I’ve been waiting for a show about Marvel’s blind lawyer superhero lawyer for, like, 20 years. So, of course, I binged on the new Daredevil show on Netflix as soon as I could. I wasn’t the only one here at Kotaku who felt that way. You know what? We loved it.
Daredevil’s a different beast when compared to the other adaptations based on Marvel’s characters. It’s co-produced with Netflix, with no network executives making creative decisions that could screw things up. And, like many other streaming series, all the episodes are available at once. So Kirk Hamilton, Mike Fahey and myself all inhaled 13 episodes of Daredevil as quickly as possible and then got together to talk about the stuff that jazzed us or bummed us out. Click the magnifying glass icon at the top left of the chatroom screenshots to expand them. There are, of course, plot details discussed below for the whole first season so don’t read any further if you don’t want to be spoiled.
Evan Narcisse So, Daredevil. Pretty hardcore, huh? Kirk, I know that you’re not a lifelong superhero comics reader like Mike and me. I’m interested in what your level of exposure to Daredevil was before watching the show. How much had you soaked up?
Michael Fahey Don’t say Affleck. Don’t say Affleck.
Kirk Hamilton Ha. I think I watched that whole movie? But it was forever ago, and I have basically no memory of it, other than that Colin Farrell was the only good thing in it. I’ve read a few Daredevil comics over the years, and know the character pretty well. I read a fair chunk of the recent Mark Waid run. Which I really liked, and was a nice refresher on who’s who.
Evan Narcisse From the teasers and stuff that had been popping up, I knew that the show was going to be dark. But, psychologically speaking, it’s the grimmest Marvel adaptation yet. More surprisingly, it pulled me in despite the fact that I’m way burnt out on grimdark stuff in comics and games.
Kirk Hamilton Yeah, I mean... you guys both liked it, right?
Michael Fahey It’s a pretty nice contrast to the happy-go-lucky Daredevil of the current run of the comics. He’s spent so many years getting the shit kicked out of him both professionally and personally, he’s enjoying a nice little break in the main Marvel continuity. Then Netflix goes and pulls him right back in. I thought it was amazing. Dark doesn’t quite cut it. It was just plain brutal. It’s street level to the point where he’s getting punched in the face with the street.
Kirk Hamilton There was a groundedness to the whole show that I really liked. Obvs it’s been discussed to death, but the way the characters really FEEL it in the fights, how exhausted everyone gets, best exemplified in that amazing single-shot Oldboy hallway fight. And also how weirdly, quaintly local it all was? Like, how everyone kept talking about “the fate of Hell’s Kitchen.” It was street-level in more ways than one. It may not have been realistic, since a man as rich and powerful as Fisk probably wouldn’t focus entirely on one NY neighborhood, but it kept the show’s feet on the ground.
Evan Narcisse I think the grit worked because it was balanced by a ton of heart. The flashbacks to Matt’s childhood—like the scene where he sewed up a gash his dad during a boxing match—were heart-breaking.
Kirk Hamilton They were well-done, though they’re also where I felt like the pacing got a little away from the writers. There were a few places where character motivation got glossed over, and I had to do some mental blank-filling to get where everyone was coming from. Both Murdock and Fisk. Probably Murdock more than Fisk, actually.
Michael Fahey It wasn’t just Matt’s origin flashbacks that were heart-breaking. Wilson Fisk’s childhood trauma really hit home for me. Being bigger than other boys, an abusive father who had his own ideas of how a man should act. I was in tears during the scene where the situation in the Fisk household came to a head. In many ways the flashbacks felt more savage than the present-day action. I suppose that’s why Fisk’s relationship with Vanessa was so profound and unique. A touching villain love-story arc? How original is that?
Kirk Hamilton I was super into Fisk. How he was written, and how D’Onofrio played him. Best villain in a modern superhero TV/Movie thing? I think? Am I forgetting someone? The villains are always the weakest parts of these things. Best of all was that there wasn’t a scene in the finale where he bellows out, “I am not a businessman, I am a KINGPIN!” or anything.
