Review by Logan
There’s a certain set of expectations that fans have come to expect from Marvel Studios. A fun, lighthearted superhero tale with moments of epic danger and, of course, lots of action. From the very first episode, however, Daredevil breaks all of those expectations.
The reasons are manifold. It could be because the show is a partnership with Netflix, whose original shows tend to be targeted on a more mature demographic. It could be that they wanted to broaden their scope a little bit. But whatever the reason, this show is nothing like The Avengers and nothing like Agents of SHIELD. And it is all the more compelling for it.
The first episode opens up pretty quickly with a look at Daredevil’s crusade during the night, after a brief introduction to his childhood accident. The rest of the episode digs into a specific mystery regarding Karen, their first client and soon to be series regular. From the get go, this works really well because the first episode isn’t really an origin story. Unlike comic book shows such as The Flash, Gotham, or Arrow, this show isn’t intending to tell an origin story. The origin unfolds as a natural part of the story, but you don’t really get the whole thing in this first episode, because they’re telling the story.
But even more importantly, the show sets up some very important aspects of Matt Murdock’s character. You get an introduction to his blindness, to his life as an attorney, and even his faith, all within a relatively brief period of time. Daredevil is, curiously enough, something of a Christian superhero.
Now when I say that, I certainly don’t mean that he embodies all of the characteristics we would expect from Christians. His language is rough and his methods are questionable, so it’s not as though he’s a more explicitly Christian Captain America. But what I do mean is that the show begins by hinting at questions of how being a night-time vigilante plays into religion and morality. The first episode doesn’t quite get to that, because it’s too busy unfolding Karen’s case and developing Matt’s character, but Matt’s conversation with a priest early in the episode shows that this will become a topic of discussion for the show.
The only thing really missing from the show in this first episode is, arguably, the absence of a central villain. We see no sign of Wilson Fisk in the first episode, except by nameless reference. So instead, Daredevil is in combat against a general corruption in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. That’s not all bad, however, as it gives the character some time to develop into his superhero persona before facing off against a huge enemy. It does make the story more low-key and less high-scale, and therefore less comic-bookey, but that’s really what the writers are going for. My only complaint here is that the show begins to morph into too much of a crime drama, with the different mob bosses, and not enough of a superhero show. It could become too divided with these different characters, but in the first episode, that’s not the case.
In short, Daredevil is a brilliantly acted and beautifully choreographed show that takes a gritty, realistic take on Daredevil’s journey. It hints at asking some deep questions about fighting violence and how it relates to faith, which will undoubtedly make it one of the best comic book-based shows out there.