A Conversation about Daredevil

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April 15, 2015 by Devin

I have been trying to get a discussion with my friend Chris Manchik on here for some time now. He has been always entertaining to talk to about movies, games, and such, so I figured my readers would enjoy hearing one of our talks.

Considering Daredevil recently came out on Netflix, I figured that this would be a good opportunity for talking about Marvel’s latest show. We do not really go much into the spoiler territory, so if you have not finished the show, do not worry about it unless you want to go in completely… ahem… blind.

I had to make ONE blind joke.

Devin
So let’s start off with some general thoughts. What’re your overall feelings after watching the first season?

Chris
I enjoyed a lot of what the first season brought compared to other Marvel Cinematic Universe stuff. It was brutal, impactful, and managed to give just a taste of a lot of what is to come. That being said, it was a first for Marvel Studios in a lot of ways.

What were your feelings regarding the season?

Devin
I will say that one of the things I was really dreading about this show was its grittiness. I’m basically tired of grittiness overall, and I prefer my shows to have some more humor and color to them. Sometimes it feels like even considering The Dark Knight was 7 years ago, people are still looking at that as the ideal.

Having said that, I felt Daredevil was both not as gritty as I feared and grittier than I expected, which was odd that those both existed. Like it was not afraid to be brutal, but I never really got the sense that it was overbearing.

I feel like, to an extent, Marvel has stuck the landing with this show. Some things about it are truly fantastic even though a lot of it is fairly predictable or safe.

Chris
I’m still divided on the grittiness of it. As I told other people, they put the TV-MA rating to full use here. I think the first time I saw one of the graphic scenes I actually jumped back from my screen and shouted all manner of words, not something that I have ever done for a show.

The show does work, but it is not the usual MCU for a number of reasons. The brutality and grittiness of it is one. It also managed to be a lot of firsts for the MCU in the idea of a smaller scale compared to even Agents of Shield, the first time someone in the MCU wore a mask or costume not as the other heroes like Iron Man and Captain America have done before, but as a way to live a dual life and protect the ones Matt Murdock cares about as well as himself, and it is the first time Marvel has really (to my knowledge) returned to New York post Avengers and kept it in a small setting without any grand conspiracies or any massive plots beyond one man’s own attempt to fix his city.

Devin
Yeah, I’ve actually loved the smaller scale. I think that’s an element that has been really missing from the MCU. I think having this big shared and connected universe really should allow Marvel to go smaller, to not always have to deal with the fate of the world and artificially raised stakes. I kind of thought that that’s what they were going to be doing with Agents of SHIELD, but I think that has in some ways become more of a cornerstone for the Marvel universe than many people were anticipating (but that’s a conversation for another time).

Do you think the show should keep up the brutal tone for the rest of the shows and into the second season (which I assume/hope there will be)?

Chris
I can see it for Iron Fist, considering how a couple of plot elements tied heavily into that, but for ones like Jessica Jones, that seems to be more of something akin to Veronica Mars in premise, I don’t think so. I couldn’t take 4 more series of the tone of Daredevil.

I think the brutal tone can be kept into the second season, some of the more extreme stuff like the compound fractures can be kept to a minimum. But part of what made the first season was that Matt Murdock took after his father in that no matter how much he got beat, he kept getting up.

Wouldn’t have worked as effectively if they just had some light bruising and tears in clothes. Likewise, some of the building of Kingpin and other characters wouldn’t have worked as well if the impact of their actions weren’t shown.

Devin
That is true. I think the brutalness of the show works best when it’s connected to Matt Murdock as a fallible human being and as the son of a boxer.

Is it weird that I think, for the most part, the action in this show in terms of fight choreography and effects ranged from pretty good to mediocre, but in terms of character was consistently excellent?

For example, the fight scene at the end of the second episode that everyone likes to talk about is really not that much fun to watch or impressive beyond it being a oner. But as a reflection of Matt Murdock as a character and how fallible and human he is, it’s excellent.

Daredevil taking a break before punching this guy in the face.

Chris
It made him feel human. I wasn’t as enthralled by the fight as I was with the shot of him carrying the child away, clearly tired and on the verge of collapse. It was a decent fight, I could watch it again mostly because it reminds me of Oldboy’s hallway sequence, but it wasn’t the big moment for me.

That being said, I enjoyed how they developed the fights. It went from his first fight at the docks showing you what he was capable of. Then they suddenly introduce a character that is equal to Daredevil. It helped develop this notion that Daredevil wasn’t some superhuman being. He was just a man with a slight boost in abilities and some training to help.

Devin
So what did you think overall of Charlie Cox as Daredevil? Favorite aspect? Least favorite aspect?

Chris
I liked him. I can’t compare him to much considering the only other actor to attempt the role was Ben Affleck.

He managed to give me this impression of a character who is constantly listening and analyzing sounds. When he struggled with his own morality and methodology in fighting crime, there is a sense of conflict in his voice.