Also that his dad was played by Herc from The Wire. I hate that guy!
Evan Narcisse D’Onofrio’s Kingpin is so idiosyncratic and maladroit. Like, the shout-talking, the headbutting, the utter sincerity of his threats... you really feel like something is wrong with him deep inside.
Kirk Hamilton And yet Vanessa loved him. And she sold it!
Michael Fahey I am incredibly pleased with several things that Daredevil did not do. The Kingpin never calling himself the Kingpin. Daredevil not wasting time at the scene of a crime to create a devil symbol out of gasoline or something. Only one instance in the entire series of quick off-screen hero takedowns. No instances of sound being so loud it disables Daredevil’s senses.
Evan Narcisse Yeah, they avoided a lot of the really trite pitfalls. You also feel like Matt is deeply troubled, too. The reason that Daredevil’s one of my favorite superheroes is because he screws things up. A lot.
Michael Fahey As for D’Onofrio, his has always been amazing, from Full Metal Jacket to Law and Order: Criminal Intent. One of my favorite actors of all time. I love the awkward spin he puts on Fisk...the odd stares, the uncomfortable pauses. He’s a broken child in a man’s body, and you can see it. The other crime bosses might be blind to it (except the canny triad leader), but he’s always just one off-comment away from throwing a deadly temper tantrum.
Kirk Hamilton Yeah, when he finally loses it on that Russian guy... hell of a scene. You can’t do that in a PG-13 movie! Another thing I liked that they didn’t do: There was never a scene (in this season, anyway) where a villain figured out Daredevil’s powers and came up with some stupid sonic device to mess with him. They kept things nice and simple. It was enough that he was taking on a bunch of dangerous dudes. I guess that’s kinda what you were saying, Fahey.
Evan Narcisse The show managed to surprise me with how the creators adapted and interpreted things. When Matt describes how he “sees” things as a world on fire, it’s like “of course.” Yet, I don’t remember that kind of take from the comics. I found myself being surprised a whole lot. It really felt like they took something that already existed, broke it down and fashioned something fresh from the pieces.
Michael Fahey You have to be a little screwed up to do what Matt is doing. He’s killing himself over this crusade of his, a crusade that seems to stem mainly from his guilt over losing his father at a young age. That “world of fire” he sees is just one of many subtle hints at a conclusion the comics have come to several times—Matt Murdock is insane. He is a crazy person.
Kirk Hamilton Right, which... well, it came across in his actions as Daredevil, but not all that consistently. I guess maybe that’s something that’ll become clearer as we go, but he mostly seemed pretty normal to me? That line early on, when he says “I do this because I like it.” I loved that line, but then felt like his character never came close to that again. I wasn’t quite sold on what was driving him, why he HATED Fisk so much. The final fight between the two of them was actually a bit of a letdown for me for that reason. It was partly just because I actually preferred the all-black suit to the proper red one, but also because the emotional stakes hadn’t been established as well as they could’ve been.
Michael Fahey Well it doesn’t help that you’re a masked vigilante in your free time, Kirk, though it does explain your Fisk hatred. Mine stemmed mainly from the murder of one of my favorite supporting characters in the Marvel Universe, Ben Urich. I did not see that coming.
Kirk Hamilton I think that as far as motivation goes, it happened late enough in the show that it felt too late to pin Daredevil’s crazy crusade on it, but it worked in a roundabout way. But oof, that scene was rough.
I figured where it was going just by the way they set it up, where we were in the season, how much time was left in the episode, etc. But tough to see such a great character killed. I’d assumed Ben was a big deal in the comics. I’ve never seen that actor, Vondie Curtis-Hall, in anything, but I thought he was terrific in this! His performance elevated what could’ve been a boring side-plot, and in so doing elevated the whole show, somehow. RIP Ben.
