armor that protects Fisk. Meanwhile Fisk and his men are holding vigil at the hospital waiting for Vanessa to recover. When Wesley learns about Karen’s trip to Fisk’s mom, he kidnaps Karen then foolishly thinks she isn’t capable of shooting him. She proves him wrong – seven times.

One thing I wish we had learned is Wesley’s backstory. I’m really curious what makes him so loyal to Fisk – not even just loyal, but Wesley seems to genuinely care about his boss and goes after Karen in order to protect him. Many of Fisk’s associates follow his orders because they fear him, but with Wesley it’s not fear; it’s closer to respect and I’m really curious about what inspires that level of loyalty. Even Fisk thinks of Wesley as a friend rather than just an employee, and in truth he’s probably the only friend Fisk has, aside from Vanessa.

This episode really seemed to close the door forever on any relationship between Matt and Claire. It’s a shame, even though I know Matt and Karen are canon, I liked Matt and Claire’s chemistry. However I was more okay with it that I was expecting. This relationship has evolved a lot since episode two, and I think this was likely the only possible ending for them.

In the penultimate episode, “The Ones We Leave Behind,” nothing seems to be going well for the good guys and they all seem to go in different directions while still seeking ways to bring down Fisk. Karen deals with the repercussions of murdering a man and is haunted with fear that Fisk will find her. Foggy recruits Marcie’s help in taking down Fisk while Matt tracks down Madame Gao’s heroin lab and learns what she has done with all the people she has working there. This episode also confirms that Gao and Owsley had been working together to poison Vanessa, in order to try to return Fisk’s focus to the job at hand. But what did Gao mean when she said her home is a “considerable distance farther” than China? I’ve suspected for a while there is more to Gao than we think, but this makes me even more suspicious. Who is she?

Daredevil-112The episode ends with Ben strangled to death by Fisk, his last act protecting Karen by insisting he visited Fisk’s mother alone. The minute I saw Fisk in Ben’s home, I knew that’s how this scene would play out, but it was still terrible to watch. Vondie Curtis-Hall has been wonderful as Ben and I hated to watch it end that way for him – not the least because we spent most of the series watching him come to terms with the fact that he would be outliving his wife.

I love Deborah Ann Woll; her performance throughout the entire series has been stellar, but she really shines in these last few episodes. I love the strength and courage she gives to her character. Karen Page has every reason to allow her fear to cripple her, but instead she stands up and fights back. She proves that you don’t have to be a superhero to be awesome. She’s amazing.

I can’t believe there’s only one more episode after this. Already I’m hoping there’s a second season. I know we still have Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist to go through, not to mention The Defenders, but I really want to see a second season of Daredevil. The sooner the better.

Netflix Binge: Daredevil episodes 5-8

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The first four episodes of Daredevil effectively laid the groundwork for this series and showed fans exactly what they could expect of the level and quality of this show. The next four episodes continue to live up to those expectations and then some.

Episode five, “World on Fire” picks up not long after the previous episode, with Claire still staying at Matt’s apartment after her abduction by the Russians. During this early scene in Matt’s apartment he and Claire share a brief kiss and all the Claire/Matt shippers sigh in relief. However, as the episode continues it starts to look like this might already be the peak of their relationship.

Daredevil2This episode is the first and (SPOILER ALERT) only time we’re given a glimpse of how Matt “sees” the world around him. I think this is actually a good decision. We don’t need to see what Matt sees in order to understand how he does it. Constantly switching to this point of view would only be distracting. Instead, I much prefer the way they focus in on him as he’s listening, and the shots with the people he’s questioning reflected in his glasses are very good.

At Nelson and Murdock the guys take on the case of an elderly woman being bullied into giving up her rent-controlled apartment. Meanwhile Matt decides it’s time to do something about the Russians. Fisk has his own plans for the Russians, however. He and Wesley lead Vladimir to believe it was the Vigilante who killed Anatoly so Vladimir will go after the man in the mask – two birds with one stone, so to speak. However, things don’t go well for the Russians as Fisk blows up all four of their buildings.

