Netflix’s DAREDEVIL should be Cast Out (part 1)

OK, that title may be a bit strong, but I do feel that way, if for just one reason. I’ll get to that one reason in a bit. Other than that one reason, I still think Netflix’s DAREDEVIL series is a mess. Obviously, it entertained a lot of people, but for this comic book reader, it was tedious and meandering and, honestly, pretty misleading.

As this is a series that is effectively 13 hours long, there is a LOT to say. So, I’m breaking this up into two posts. This post will cover the following:

My spoiler-free mini-review
Spoiler-rich, What Worked in Netflix’s Daredevil
Netflix’s Daredevil is a Man without Sense
Time to Pick a Couple Nits
My Problem with the Kingpin of Crime

Part two will explore:

Enough with the Origin Stories, Guys!
What really got my Blood Boiling About Daredevil
World Building and How Daredevil Screwed it Up
How I would have Written the first season of a DAREDEVIL show

Already read Part 1? Check out Part 2 which is live now!

Spoiler-Free Mini-Review

My mini-review is that, as an action show, it was really well made. The action sequences were realistically staged and felt more like real life than anything else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The acting was nearly perfect. I had a few issues with both Charlie Cox and Vincent D’Onofrio’s choices, but I stopped caring about the ones with Cox as the show progressed and the ones with D’Onofrio only got worse as the show went on. More on that, also, in a bit.

Honestly, I was left a little flat by the show, both as an adaptation of the DAREDEVIL comic and as a TV show. When I said it was misleading, earlier, I meant that this show is called “DAREDEVIL” but it really should have been called “MATT MURDOCK” because of how not like the comic character he was.

I’m not a huge fan of the comic, but I read it for a few years back in the late 80s/early 90s. I know the character’s abilities and origin story and really thoroughly enjoyed how he was a kind of blue-collar Batman. To be clear, I am no expert on the comic character. That said, the show does stray from the comic that I remember in many places, so using “that’s the way it was in the comic” should not be used to excuse a weak choice in the Netflix version. Honestly, I found the comic book version much more fun and intriguing. His powers were much more developed and understandable in the comic than in the Netflix version. I understood how he could be fearless. In the Netflix version, he just came off as kind of an idiot.

I know Daredevil got his ass handed to him a LOT in the comic. The thing is, somehow the Netflix version didn’t manage to make him seem dauntless, so much as stupid. To go into more detail, I need to take you into a spoiler-rich zone. You have been warned.

SPOILER-RICH ZONE BEGINS NOW: Enough with the Comic Comparisons, What Worked with Netflix’s DAREDEVIL?

I loved the relationships. I got where everyone was coming from and genuinely enjoyed seeing them interact as humans. The really nice thing about the Netflix-model for episodic storytelling is that you don’t have to break for a commercial. You can let your scenes run a little longer and it’s great. In the first few episodes I LOVED Matt’s discussions with Claire and Foggy. I really dug D’Onofrio’s choices early on. Loved loved loved them. More than that, I ADORED Vondi Curtis Hall’s take on Ben Urich. Urich is probably my favorite non-powered Marvel comics character (SPOILER ALERT: it is how the show treats this character that makes me think Netflix’s DAREDEVIL should be tossed in the trash and done over–more on this in part two of this review).

I don’t have a problem with the general idea of the series–to be a sort of DAREDEVIL: YEAR ONE kind of thing. The problem with that is, it ultimately doesn’t work. And that’s my biggest general problem with Netflix’s DAREDEVIL. It was the most boring, repetitive origin story EVER. It made me long for the runtime of Ben Affleck’s DAREDEVIL movie. My wife, at one point, looked up the Netflix DAREDEVIL hashtag on Twitter and found many tweets echoing the following sentiment:


“JUST GET TO THE GODDAMN SUIT!”

See, he goes into every fight scene wearing, what looks like, a black, skintight, Uniqlo Heattech shirt and cargo pants but brings with him no actual weapons. Sometimes he uses sticks (similar to the baton(s) he uses in the comics), but not often enough.

