Marvel Comics’ Daredevil Season One is original programming on Netflix. It’s a very different beast than Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s darker, more intense, and much more violent. The similarities in tone and grit with Batman: The Dark Knight are not merely superficial. After scripting his ground breaking reboot for Batman in the 80s, Frank Miller took on Marvel’s Daredevil. This series on Netflix is the spiritual successor to that reboot. It’s taken TV thirty years to catch up with the comics.
The story begins with Matt Murdock (played by Charlie Cox) setting up a new law practice with his friend, Foggy (played by Eldon Henson). Matt is a defense attorney by day, but by night he dons a black outfit and busts skulls all over Hell’s Kitchen, New York. This series is about the transformation of Matt Murdock into the Daredevil.
Unlike many other shows that I have seen, Daredevil Season One is also about the transformation of the supporting cast without losing focus on the main character. It’s about Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio), still called Wilson Fisk, and his growth from abused child to dark crime lord. It’s about Foggy’s transformation from disapproving spectator to reluctant Daredevil supporter. It’s about Karen (Deborah Ann Woll), their secretary, and her transformation from simple office worker and terrified victim to bold citizen journalist.
It’s also about seasoned reporter, Ben Urich, with a command performance by Vondie Curtis-Hall, that is perhaps the most tragic character of the show. Played with grit and sensitivity, you’ll find yourself rooting for him when he takes a stand against the system, and you’ll root for him when he has doubts. All the characters are real people who struggle with their own personal demons, as well as external forces that seem to initially overwhelm them.
Daredevil Season One takes a unique approach to superpowers. It portrays Murdock as normal as possible. He is—after all—just a blind guy trying to make his way in the world. Although superpowers are at the root of his abilities, they aren’t glorified. In fact, they’re treated matter-of-factly. Cox’s performance is nuanced, especially with multiple conversations with his Catholic priest. This is one of the few shows I have seen come out of Hollywood in recent years that treats religion respectfully.
One way the series stays grounded is with the stunts. The stuntwork in Daredevil Season One is fantastic. If you watch it for anything, at least see it for the well-choreographed fight scenes. The acrobatic moves of Cox and his stunt double are truly impressive to behold. They are straight out of a martial arts movie, but without all of the silly line work.
Along Matt’s journey from black clad vigilante to costumed hero, there is an awful lot of violence. This show more than earns a TV-MA rating. Blood flows by the bucketful. If you’re squeamish and don’t like intense violence, you may not enjoy this series. Gunshots make splattering impacts. Billy clubs leave bruises and splattered blood. Fisticuffs leave splattered blood. You may notice there’s a theme. The blood splatters freely from the beginning to the end of Daredevil Season One.
TV violence doesn’t bother me because I’ve seen it filmed. I’ve seen the ketchup bottles used to spray blood on stuntmen. However, Fisk has two of the most violent scenes I have ever seen on television, which is ironic because we don’t actually see anything. The directors let the viewers’ imagination fill in the gory bits, but the idea of what was happening off camera horrified me to my core. I have to admit that I found them excessive and unnecessary.
Other aspects of Daredevil Season One that I didn’t enjoy were almost every scene featuring Foggy once he discovered Matt’s secret. I thought the introduction of Matt’s Daredevil suit was implausibly timed. I also didn’t buy the relationship between Fisk and Vanessa (played by Ayelet Zurer). I could understand a woman liking a charismatic man, but we weren’t given enough information about why she, an art dealer, was A-OK with Fisk’s underworld ties and violence.
So it’s violent, intense, and dark. Why do I think it is good? The writing. The dialogue. The character development. The story arcs. This is a well-crafted show. I’ve watched it twice now and I enjoyed it even more the second time through. I highly recommend the show. Fans of the Batman franchise, especially the Christopher Nolan incarnations, will probably enjoy the grittiness of Daredevil Season One. The nice thing about it being a limited run of thirteen episodes is that the pacing is tight. There are no filler episodes. Each episode exists to push the story forward. It’s a fantastic super hero show that doesn’t forget that heroes are just people fighting against the odds.
Original Air Dates: April 10, 2015 (USA)
TV Parental Guidelines Rating: TV-MA
Alcohol/Drugs: 5 (does anybody NOT drink in this show?)
Language: 4 (mild TV swearing to s-words)
Nudity: 1 (a topless Charlie Cox might be too hot for some people, despite his bruises)
Sexuality: 1 (sexual relationship/cohabitation between villian and his moll)
Violence: 5 (brutal violence, gun and knife play, death by hammer, blood spattering, implied decapitation with a car door)