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From Under A Rock: Marvel’s Daredevil

August 20, 2015 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
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From Under A Rock: Marvel’s Daredevil  

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There’s a first time for everything in a person’s life: your first time behind the wheel of a car, your first day having a driver’s license, your first car, your first time hitting a pedestrian, your first police chase, your first court case, or even your first night in prison.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show (determined at the discretion of my writing partner, Aaron Hubbard and I in alternation). This column is a companion piece to my podcast of the same premise (although formatted differently, and injected with much more levity), which you can check out here.

Last week we honored the memory of the late, great “Rowdy” Roddy Piper by watching They Live.” This week, Aaron takes me out from under the proverbial rock by making me watch the first three episodes of Marvel’s Daredevil.

Marvel’s Daredevil

Aaron Hubbard: Superhero comics are one of my three favorite means of escapism; the others being professional wrestling and movies. Naturally, I’m a pretty big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and have watched almost everything involved with it (still catching up on Agent Carter and loving it). Michael is more of a casual fan; he loves Batman and was a huge fan of Guardians of the Galaxy, but I wanted to introduce him to a much grittier, more violent, and more grounded corner of the MCU. Ergo, Daredevil, the Netflix series that proves that Marvel can undo the damage done by Fox Studios.

Well, at least in my mind anyway. Michael, how do you feel about this series so far?

Michael Ornelas: Lots of positives, and some small nitpicks. Where do I even start? Matt Murdock is an incredibly sympathetic character on account of his blindness, and so he is dealt a hand that makes him incredibly vulnerable. This added so much tension to all of his fight scenes (which are – so far – the highlight of the show for me). The female characters are very strong so far, and I care about and buy all the relationships that have been established in Murdock’s circle. My main issue with the first three episodes (all we are reviewing for this column) is that there’s no real presence of a villain as we establish the world, just a surrogate character in Wesley.

Aaron: I would argue that Matt is probably the most vulnerable “superhero” in comic books. No gadgets or fancy armor, just his enhanced sense, combat knowledge and a refusal to ever quit.

Michael: So he’s John Cena?

Aaron: John Cena doesn’t torture people. Unless you count his matches with Kane.

Michael: I do.

Aaron: Anyway, back to Matt. His vulnerability is why I love him so much. Physically and emotionally, he gets beat up and bloodied and knocked down but he always gets back up. The show really captures that spirit, I think.

Michael: They even say it outright in the second episode when young Matt learns his father is going to throw his next boxing match, and he tries to give him a pep talk saying “A Murdock always gets back up, right Dad?” Jack Murdock’s decision to stay a role model to his son is actually what ultimately gets him killed, as he costs the wrong people quite a bit of money. I know that relationship between Jack and Matt is one I wanted to see play out a little more, but it appears that story wrapped itself up by the end of episode 2.

Aaron: I agree. If I recall correctly the show’s production hit a bump in the road after the first two episodes and a lot of actors and writers left the project for other things. I’m hoping we get more of Battlin’ Jack in Season 2. But this brings up another key element of the show for me: consequences. People die in this show, and often for doing the right thing. Morality is grey and blurry, and we have to figure out where Matt is going to fall on that line. It’s a world apart from The Avengers where most of the main characters have plot armor and you know nothing is going to happen to them.

Michael: And in Daredevil, I worry what’s going to happen to Matt in almost every scene.

Corner How his shins aren’t an absolute wreck is beyond me.

Michael: But I’m especially worried in fight scenes, despite the fact that he has proven several times within three episodes that he is more than capable of holding his own. This has some of the best hand-to-hand combat currently on a series, and when the action picks up, it’s totally immersive because there are automatically higher stakes for Matt in a fighting.

Aaron: As someone who has watched the full series I can tell you that every action scene stands out from every other one, which I really appreciate. There’s different lighting, camera angles, weapons, basically anything the director can use to not be repetitive. But I won’t lie; from a pure adrenaline standpoint, you’ve already seen the best fight in the first season. I’m sure you know the one.

Michael: When he went all The Raid: Redemption on a building full of punkasses to save a kid?

Aaron: Yeah, that one.

Aaron: Affectionately called “The Hallway Scene” by the fans, it’s a perfect example of what makes this show stand out from other comic book adaptations. While it makes sense to use CGI in an Iron Man or Thor movie, here Marvel shows they can actual do practical stunt work. Not even Arrow holds a candle to how good the action is in this show.

Michael: Well, since you mentioned Arrow, I should bring up that I actually resumed my watching of Arrow this past week, and then in watching Daredevil, I arrived at the same conclusion you just did. My favorite aspect of this show (and one that is an actually a complaint I have about Arrow) is that combat and death mean something here. I’m not just talking about the adrenaline you feel because of Matt’s vulnerability (physically speaking), but the emotional toll is there as well. In CW’s show, the body count for “Random Expendable Goon #37” and his buddies is unnecessarily high. Matt can seem callous (specifically during the rooftop scene in the second episode in which he tortures a guy in front of Rosario Dawson), but even that scene ended with a “He’ll live” (although, to be fair I couldn’t hear his heartbeat when he said it).

