Monday, April 27, 2015
New TV Show Mini Review: Daredevil
It is one of the best shows I have seen in a while.
Now, keep in mind that I am a huge fan of the movie with Ben Affleck (I know, I'm the only one), but rest assured that this show is head and shoulders above it.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that this show is The Dark Knight of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This show feels grounded in a reality that nothing else Marvel has done.
For those unfamiliar. Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) was blinded as a child but received enhanced senses. He grew up to be a poor crusading lawyer with his best friend Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson). At night, Matt dresses in a black costume and beats up bad guys with no real agenda other than beating them up. But then they are drawn into a much larger plot when they decide to defend Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll). What follows is a fantastic superhero show and crime anthology.
The action sequence are horribly impressive. In the second episode there is a single take hallway fight that is as riveting as it is exhausting. And the story elements are just as watchable. It is an excellent sign that I can go almost an entire episode without watching Matt suit up as Daredevil and still be just as absorbed and entertained.
I was so impressed by the lack of obvious special effects on the show. In the movie, the director made liberal use of Daredevil's "radar vision." But the show has a gritty realism. You can feel the roughness of the bricks and the closeness of the buildings. Hell's Kitchen is an urban jungle like something out of the gritty '70's.
The acting is superb. I never would have pegged Cox to hit this level of physicality. And he does an incredible job of using his voice to project calm in away that is in complete contradiction to his violent behavior. Henson brings a fantastic charm and humor that never feels out of place in this grounded universe. Woll does a great job of appearing both determined and overwhelmed at the same time. Vondie Cutris-Hall brings a weary grace as the seasoned but righteous reporter Ben Urich.
But special mention must be given to Vincent D'Onofrio as Wilson Fisk. At first I did not understand his performance. He seemed completely socially awkward, slow to the point of stuttering. As the Kingpin of crime, I expected him to have more swagger, the way Michael Clarke Duncan played him in the film. But as the show went on I understood the method behind it. Fisk is a volcano being held together by pure willpower. At any moment he can explode in murderous rage. Once you see that, the power of D'Onofrio's performance comes through.
The pilot shows us the large forces arrayed against the good people of New York, unbeknownst to Matt. Fisk has a fearful alliance with the Russian mob, the Yakuza, and the Triads. In fact, for most of the series, he is taunted by his adversaries by how little he knows. Matt has no strategy. He has no plan. And as long as he remains this way, the villains have the upper hand. Matt needs to both outfight and out think an adversary who outsmarts him and can beat him to a pulp.
This makes for exciting television.
Thematically, the show is not light. But it does reflect smartly on good/evil, love/apathy, and it even is incredibly insightful about the difficult honest news has in breaking through the noise of Twitter/Youtube/Facebook.
As a Catholic, I love the way it shows Matt struggling with "the devil inside" him. His frequent meetings with a tough city priest are some of my favorite moments. Particularly there is a fantastic monologue the priest gives when Matt asks him if the devil is real. What the priest says is not only solid Catholic theology, but it doesn't come across as empty spirituality but it feels like the tangible touch of evil in the world.
I binged watched the entire series in the space of about 5 days. It is completely worth the investment.
My only complaint is that I have to wait to see more.