Daredevil Season 1 Review

Rating:

Daredevil Season 1 Has a Guardian Angel

Starring: Charlie Cox, Vincent D’Onofrio, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson

Matt: “I’m not seeking penance for what I’ve done, Father. I’m asking forgiveness…for what I’m about to do.”

Into The Ring (Season 1, Episode 1)

Netflix was a bold new world for Marvel after the film studio had built a successful movie series with television spin offs. Netflix was different because they gave Marvel a streaming audience with fewer content restrictions. Darker, more down-to-earth shows would build up to a Defenders miniseries in the future. Who better to lead that charge than Daredevil, the Man Without Fear?

Daredevil launched the Netflix MCU, but is the first season good enough to stand on its own merits? Let’s find out. The prosecution is ready to present its findings.

The Good

Justice Is Blind

Matt Murdock: “What was I supposed to say? “Hi, I’m Matt, I got some chemicals splashed in my eyes when I was a kid that gave me heightened senses?
Foggy Nelson: “Well, maybe don’t lead with that!

Nelson v. Murdock (Season 1, Episode 10)

Charlie Cox is picture perfect as Daredevil, despite originally knowing nothing of the character. He didn’t even know Matt Murdock was blind until shortly before his audition. Cox does a great job underplaying Daredevil’s heightened senses, using subtle tics instead of big “Daredevil using his powers” scenes.

Matt is an angry guy whose struggles to build his law firm are a parallel to his difficulties in becoming a vigilante. He doubts himself and often visits a Catholic priest to discuss the morality of vigilantism. Despite his flaws, Matt is shown to be a good person who wants to look out for the little guy in his dual identities as a lawyer and a vigilante.

Balancing out Daredevil’s gloomy angst is Foggy Nelson (Henson), Matt’s partner at the law firm. Foggy is comic relief, often regaling the characters with anecdotes or foolish sayings. He is also an amazing lawyer and surprisingly capable in a fight.

The final main character is Karen Page (Woll). She begins as a secretary for the Roxxon Corporation who finds evidence of embezzlement. She joins Nelson and Murdock after they save her from being framed for murder and later falls in love with Daredevil when he stops an assassin trying to silence her.

In addition to the main cast, Daredevil introduces nurse Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson). She rescues Daredevil after he’s beaten and left for dead. Daredevil starts going to Claire’s apartment every time he’s injured, slowly building a relationship with her. Claire is relatively unimportant in Daredevil, but soon becomes the connecting thread for the Defenders and appears in Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist.

The Kingpin’s Court

Leland Owlsley:Where are the Smiley Twins? Sleeping off another kidnapping?
Wilson Fisk:The Ranskahovs are no longer a part of this organization.
Leland Owlsley:Since when?
Wilson Fisk:Since I removed Anatoly’s head with my car door.

“World on Fire” (Season 1, Episode 5)

Mob politics take center stage in Daredevil. The main villains are a conglomerate of crime families held in check by the threat of a crime boss called The Kingpin.

The smallest of the families are The Russians, led by the Ranskahov brothers. They serve as Daredevil’s starting villains and are glorified mooks for the fledgling vigilante to practice his skills on.

Next up are The Japanese, led by Nobu (Peter Shinkoda). While originally implied to be part of the Yakuza, it is soon revealed that Nobu is an agent of The Hand. Nobu is somehow simultaneously stoic and ill-tempered. As a ninja, he is also able to fight Daredevil one-on-one.

The Triads are led by Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho), an elderly woman with several tricks up her sleeve. She is an expert manipulator, even speaking only in Mandarin for the first half of the season so her allies underestimate her. Madame Gao is not a ninja, but she seems to have superhuman strength.

Finally, Wilson Fisk (D’Onofrio) leads the mob. This version of the Kingpin is awkward and implicitly suffers from a mental condition. Nevertheless, he is a ruthless criminal who disguises himself as an affable philanthropist.

Fight Like a Demon

[Matt’s describing his first time fighting crime]
Matt: “The law couldn’t do anything to help that little girl. But I could.  [Her abusive father] spent the next month in a hospital, eating through a straw. And I never slept better.”  

Nelson v. Murdock (Season 1, Episode 10)

Superheroes are no strangers to fighting, but Daredevil does things differently. His combat is more realistic and a lot gorier than the usual superhero scrap. Daredevil frequently stops to catch his breath or beat the crap out of a mook before they’ll stay down. It helps show that Daredevil is mostly a normal guy with great fighting skills.

The Korean movie Oldboy created the Hallway Fight trope that Daredevil popularized. The second episode features a scene where Daredevil assaults a gang hideout to find a kidnapped child. This turns into a brutal three minute long continuous take as Daredevil beats ten shades of hell out of the gang. The hallway fight was so popular that it has been used in every Netflix MCU show.

The Bad

Order in the Court!

Foggy: We are both one day gonna be fine, upstanding members of the legal profession. El grande…how do you say “lawyers” in Spanish?
Matt: Lawyers? Abogados.
Foggy: El grande avocados!
Matt: [laughs] That’s not Spanish, that’s fruit.
Foggy: Pfft. It’s a vegetable at best.

Nelson v. Murdock (Season 1, Episode 10)

One of Daredevil’s most interesting characteristics is his job as a lawyer. Sure, he saves people as a vigilante, but he actually gets to make sure good people are saved and villains are punished in court. It’s a part of the superhero process that gets brushed over since most heroes don’t have a way or reason to be in court.

Daredevil squanders this aspect in the first season. Matt Murdock takes part in only one court case, with the rest of the season features discussions about how to attract clients. Later seasons rectify this issue, but it is a huge missed opportunity in season one.

The Verdict

Daredevil burst into Netflix like a bat out of Hell. The main characters are interesting, the villains are vile, and the fights are spectacular. The legal issues are an aggravating minor nuisance. Daredevil season one is worth your time.

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