Geeking Out: Daredevil ( Netflix)

(Note: this is Part One of a Two Part Geeking Out on This Series.)

My very first image of Daredevil, was from a comic book, in the public library. Daredevil was  lying across the arms of a statue, in a callback to Michaelangelo’s Pieta, an image I recognized from my Art History classes and I wondered why it was being used in a comic book. I had tremendous respect for the artist ,who seemed to be putting his Art History knowledge to good use. (Do you know how many times that imagery has been used on comic book covers? Hundreds of times.)

This was when I became a fan. I stopped reading the comics sometime after Matt finally defeated Wilson Fisk, been exposed as Daredevil and taken over The Hand.

I remember I was very excited about the movie back in 2003, but that was because I’d never seen Ben Affleck in inaction before, having avoided his movies up til then. I, very distinctly, remember feeling somewhat dubious about him in the role, having never associated his name with action movies.

What’s sad is, I don’t even think it was a bad film. I can see the seeds of a great film inside the mess that got released. It had a lot of fun moments, but they all clashed with  each other, as if they belonged to different movies and Colin Farrell should simply not be allowed to star in any action films, ever. I have been burned by that man too many times.  He should just stick to Horror and Drama, as he makes a great vampire and  has good angst-face. (It’s the eyebrows!)

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So, you can guess that I would be a little dubious, at the idea of a Daredevil television show. I didn’t want to get too excited because I still had trauma from the movie.

But I am geeking out about the show. I love the show.

All of the characters and episodes are excellent. By limiting it to thirteen episodes, it keeps the story lean and mean, without a lot of unnecessary filler episodes and people, which I feel is one of the drawbacks to most episodic television. I’m very glad that Cable TV has started breaking this model. It also has the added value of deepening a story that cannot be told in two and half hours.

The writers are excellent. The plot and  dialogue is on point and the fight scenes are impactful and meaningful because they also help sell the story. In a lot of American action  films, the fighting is just “we need an action scene, here”, to break up the monotony of people talking. Daredevil has opted for the Eastern Martial Arts style, of fight scenes that tell a story, based on who is fighting and why.

Bey Logan once said, that fight scenes in Chinese action movies are not actually fights, but representative of clashing view points and that the winner of the fight is also the prevailing idea that they represent. That the fight scenes themselves, are a story.(We will go into this philosophy a little more, during the second part of this piece.) They have a beginning, a middle and an end, often reiterate the basic plot of the film and also outline a character, or present a point of view, something that a lot of American action movies have not learned to do.

In part one of my posts on Daredevil, I’m going to discuss my top favorite characters and one outlier.

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Matt Murdock

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I like Charlie Cox. He’s very handsome and  a much better actor than Ben Affleck. My only drawback is that it can be difficult watching Matt Murdock on screen because he’s such a passive character, unlike his alter-ego, who is violently confrontational. But since almost nothing is left to chance in this show, I will assume that this was an intentional acting choice, on Cox’s part.  Matt Murdock seems to be lacking in personality because almost all of his energy is reserved for beating the crap out of people when he’s  Daredevil. He simply doesnt have much left over for being himself.

Incidentally, I have never understood the superhero tendency to lie about their secret identities to the people closest to them. Is it because of plausible deniability? This is a trope that needs to die. I believe most superhero narratives only adhere to it to provide some overwrought, emotional drama at some later point in the narrative.  Now, I understand one probably would not want to cry their superhero identity to the rooftops, but telling your SO, or your parents, or Hell, your legal partner, is well within those boundaries. The only reason you probably wouldn’t is if you just know that person can’t keep their mouth shut.

The show manages not to annoy me with this too much because of the manner in which it’s done, providing insight into Foggy and Matts early relationship. This is why this trope works here. There’s a plausible reason for Foggy’s reaction and an equally plausible excuse within the narrative,  for them to make up.

Karen Page

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Is Debora Ann Woll, who was last seen as a vampire in True blood and  is a much better actress than I previously thought. She begins the series as a typical damsel in distress, and I really didn’t think she’d grow much beyond that. So it was a very pleasant surprise to see this character become more outspoken and assertive as the series progressed.