Matt, who had tracked Vladimir to the warehouse, chases him from the building only to run into cops arriving on the scene. The episode ends with Matt about to be arrested by the police. Thank goodness I could immediately move on to the next episode and didn’t actually have to wait for the conclusion to this cliffhanger.

Daredevil7Episode six “Condemned” starts with Matt being handcuffed, though as soon as the cops reveal themselves to be dirty he fights back and escapes with Vladimir. Matt hides out in a vacant building not far from the center of the action and tries to stabilize Vladimir so he can get information from him. Fisk, meanwhile, is setting the Vigilante up to take the fall for the explosions as well as several cops he has snipers shoot.

This episode shows how even the most hardened criminals have a concept of loyalty and family. Vladimir realizes Fisk has betrayed him, and gives Matt an important piece of information in his mission against Fisk – Owsley’s name. Then Vladimir stays behind in the building to fight the cops coming for them while Matt escapes. I really appreciate that the bad guys in this series are not merely one-dimensional.

Episode seven, “Stick” delves a little more into Matt’s history and how he learned to control his sense and fight. Through flashbacks we learn that shortly after his father’s death the nuns at the orphanage didn’t know how to help Matt and his growing senses, so they contacted a man known only as “Stick” to help him. Stick trains Matt until the boy starts showing too much attachment, then disappears. In the present Stick has returned to ask for Matt’s help in tracking a weapon known as “Black Sky.” The weapon ends up being a young boy and Matt will not allow Stick to kill him. However, once separated Stick finds the boy and kills him to prevent the Yakuza from getting him. Matt and Stick fight through their differences – nearly destroying all Matt’s furniture – before Stick leaves.

Daredevil StickI really enjoyed this episode, and the background it gave, but it left us with a lot of unanswered questions. We’re never told exactly who or what Black Sky was, and an ominous scene at the end of the episode suggests Stick has more plans for Matt. Who is the guy Stick is talking to, and what door is going to open? And why does Stick look exactly the same in the flashbacks from 20 years ago as he does in the present?

Episode eight, “Shadows in the Glass” is a fascinating character study of Wilson Fisk. At New York Comic Con Vincent D’onofrio describe Fisk as a child and a monster, and that characterization has proven extremely accurate. Like a child Fisk seeks love and acceptance, which he finds with Vanessa, but he is also very much a monster, as was shown when he murders Anatoly in episode four.

In this episode we get to see flashbacks of Fisk as a young boy, living with his abusive father until Fisk snaps and kills his father with a hammer. As Fisk relates this story to Vanessa we get a glimpse of how Fisk views himself – not as someone who is cruel for the sake of cruelty, but in order to accomplish a goal. He truly believes he is doing what needs to be done in order to make the city a better place.

This episode also shows how Fisk is a creature of habit. Twice we see him wake up and go through the exact same morning routine – which includes staring at the painting he had purchased from Vanessa’s gallery. The flashbacks reveal that this painting reminds Fisk of the night he murdered his father. Later in the episode we see the impact Vanessa is having in his life as he forces him to break those habits. She chooses a lighter gray suit for him, and forces him to wear cufflinks other than those which belonged to his father.

It would be easy for these episodes in the middle of the series to lag, or lose momentum, but this never happens. I think this is one of the benefits to the format of the series. By releasing the entire series at once on Netflix, the entire show was planned out in detail so that every episode advances the overall arc of the season – there are no standalone or throwaway episodes. Also, most viewers will be binge watching the series, therefore there is no need to remind us of what has been happening so far, no recapping exposition, just forward movement, as Charlie Cox himself pointed out at New York Comic Con.

I keep waiting for this series to have just one episode that seems lackluster or less interesting than the rest, but so far that has not happened and I’m starting to think it never will.

Netflix Binge: Daredevil episodes 2-4

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Daredevil4The first episode of Daredevil set a high bar for this show, and I was very pleased to discover that those standards never lowered. I initially watched the first four episodes together in one large chunk, and didn’t really want to stop there. These episodes build on the relationships introduced in the premiere as well as introducing a few more key players.

