Bob Garlen Reviews - The Netflix Original Series: Marvel's Daredevil Season 1

Bob Garlen Reviews - The Netflix Original Series: Marvel's Daredevil Season 1

I've decided late in the game to begin reviewing the Marvel Netflix Original Series, one at a time by order of release, all in preparation not only for Iron Fist but the Defenders as well.

Daredevil Season 1

Released: April 2015

Showrunner: Steven S. DeKnight

Developer: Drew Goddard

Based on: Daredevil, Created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett

Length: 13 Episodes

Principle Cast:

Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock/Daredevil,
Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk,
Elden Henson as Franklin “Foggy” Nelson,
Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page,
Aylet Zurer as Vanessa Marianna,
Toby Leonard Moore as James Wesley.

Set in the modern-day New York two lawyers, Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson, set out to make a meaningful difference both through the system. While operating as upholder of the law by day and operating outside it at night. Daredevil seeks to protect the little guys of New York. Trouble is found in the form of a New Mob Boss absorbing the criminal element, seeking his own vision for New York. From Origins, to wars, Fights will be won and lost. The two forces will clash in an epic struggle over their souls and the fate of New York. Political Espionage, Crime, and Ninjas all become open territory in Marvel’s First Netflix Exclusive Series.

Developed as the first Netflix Original Series by Marvel, Daredevil is a crime thriller series. With the series influenced by crime films of the 70’s, action movies of the 80’s and the modern Marvel Superhero Movies serving as the atmosphere the series operates. The darker tone of the series, introduced under the Marvel brand felt revolutionary as until Daredevil, Marvel had gotten dark but had never done anything as dark as this series. The series acts as a mission statement by Marvel. Dedicated to showing the real-world aspects of the ever expanding ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’ Daredevil shows the daily struggle of the average joe, protected by the titular vigilante. The entire section of the MCU that Daredevil operates in is wholly unique and so unexplored even the smallest things stand to wow audiences.

The role of blind lawyer has gone to Charlie Cox, an actor from across the pond who had to learn a lot about the role before stepping in the shoes. It’s pleasing to say that Charlie’s take on Matt is one of the most natural performances in a franchise. With this iteration of Matt Murdock having aspects from Frank Miller, Brian Bendis, and Lee primarily fueling it. Charlie’s charisma as Matt is natural and pleasing. The performance is fitting, rolling off almost as more of an extension of Charlie Cox and oddly enough you can completely forget about the character’s disability and fully enjoy the person without questioning the quality of the story.  Charlie’s performance when masked is transformative. He is a different personality in a lot of ways. His movements alter, his voice takes a different tone, and his spirit is significantly more aggressive. The way Cox uses Matt’s blindness as Daredevil makes for great moments where Daredevil looks as if he’s doing the loner gimmick or the cool guy side turn. It works to tell two different characters. Cox’s whole performance is perfect for the character, with his voice in show being what I have imagined Matt Murdock to sound like since the first time I read a Daredevil Comic.

Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk is a villain of pure intrigue. The entire first Season could have played out without showing Fisk, and only allowing his voice to ring out to audiences and it still would have worked. His performance is significantly more layered than Charlies. Fisk shows signs of numerous mental illnesses and even small attributed of Autism. He uses these unique mannerisms, movements, and reactions to create a human being. His voice was a little tough to get used to, especially in the beginning, but then you notice, that the tone of his voice sounds uncomfortable because that’s how the character feels. With surprising moments of vulnerability displayed, and then moment of aggression and rage springing forth, D’Onofrio’s full range is at play, making for a Villain deeper than what the Movies have been afforded.

Elden Henson and Deborah Ann Woll are the main two supporting performances of this freshman endeavor. It isn’t until the Episode ‘Nelson V. Murdock’ that we see Elden finally suiting his character. Once he does it’s fantastic. Deborah is cute and even plays naive in a playful manner but she doesn’t have any moments that made her the only choice for the role. I fell in love with her performance once she displayed more troubled aspects. Seeing her resort to alcoholism really brought out humanity that really could have been explored earlier. Deborah does a fantastic job as Karen but you can tell she had room to grow. These two deliver a wonderful performance overall, it’s just the time it takes to get use too.

