If TV-MA is the equivalent of an “R” rating (which it is), then Daredevil, Marvel’s first foray into Netflix territory, is the first “R” rated programming in the history of the MCU. And, it will probably be the last. I have a hard time seeing the upcoming AKA Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, or Iron Fist shows being as dark and violent as this one. But no matter. It doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is this, that Marvel’s Daredevil is so good, it’s close to spectacular. It’s so good, that I even put it ahead of the first Iron Man movie. While the other Marvel television shows have been good at times, bad at others, and spotty all times in between, this is one series that deserves to be included in this “Golden Age of Television.”
The show’s first episode starts out perfect and and the last episode ends perfect. Sure, the kid from Mighty Ducks is in it, but even he does okay as Foggy, Matt Murdock’s law partner and best friend. Sure, we have to deal with an obligatory rift in their relationship when Foggy uncovers the truth about Murdock, but even that works out in the end. The reality is, Daredevil has given us a side of Marvel that we’ve never seen before, and I’m not talking about the dark side: I’m talking about the side with stakes.
See, we’ve really only ever seen the spy element of the Marvel universe (with characters like Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Mockingbird, and Phil Coulson), or we’ve seen the military side of the Marvel universe (with characters like Captain America, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Red Skull), or we’ve seen the cosmic side of the Marvel universe (with characters like Thor, Thanos, Vision, Star-Lord, the Inhumans, and Loki). We haven’t noticed it, but the most popular part of the Marvel story, the crime-fighting, street-level hero, has been completely ignored. But no more. We’ve finally been brought back into the world of alleyways and roof-tops that we enjoyed seeing so much in the Batman and Spiderman movies that preceded the MCU. And, Marvel’s only getting started.
Following the inception of more TV shows about Luke Cage (or Power Man) his wife, Jessica Jones, and his frequent partner, Iron Fist (Easter Eggs for whom were abundant in Daredevil), Marvel plans on using Netflix as a springboard to a Defenders mini-series. That’s right. We’ve had The Avengers. Now, we’re getting The Defenders. Isn’t this so fun? And it’s not like Marvel is biting off more than they can chew. That would only be the case if Daredevil wasn’t any good. But it was good. Very.
The story of Matt Murdock, the good, Catholic, blind lawyer (all of those characteristics are important) whose blindness left him with lightning quick reflexes and heightened senses of smell, touch, and hearing, is certainly the darkest of all the Marvel stories, except for, perhaps, the Punisher. But the Punisher was more bad than good; with Daredevil, you never have to question his motives. He’s the sharpest form of vigilante. He also introduces a new form of intellectualism to the MCU. Intelligence in the MCU has been shown only from the angle of science, as if true geniuses can only be versed in astrophysics. With Matt Murdock, we have a new type of smart person, one who deals with the social sciences. And he tries to use his mastery of that to bring down what may be the single most menacing and best-acted bad-guy in the whole MCU.
That bad guy is played by Vincent D’Onfronio. At first, you are haunted by his strange accent, his almost autistic compulsions, and his shy demeanor. Then, you find yourself tormented as he slams a car door on a man’s head until it explodes. (Did I mention this was rated TV-MA?) He seems so human, and yet he seems so invincible. He truly is the Kingpin of Hell’s Kitchen.
The tie-ins to the rest of the universe aren’t important, and that is why this movie succeeds so much more than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. does. Sure, we come to understand that Hell’s Kitchen is in the shape that its in because it took the brunt of the destruction during the Battle of New York. But that’s about the only thing tying it together. But, if you don’t mind, I’d like to geek out a little and speculate…we get a good look at the Oriental/ninja/mystic side of the Marvel Universe in this story. Might we be expecting the mystic side and ninja side to introduce us to the dark magics….the very dark magics that produced Doctor Strange, for whom a movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch is forthcoming. Doctor Strange is one of the coolest of all Marvel superheroes (and most powerful). That would be interesting.
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