Daredevil: First Thoughts/Pilot Review

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In 2008 Marvel Studios burst on to the scene with two feature films, Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. They would then move into the production of short films (referred to as “One-Shots”), the best of those being Agent Carter. After the massive success of The Avengers, the next step for expansion was the small screen and their first foray into that world was in the fall of 2013 with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (which will now be referred to as SHIELD since it takes forever to make it an acronym). Since that time, Marvel Studios have continued their dominance of pop culture on all fronts. SHIELD is in its second season, there have been more one-shots and limited tv series and the movies have just been monstrous successes on all fronts.

With the release of Daredevil (or as it is officially titled, Marvel’s Daredevil, just incase you thought it was a dangerous motorcycle stunt show), Marvel is again expanding their brand in two ways. First, they have partnered with the juggernaught that is Netflix and they have released all 13 episodes in one swift moment, giving them the creativity to make this feel like a 13-hour long movie. This is great for story-telling in that there is a limited amount of episodes to tell one cohesive story. Second, Daredevil is officially rated TV-MA. This is a big deal for a Marvel property. With Disney in charge of the films we would never see the content we are going to get on Netflix. Essentially, since this is on the small screen, we are going to be getting R-Rated dramatic material that has been adapted from Marvel comics, and that is a promising perspective.
When reviewing a Netflix original series most opt to just watch the entire run and review it as a cohesive piece. While that is possible, I think that misses some of what make a TV series great. There is a slow development when you watch one episode at a time, reflect on it and move on to another episode the next week. I watched the pilot and I’m choosing to wait to watch the rest, mainly so I will still have a wife later. Since I have time between the first episode and the rest it presented an interesting opportunity to me. I’ll go ahead and share some thoughts on the first episode. I’m thinking I will do another review/recap when I’m about 7-8 episodes in. Then we can finish it out after I’ve finished the whole run. So while most people experience the entire run in one weekend, I’ll take it in chunks and try and process it like a regular weekly TV show.

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**Again, as of the writing of this post, I have only seen the first episode. I have no idea where the plot is going.**

The first episode is not titled Pilot, this is Netflix afterall! Instead, we are given a proper title in the form of Into the Ring and the show wastes no time getting started. We see a man running through the streets while the craziness of an accident has just happened. He starts calling out “Matty!” and those familiar with the source material know that this is Jack Murdock looking for his son. Alas, we see a young boy injured on the ground, hazardous material in the foreground. Matt Murdock is blind.

Next we see adult Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) enter a confessional as he begins to speak with his Priest. There is talk of his life, the inspiration/depravity that was his father and there is a discussion on the nature of forgiveness. It has yet to be seen whether or not Matt Murdock is religious, but at the very least we know that Matt has morals.

Right after that we are introduced to the underbelly of New York City (Hell’s Kitchen to be more exact). There are thugs that are in the process of trafficking women for prostitution (this is a TV-MA Netflix show we are talking about here). Like great vigilante stories of the past, once the henchmen goes too far and we as audience have our blood boiling, our hero appears. In this case, it is Daredevil in his ninja-like outfit and while he is not to “heroic” in the conventional sense, he does serve true black-and-white justice. Matt Murdock is blind. Matt Murdock has morals. Lastly, Matt Murdock is Daredevil.

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It is after this that we are introduced to the stellar opening credits and the TV series begins properly. Murdock has just started his career as a defense attorney with his friend Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson). By day they take cases in the court of law, by night he takes the law into his own hands as a vigilante. This is the premise for a great TV show (there is a reason fans cried out for Michael C. Hall for the role of Murdock, Dexter is very similar in theme and execution when compared to Daredevil).

The first conversation between Foggy and Matt helped me understand where the series is going and I could not be more pleased. They talk like normal people do. They talk about work, about the attractive women they are around and about how it is hard starting out in the business with no money. Honestly, the handful of scenes they have together show me that the show is in good hands. Their dialogue is quick and witty while also showing us the morality that Murdock has. I’m intrigued to see where the Nelson & Murdock law firm goes just as much as I am looking forward to Daredevil’s vigilante justice.

We are introduced to a shady business man who speaks for our unseen villain (who we know is Kingpin). Again, the dialogue is great and Wesley (Toby Leonard Moore) looks to be a great sub-villain in his own right. Wesley starts our plot into action, blackmailing some people, killing others and framing Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) in the midst of it. Into the Ring does a great job introducing all the characters while also keeping the story moving forward. This episode tells a small story that sees Nelson and Murdock defend Page’s innocence, giving us glimpses at their style of law while also showing us the corrupt politics they have to face.

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To wrap this up, I want to praise two more things the show is already succeeding at even in its first episode. First, the show is brutal. I am so glad Marvel is together with Netflix because Daredevil’s story is perfectly told without the restrictions of network TV censorship. As mentioned before, the bad guys sexually traffic people, there are underground drug operations and bloody violence everywhere. Its in the midst of this darkness that a vigilante like Daredevil is so satisfying. When you see deplorable things you crave to see justice. Storytelling lets us experience that justice and Daredevil does so is spectacular fashion. One of the things people are going to be talking about are the fights on this show. The fight choreography and cinematography is beautiful and painful at the same time. It is great to look at, but you feel the pain these characters go through when the violence happens.

Lastly, the series is fully connected with the whole of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It has been said that they can’t really do the show in the Hell’s Kitchen of the comics since the real Hell’s Kitchen has been cleaned up dramatically. Brilliantly, Drew Goddard and team have created a world that explains why Hell’s Kitchen is back in shambles. The “Incident” (as it is called in Daredevil), the “Battle of New York” (as SHIELD calls it), the “plot” as its referred to in The Avengers. Whatever it is called, part of this New York’s history is the event in which Aliens came down and the Avengers saved the world from destruction. There are a handful of references to the “Incident” and it is great. It sets up this world in that New York is still rebuilding from this destructive event. It is also great nerdy fun in that the connected nature of the Marvel Universe is felt here in the show. Wesley talks about “those heroes,” everyday conversations take place about people who put on “masks” and New York is rebuilding from the now-famous Chitauri attack. Daredevil doesn’t ignore its movie heritage, it fully embraces it and lives in the world The Avengers has created.

This is just the first episode, I can’t wait for the rest.

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All images gathered from Marvel’s official website.

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