I know I said I wouldn’t mention the comic again, but I will for just a sec. In the comic, he can “see” pretty clearly, but in a sort of 360-degree view of his surroundings. As I recall, this is referred to, as his radar sense. In the Netflix version, he doesn’t have such a clearly fleshed out power. In fact, the Netflix version makes one brief mention of him seeing “a world on fire” and we see just a single shot from his point-of-view, but the show never really establishes the mechanics of how he is able to see. Effectively, the chemicals that made him blind as a child really didn’t do anything for him, as they did in the comic. There are loads of stories about blind bad-asses in modern myth, and those guys didn’t have special powers to be bad-asses. I’d bet Netflix’s Daredevil would get his ass handed to him by Zatoichi, the legendary blind swordsman from Japan.

Now ZATOICHI,  he’s a man with no fear. Netflix’s Daredevil is a man without sense.

So, for the first 6 or 7 episodes of the series, we see Daredevil go into fight after fight, coming out with stab wounds, gun shot wounds, covered in bruises and blood, and worse. In one scene he is dragged across the floor by a hooked blade. The only explanation for his survival each time is that he meditates and therefore can heal faster. Sorry, that’s ridiculous. First, because he takes no time to actually heal on camera–we never actually see him doing his meditation to heal.

The second reason “speedy-healing-thru-meditation” is a ridiculous explanation, is because it would be so easy to explain it away by saying, simply, that the same chemical that made him blind also strengthened his body’s ability to heal itself. We don’t even need to see anything on camera for that explanation, but to say he meditates to survive his repeated beatings and then not even show him doing it? Honestly, him surviving and healing so quickly really dilutes the realism of the fight sequences. Especially, when you factor in the following.

Along these same lines, we also have the question of “why no protection?”

We see that he does have some protective gear, but none of it is actual body armor. When Claire asks him why he doesn’t wear armor, he says “it slows me down.”

That’s just as ridiculous as the “make-boo-boo-go-bye-bye-via-meditation” explanation. It slows you down? So speed up, idiot! What’s worse? Getting stabbed in the armor because you were too slow or getting stabbed in the flesh because you weren’t fast enough?

And Netflix’s Daredevil is NEVER FAST ENOUGH.

He’s the most incompetent fighter there is. Batman studied martial arts in Asia for years and still fights using gadgets, a cowl and a cape. Matt Murdock spends a couple months training with the white Zatoichi and then heads over to Uniqlo and Sports Warehouse to gear-up. Good plan. Oh, you’ve got some red on you… and sadly, that’s not your costume.

So, you can probably see how I had real trouble sticking with Netflix’s DAREDEVIL at this point.

Sad thing: I’m not done yet.

Let’s Pick a Couple of Nits

I’d like to go into some depth on Charlie Cox’s American accent for a moment. Now, I know a lot of people didn’t even notice it wasn’t precisely spot on, but I did–especially in every scene he had with Rosario Dawson, who is a native of New York City. Now, he didn’t need to sound like he was from Brooklyn or whatever, but he really needed to sound like a New Yorker. I kept hearing those little tip-offs that an actor from one side of the Atlantic was pretending to be from the other. It’s the way they pronounce the “r” sound. It’s like it’s just way too enthusiastic. It’s not pirate-talk, but it’s distracting around other American characters and especially other New Yorkers. Then there’s the thing where he says something like “evrathing” instead of “everything.” It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.

Ultimately, it’s a minor complaint, but accents are important to a character that really can’t live anywhere but the Big Apple. It’s part of who Daredevil is as a person. Matt Murdock is a New Yorker. Period. Yet, in this show, he sounds like he spent a ton of his formative years in New England. Or old England.

