As our hero tells us in episode two of Netflix' first team up with Marvel: there are other ways to see. Many in fact. I think that's fitting because Daredevil is a different beast depending on how you look at it, and accordingly my opinion of thIs show is colored by whether I'm looking at is as a fangirl feminist, a straight up film fan, a lawyer, or a marvel buff. So, where to start...
Well, let me start with the strong point, which might be surprising: this isn't that bad of a legal show. Sure, things happen way faster than in reality, but this is a show based on the threat of gentrification of Hells Kitchen after aliens and a Norse god destroyed half of New York, so I'm willing to suspend disbelief. Unbelievable elements aside, as a lawyer type myself, I really enjoyed that our main heroes were lawyers who maintained the same idealism that most of us lost in law school - the belief that the law can be used to make the world a better place. Charlie Cox is at his best when he's showing Matt Murdock's more idealistic and protective side, and Eldon Henson as Foggy Nelson is actually one of the better and most accurate portrayals of a defense attorney I've seen in a long time. Working in the law is arduous and gritty, but it's nice to be reminded that a lot of us got into it to be heroes.
Speaking of 'gritty.' while this series isn't on the same level of depressing darkness as say, The Dark Knight (and to me that's a good thing), it's certainly more grounded in a more familiar reality than many other Marvel properties. There's a strong element of film noir to Daredevil that I really liked. Hell's Kitchen is full of dark corners and double crosses, and the series maintains a great foreboding atmosphere throughout that's very engrossing.
Overall the artistry of the film-making on Daredevil is topnotch. The series revels in the contrast of dark and light, of shots dominated by black, red and white and fantastic lighting that is an extension of the storytelling. The fight sequences amazing, Not only is the fight choreography stellar, but the camera work in these sequences in particular is awesome. Throughout the series we are treated to several long, uncut shots that are simply incredible - though the best and most effective use of this is in the epic fight sequence that serves as the climax of episode two.
In terms of a lot of the performances as well, there was a lot on screen to love. Vondie Curtis-Hall was a standout for me. He brought such depth and sincerity to the character of reporter Ben Urich. I also loved Toby Leonard Moore as the impeccably cool Westey and Bob Gunton was deliciously snarky as Owlsley. Deborah Ann Woll did a fantastic job portraying a huge range f emotions - from terror to determination to affection and righteousness as Karen Page. As Henson as Foggy is completely lovable and steals a lot of the show. And then there's Cox, who's been given an incredibly hard job as an actor by having to convey alot of emotion without using his eyes. He pulls it off pretty well, making Matt Murdock both scary, conflicted, sweet and brutal in turns.
The performance and character I personally didn't like very much was that of Wilson Fisk, played by Vincent D'Onofrio. I wasn't sure if we were supposed to be repulsed by Fisk or feel some modicum of sympathy for him, as we were intrduced to his vulnerabilities before his murderousness. D'Onofrio was a bit too over the top for me, and the storyline that Fisk had lost his edge (which we never saw to begin with) because he fell in love was tedious and just a mite bit confusing. Most confusing of course was that a seemingly sane, classy woman like Vanessa (played by Ayelet Zurer) would wilingly get involved with a man who shows himself to be a dangerous psychopath/crime lord on their second date.
Which brings me to the fangirl feminist perspective on thing, which isn't as rosy. I've heard from some other viewers that the violence against women which happens a lot in the show was too much for them. I'm willing to give that a pass, as the series was brutally violent to just about evey character regardless of gender. The more annoying thing was the limited characterizations for women. Aside from Karen Page, who was a really fantastic character who showed human vulnerability and tenaciousness and completely avoided falling into the Strong Female Character trope, the women of Daredevil nearly all serve as props or foils to the men of the show, and in conventionally feminine roles - nurses, mothers, lovers - that tend to completely define them.
I'm not saying that I didn't like Characters like Rosario Dawson's tough nurse Claire, but I would have liked to see a few more ladies sprinkled in who were characters who just happened to be women. There was of course Madam Gao, a powerful Chinese drug lord, er, lady - but she was in danger of falling into a mystical Asian trope, which was almost as bad. Seriously, every Asian character seemed to be a Ninja or a dispensary of fortune cookie wisdom which was disappointing. The portrayal of other minorities was a bit better, as we had one African American main cast member in Hall, as well as Dawson who appeared in five episodes. I wish there had been any queer representation at all, especially given showrunner Stephen DeKinght's great track record with queer characters in the past.
So, what's the final verdict? Well, Daredevil is certainly very entertaining (especially if you're looking for little Marvel Easter eggs). The writing is sharp, the acting in generally great and it gives you a hero you can root for...until you start looking a bit more carefully at things. So, I guess the secret to best enjoying the show is to turn a blind eye and enjoy the ride, but not to forget that there are other perspective of importance.