Evan Narcisse Yeah, Mike, the Ben Urich thing was shocking! As was the moment where Matt revealed his secret identity to Foggy. I figured we’d get years of hard-to-believe excuses and outright lies out of the show before it “caught up” with current continuity. But that’s the thing about a good comics adaptation: it uses all of the material. That scene felt like the writers were asking themselves, “do we want a character who lies to his best friend about the biggest thing in his life?”
Michael Fahey I’m just sad that Ben didn’t get to go through the whole figuring-out-who-Daredevil-is arc like he did in the comics. When he mentioned boxing to the black-costumed Matt I was sure they were heading there.
Evan Narcisse I agree but slavish devotion to source material can be poison. Exhibit A: Zack Snyder’s Watchmen movie.
Michael Fahey Point taken. And while we’re on the subject of supporting characters, Karen Page will never catch a break, will she?
Kirk Hamilton Yeah, poor Karen. I really liked Deborah Ann Woll in that role, since I also liked her on True Blood. (Safe to say I like the entire cast of this show, haha.) She ate a lot of shit over the course of the season, but for the most part I felt like they kept it out of “bad shit happening to her to give Daredevil motivation” territory. The scene with her and Wesley was fantastic. I was shocked!
Evan Narcisse I like this version of Karen a lot, too. She’s more pro-active and essentially the glue that holds the whole season together. That said, you have to wonder where the line is drawn that separates “bad shit happening to her to give Daredevil motivation” from being “true” to her character’s accrued personality over the years.
Evan Narcisse We haven’t talked about Foggy yet. Elden Henson (ck?) was so great.
Michael Fahey He was the mightiest of all ducks.
Evan Narcisse Talk about a character who’s been almost embarrassing in the comics!
Kirk Hamilton I liked him. I thought early on that he was gonna play it too Jack Black-y, but he wound up doing a great job. He nailed Foggy’s devastation at figuring out that Matt had been lying to him this whole time. Speaking of Foggy, here’s a question I have for you comic guys: What is the alcohol that they’re always drinking at that bar? Some kind of dark-ass, thick stuff? Is that a known thing from the comics? I kept wanting to know what it was, and also wanting to have some.
Evan Narcisse No idea, but absinthe would be apropos.
Michael Fahey Just wait until season two, when Matt fakes his own death and replaces himself with Mike Murdock, his devil-may-care twin brother. Then what’ll poor Foggy do?
Evan Narcisse: Did you guys have a particular favorite episode? Mine was the one with Matt’s estranged mentor Stick. The flashback sequences with young Matt learning how to focus his senses were great. They homed in on something I’ve always loved about DD: his powers allow for his stories to be written in a very lyrical way.
Kirk Hamilton I liked the Stick episode—it felt a liiittle bit rushed, but I’d rather that than they had a whole mini-arc with Stick. (Side note: Were we supposed to know who the guy was that Stick was reporting to at the end of that episode, or was that a tease for future stuff?)
I really like that io9 article about the way the various fights played out, and the writer’s analysis of the fight in Stick—how it started with Daredevil fighting recklessly, like a boxer, and getting his ass kicked, before he turned it around and finally beat Stick.
I also really liked “Condemned,” the episode that had Murdock trapped in that warehouse and surrounded by cops. It had a Batman: Year One/Dredd vibe to it, and really underlined that whole local/grounded thing I was talking about earlier.
Evan Narcisse That bit at then end of the Stick episode was definitely a teaser, probably to open up a path to the ninja society that Daredevil has connections in the comics.
Kirk Hamilton Ah, okay. I figured.
Evan Narcisse And speaking of teasers, there was a pretty big one with Madame Gao, too. The name of her particular brand of heroin—Steel Serpent—comes from a character from the Iron Fist comic, which is also in development as another one of these Marvel/Netflix shows.
Kirk Hamilton Yeah, I figured that “Black Sky” was also a comic reference I wasn’t picking up on. Madam Gao was great—the showdown in her lab didn’t quite hit like I sensed it was supposed to, but she was a terrific character.
