I spent the weekend binging Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix, and oh man. Was that a nice piece of television.
Daredevil was one of my favorite comics back in the day. I loved the style, the stories, the street-level grittiness of the character. Marvel has always been at its best when its characters’ concerns are human, and that was one of the main reasons why I preferred their stories to DC’s. They were relatable.
They resonated with me.
Not that I’m a blind lawyer ninja with hypersensitive senses, but the emotional truths that the Marvel heroes dwell upon are perfect demonstrations of ‘write what you know.’ I don’t know what it’s like to put on a mask and parkour across new york, but I know what it’s like to want a better world. I know what it’s like to doubt myself. I know what it’s like to live as a flawed human being, doing the best you can with what you have.
There was a lot to like in the Netflix Daredevil. The writing was excellent, and they managed to subvert a lot of the expected genre tropes in ways that really worked out well – using the resonance a lifetime of television drama has built against you.
The casting was superb. Vincent D’Onofrio as the Kingpin was a pleasant surprise that worked even better than I would have thought it would.
One of the hazards of having worked in film production is that you don’t really experience TV or film in the way the mass audiences do; you’re consciously aware of story beats, of structure, of cinematography, or directorial choices and their heritage. You’re evaluating, you’re trying to figure out why the filmmakers made the choices they made.
It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a thing. And sometimes poor choices can pull you out of the fictive dream in ways they wouldn’t for the casual viewer.
Daredevil’s cinematography was pleasantly distracting. It worked really well in a way I couldn’t help but appreciate on a crafts-level. There’s a particular fight scene at the end of the second or third episode, either a one-shot scene or close enough to it, where the steadicam operator drifts slowly through the battle like a disinterested third party, giving you glimpses that tell you the story of the action in a very effective way, and I found myself preoccupied with the way he kept not-tripping over the props and set-dressing. It was very smooth.
Which brings us to the amazing fight choreography. Daredevil’s combat is very grim, very brutal, very distinct. There’s nothing clean about it. It’s ferocious, it’s dirty. It’s street, and even the victors come away ragged.
The scene I talk about above is a perfect example, where you can watch Daredevil go from furious energy at the start to barely standing near the end, almost falling with every punch, reeling and catching his breath in tempo with the combat around him. It’s reminiscent of the hallway fight scene in Old Boy, and for me, one of the highlights of the show.
Now we play the waiting game
I watched all 13 episodes over the weekend, and now I’m done. Now I wait for the next season, if there is one – and with how well it’s being received I can’t see that not happening. I wait for the Defenders. I wait for the next movie.
And I think about how much Marvel can do with an R-rated series, how natural the dialog sounds when characters are able to swear, and how limiting network standards are.
I wonder, not for the first time, if these Netflix series are the future of television. I hope they are.