Daredevil (S1): Superior Superhero Storytelling

Madeleine’s Score: Loved it—telling everyone about it!
(5/5 cool points)

A few weeks ago, I decided to rewatch Netflix’s Daredevil series. I devoured each season when they originally came out several years ago, and I’ve rewatched them individually at one point or another. But upon my recent binge of the whole series, I was hit afresh by how absolutely special season one is.

For those unfamiliar with the superhero Daredevil, or if you’re resistant to superhero stories in general (because they’re freakin’ everywhere, am I right?), allow me to familiarize you. Maybe I’ll even manage to convince you that this show is worth your time whether you’re into comic book characters or not.

Matthew Murdock lost his father at a young age. Just before his father died, Matthew was blinded in an accident and found his other senses heightened to a supernatural level. Now all grown up and a lawyer looking out for the little guy, Matt assumes the alter ego of Daredevil by night—a martial artist vigilante protecting the people of his longtime NYC neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen.

This show is part fantasy, part crime thriller, part action flick. Dashes of comic relief and spiritual depth are thrown in to create a symphony of storytelling. Let’s dive into some specifics that make this show, particularly season one, a triumph.

Charlie Cox’s Daredevil is quietly confident, a brilliant attorney with a kind heart. Juxtaposed with his daring, dark, and spiritually conflicted alter ego, we’re left with a superhero whose true identity could plausibly be kept secret even in the real world. Matt’s what the best characters are—dynamic. Add into the mix his quick-witted, loveable best buddy Foggy Nelson, and the makings for arguably the best Daredevil screen adaptation are in place.

But this show isn’t solely about dudes. Both Karen Page and Claire Temple are women with agency and complexities. These women are not reduced to damsels in distress or sex objects, and for that, the show is not merely a thin veneer of male machismo. It’s about believable people who exist not to serve the plot, but to contribute to it uniquely.

The real clincher that proves the character genius of the show is Wilson Fisk. For the first several episodes, he’s a subdued, soft-spoken behemoth. So soft-spoken in fact that it’s unnerving–this man is stretched unbelievably thin, a powder keg that, once it goes off, will destroy everyone in the blast radius. And go off he does. Fisk is a force of nature out to burn down the city of his youth to rebuild it in his image, but inside, he’s equally a chubby kid from Hell’s Kitchen with daddy issues. Vincent D’Onofrio’s performance as this villain is awesome to behold.

Beyond excellent characters is action that left me slack-jawed. There’s something magical about one-shot fight scenes, and those in Daredevil are masterful. They’re even at the top of this list of mind-blowing one-shot action sequences. Just inspiring.

Finally, at the heart of this story are the real spiritual questions it poses, questions that create a depth often lacking in other superhero stories that amount to little more than destruction porn. Matthew struggles with his lot in life, with knowing what God wants him to do with his “gifts,” and, perhaps most of all, with the darkness inside him that wants to get out. When we realize that Fisk is struggling in much the same way, we’re left with a brutally honest look at mankind’s shared struggle with sin and the calling to be better, be more. And how rising above our sin is just about impossible on our own power alone.

Check out a trailer for Daredevil season one below. FYI there are three seasons of Daredevil, plus the hero’s appearances throughout all of the Defenders shows on Netflix, but don’t expect any more. Disney regained their rights to all Marvel characters/stories from Netflix, and because of this, the only hope for Charlie Cox’s Daredevil to find life again is with Disney (via Disney+, Hulu, Marvel movies, etc.). Read all about the current Daredevil production situation here.