Full disclosure: I was hotly anticipating the premiere of the Marvel and Netflix team up on the Daredevil television series. Daredevil is a huge part of my comics origin story: I cut my teeth on the Guardian Devil story arc penned by Kevin Smith and expertly drawn by Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti. I fell hard for the Man Without Fear and soon discovered Frank Miller’s Elektra Saga arc, realized my childhood heroes of TMNT had written themselves into the Daredevil origin story and that was it: comics officially had my heart.
It’s a nice move to open on Matt’s origin and play it for all it’s horror and sadness. Little boy does the right thing, saves a man’s life by pushing him from a speeding truck and pays for it with his vision. The POV shot of young Matt’s vision slipping away while focusing on the face of his father was chilling and effective. Actor John Patrick Hayden strikes the right tone on “Battlin'” Jack Murdock, trying to do the best thing for his son while constantly aware of his own limitations.
Some of the early action was a tad stilted, in the way of pilot episodes since time immemorial. The human trafficking scene leaned heavily towards cliche and away from actual menace, but was saved by the beautiful fight choreography. Kudos to the fight coordination/stunt double team for their thoughtful work in representing both Daredevil’s radar and boxing background in his fighting style.
The heart of any Daredevil story, or most of them at any rate, is the relationship between Matt Murdock and his law partner and best friend Foggy Nelson. Both Charlie Cox and Elden Henson are well cast: they not only look their parts, but revel in the well-worn patter between the two old friends. An early scene in which the two shop for an office to open their law practice hits all the right notes in script and characterization. We’re meant to believe the events of The Avengers film have left Hell’s Kitchen in ruins, and therefore rents are cheap during reconstruction. This seems more of a stretch than supersonic hearing to me, after all there is a bit of real-life Daredevil in the work of Daniel Kish, but we go with it.
The entire tone of the series evokes the noir sensibilities of the Frank Miller work I was drawn to years ago, and we have veteran director Phil Abraham and showrunner Steven DeKnight to thank for it. While pitching Hell’s Kitchen as noir in present day New York again strains credulity, it’s just right for Marvel 616 and I was happy to see it. And let’s talk about Deborah Ann Woll as the beloved Karen Page. Woll brings goofiness and charm to her performance that’s just right for Karen, and her chemistry with both Cox and Henson is electric.
We get a sneak peak at the crime syndicate that will ultimately become Daredevil’s nemesis. I’m breathless with anticipation for the reveal of Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk aka the Kingpin. We’re only teased in the pilot by his voice commanding henchman Wesley via speakerphone Charlie’s Angel’s style.
There’s a great team of talent behind the scenes of Daredevil: Buffy and Angel veteran writers Drew Goddard and Doug Petrie loom large, and DeKnight’s work on the Starz series Spartacus is some of my favorite television of the last ten years. Pulling in directors like Abraham and Doctor Who vet Eros Lyn bodes well for the tone of the series going forward.
The final scenes wordlessly convey what Matt Murdock is up against as the crime fighting alter ego Daredevil: as Matt pummels the bag in his father’s old gym we see baddies literally laying plans to build their empire in DD’s beloved Hell’s Kitchen juxtaposed with further kidnappings and dirty deeds. The final image of Matt on the roof of his building, listening to the pain of his city before pulling his black mask over his eyes got my fangirl heart beating loud enough for Daredevil to hear it all the way from the Kitchen.