I can’t say I had a least favorite aspect, most of it was more writing than how Charlie Cox portrayed the character, but the fact that 90% of Daredevil’s character interaction with antagonists this season was beat them senseless for information.

Devin
I will definitely agree with that. Murdock didn’t really have a relationship with any of the criminals he was fighting (with two exceptions). I think possibly the biggest mistake they made this season was not allow Daredevil and Fisk to really interact until the 9th episode, which feels like a mistake. Instead, like you said, he was just mostly beating people up.

I think Cox showed a lot of promise and range with Murdock, especially when he was joking around with Foggy. I do wish they allowed him to show off more of that side of his character, that he is ultimately an optimist and someone who’s making things better.

I guess when my biggest issue was that there wasn’t more of the stuff I liked, then that’s a pretty good sign.

What about the rest of the supporting cast?

Chris
Well, let’s get the big one out of the way. Vincent D’Onofrio made a great Wilson Fisk. A lot of this show was as much of an origin for Fisk as it was for Daredevil. I have said a lot of the show is a deuteragonist tale of two men trying to save their city from behind masks, and I mean that. Fisk’s character was something I wasn’t expecting. Usually when someone portrays Kingpin, or any crime boss, you get a sophisticated gentleman with class and/or a mustache twirler waxing eloquent about their plans or desires. You get some of that with this Fisk, but you also get a very vulnerable and socially awkward child. D’Onofrio delivered that very well, down to the mannerisms in his speech, which felt like a mix of someone with social anxiety and also trying to think of and pick the right words to say. Near the end of the series I was rooting as much for Fisk to have a happy ending as much as I was Murdock. There is more to his character that I could go on for hours about, but I really enjoyed his moments on screen.

Vincent D'onofrio really is the breakout performance of this show.

I like Foggy’s character and his arc. He wasn’t useless or a character played entirely for laughs or comedic relief. He had as much importance as Matt did in the overall plot and contribution. While I know some people complained about his subplots related to the tenants, I actually enjoyed those. But he was a very likable character and when he and Murdock were together he filled out the role of the voice of reason very well.

Karen’s character was likewise very well done. She wasn’t just there as the love interest, and they managed to avoid a lot of the love triangle drama with how her character was done. She wasn’t just a traumatized victim either, she managed to move forward, but you could see some of the scars from her attack in how her character was done (having mace, some of her fear of another attack, etc).

Ben Urich and Claire Temple were also great in their roles. Though I wish they both had a bit more character building. Urich had a decent amount with his motivations and some of his behind the scenes history in the MCU (his wall of stories is just a massive amount of callbacks to prior events). Claire didn’t get enough time. It felt like after episode 5/6 she just vanished.

Devin
I concur about Fisk. I could watch that man make breakfast for hours. I think what a lot of villain origin stories try to make them sympathetic by emphasizing how nice they used to be before they became evil. With Fisk, you get the sense even at the beginning of the show that he is a dangerous man, someone capable of killing people with his bare hands. In fact, it is almost like he prefers it that way.

But at the same time, the show introduces him by showing off this vulnerable side to him, someone reaching out and trying to make sense of his life. What I think is fantastic about his character is that his arc doesn’t go from good guy to bad guy. Rather, it’s more like bad guy to vulnerable bad guy to worse bad guy. By the end of it, his actions and fury become much more present than his vulnerabilities, an interesting turn. It was not necessarily tragic, but it was sad.

With the others I went back and forth on. I think Foggy for whatever reason was not quite as good as he could have been. Part of me feels like there was something forced in a lot of the actor’s delivery, but that may have been in the writing considering the show stayed so focused on the darker side of these stories. While it made for an incredibly dramatic situation, seeing Foggy become furious with Murdock in the first season feels like it may have been the wrong choice. It felt like he should have been the heart of the crew but wasn’t, making the ensemble feel a bit hollow.

Having said that, he and Karen were really cute. I like how they were able to get drunk and talk about their feelings in a very authentic way.

In fact, if there is one thing I liked about these characters, it’s that they all felt very adult. When Claire and Matt have their “determine the relationship” talk and it doesn’t go super well, they don’t let it get in the way of their lives. They don’t sulk on it. They move on. I agree that she definitely should have more screentime. If the writers have any sense at all, she’d become a regular for the second season. Just imagine: two main female characters!

I do think it’s clear that the supporting characters are much more interesting than the main character. Murdock is cool, but I can’t really pinpoint an arc or growth that happened to his character during the season. He was very much the straight-laced hero archetype.

Chris
A lot of his growth felt like his struggle with suddenly biting off more than he can chew, and a lot of deciding whether or not to just kill Fisk.

The only supporting character I really had issues with was Vanessa. Which is sad, because they could have done a lot more with her character than have her basically be just a romantic interest for Fisk. It felt like she was going to be more, but maybe that could be reserved for the second season.

Devin
I do think this show did have some strong female characters in it, which I always like. I think Vanessa was probably the closest one to just a love interest, but even then she showed such strength and conviction throughout her performance that it was impossible not to be as captivated with her as Fisk was.

