The setting is Hell’s Kitchen, a real-world Sin City attacked by the Kingpin of Wilson Fisk. Daredevil avoids the obvious cartoonlike black and whites of Sin City, seeking grays and the scratch of white paint on canvas – an image that soothes the character of Wilson Fisk in a horrifically complicated way.
Matt Murdock is the hero, an attorney struggling to create a law firm with his partner, Foggy Nelson, and their assistant, Karen Page. It’s really refreshing to have a hero who isn’t incredibly rich, going through the same fight most of us do to pay the rent.
Matt becomes Daredevil when his blindness allows him to develop super-sensitive hearing. His mentor, Stick, tells Matt his blindness is an advantage to be used instead of a weakness to be overcome. Daredevil is charming, handsome, and determined to right wrongs in what he calls ‘his city’ – the sprawling underground of Hell’s Kitchen. Foggy Nelson, his partner, plays an amazing bromantic part opposite Murdock, determined to make money even in the face of Matt’s continued ‘do-good’ heroism.
Karen Page develops beautifully as well. She’s no mere figurehead to be rescued. Her first encounter with Matt puts her in danger, and Karen seems to become addicted to looking for more. Her friendly triangle with Foggy and Matt develops perfectly: there’s no awkward love-triangle, thank God. The three of them are adults who admire and are, at times, exasperated by each other. And we can’t ignore Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple, the Night Nurse who stitches Matt back together after one of his violent forays into the underworld of Hell’s Kitchen.
But the series reaches genius level when Daredevil peers into the background of its antagonist, Wilson Fisk. Tom Hiddleston, the actor who created the amazing humanity behind the monster of Loki, says Marvel is adept at making villains heroic and heroes villainous. Fisk is the Kingpin, and at first sight he seems to be the iconic villain. Huge in stature and bald as Lex Luthor, the actor Vincent D’Onofrio instantly imbues Fisk with a wrinkled uncertainty marking him as truly human even as he does monstrous things. He’s a dark mirror to Murdock as he talks about Hell’s Kitchen as ‘my city.’
More importantly, the love story in Daredevil belongs to Fisk. I’m enraptured by the idea of Villain in Love. Fisk falls for Vanessa, an art dealer, so naturally and softly the storyline becomes a sweet counterpoint to the horror going on around them in Hell’s Kitchen.
If you enjoy Marvel’s movies and like Noir film, I highly suggest Daredevil. Do clear your evenings, though, since you’ll want to stream more than one episode at a time. I was sucked in right from the blood-soaked intro, complete with incredible visuals and ominous music. The storyline, developing trope-y characters such as Foggy’s ex-girlfriend into complex personalities with depth and subtlety, kept me watching through the ending.
Important note – the violence in Daredevil makes this a series for the 18+ crowd. Don’t stream it for your younger kids.
Rumor says Daredevil will return with a new season, although the character may hit the movie screens instead. In a way, it would be a shame. The miniseries format has allowed the writers to explore Matt, Foggy, Karen, Claire, Fisk, and Vanessa with breathtaking clarity, and cramming all that into two hours would, in my opinion, diminish the story. Those who complain about Black Widow’s back-story in Age of Ultron would know what I mean, where one movie undid all the amazing character build-up in Assemble and Winter Soldier.
But we’ll see.
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