Episode two, “Cut Man,” introduces Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), who for the purposes of Daredevil, is also the Marvel character known as Night Nurse. Claire finds Matt Murdock half-dead in a dumpster and brings him up to her apartment to tend to his wounds. While Matt won’t reveal his name – it’s bad enough she’s seen him without his mask – he does tell her his condition was a result of tracking the Russians in an attempt to rescue a kidnapped child (the boy from the end of the premiere). Matt recruits Claire into helping him interrogate the Russian “detective” sent to find him and based on his information Matt is able to find and rescue the boy. Meanwhile Foggy and Karen bond over a night out on the town.

The pacing of this episode is a little slower – and less intense – than the pilot, but equally riveting. The fight sequence at the end of the episode is especially impressive in its choreography and execution. The choices made are fascinating and the camera angles and everything about it is brilliant. According to stunt co-coordinator Philip J Silvera, this fight sequence was actually done all in one shot, which is even more impressive. I love that the fight scenes in general aren’t fancy or stylized  – they’re real. There’s no CGI, or crazy effects. Cox has been quoted as saying people will think so, but every move is actually his stunt man (though Cox has also said he tried to do as much as he could or was allowed).

I also loved the flashbacks to Matt’s relationship with his father in this episode. They’re wonderful and heartbreaking. The series makes frequent use of flashbacks; there are many ways this can be done badly, but the structure of the series works with the flashbacks and they’re used to great effect here.

Daredevil5Episode three, “Rabbit in a Snowstorm” finally introduces us to Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio), but not until the very end. The episode starts with a man named Healy assaulting several other men in a bowling alley, then surrendering to the police. Wesley, Fisk’s right-hand, approaches Matt and Foggy to work for his employer on retainer – and their first case is defending Healy. After a hung jury the man walks free, but Matt suspects there’s more to the story. Wearing the mask he confronts his client and demands a name. The man gives up Fisk, but his fear of repercussions leads him  to kill himself brutally and painfully. Elsewhere, viewers finally get their first look at Wilson Fisk as he meets Vanessa (his wife in the comics, played here by Ayelet Zurer) for the first time.

This episode also introduces Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall) as an investigative journalist who is looking into the corruption in the city. A lot of the Ben’s introduction also deals with his personal life, as he struggles to secure care for his ailing wife. When Karen is offered money to never speak of Union Allied again, she seeks out Ben’s help in uncovering the truth.

What stood out to me the most about this episode was the introduction of Fisk. In the first episode he was an invisible presence that felt powerful and malevolent – several people died on his orders in that episode. Here, a man fears him so much that he would rather die than face his wrath. But when we finally meet the man, it’s in a sophisticated and cultured environment, and he seems extremely vulnerable. This first scene with Fisk is a stark contrast to the man that’s been built up in our minds prior to this moment, and it immediately shows that this is a very complex individual.

Episode four, “In the Blood” brings the Russians back as they attempt to track down the vigilante in the mask through Claire. They manage to find Claire where she’s been hiding out in a friend’s apartment and kidnap her in an attempt to beat information on the vigilante out of her. Matt finds her, though not before she takes a beating at the hands of the Russians. Back at Matt’s apartment it’s his turn to tend to Claire’s wounds, and he finally gives her his real name. Anatoly tracks down Fisk – who generally doesn’t like coming out in public – and insists on a meeting. Unfortunately Fisk takes umbrage at having his date interrupted and things do not end well for poor Anatoly.

This is the episode that makes it abundantly clear that this show is not the kid-friendly Marvel Universe we may be used to. Naturally it was expected – Daredevil is a darker comic after all – but up to this point every installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is PG (at most PG-13) and fairly family friendly. From the start, Daredevil was much darker in tone than the films or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. There has been more language and violence – the guard killing himself in episode one, beating a guy to death with a bowling ball, then stabbing oneself in the eye. But the end of episode four introduces a whole new level of brutality. Daredevil is to the MCU what Angel is to Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Torchwood is to Doctor Who and it’s all the better for it. This series would not work nearly as well if it was brightened up and kid-friendly.

