Is this what I’m to expect of my superhero stories now? A gut punch? A blinking out of the darkness of the theater (or my living room, but hey, I’m feeling like Ponyboy right now, mkay?) into a world that just doesn’t seem to make as much sense as it did before? A search for meaning? Weird dreams that I’m running from crazed Russians and bald-headed men in suits only to find out that I’m the one that’s been sent to save Hell’s Kitchen?
There have been other adaptations of Daredevil, but I don’t want to talk about those. I really don’t have to. That’s what rocks so much about Marvel’s Daredevil series on Netflix for me. Unlike so many other superhero retellings, it didn’t have to pay homage (*cough*superman*cough*) or lumber along trying desperately to re-invent itself and tell everyone that this time it’s different. It just kicked ass, took names, and moved along.
I’m babbling. But it’s a little hard to process.
My husband and I watched the entirety of Daredevil in about a week’s time. Sure, by binge TV standards that might not be too fast, but keep in mind we’ve got kids and jobs, and a crazy busy schedule. Essentially as soon as the kids were mostly asleep, we’d run to the living room and watch the next episode. We are, in every respect, a target market. Recent favorites include mostly anything Marvel’s done, Justified, and Game of Thrones. Even more telling than the time spent at the console was the fact that even though Game of Thrones premiered in the middle of our viewing, both of us really wanted to just watch more Matt Murdock kicking butt in Hell’s Kitchen and get our questions answered.
Okay, so no. It’s not going to change the way television is made. It might not be for you. But the series succeeds in many ways that, for me, were unexpected.
First, there’s no dumbing down to get a lower rating in the movie theater. This stuff is raw, gritty, bloody. It’s a superhero for adults with adult sentiments, viewers who aren’t interested in tie-in backpacks and t-shirts. This is so often the curse with comic book related film and television, it gets marketed to death and watered down so they can make money off of kids (and well, judging by my desk at work, some parents, too).
The other thing I noticed? It’s cut like a movie. One of my biggest complaints about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the gorram commercial breaks. Having to edit a show around commercial interruptions just makes for some really awkward moments in terms of pacing and plot. It made me really wish that S.H.I.E.L.D. could have the Netflix treatment. It gave them time in every episode to really paint the mood without rushing. And I think it’s one of the reasons that the villain is so very complex and almost… almost… someone you can pity. It’s also why it didn’t get bogged down in dreaded comic book origin story mode. It didn’t have to. It’s hard to do that when you’re pressed for time. But Daredevil, for the most part, was just time well spent.
And the performances? They were great. I mean, it’s got the luxury of being an ensemble cast. Even the (sometimes very short-lived) villains each had their own moments in the sun. Charlie Cox is growly and great, just a hint of his English accent punctuating his vowels now and again. He is what he needs to be, and is strongest when he’s trying to balance the guilt and shame of his chosen profession with his calling as a lawyer, often right in front of his friends.
More than anything, Daredevil just shows how much more room there is to go in the streaming TV medium. It has some hiccups (could’ve used some more complex women, perhaps; occasionally the gore got gratuitous, and the climax didn’t quite hold up to the very end) but it’s also just the first season. Considering it’s already been renewed, and how long it took for Matt to get his full suit (seriously, I cannot believe the interminable wait on that one) there’s a whole lot more story to tell.
Natania is a member of the Netflix StreamTeam.