Watching Marvel’s Daredevil is like taking deep breaths before a plunge into deep water. It lets you breathe, just for a moment, before pulling you back into Hell’s Kitchen, awash in pulpy greens and yellows – and after finishing all 13 episodes, I couldn’t ask for anything else.
Plagued after the Battle of New York in The Avengers, Hell’s Kitchen has definitely seen better days.
At the center of this crumbling, grimy neighborhood exist two characters: Matt Murdock a.k.a. Daredevil (Charlie Cox) and Wilson Fisk a.k.a. Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio). As we observed in the second trailer, they face one another in a war to better the setting where they grew up. Murdock calls Hell’s Kitchen his city, while Fisk says it’s in his blood.
The series sets up these characters as two equal protagonists. The show may be called Daredevil, but Fisk is just as much a leading player as Murdock. Both actors give stellar performances as their characters are dragged through the mud. Murdock is an affable and passionate fighter. He won’t give up until Fisk is behind bars, no longer terrorizing Hell’s Kitchen. We see Murdock suffer throughout the series but he always ends up back on his feet.
Fisk, on the other hand, is both magnetic and petrifying. He is such an astounding villain because he genuinely believes in what he’s doing. Plus D’Onofrio’s performance is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time.
Fisk needs to save Hell’s Kitchen and will do anything to accomplish that. Murdock and Fisk are parallels, starting as early as their childhoods with the influences their fathers had.
While Murdock has a romantic dalliance, Fisk is the real romantic lead as he courts Vanessa (Ayelet Zurer). Together, the two become an intriguing and fascinating pair. You don’t know if you like them but you certainly can’t take your eyes off of them. I would love to see more of Vanessa since Zurer gives a quiet yet poignant performance.
Honestly, I would have been happy with even more of D’Onofrio’s Kingpin. (Fingers crossed he and Vanessa show up again!)
The supporting cast is also superb. Toby Leonard Moore as Fisk’s right-hand man Wesley is cold and calculation. Foggy Nelson, on the other hand, could have been a thankless role were it not for Elden Henson’s performance which is a breath of fresh air.
Unfortunately, the series fails in trying to balance everything into 13 episodes. Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple is excellent, but disappears suddenly for most of the second-half of the series in what is only explained through clumsy writing.
Storylines didn’t always add up. Foggy and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) were sometimes less interesting compared to concurrent arcs, although their story was greatly enriched by Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall) and Elena Cardenas (Judith Delgado).
Themes were heavy-handed at times and speeches were often outlined so heavily that they seemed to exist solely to make sure the audience understood the character’s motivation. It became tiring after a while.
But overall, the series is fantastic. All criticisms aside, it’s a tight and confined series. References to the Marvel Cinematic Universe are few and far between.
Technically speaking, this show is a marvel (no pun intended) as well. The lighting and colors look and feel like a comic book. The series depicts Murdock’s heightened senses with clever sound editing and camera focus.
Hand-held cameras give the series a street-level aesthetic. The action sequences are spectacular – honestly, just watch the single-take fight in a dimly lit hallway at the end of Episode 2 and it will blow you away.
Marvel and Netflix prove themselves the perfect team. I can’t wait to see AKA Jessica Jones next, as well which characters from Daredevil will pop up in later series (besides Murdock, of course). I’m completely on board with this entire project and a huge fan already!
What did you think of Daredevil? Discuss in the comments below!