Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sunday Best: TV Dramas of All Time #23 - Daredevil


I know, I know.

Daredevil has only been on for one season.  And it only came around this year.

How can I judge something based on such a small episode size and how can I imagine its timelessness after such a short time?

Those are fair cautions to raise about this pick.

But I stand by my choice.

Daredevil is a fantastic piece of television.  And regardless of where the rest of the series goes, what they have already accomplished is amazing.

The show follows the travails of a "street-level" superhero Daredevil (Charlie Cox) who beats up bad guys by night.  His alter ego, Matt Murdoch, is a lawyer by day and fights against large corrupt forces in his city.  He is aided by his best friend Foggy Nelson (Elden Hensen) who acts not only as comic relief but moral compass.  Also there is his girl Friday/Damsell Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) who enters dramatically into their lives.  Together they must confront a shadowy underworld led by Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio).

What makes this show stand out even after one season?

Let me reference The Dark Knight here.  One of the reason that film is reverenced in the super hero cannon was that it created an intricate social, moral, and mental landscape all the while grounding the the comic book genre in a tangible, rough reality.  And the true is the same of Daredevil.

In other words, Daredevil is The Dark Knight of TV shows.


"Cut Man"

The pilot is excellent, but this is the episode where you really feel the texture of the show.  Daredevil begins the episode beaten to hell.  And this isn't one of those shows where the hero brushes over the pain like Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse ("Pain don't hurt.").  You feel Matt's physical brokenness.  You get tired as you feel the weight of each footstep.  And yet the push forward is so intense, it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

And this unlocks the key to this first season: Daredevil is an amateur.  Yes, he has some powers and great fighting skills.  But he gets hit nearly as much as he lands punches and he is often clueless in where to even begin to solve the task set before him.  The one thing he has is the determination never to give up.  And this is so skillfully done in that amazing single shot fight scene.



"Shadows in the Glass"

It would be misleading to say that this is a bad episode.  It is only not as good as the rest.  It does fill in important backstory on Fisk, but it feels a bit like spinning its wheels.

"The Ones We Leave Behind"

The penultimate episode of the first season is the finest.  You might think it would be the finale, which was also excellent.  But the makers of the show fire on all cylinders with this.  It is cerebral and visceral at the same time.  Horrible things have been set into motion and it all comes to a head with the episodes final confrontation.  That scene is so horribly suspenseful that I always think of it when thinking of this show.


Daredevil is the kind of fusion of comic book and TV storytelling that is rare.  It lacks all sense of artificiality and gloss.  And as I mentioned in my mini-review, I love the fact that it takes the Catholic faith so seriously, along with a tough-talking inner city priest.  There is still a lot of room for this show to let me down in the future.

But I believe in Daredevil.

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