And while there are some romantic hintings throughout, the show generally seemed disinterested in spending a lot of time “shipping” characters, which is really funny because Agents of SHIELD takes the exact opposite approach. But this approach let Karen and Claire seem less like foils to men and more like independent agents.

Having said that, Karen desperately needs to get let in on Daredevil’s secret identity. The sooner the better I think.

Chris
If she doesn’t already know. She seemed to have hinted at knowing something at the end.

The performance is a bit uneven, but Elden Henson does get some good character moments out of Foggy.

Devin
So this question isn’t only related to Daredevil, but I feel like this show might be one of the best examples of it: what do you think of the Netflix format of releasing every episode at once?

Chris
It is built for binge watching. Which I am fine with. I tried not to watch every episode at once and spread them out.

That being said, it has its ups and downs. The cliffhangers still work because they fit into this “just one more episode, I got to find out what happens next” mentality, but on the other hand it doesn’t work for discussions. There is a lack of people throwing around theories, discussing ideas, etc. Also makes it hard to discuss the show with anyone as everyone took it as their own pace, instead of the one episode a week format where everyone can be on the same page.

Other downside is now I got to wait a year for season 2. Hopefully when all series are out (except Defenders) they can spread it out to give some sort of year round love to circumvent this problem.

But it also has its advantages in that the show isn’t competing with other shows on the air for time slots and viewership.

Devin
I feel like the binge watching makes watching TV such a less communal experience. Ever since it was put into living rooms, TV has been something groups of people do, and it helps create a cultural dialogue. I think in recent years we’ve seen how that kind of community, which has in so many other ways been lost in the new millennium, can flourish. Shows like LOST or Breaking Bad have been events that people have spent so much time not only watching, but talking about and theorizing.

With Daredevil, I worry that in a month, nobody will be talking about it. And that honestly is not a better viewing experience for me. I like theorizing and exploring and seeing what people have to say. With Daredevil, it’s mainly just, “Yeah that season was good. Looking forward to the next one.”

Chris
That is a big problem, and it does happen (House of Cards hit this one, where after the initial week of discussion it just died down). However, if they can get the other 3 series out and pace them out 2-3 months apart, and do some proper tie ins and cliffhangers, it can alleviate some of that issue, and have people looking forward to the next chapter in the Defenders saga

Devin
I think I’d still prefer them to spread it out in smaller chunks, but I know that may be just me.

So, I feel like we’ve covered a lot here. Before we get to final thoughts, what did you think of the costumes?

Chris
I loved the black one. Mostly because of the mask, which was a great mask design. Otherwise it felt like the kind of costume he wore just because he wanted to hide his identity and be able to sneak around easily. Plus from someone who has done shopping online for random pieces of clothing to build a whole costume or outfit from, I can appreciate that he did much the same (except they never explain how he used the Internet to get it all).

I also appreciate that it seemed to have been ripped straight from the pages of The Man Without Fear.

The red outfit, I also loved, but I had a problem with the eyes on the mask. But otherwise I liked how he went from the “Devil of Hell’s Kitchen” to “Daredevil” and that his costume evolved in a logical sense to accompany that.

The outfit also made sense in his escalating war with Fisk. He needed some extra protection against the guns and blades, and it wasn’t just a simple wardrobe change for an arbitrary reason.

Devin
Yeah I felt like the black one felt really boring, but it did kind of grow on me. It made some sense, like he would not be someone who bothered much with actually making his outfit look good until, as you pointed out, the situation escalated.

I was not actually a fan of the red costume, mainly because of the unnecessary padding going on in the front. What I liked about the black outfit was that it really felt like he was working as a ninja, and the red outfit seemed like he was being a soldier. I definitely think it should have been sleeker.

Chris
Part of me would have liked some sort of nod to the yellow outfit.

Devin
“Well what would you prefer? Yellow spandex?”

Chris
Something along those lines.

Devin
All right, so I think we’ve covered a lot of ground here. What are your final thoughts about the show? Anything you wanted to say but didn’t?

Chris
It is a pretty good show for the fact that it managed to isolate itself, for the time being, from the greater MCU and tell its own story. That may not last for long as there was a lot of build up from Gao’s operation towards Iron Fist.

But otherwise, it was a fun talk and I enjoyed it.

Devin
I do think it’s important to note that this was its first season. I feel like it has had a lot of pressure on it to basically prove that Marvel’s Netflix experiment will work, and from that perspective it can be a bit disappointing that it’s not better than it is. But as a first season, it lays a solid groundwork for the next and differentiates itself from similar shows. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes.

I enjoyed this talk too. Thanks for doing it.

__________

If you want to see more of Chris Manchik’s work, you can follow him on Twitter at @PoG_Chris or check out his blog, Game Philosopher Corner.

If you like this post, feel free to comment below and share with your friends. And if you want to stay updated, make sure to subscribe either through WordPress or by entering your email in the box in the top right corner. Plus, make sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter (@D_A_White).

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