She starts making choices that affect the plot and affect the other characters and that’s a refreshing change, even though the show has fallen into the trap of having multiple women in the show, who never speak to each other, even when they’re in the same scene.

Karen also keeps making the mistake of running off alone, even though she knows there are people trying to kill her or frame her or something and having to be rescued by various men in the cast, until episode 11: The Path of the Righteous, where her storyline  takes a dramatic shift.

Wilson Fisk

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As portrayed by Vincent D’onofrio, is an intriguing character. Where the movie version of Kingpin was rather one-note, this Fisk has layers, motivations and a tragic back story. He is extremely dedicated to his city, which is a commendable sentiment, except for his method of showing that love, which seems to involve victimizing the already helpless. But that is understandable as, according to his flashbacks, he never developed what I’d call, a great deal of “fellow feeling”.  He seems to care more about “the city” than the actual human lives that live in it. How does this make him different from Loki, who just wants to be “in charge”?

I would respect his motivations a lot more, except he’s gotten into bed with the worse sort of hardened criminals, and then has the nerve to act surprised, when they betray him. It is constantly being argued, in the show, that his love for Vanessa makes him weak, but I disagree. I think his fetish for “his city”, something I find unfathomable, makes him blind to the people closest to him, and there lies his downfall.

Claire Temple

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It’s Rosario Dawson as the Night Nurse, people! C’mon! She’s like the “Superhero Doctor”. Like Edna Mode from The Incredibles, only less curmudgeonly.

I love this actress. I will watch anything she is in. I couldn’t develop much deep analysis of her character except to say she’s outspoken and very brave. She loves her city too, but shows that love through service to its citizens, not control of them. This is a big difference between an authoritarian personality and a humanist one.  The big difference between her and Fisk. Matt is somewhere else on that spectrum.

And how awesome is it that she gets to be Matt’s love interest?

Stick

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This is my second favorite character in the show after Daredevil.  Stick, who is only in one episode, manages to have many layers. This is how good the writers are, people! After having been Matt’s mentor,  showing him how  to fight and exist in the world as a man,whose only abilities are having super senses, he takes his own advice about not forming emotional attachments and abruptly abandons Matt, when Matt starts to grow fond of him. Naturally, this causes no small amount of resentment in Matt.

And this is what I mean about the fighting in Daredevil telling a story and having meaning. Their fight is about their relationship and it’s told in a very specific way, where Matt starts out with a kind of boxing style, in a callback to his father, Battling Jack Murdock, and he  is getting his ass kicked, until he starts fighting in the style Stick taught him, after which he wins, and Stick accedes that his student has surpassed him. This fight was very long in the making, (and it’s set up by the flashbacks just why it needs to happen), and is built on Matt’s  resentment of Stick’s abandonment of him. It represents two differing points of view. Matt’s  point of view is the one that prevails.

You also get the distinct impression that Stick was grooming Matt for some greater purpose and that his underlying reason for fighting him was to assess whether or not  he’s ready for this purpose. (The Hand?) That all his advice about emotional distance  was not just for that purpose but also  to protect himself from getting too close to a child who desperately needed a father figure or might have to sacrifice later, if Matt doesn’t do what’s expected of him.

Vanessa

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Now we come to the character I liked the least. Not because she’s a bad character, although I think she’s badly written and probably badly acted. It’s difficult to tell. I say that because this character and her motivations are a complete mystery to me.

I don’t understand anything about her, her feelings for Fisk, what she wants, why she stays with him after she’s attacked by his enemies. Nothing. Supposedly these two are having some grand love affair but I’m just not feeling it.

Don’t get me wrong, I can see why someone would be attracted to Fisk and his antiquated, Harlequin Romance version  of love, and I can see, that initially, she’s somewhat conflicted about getting involved with him, but after he confesses his history of violence and she has reached the suspicion that he is involved in some grand criminal activities, she still decides to cling to him and that’s just puzzling to me.

Is  it because she’s fascinated by the danger? The drama? The excitement? His money? Is it fear of him? I must confess, I barely remember her from the comics. I know she’s in them but remember almost nothing about her. This is the one character in the show I couldn’t get any sense of and had no feeling for.

