After months of impatiently waiting, fans were finally treated to Marvel’s latest hero to hit the small screen as Daredevil made it’s debut on Netflix! The first of several more Marvel properties to come to Netflix, Daredevil sets the bar pretty high early on. So throw away any assumptions you may have of this resembling anything close to the 2003 film or any of the super hero based shows on network television. It’s tone is closer to something you’d find on a cable network which allows for a darker and more violent look into the Man Without Fear and his mission to protect Hell’s Kitchen as vigilante by night and lawyer by day.
The first episode, “Into The Ring”, is a great set up that introduces us to Daredevil breaking up a human trafficking deal. The sequence is a fantastic show of skill and one of many masterfully choreographed fight scenes. There’s a mix of Krav Maga, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and Capoeira that is displayed but what makes it great is the very human aspect of the fights. They are raw, gritty, bloody, and very much grounded in the real world. Later we’re introduced to Matt Murdock (Michael Cox) and Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) as they take on their first case. Enter Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) who is framed for a murder that is tied very intricately to a much larger conspiracy that plays out as the series progresses. What makes this episode great beyond the supporting cast is the chemistry between Cox and Henson. The relationship between Murdock and Nelson is and has been a key element in the Daredevil series. These two nail that aspect throughout and at no point do the bouts of humor take you out of the tone of the story. We don’t get to meet Wilson Fisk but his voice and presence are felt when we meet his inner circle which consists of a couple of names many comic fans will notice immediately.
As impressive as the first episode was it was “Cut Man” that really made me want to stick around for more. Was it that fact that Rosario Dawson made her debut? Was it the thin tie-in to a character that showed up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Was it the father/son moments that just kicked you in the heart? All of the above and then some! But seeing Rosario Dawson patching up a badly beaten Daredevil as well as ask the right moral and ethical questions really just carry the momentum from the previous episode. Not only do we get a great story in the present but the flashbacks to young Matt and his boxer dad, “Battling Jack” Murdock weave in the origin without getting in the way of the main story. They also are just so full of emotion that you can’t help but root for the guy even when you know the inevitable is going to happen. And when that moment happens they make sure you feel it. Kind of like when that mobster felt it when Daredevil threw him off of the roof.
“Rabbit In A Snowstorm” drops us deeper into the conspiracy as Nelson and Murdock are hired to represent a man who earlier assassinated a crime boss in another bloody and bone crunching fight sequence. We get more of the lawyer side of things as Matt, Foggy, and Kate work this case and Ben Urich is introduced as well. We also get to see how Matt’s abilities aid him in the courtroom to find a juror that’s been tampered with. When it comes to his heightened senses they’re shown in a more realistic fashion. Sometimes the backgrounds are slightly blurred so we focus on the person whose heartbeat Matt is homing in on. He’ll react to certain sounds and voices as the camera does most of the work without the use of extensive special effects that would take you completely out of the world that’s been set up here. Now, as great as all of this is the real payoff in this episode is that we finally get to see Vincent D’Onofrio debut as Wilson Fisk! Let’s just say the mystique around the character has been built up so well that no one even dared to say his name and when it is spoken the person responsible decides to take his own life. In his brief appearance D’Onofrio puts so much into the character in just a brief moment that if you planned on taking a break after this episode it’s almost impossible.
Daredevil stands on it’s own from the other MCU projects for several reasons and all of them seem to be petty good ones. There are nods to the other projects to let you know that it’s all still connected but the more graphic atmosphere makes it a different experience all together. Your seasoned Daredevil fan will appreciate what’s been done with the mythos and many scenes bring to mind Frank Miller’s time with the character. For anyone new, just know that the pacing is excellent and it eases you into everything in due time. Also, both the principal and supporting cast are excellent and i’ll go on record as saying that D’Onofrio OWNS the role of Wilson Fisk! We’ll get into that in later reviews but if you have reservations give the first couple of episodes a look and see for yourself. You might just end up a fan of The Man Without Fear!