The story is a familiar one. Netflix commissions a series, people go mad for it, a day is spent in bed with ice cream and biscuits, consuming not only your body weight in snacks but also in TV. Then you forget about them the next day. You did it with House of Cards, Bloodline, and Kimmy Schmidt. Along comes Daredevil and its host of Marvel fanboys, wetting themselves over yet another chunk of the over-saturated they can pretend to be interested in.
Except this time, Daredevil is actually quite good.
The premise sounds like any other Marvel TV show/movie: a man is blinded by generic chemical X as a boy, but his other senses develop to the point of superpowers. So obviously he uses them to fight crime. That’s where the similarities stop though. Daredevil is a gritty, urban thriller so dark you might have trouble seeing what’s actually going on, as far away from the shambles which is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The show breaks away from the formulaic structure of the movies too. Without change, they go like this: superhero A/B/C/D/E/F/G has to fight an unstoppable villain, who will inevitably be stopped because the hero has three more already announced films to do. Daredevil is on a much smaller scale, the focus is a neighbourhood instead of all of creation. Hell’s Kitchen isn’t the hipster’s paradise it is now, instead it’s infested with scum and thuggery. Daredevil (Charlie Cox) wants to make it better the only way he knows how – being a genius lawyer by day and a vigilante at night. Here’s the kicker though: the fights are good, almost understated set pieces. When our hero has to fight four thugs at a time, it takes him a little while to deal with them because it actually would. He doesn’t heal quickly either; he has to take his time to recover from a battle. How nice to actually see a character in a superhero role, not just a blank slate with superpowers.
Kingpin, who could easily be bland bad guy number 86, is given as much a focus as the hero. The show is as much his backstory as it is Matt Murdock’s. Plus, Vincent D’Onofrio, who plays Kingpin, knows how to be a sinister, malicious presence. Every time he’s on screen, he looks like he’s thinking about the best way to kill you and get away with it. There’s no doubt he could too. The focus on the villain is another step forward for this stale genre. There are twelve episodes, which means twelve hours that can be used to really ramp up the menace. Kingpin himself doesn’t appear until the third episode, but by then we’re already terrified of him.
Binging isn’t the right way to watch Daredevil, despite what Netflix always wants you to do. The episodes are too dense, too dark and gritty – which is a good thing in a market ripe with interchangeabley dull superheroes. The episodes shouldn’t be consumed all at once because they’re too good to be instantly forgotten about in favour of powering through the whole series.
Daredevil is a step in the right direction for Marvel – a TV format allows for a much better look at a single character and stops them becoming just their super powers. There’s even character development and interesting storylines, shock horror! Who would have thought Marvel could have a hand in something that is actually worth spending 12 hours on? Watch this instead of seeing Age of Ultron, you’ll enjoy Daredevil so much more.