One of the first shows I watched after subscribing to Netflix and in my opinion, it’s consistently been one of the best.  This show follows lawyer Matt Murdoch as he enters a double-life as a vigilante.  His loss of sight as a young boy initially makes this seem like a really bad and short-lived idea however, this is the Marvel universe and Matt is able to perceive the world around him more acutely than someone with 20/20 vision. He’s also a exceptionally skilled fighter, I believe in a more MMA style than any singular technique.  Though, Daredevil is certainly a very human character and unlike most of the other Marvel heroes, he gets hurt, very badly and very frequently.

Charlie Cox as Matt exudes the quiet, brooding intensity required of a character hiding huge secrets from those closest to him. He wrestles with his inner demons the whole time (of which there are many) and continually questions his place in the world but his saviours come in the form of his friends Foggy & Karen, it’s with them that I felt we see him come alive most.

Vincent D’Onofrio is mesmerising as Wilson Fisk and like Matt he holds his emotions down for the most part but the difference with Fisk is that every so often there is an uncontrollable explosion of violence and fury.  Fisk is incredibly clever and calculating, he considers the very long game and plots the future out like he’s playing chess, but when pushed he has no control over his emotions and his genius is subsumed by an old testament-style God wrath.

There is a ton of character development in this show, extended flashbacks in a small selection of episodes give us some backstory and help us understand how some of the characters came to be who they are later on.  Understandably, much of Matt’s backstory is revealed in the first season, Wilson Fisk’s is then revealed later on and in the third season we get a stunning episode that helps us understand what makes Karen tick.  I would say that Karen is by far the bravest character, physically she is slight and has a look that she might start crying or screaming any second but she constantly fights that back and puts herself willingly into situations that many of the male characters would balk at.

Season two is a small departure from that of one and three, where Wilson Fisk while still an ever-present force (and more in control of events than at first seems) takes more of a back seat as new characters, Frank Castle (as The Punisher) and Matt’s ex-girlfriend Elektra come into the story.  Both these characters are like alternative versions of Matt; Frank is also a vigilante but with no off switch, Matt never kills but Franks’ entire modus is to methodically execute the bad guys.  Elektra is like Frank in that regard but isn’t too bothered by good or bad and doesn’t seem to have an end-game in sight, her character being both vulnerable and deadly.

There are some nice references to the wider Marvel universe; one example being the front page of a newspaper reporting the attack on New York from ‘Avengers Assemble’.  There are also references to other Netflix Marvel shows with the character of Claire Temple stepping neatly through all of them.   However, the use of known comic book character names is deftly handled so that this show is more grounded in a realistic setting than a fantasy one. Daredevil isn’t referred to as such until very late on; Bullseye isn’t name-checked at all; Kingpin is mentioned as a code-name for Wilson Fisk (much later on in the third season); Elektra is her name anyway.

Season one became widely known for one particular hallway fight in the second episode that took place over three minutes with more than one minute being a long-shot. Incredibly skilful in it’s complexity, we see Matt Murdoch fight a number of Russian bad guys in a small corridor; this sequence clocked up nearly three million views on YouTube:

In season three, they blew this out of the water with a long-shot of 11 minutes.   It was about three or four minutes into the scene that I realised what was going on with regards to the film-making.  A cut in a movie or TV show is like taking a breath, so when there are no cuts, your attention is held solidly and you’re literally holding your breath.  Film-makers like Hitchcock, Scorsese and De Palma are famous for their long-shots and they’ve been employed more recently by Alfonso Cuaron in ‘Children of Men’ and ‘Gravity’.   In this fourth episode of season three, Matt Murdoch moves from room-to-room, inside-to-outside, fighting off dozens of assailants and engaging in conversations in efforts to escape from his current situation.  Every element is so precisely choreographed, it must’ve taken months to plan and days (even weeks) to film but it really does pay off.

It’s a huge shame that this show got cancelled; I’m not a big fan of wringing every ounce out of a successful product and I guess the character did run for four seasons if you include ‘The Defenders’ but this show really stood out as something exceptional.  However, whilst they do leave a little opening for something more and there’s certainly more content to mine from the Marvel archives, I think if this was to be the end then they’ve done it well, I didn’t feel I’d been cheated of a resolution.

CastCharlie Cox, as Matt Murdock / Daredevil
Vincent D’onofrio, as Wilson Fisk / Kingpin
Deborah Ann Woll, as Karen Page
Elden Henson, as Franklin ‘Foggy’ Nelson
SeasonS1 (2015): 13 episodes
S2 (2016): 13 episodes
S3 (2018): 13 episodes

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Welsh librarian, working in London and living in Brighton.