Evan Narcisse Yeah, I didn’t dig that it got physical. I understood why—to give a mysterious WTF moment—but it felt out of character based on what we’d already seen.
Kirk Hamilton And the whole bit where he was mobbed by blind people on her factory floor... I dunno, it just felt rushed.
Evan Narcisse BUT... there’ve been interviews with the showrunners where they’ve said that they weren’t able to layer in the kind of cameos and world-building that the movies do, because of scheduling. So I was glad they got a bit of that in somehow.
Kirk Hamilton Oh, yeah. The show was plenty self-contained for the most part, and they got away with a few nods to bigger-picture stuff. I sense we’re winding down, but one thing I do want to talk about is the sound design. I’m always going on about sound design in video games, and I went into this show with an ear out. I reeeeeally liked a lot of what they did with sound in Daredevil. I knew it’d be a super important part of the show, but they didn’t overdo it in the way I was expecting—fight scenes didn’t have lots of whizzing and zooming in surround sound, and they only showed his “world on fire” sonic vision once.
So instead of that, there was this restrained sense of *focus* on sound. Sound was very present, but not distractingly so. That led to some really neat scenes, where you’d hear what was happening rather than see it, or where the show would flip quickly between showing you something and just letting you listen, and back again. Plus, other bits like when Daredevil slowly pulls a chair out.. scraping it along the ground... and sits down in front of Hoffman near the end. These constant, subtle reminders to use your ears as well as your eyes.
Evan Narcisse We talked about the Ben Affleck movie before. I don’t hate it as much as some other people but, man, the thing that rankles me the most is how wrong they get his powers. The bullshit scene at the end with the sprinklers? Where he needed the water to see? Fuck outta here with that. In the comics, his “radar” is a whole different new sensory input. But it’s tough to explain so I appreciate the creators going subtle with trying to portray his powers. Nothing wrong with a little verbal explanation, especially when it creates good character moments.
Kirk Hamilton Yeah! Sometimes less is more, and it definitely was this time around.
Stephen Totilo Yo, how about that Matter Eater Lad show? That part when he eats that stuff!
Kirk Hamilton A wild Totilo appears!
Evan Narcisse In wrestling, this is called a run-in. Kirk, grab a chair.
Kirk Hamilton Shit just got real.
Evan Narcisse One of the main takeaways for me re: Daredevil is how it lets Marvel’s Hollywood wing double down on what made the early comics work. The heroes didn’t get along. They had wildly different personalities, backgrounds and methods. If/when a Captain America vs. Daredevil fight happens, their beef will feel organic. These are two guys who clearly go about crime-fighting in radically divergent ways. And because the show’s flavor is so distinct, you can invoke that tension without the characters having had any shared screen-time. These interactions will be an event, like in the old days.
Kirk Hamilton Man, I’d love to see this Daredevil fight Chris Evans’ Cap. I so hope that happens.
Evan Narcisse It feels like it *needs* to happen.
Kirk Hamilton In the meantime, I guess we can all go watch Age of Ultron and try not to be too disappointed that there aren’t any scenes with people getting violently decapitated by car doors. Unless there are, which I have recently learned I would be surprisingly okay with.
Michael Fahey Sorry, someone said Ben Affleck and I dozed off.
Yeah, it’s ironic that the big, end-of-the-world blockbuster is going to seem tame by comparison.
Kirk Hamilton I’m reeeeeally skeptical that the other Marvel Netflix shows will be this good, but hey, it’d sure be nice if they were. So! Daredevil is good and hopefully everyone out there who has Netflix manages to watch it. Any final thoughts from you guys?
Michael Fahey “I CAN’T SEE DAD! DAD! I CAN’T SEE!”
:( poor little guy
Michael Fahey I am quickly becoming addicted and conditioned by the binge-watching format, and Daredevil has further cemented my desire for hours of entertainment all-at-once, all for me. So bring on Age of Ultron’s paltry two hours and change for twice what I spend on Netflix in a month. I can’t see myself being satisfied. Thanks, Daredevil. Jerk.