TV Or do we? Even before Netflix uploaded Daredevil at 8am GMT, news sites were posting reviews of the pilot or the first five episodes released to journalists and IGN has posted thorough interrogations of every episode of a quality which actually made me want to watch the whole thing again with a fresh eye despite having binged my way through all thirteen episodes on Friday eventually going to bed about about 1am. I won't yet. I'm just near the end of the second series of The Good Wife and a bit worried about Kalinda. Here are a few brief comments anyway.
It probably doesn't need to be said that you should have seen the whole thing before reading any of the below. While it's not going to be as lengthy a post as the one about earlier exploits in the MARVEL universe, Daredevil is still the kind of work which must be seen without much in the way of foreknowledge even if, I suspect, you're a fan of the comic. Part of the relish fans of the books will have is in seeing which parts of the story have been chosen to be included and what's been changed. So yes, go back to the binge now.
The first thing to say, I think I have about five things to say, and the first thing to say is that as a work it isn't as earth shattering as either of last year's films. There are no MCU changing events here in a similar way to The Winter Soldier impacting on Agents of SHIELD and it continues the message from The Guardians of the Galaxy that MARVEL is the shit. The shocks and twists are internally within the series because we like the characters and are involved in this story rather than wider concerns of the impact they might have in the wider universe. Apart from one element which I'll talk about later. I think it's going to be last.
If anything the announcement of its existence was the seismic moment, deciding to make five series minimum for Netflix which interrelate with each other and the wider universe. Even before light hit sensor on the 4K cameras you could feel the swagger in the MARVEL's step and Guardians hadn't even been released and we'd experienced the moment when it seemed like the studio could do what it liked about anything. A cartoon series has recently been announced set in the universe and the reaction's been pretty much, well, yes of course. I'm hoping for Squirrel Girl. Finally.
The biggest surprise for me was how my expectations were and weren't met. Having been watching The Good Wife for weeks and with the 2003 Affleckathon in my head, I'd expected a relatively generic courtroom show which just happens to also have its lead character fighting crime in his off hours or indeed taking the law into his own hands when his abilities as a lawyer had failed him. I'd also expected loads more superheroes and villains and certainly an appearance from Elektra with also perhaps a jokey episodes where he meets Jennifer Walters or some such. Boston Legal with powers.
Instead, it's a single story spread across thirteen episodes, with the Kingpin as the single antagonist and aspirations towards The Wire and the Nolan Batmans. Which is a different approach which also works. This is the kind of mature, adult drama Torchwood always aspired to be within the Whoniverse and SHIELD can never be. Daredevil isn't a courtroom show because the conceit is that he and his partner don't have any clients. They're too poor, too green, too new to have any of that. It's the antithesis of The Good Wife.
It's also tonally completely unlike most superhero series we've seen before. In places the pacing is leisurely. Some scenes last for minutes upon minutes, with lengthy speeches and theological, existential discussions brimming with import. It's almost filmed theatre or at least old Hollywood adaptations of theatre and when there is crosscutting between parallel scenes its generally only when the writer is making a point about something rather than through narrative necessity. It's mesmerising.
Fight scenes matter. They hurt. When Daredevil is creamed, as he is on multiple occasions, he's out of action until he's able to fight again. Some episodes go by in which the only fight scenes happen as part of some intricate flashback structure and as part of the back story rather than for the sake of it. Indeed pretty much every fight shown has some narrative or character importance. The incidental, reputational pieces of daring do happen off screen, as when Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) talks about treating the aftermaths of his fights.
And at least the series tries to subvert gender politics. On a couple of occasions there is some straight up damselling of female characters but on neither occasion do we find female characters who simply sit around waiting for be rescued. But again its also import to note how when they do take action, with everyone else, it has consequences. When the shockingly shocking, amazing thing happens at the end of episode eleven, it isn't shrugged off and we see it's emotional toll. Not the first time you've fired a gun? Wow.
But the show is still connected with the MARVEL universe. The US version of Gen of Deek has an amazingly thorough few pages noting what they call "easter eggs" from across all the episodes mostly from the comics but also in relation to the rest of the MCU. The emergence of The Absorbing Man from SHIELD as Murdock's father's final boxing opponent is well publicised, but they notice that the orphanage that Murdock was brought up in as a child is the same establishment which housed Skye from SHIELD at what has to be roughly the same time. They may well have met.
I've already seen grumblings online that Dawson's character is underused. But of course as with loads of elements of the series, we have to look at it in the context of the other upcoming series, and in the comics Temple is the ex-wife of Luke Cage who has his own series coming as part of this run which suggests she'll return for that. As ever with an MCU property you must always view everything both as a narrative incident in and of itself and also as part of the wider universe. Given everything which upcoming at the cinema, it's inconceivable that the Netflix series will be a work in and of themselves too.
Which brings me to the last point, which is Wilson Fisk's cufflinks. Within the series, they're used as a symbolic connecting tissue between Fisk and his father. But the design of them and the shape and the frequency with which they appear in close-up on screen makes me wonder if they'll have some wider significance, if perhaps and I'm probably overexcited but nevertheless, they'll be revealed to be one of the infinity stones, Netflix's contribution to the Infinity War. There's a useful primer in this graphic and the "soul" gem would seem to fit the bill...