Somewhat ironically, he’s supposed to be a ginger and of Irish descent but Cox is English and has brown hair. Whatevs… I could have easily looked past both of these things if it weren’t for me getting stuck on the REST of this show. Let’s drop the nits and continue with…

My Problem with the Kingpin of Crime

My problem with the Kingpin of Crime was that he wasn’t in this show. Well, he was and he wasn’t. I mean, was there a reason no one called the Kingpin “The Kingpin”? Was it one of those things like how they had to use the name “David Bruce Banner” on the 70s HULK TV show, because “Bruce Banner” sounded gay? (This is actually what Stan Lee says happened and not any homophobic editorial commentary on my part.) Or is it because the name “The Kingpin” went with the rights to SPIDER-MAN, when Sony bought them? Regardless, I started out really loving D’Onofrio’s Kingpi–I mean–his Wilson Fisk. He was really perfectly cast. I often found myself flashing back to D’Onofrio’s truly astounding performance in FULL METAL JACKET. He made Fisk instantly likable and fascinating yet sinister at the same time. It was like in FMJ, where you just knew his character has a ton of scary in his head and it’s just a matter of time before it gets vomited out.

So, I loved Fisk for a long time–that is, until the script went and ruined it. The writers made the mistake here of thinking Fisk needed to be humanized. He did not. D’Onofrio’s performance already made him plenty human. I’m guessing that the writers didn’t realize this would happen and, so, we are subjected to the most boring, cliched origin story ever. I read SPIDER-MAN comics from childhood but stopped in the early 90s when they did that whole stupid clone plot. I don’t ever remember reading about Kingpin’s origins. He was always plenty fascinating to me and he was one of my favorite bad guys in the Marvel universe. So, I don’t know if the origin story they gave him in Netflix’s DAREDEVIL is taken from the comic or not. All I know is that it sucked.

Having an Abusive Dad does not Make You the Kingpin of Crime

So, in order to humanize Fisk, the script employs these flashbacks (I know, ugh, everyone and their uncle is doing flashbacks these days–remember when everyone used to agree that flashbacks were always bad ideas? I miss those days). In thede flashbacks, we learn that young Wilson murdered his wife-beating father. This is supposed to be the key to his personality and totally distracts from the honestly brilliant use of the blank wall. See, when Wilson got in trouble as a child, his dad would give him a time-out and make him face a blank wall. Later in life, he stares at similar blank-wall-like things to help him deal with every day stress. It’s a great device and is really the only good thing that the flashbacks bring to the table. Everything else is cliche and distraction.

It wouldn’t ruin things if his origin story was still killing his wife-beating dad, but to waste screen time on it was, I believe, a mistake. Especially since it really doesn’t tell us why he’s such a violent man or why he wants to remake Hell’s Kitchen/NYC, according to his own vision. There are plenty of people with violent dads in the world and you don’t see all of them turning into crime lords. What makes Fisk go in this direction? There is a vague suggestion there, but the malevolence he feels toward some characters is not explained. I don’t we need it to be explained, which is why I feel it’s odd that they tried.

The final problem I had with Fisk was not D’Onofrio’s fault, any more than the flashbacks were, but this may seem, specifically, like a dig against D’Onofrio. After the flashbacks started, the script starts to give him these laboriously long speeches where he just goes on and on, forcing poor Vincent to ACT through all of them. At this point in the series I stopped flashing back to Pyle in FULL METAL JACKET and went further back to Sydney Greenstreet in, well, any movie where he sat around chewing on scenery. When Fisk’s penultimate scene arrives in the police van, and he starts to tell the entire story of the Good Samaritan I think I literally yelled at the TV screen: “OH, SHUT UP!”

Seriously, that was the worst bit of spoken subtext since I watched, well, any sitcom on the Disney Channel.

It was bad enough he was basically admitting he is an evil guy (who does that?!?) but to do it in a long, drawn out way, it’s just kind of insulting to the audience. I mean, like I yelled, SHUT UP already. Jeez. You’re a giant bald gangster. We get it, you’re a badguy–you don’t need to hang a lampshade on top of another lampshade.

That’s all for this post! Tune in next Tuesday for part two when I will talk about the following:

Enough with the Origin Stories, Guys!
What really got my Blood Boiling About Daredevil
World Building and How Daredevil Screwed it Up
How I would have Written the first season of a DAREDEVIL show

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