I would say my favorite performance of Season 1 belongs to Toby Leonard Moore as James Wesley. I was sad to see him go, as his performance didn’t outshine the two main players it held it’s own and had unique undertones too it. He was a fantastic element added to Fisk that made the two really feel like they needed each other and that was a treat. Aylet Zurer’s Vanessa is a bit odd. She does find Fisk being a mob boss a little too comforting. I almost felt like she probably had as many issues as Fisk and they never really came to light. She does a fine job playing a Mob Wife, but it’s honestly hard to tell why Fisk loves her. I would hazard that she is the weak link of the series from a performance stand point.

We have a slew of guest starts including Vandi Curtis Hall, turning in an excellent but short performance as Ben Urich, Bob Gustafon as the cowardly but smart Leland Owsley, Matt Gerald as the shy and friendly Melvin Potter, and Scott Glenn, as Stick in a performance that was Frank Miller’s writing incarnate. While Vandi’s performance is short on time, he makes every scene and interaction count. He made the character a strong and memorable character that made it easy to tell why fans would be disappointed at his untimely death. Gustafon’s Leland is a fantastic performance. It fits the character on screen well but it really feels like a unique performance with the way he is utilized, with the character using his whit to allow him to be cowardly. Matt Gerald’s Melvin is a sympathetic person, an example of someone trapped in a bad situation with no way out. Scott Glenn is, as mention earlier, a Frank Miller character in real life. Not only does he look like he was ripped from the pages of the Daredevil comics but his overall performance matches that. Stick is the most enjoyable of the guest stars in the series.

The story of Daredevil is a very simple one brought into complex layers. With Matt representing the little guy, always working in one form or another while carrying a big heart with much moral confusion. Fisk represents the politician, always working things around to better suit the narrative he’s after and gaining power continuously from others. It makes the story of each episode intriguing as we see these elements play off each other, knowing deeply that they’re strictly opposing each other while being forced to see each other in the light of day, unable to act against the other. The story is gripping while paced well for a slowburn and carrying enough action for a binge-watching experience. While not much of Goddard’s original plan for the series is known, DeKnight handles the property spectacularly. His vision of the story is engaging from numerous perspectives allowing for personal confusion and morality to play heavy factors in natural and organic ways. Some episodes take a moment to really get through but in the end they’re all worth watching.

With an Original Score by John Paesano, the music in Daredevil is highly elemental. While it does have notes of the standard superhero endeavors wrapped in it, it also has darker character based themes. The series Opening theme is the most appropriate themes for a specific superhero on television. The theme has a sense of moral ambiguity and questions of the soul in a rhythmic tone that perfectly tasks the character it is dedicated too. The music remains on point for the entirety of the 13 episodes and wonderfully cue audiences as to what is about to happen.

The Directing is high quality. The show doesn’t look like standard Television the likes of Law and Order. The direction in Daredevil is film quality. With each new set of hands being able to take the property somewhere and create strong and lasting visuals. With dynamic scenes, such as the Hallway fight in ‘Cut Man’, the opening scene to the Pilot ‘Into The Ring’ the visuals and the vision fueling the series is outstanding. With the quality of directing always increasing with inventive story-based choices on visuals.

I enjoyed the flashbacks, especially the ones relayed for Fisk’s story. I think that overall the story runs an appropriate length, and the action in the series is exciting and engaging. The suit, while needing some work done to it, it more than I expected for a television budget and is open to updates to help it evolve more into the comic suit, which gives designers something to really go for in future seasons.

I think the nicer and more enjoyable touches fall in the Easter eggs, a common Marvel trademark. The series is littered with them and only a few will be caught on anyone’s first go around. These involve references to The Punisher, The Avengers, and The Hulk. If there are any negatives, it would fall to occasionally cheesy dialogue or bad lighting. I do feel like points can be justifiably taken away for the slow build on performances, since it took me a while to care for some of the other characters. Some elements still escape me, such as Vanessa’s acceptance of Fisk’s true nature, Fisk’s plan and motivations are never truly elaborated beyond real estate deals, and why the writers killed off Wesley.

Overall Marvel’s Daredevil was a massive success, evident by its renewal for 2nd and 3rd seasons. It’s a strong start to the Netflix corner of the Cinematic Universe and like many others I can’t help but give this a near perfect score. I wrote, only briefly about the negatives but when they are there, they’re there. I would say that when Daredevil first debuted I watched it several times over. Each time I felt like I could discover more about the characters and the plot, and didn’t feel the need to look for Easter eggs as much as a need to enjoy the story. Myself I would personally rate Daredevil Season 1 as an 8.5/10.


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