Let The Devil Out
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Marvel’s adaptation of the Daredevil comics arrived amidst some trepidation, as fans of the comics still remember the disaster that was the feature film adaptation. But unlike that fiasco, the collaborative effort to bring the superhero’s story onto screens once more works here to tremendous results. The writing is largely sharp, the acting is spectacular, and the fight choreography just brings everything home. Daredevil is absolutely the best thing Marvel has put to television along with Agent Carter and it’s ironic that the two series feel like the least Marvel-like properties put to the small screen. Marvel has earned its name from its silver screen adaptations and rightfully so, with its intricately structured universe that is impressive in its framework even though half of the content inhabiting that framework is average or mediocre. But more so than the framework of their films, Marvel has a reputation for being fun escapes compared to their DC counterpart. Daredevil and Agent Carter are the darkest chapters that Marvel has put to screen and that willingness to go to more mature places has served these stories well. Daredevil (since that’s the focus of this review) is a deep, brooding adaptation that is seeped in a melancholia that almost effortlessly bleeds from the operatic opening credits to the very last montage of crime.
Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is an evident source of inspiration, beginning with the setting. The New York of Daredevil is a metropolis seething of decay and despair, falling apart at its very seams in a fashion that is evocative of Gotham. After a massive disaster, the neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen (aptly named, that one) is trying to recover but it’s a slow climb back upwards. With the destruction of the neighborhood and little done to help it during, a corporation called Union Allied has swept in like a typhoon, garnering an obscene amount of real estate for pennies on the dollar. As a result, even the cheapened real estate quickly begins ascending once again, tidy profits ensured for Union Allies. But their reach is extending beyond mere acquisition of properties. Officers of the company are openly engaging in pension embezzlement and they will go to any length to silence those who could potentially become roadblocks in their path to power.
As in the Gotham tradition, Hell’s Kitchen is brooding with a criminal underbelly that frequently bleeds over onto the surface. There’s a bit of an exploration of this chapter in Daredevil’s mythology in the pilot, encapsulated in our first introduction to the Man Without Fear. The opening sequence is a perfect microcosm of the battle that Daredevil faces. A gang of sex traffickers kidnap three women and are shuffling them into a shipping crate before they’re attacked by a mysterious man in a mask (not the real mask yet, but we’re getting there). Unbeknownst to Union Allied, a disruption in their “cargo” is the least of their problems. Karen Page, a secretary in the Union Allied offices, confronted one of her bosses about the file she had found revealing the mentioned pension fraud, but she was laughed off with the assumption that she would just stay quiet and continue to do her job. But she did the exact opposite and the man to whom she began to reveal the truth was found dead in the morning, stabbed to death with Karen holding the knife. This murder mystery forms the crux of the episode and certain aspects of it are intriguing, but it isn’t given nearly as much weight as it ought to have. For all intents and purposes, the mystery performs its job as a narrative bridge for the pilot but little more.
The most intriguing aspect isn’t the murder mystery (which isn’t explained all that well) or even the lackluster conclusion. It’s Daredevil himself. Played expertly by Charlie Cox (known as the Irish smuggler-of-Margaret’s-heart Owen Sleater from HBO’s Boardwalk Empire), there’s a mysterious quality about the character that extends beyond the expected mystery that would develop around a masked vigilante. As a child, he was in a terrible car accident that resulted in a mass of chemicals aspiring into the streets. Even as a child, when he saw an elderly man in the path of danger, he pushed him aside to save his life. That act of kindness cost him his vision, but Matt never allowed that to become the ultimate obstacle in his path. The pain is there, the remembrance of sight stings him, but his blindness has become a facet of his life that he’s accepted. When he’s not making sharp and snide quips about his sight, he’s learning to fight figuratively and literally. “I’m not seeking penance for what I’ve done, Father. I’m asking forgiveness, for what I’m about to do.” Watch out, world. Daredevil is here.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“He was always on his feet when he lost.”
+“About seven hours.”
+The corruption of the police department in New York was subtle and well done
+The officer killed, along with the assassin were smart narrative choices
+Incredible direction from Phil Abraham, especially in the sequence where Karen is almost choked to death in her prison cell
Title: Into the Ring
Written By: Drew Goddard
Directed By: Phil Abraham
Image Courtesy: Daily Superheroes