This episode also adds another interesting level to the character study of Wilson Fisk. Up until this point we have seen the fear that he instills in his employees, but he himself has been calm and very much in control. This scene shows us the violent, brutal and uncontrolled side of Fisk. Murdock frequently refers to the devil inside, and letting the devil out – it looks like he and Fisk have this in common.

daredevil_ben_urichOne thing I really love about this series so far is how much it’s grounded in reality and how, even though it’s darker and more adult in tone than the rest of the MCU up to this point, it’s still very firmly rooted in the same world. There are so many great, yet subtle references to the rest of the MCU right from the start. While Matt and Foggy are touring their office for the first time, the realtor makes reference to “The Incident” in which “death and destruction rained down” on the city two years ago. In Ben’s office you can see a framed issue of the New York Bulletin with “Battle of NY” as a headline and next to that, a headline about the destruction in Harlem is a reference to The Incredible Hulk. In episode four Wesley expresses frustration with the Russians saying, “Maybe if he had an iron suit or a magic hammer, maybe that would explain how you keep getting your asses handed to you.” It’s fun watching for all these little Easter eggs.

Last summer Guardians of the Galaxy proved just how well Marvel films can handle humor, and now they’ve proven they can equally handle the other end of the spectrum. Daredevil also proves that a series can have a completely different tone and still fit in with the rest of the Universe.

Netflix Binge: Daredevil “Into the Ring”

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It’s Daredevil week here at Not Another Dumb Blonde and all this week I’ll be posting reviews from the new Netflix series.

Everyone has their own ways of measuring what they consider to be a good television show, book or movie. There are a lot of ways to judge a series – writing, acting, directing, and cinematography. All these elements have to work together to make a series truly great. And if a series is truly great, then I believe it will fulfill two criteria.

  1. A good series will completely absorb your attention. There are so many distractions these days, with tablets and cell phones. I can rarely get through even a half hour sitcom without checking my phone at least a couple times. Then there’s Twitter – and if you follow me there you know I enjoy live tweeting shows. However, if a series or a single episode is particularly good then it will completely command my attention so much that I won’t even be able to look away from the screen long enough to fire off a short 140 character tweet. Few shows accomplish this every week, but most of my favorites have more episodes that monopolize my attention than don’t.
  2. On top of being completely engrossing, if a series is truly great it will leave you a little sad when it’s over, because there aren’t any more episodes to watch. This is especially apparent when you’re binge watching a series. Quite often this leads you to go back and start all over from the beginning almost immediately, because a really good series holds up on multiple viewings.

I spent a large portion of my weekend binge watching the latest installment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Daredevil, on Netflix. And I must say, it most certainly fulfills both of those criteria and then some. While I hadn’t intended to livetweet the entire series – I tend to be very spoiler conscious – I did think I would end up tweeting more than I did, which was usually only once or twice between episodes. I was way too focused on what I was watching to even think about interrupting my viewing to tweet.

Keep in mind, the following review of Daredevil (and my subsequent posts this week about the series) are all from the perspective of someone who has not yet had a chance to read the comics, but nevertheless is an avid fan of the Marvel Universe. I someday hope to catch up on as many comic issues as I can, but until then I still love anything and everything having to do with Marvel.

Daredevil hits the ground running in the first episode, “Into the Ring” and doesn’t look back. The series begins with the accident that blinded young Matt Murdock, but it doesn’t dwell on the past too much at that point. Instead, we jump to present day Murdock (Charlie Cox) confessing and seeking forgiveness for the sins he is about to commit – stopping a gang of criminals from human trafficking. By the time we see those sins a few minutes later, it’s clear that he has already taken on the mission of protecting his city. While he’s not yet Daredevil, he is clearly already somewhat experienced at being a man in a mask.

