With the recent release of Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron this weekend, you’d be forgiven for letting Daredevil slip under your radar. The Marvel/Netflix collaboration introduces viewers to Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox)—a lawyer by day and vigilante with heightened senses by night—and his plunge into a seedier, grittier side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
I know what you might be thinking: Wasn’t Daredevil that blind guy played by Ben Affleck in a feature-length Evanescence video? Indeed he was! But don’t let the memories of awkward playground duels with Jennifer Garner and awful nu-metal scare you; Marvel’s Daredevil gives us something not entirely unfamiliar to fans of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. That’s not to say Daredevil is derivative or unimaginative — quite the opposite. While certain superhero tropes abound, Daredevil has a few tricks up its sleeve to set it apart.
Throughout the 13-episode series, I was blown away at the talent on display. Elden Henson (The Mighty Ducks, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 & 2) plays Foggy Nelson, Matt’s law partner, and elevates a potentially annoying comic relief character to somebody with true heart — something the show needs to alleviate the usually grim proceedings. His relationship with Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll of True Blood) is one I enjoyed watching develop. And of course, Cox plays the two sides of Matt Murdock with incredible precision, moving between quiet anger, warm affability, and raging physicality with ease.
The true standout, however, is Vincent D’Onofrio’s turn as primary antagonist Wilson Fisk. A man who insists he wants what’s best for his city — and will stop at nothing to attain it — Fisk is a formidable presence on screen; D’Onofrio channels a simmering rage that threatens to boil over at any moment. Some of the most jaw-dropping scenes of the series feature Fisk and some horrible act of violence. But on the contrary, the most intriguing aspect of the series is Fisk’s relationship with Vanessa (Ayelet Zurer) — the Claire to his Frank Underwood.
This brings me to something else that sets the series apart: it’s bloody. Whereas much of the MCU fare presents a sanitized, soft PG-13 take on superheroics, Daredevil pulls none of its punches — literally. The end of episode two sees Matt break into a criminal hideout to rescue a kidnapped boy; what ensues is an incredible single-take fight scene that is stunning in its seamlessness. And the end of episode four . . . well, best I don’t spoil that one; you’ll lose your head on your own. Trust me.
Is Daredevil perfect? No. A handful of episodes drag, and the finale is lackluster, but it’s a hell of a lot better than other offerings from Marvel’s television department (looking at you, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). And with a second season already confirmed for next year (and more Netflix collaborations on the way), it’s a confident first step into streaming for the company. If you like your superhero fare a little daring, look no further; Daredevil’s got you covered.