With their first TV show, Agents of SHIELD, Marvel tried to fill the silence between their big tentpole releases. Their second effort, Agent Carter, focused its efforts on building out the characters and setting left abandoned after the events of Captain America: The First Avenger. Daredevil is the company’s third televised effort and an entirely different beast to both its predecessors. It’s the first part of their ‘Defenders’ partnership with Netflix, Daredevil is stylish and dark in a way that only its MA-15 rating can allow.
A few hiccups aside, it’s Marvel’s best TV series yet.
For newcomers (blissfully) unaware of Ben Affleck’s tragic 2003 effort, Daredevil is set in a fictional district of New York known as Hell’s Kitchen and follows blind-lawyer-turned-vigilante Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) as he fights to stamp out the corruption and criminal influence that has sprung up in the after aftermath of The Avengers – a path that will set him on a collision-course with the ambitious and monstrous Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio).
Charlie Cox’s performance is at its best during the day as Murdoch. He’s immediately likable and the script wrings everything it can out of the character – be it his condition, personality or religious convictions. In fact, the series on the whole has some pretty strong casting. Scott Glenn kills it in his (sadly-brief) appearance as Matt’s mentor Stick and Vincent D’Onofrio’s brutal take on the Kingpin is must-see. Eldon Hensen is the only weak point – but then, that may be as much a by-product of Foggy’s role as it is Hensen’s performance.
Cox’s take on Daredevil himself is a bit more cookie-cutter. Squint and he’s a spitting-image of Christian Bale’s Dark Knight . That said, this shortcoming is nicely compensated for by the series’ fight choreography.
Episodes of Daredevil often veer between stylish superhero origin story, slick legal drama and bloody crime serial – and it’s a formula that works because of the series’ tight pacing and high production values. Every episode raises the stakes and feels significant in a way that too much of Marvel’s existing television catalogue lacks. Though the latter half of the season disappointingly favored Daredevil’s superhero elements over its other influences, it feels like a unavoidable casualty of the main plot rather than a failure on the part of the series’ formula.
Rather than focus on the everyday happenings of the Marvel universe like Agents of SHIELD, Daredevil opts to chart the rise of its most iconic heroes and feels all the more important as a result. It’s quite possibly the best superhero origin story since 2008’s Iron Man and almost-certainly the best superpowered TV series yet.