Tuesday, September 15, 2015

TV Review: Daredevil Season One

Daredevil Season One created by Drew Goddard based on the characters created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett

Matt Murdock had a tough childhood in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York City. His mom died when he was young; his dad was a boxer who never won that much and always needed patching up. If that wasn't bad enough, one day nine-year old Matt saves another person from an oncoming car and a truck involved in the accident spills some chemicals in his eyes, leaving him blind though his other senses became more acute. His dad's boxing career continued under the guidance of the Irish mob, eventually landing him in too much trouble. Matt became a orphan. He went to law school and returned to Hell's Kitchen to practice law with his college roommate Foggy Nelson. Being a lawyer isn't enough to stop some crimes or right some wrongs, so Matt dons a mask and fights crime at night with his heightened senses and the amazing combat skills he picked up along the way. Matt just wants what's best for Hell's Kitchen because he loves his neighborhood.

Wilson Fisk also had a tough childhood in Hell's Kitchen. His dad had political ambitions when Wilson was young and borrowed money from the mob to run for office, figuring he'd make enough in kickbacks and bribes to repay the debt (plus, he'd get respect from the neighbors). Things don't work out well and Wilson disappears, only to return as a crime boss trying to fix up Hell's Kitchen after the devastation that happened when the Avengers fought those aliens in the first Avengers movie. Wilson just wants what's best for Hell's Kitchen because he loves his neighborhood.

Naturally, the two men come into conflict more than once. Matt struggles to be a hero and keep the people he loves safe. Wilson struggles to stay in the shadows as he tries to redevelop the neighborhood for a brighter future. Their paths have interesting parallels that make the well-written drama even more compelling.

The drama is very heavy, easily earning its TV-MA rating with a variety of violence including death by decapitation twice, death by burning, death by multiple gun shot wounds several times. Plenty of menace, torture, and anticipated violence add to the oppressive atmosphere. This mood is balanced out with humor, especially from Matt's law partner Foggy Nelson who does an amazing job switching from comic relief to dramatic tension in several episodes. The rest of the supporting cast is equally good.

The other tricky balancing act the show does quite well is dealing with Matt Murdock's Catholic faith. He goes fairly regularly to consult a priest, sometimes in confession. Matt's conversations deal with the borderline between good and evil that he has a hard time discerning. The priest doesn't give him pat answers but engages him in a real dialogue about the issues and presents the Catholic faith accurately and sincerely. The priest isn't quite a mentor figure but is a sounding board and, again, helps to enhance the dramatic tension in Matt's story.

The show is a very satisfying dark action drama, though I wouldn't recommend it for children. In addition to the violence (and a lot of stitching up wounds after fights), there's a fair bit of drinking and some swearing. Two affairs go on during the show but are discreetly depicted; Foggy does go on and on about how blind Matt can tell who are pretty women and implies that he sleeps with a lot of them, though we viewers never see that.

As a write this, the show is only available through Netflix streaming service. It's worth signing up for a free month just to watch, in my opinion (just remember to cancel if you don't want to continue!).

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