Aaron: Arguably Matt’s primary character arc in this story is going from a vigilante who pushes boundaries to a superhero who understands who he is and where to draw the line. He’s not like Batman where his values are set; he questions them a lot and while he doesn’t want to kill anyone if he can avoid it, he’s realistic enough to know that this is a possibility and it weighs heavily on his soul. Again, for a Daredevil nerd like myself, it was amazing to see that dark aspect of Matt’s personality be a central theme in the show. Especially since Marvel has, at times, swept those dark sides of their characters under the rug. Looking at you, Tony Stark.

Michael: Robert Downey, Jr. is too busy being the highest paid working actor of 2015 to listen to your bullshit.

…but it’s a good point and honestly one of the reasons I’m so compelled to finish this show after this three-episode introduction. Superhero projects tend to have a certain tone about them (usually overly dark or overly comical), and this one seems to have found a new take on the darkness that manages to still feel organic (it’s not dark for dark’s sake). The question is…is Matt molded by the darkness? Or was he born in it.

Aaron: Perhaps he merely adopted it. And after than banal joke, I want to address two things you said earlier. One is direct: Wesley is more than a surrogate character for Fisk. He’s honestly one of my favorite characters in the show because he’s just as important once Wilson Fisk starts getting focus. But the other is something where I’d like you to elaborate about; the female characters. What stood out to you about them?

Michael: Simply put: they’re strong. They’re not damsels in distress waiting for a hero to save them (although that’s literally what Karen gets in the pilot). They’re people with problems that require the assistance of other people. None of their issues are gender-related, and they’re not fawning over boys. Plus Deborah Ann Woll is knocking it out of the park with her portrayal of Karen. Anytime she’s on screen, I care about what she has to say, and I’m most interested in her journey as a character because it’s less apparent to me than that of Murdock. And Claire was helping Matt out of his distress in episode two before he returned the favor later on. It was a symbiotic relationship where they were equals and both needed the other to survive, and again, I appreciate that immensely. So do you want to jump into the ratings? Keep in mind, we’re only rating the first three episodes, not the whole season.

Aaron: There are a couple things I’ve noticed watching these three episodes more than once. The scene in the first episode where Matt is in confession feels longer every time I watch it and the whole episode has clunky exposition. And the third episode sets up these plot threads in later episodes that feel out of place if you aren’t binge-watching. But episode two is still as amazing and gripping as it was the first time I watched it, and there’s plenty of good to outweigh the nitpicks.

A-

Michael: Yeah we sound like he have similar feelings about them then. The first episode I think I actually liked a little better than you did (as a pilot connoisseur, it served its function while still having some great moments that stand out), and the second episode was awesome. The third episode, however, did very little for me. It felt like a law procedural with a fight scene at the end. It did some overall advancement of plots that I assume will pay off later (and you pretty much just confirmed that that’s the case), but aside from the guy impaling his own face at the end (which got you a text from me simply reading “HOLY FUCK”), there wasn’t much I feel I’ll actually take away from the episode, and the transition to where we no longer see Young Matt in flashbacks was jarring because it felt like it had become part of the show’s template with its heavy inclusion in the first two. I am intrigued and plan on finishing the season (although maybe not immediately), and overall, it was pretty great.

B+

Aaron: I think your rating spiked after the end of episode three.

Michael: No. You don’t get to steal the pun I texted you. If I’m going to make shitty wordplay, I want the world to know it was me.

Aaron: That’s besides the point.

Michael: I MADE THAT TOO! I’m not proud of it, but it’s mine! Like my future son when he drops out of high school because “skateboarding is his passion.”

Aaron: That’s only because of my influence. I am corrupting you, turning you into a mindless machine of punishment. Like Frank Castle.

Michael: That one’s all you. You can have it.

What did you think about Marvel’s Daredevil?

Next week:

Michael: My next pick for you to watch for this week is in honor of the series finale of Hannibal later this week. It’s a beautifully shot show that I highly recommend, but it has come to my attention that you haven’t seen the movie that started its on-screen life:

28DL

Aaron: Something I am mildly ashamed to admit. But hey, one of the reasons we started this column was to force ourselves onto one another.

Michael: You probably could have phrased that better…

Aaron: Probably. But I mean, this way we finally catch up on classics we really should have seen by now.

Michael: Yep. And I am overjoyed with the sheer volume of “my favorite movies” that you haven’t seen. Any excuse to rewatch (SPOILERS) The Usual Suspects, Alien, Fargo, American Beauty, and many more for upcoming editions of this column is a real treat for me.

Aaron: Did you just put a “Spoiler” alert about upcoming columns?

Michael: Some people might care…

Aaron: Our own parents don’t even care.

Michael: …I know.

What is your favorite entry in the series of Hannibal Lecter movies/shows? Let us know in the comments!

On this week’s edition of the “From Under A Rock” podcast, Ryan selects the 1979 Steve Martin classic comedy The Jerk. That’s all you need!

E-mail us at [email protected]
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And if you want to read Aaron’s thoughts on movies, professional wrestling and comic books, check out The Shelf is Half Full.

8.2
The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Marvel's Daredevil is a gritty, violent adaptation of perhaps their most vulnerable "superhero". Lawyer by day, vigilante by night, Matt faces the crime and corruption of Hell's Kitchen and his own inner conflict about how far he is willing to go to save his city. And while we loved the first three episodes, we haven't even covered the best parts of the series, such as Wilson Fisk. With strong performances, a compelling story and amazing action scenes with real stakes, Daredevil ranks among the very best products from Marvel Studios and is strongly recommended viewing.
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