Part Two: The Episodes

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4 thoughts on “Geeking Out: Daredevil ( Netflix)

  1. I do have to admit that Spiderman was the character I most had in mind when writing that. i came to the Spiderman franchise kind of late. I i’d read him during his black suit years just after the first Secret Wars and then I stopped reading them for a while.. I came back to the comics because of Bendis’ writing, so I was mostly not there for the frail Aunt May years, where he couldn’t tell her his secret.

    I’ve never been able to buy the whole I can’t tell my secret identity to anyone because I’m a person who finds exceptionally difficult to lie to the people closest to me and I’m extremely bad at it, too. My family is pretty close knit, so there’s no way I’d be able to get away with having a secret identity for very long and I know my Mom, (Gob love her) can’t keep her mouth shut, so I know I wouldn’t have a secret identity for very long. I’d just have to take my chances going public.

    Incidentally, this is a good post for a topic I’m working on about superheroes and vigilantism, so after I sort out my thoughts, i’m going to get started on that.

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  2. Tony

    Ok. I cheated. I read some of your post. WRT this:
    “Incidentally, I have never understood the superhero tendency to lie about their secret identities to the people closest to them. Is it because of plausible deniability? This is a trope that needs to die. I believe most superhero narratives only adhere to it to provide some overwrought, emotional drama at some later point in the narrative. Now, I understand one probably would not want to cry their superhero identity to the rooftops, but telling your SO, or your parents, or Hell, your legal partner, is well within those boundaries. The only reason you probably wouldn’t is if you just know that person can’t keep their mouth shut.”

    The trope has long since worn out its welcome, but there is still a place for it. Spider-Man is one of those people for whom a secret ID has been integral to his character, but some of the justifications for continuing it are just silly. For most of his 50+ year career, Spidey has worried about supervillains finding out his secret ID and attacking those he loved. That’s a valid reason to keep his ID secret. What isn’t a valid reason is not trusting his Aunt May. For *far* too long, she was treated as a doddering old woman who was loving, but a pest (thankfully that changed when JMS took over the book in the 2000s). Writers often had Peter worry that if May found out his secret it would kill her-literally. They thought she was so old and frail that she wouldn’t be able to handle learning his secret. I’ve long hated that, and dislike the idea of May Parker being so weak that she can’t handle knowing Peter’s secret. Now, I do accept that she’d be worried about him every time he ran off to fight one of his rogues, but that’s a different story. In any case, protecting one’s loved ones from potential harm is a decent reason to have a secret ID.

    Another good reason was used by (IIRC) John Byrne when he revamped Superman back in ’86. Superman needed downtime. A time to be NOT Superman. And Clark Kent affords that. It allows him to interact with people without being the man of steel constantly.

    Another good reason I can see to keep a secret identity is one I haven’t seen writers explore before-breakups happen. Rough breakups happen. Former lovers become vengeful ex’s who want to hurt their former lover. One good way to do that would be to let their secret id out of the bag (something similar happened to DD during the second Frank Miller run where Karen Page sold Matt’s secret ID to the Kingpin in exchange for drugs).

    In the end, I think that secret identities can be useful, but I don’t think every hero needs to have one. Having one should be something decided on an individual basis, rather than a line-wide rule.

    Sorry for the length of this.

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    1. Actually I did like Colin Farrell in the movie. I thought he was hilarious. I just think his character belonged in a different movie, than the one Affleck and Garner were in.
      He still shouldn’t star in action movies though. He’s a much better actor in dramas and is seriously hot (and scary) as a vampire.

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  3. Tony

    Argh!
    I have to avoid this post bc I haven’t seen the series yet. I cancelled my Netflix account last year after I had a financial downturn and even though I’ve largely recovered, I haven’t reactivated my account yet. I’m planning to soon, but until then I’m trying to avoid too many spoilers (being a huge comic book fan, I visit several comic websites and I’ve had a few things spoiled).

    WRT to the DD movie, I agree that the seeds of a good movie were there. Affleck was *ok* as DD (do standard HTML tags work here?). I disagree with you on Colin Farrell. I thought he chewed up the scenery in a good way.

    I’m looking forward to watching AKA Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and *especially* Luke Cage.

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