Daredevil1The first episode, like any other pilot, is about introducing us to the main cast. The next morning Murdock is awakened by Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and we are introduced to Murdock’s law partner and best friend. We may not yet know how Murdock came to wear the mask, but we do see the origins of their law firm, Nelson and Murdock as they rent their first office space and take on their first client – a young woman named Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) who has been framed for murder. Nelson and Murdock work to clear her name, and protect her from her former employers who seem to be determined to kill her after framing her for murder.

Working in the background through this episode we begin to see the framework of the criminal empire at work in Hell’s Kitchen. We do not meet the man at the top in this episode, but we see that he has negotiated an arrangement among the lead criminal elements. There’s Nobu, a leader of the Yakuza, Madame Gao runs a large drug operation, Anatoly and Vladimir are Russian brothers invested in human trafficking, Leland Owsley (Bob Gunton) who takes care of the books and a man known only as Wesley (Toby Leonard Moore) who is the right-hand man of the as-yet-unseen head of the operation.

Anyone familiar with the comic canon – whether you have read many of the comics or not – know this invisible head is Wilson Fisk, also known as the Kingpin. I found the choice to not introduce him just yet rather interesting. We hear his voice over the phone speaking to Wesley, but do not yet see his face. His invisible presence throughout the episode lends a certain menace to the character – you already know he exists, and is powerful, but can’t see him. It’s a good way to build up the tension and suspense surrounding this character.

Near the end of the episode Karen returns to her apartment to retrieve a hidden flash drive with the files her employer does not want her to have. Exactly what she plans on doing with this flash drive is uncertain as a man attacks her in her apartment and steals the drive. Before he can get away, Murdock shows up in his mask and puts up a fight.

This fight scene is the most intense scene from the premiere episode, and was previewed at New York Comic Con in October. This scene is what really made me excited for the series. The choreography is tight and incredible to watch, and it was shot spectacularly. I also loved the flashback that interrupted the scene, reminding Matt he had to get back to work.

Once Matt subdues the attacker and retrieves the drive, Karen tells him it isn’t safe to go to the police so he decides they’ll just have to tell everyone. Instead of dropping the him off at the precinct, Matt delivers him to the front steps of the newspaper office, which leads to the story being exposed and Karen being cleared of all charges. As a thank you (since she can’t really afford to pay them) Karen offers to work at Nelson and Murdock.

The episode ends with a montage showing Matt at a punching bag, as the various members of Fisk’s organization go about their business, and the loose ties from the failed frame job are taken care of. The last shot is of Matt on a rooftop, listening to the sounds of the city and singling out a boy being kidnapped by the Russians. Cue the infamous Supernatural line, “We’ve got work to do.”

This was just a brief overview of what I thought was a very good pilot. I rarely ever judge a series by it’s pilot episode – so many are caught up in laying the groundwork and introducing characters, that they’re rarely the best episodes of the series. However, in this case this was truly a good episode (and remains one of my favorites even after I’ve seen them all).

Daredevil3I fell in love with the cast almost immediately. At NYCC Marvel’s head of Television, Jeph Loeb told an anecdote about how Joe Quesada had come to him two years prior and told he had met Matt Murdock. When Loeb asked him to explain what he meant, Quesada said he knew exactly who would play Murdock when Marvel regained the rights to play Daredevil. It was nearly a year before Marvel did regain the rights and start working on a series, but Quesada got his wish – Cox was the man for the role. Even after just one episode (and without having read many comics) it’s easy to see what drew Quesada to Cox. He brings a humanness to the role that wasn’t there in Ben Affleck’s Murdock. Cox brings out all the complexities of the character and does it very well. I’ve been a fan of Cox ever since Stardust, and it’s exciting to see him in this kind of role.

The cast wasn’t the only thing I loved about this episode. The camera shots, the editing – everything about this was well planned and well done. After months of waiting, the pilot completely lived up to my expectations and made me even more excited for the rest of the series.

Stayed tuned throughout the rest of the week as I share my thoughts of the rest of the series. And if you haven’t already, go to Netflix and watch Daredevil. You won’t regret it.