The streets of Hell’s Kitchen are dim, the corners are dark, and the danger is omnipresent. No sane man would dare walk those streets alone at night. But he’s the Man without Fear. Blinded as a young boy, Matt Murdock’s (Charlie Cox) other senses were heightened as he beat all odds to become the hero his city never asked for, but desperately needed.
During the day, he’s a lawyer who tries to help the people of Hell’s Kitchen, alongside Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson). At night, he’s the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, the lone soldier in an everlasting war against organized crime and its orchestrator, Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio).
Just like Matt, Netflix, with its brand-new “Daredevil” (the first of four series leading to “The Defenders”), dared to tread the darker, bolder, and bloodier corners of the MCU. As Iron Man set the wheels in motion back in 2008, it was a time when Marvel did things right, when it was more than humor and spectacle, when it dared to try new things. With “Daredevil,” the promise fans were given in 2008 was revived as Marvel crossed a line it never has before.
That’s the line of slow, violent, and bloody storytelling. Unlike any of Marvel’s previous works, “Daredevil” does not hesitate to take its time in developing its dark premise, intriguing characters and deep storyline. That’s a major improvement compared to what we’ve seen in the fast-paced, action-packed and comedy-heavy movies the company has been delivering. This time around, Marvel keeps the right balance between comedy, emotion, action, and dialogue, so that comedy can’t ruin intense moments and action can’t overshadow dialogue.
The story of Matt Murdock is deeper than any Marvel story told on screen, and is by far the most interesting. At last, the audience is able to feel how high the stakes are because, without a titanium suit or a magic hammer, “Daredevil” is just another man. He bleeds, he gets hurt, and he takes a time out. But, most importantly, it’s the decisions Matt Murdock makes that really give him momentum over the rest of the MCU heroes. None of his actions come out of the blue, and all of them result in opposite reactions.
But it’s not just about the story; it’s about the man. Matt Murdock is without a doubt one of the best developed heroes of the MCU to date. Whether it’s because of the flashbacks or the 13-hour runtime of the series, “Daredevil” fully develops Matt’s backstory and personality, while still leaving room for additions in the seasons to come. And because of the high stakes and dark storytelling, the audience comes to identify with Matt. Cox jumps in the equation as the perfect actor for the role, making an already great character much better.
But it’s also not about that one man; it’s about the many. Netflix did a neat job with character development in general. Foggy Nelson, Karen Page, Ben Urich, Wesley, the Russians, Madame Gao and the multitude of other characters are all assigned the appropriate time to play their role in the story, no matter how significant it might be.
Other than Matt, the really striking character, though, was obviously Wilson Fisk. A good superhero story is only as good as its villain, and boy, what a villain that is. Fisk can easily equal, and perhaps even overcome, Loki as the best villain of the MCU. This is achieved by Vincent D’Onofrio’s impeccable portrayal of Fisk. The series makes it clear that Fisk does not know he’s evil. His intentions are noble, admirable even, and just for a second there, one may even think he’s right.
This is where D’Onofrio’s symphony begins to play. Anyone who’s seen him in Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” knows the man can portray mental instability. That’s the case in his portrayal of Wilson Fisk but with a twist; D’Onofrio makes it clear that Fisk is not an entirely sane man, but he does it with such charm that one starts to wonder if that’s even a problem.
The men behind the camera deserve credit as well. Show-runner Steven DeKnight, the writers, and the directors that worked on “Daredevil” did a marvelous job. The show remained true to the comic it’s based on, Frank Miller’s “The Man Without Fear,” while still tweaking and twisting elements to make the best out of everything; and this is a gift that kept on giving throughout the episodes. That, along with the Easter Eggs they threw at the audience, will make any fan of the comics cheer in excitement.
Yet, what the directors really excelled at was the fight scenes. Of course, it’s all about the fight scenes. They were choreographed in a gorgeously bloody and satisfyingly violent way, and though those sometimes dragged a little too long, the fights were a treat, especially that particular one at the end of Episode 2.
Now, the success of the rest of the Netflix/Marvel series leading to “The Defenders” remains to be seen, but after “Daredevil,” which was directly renewed for a second season, it’s only natural to get our hopes up. And, really, after all that, it’s safe to say that Marvel found its crown jewel wandering the dark corners of Hell’s Kitchen.