Netflix’s new addition to their every growing list of original content is the supremely cool reworking of the “Daredevil” comic, into a dark and gripping drama.
Focusing on the story of Matt Murdock, a lawyer blinded as a young child by a car accident, he soon turns to fighting crime in the wake of the break down of his city. The source material is not totally unknown as the story of “Daredevil” was told once in a 2003 movie starring Ben Affleck as the titular hero. It may seem like the story has been told already, but in this adaptation the grit and darkness that was missing from former realizations has taken up space to create an adaptation so supremely acted and crafted that after the first episode you’ll be asking yourself, Affleck who?
This show is surely a star making turn for Matt Murdock himself played by Charlie Cox, a British actor known for his turn as an Irish immigrant on Boardwalk Empire. He takes the pathos and emotion of the man and turns him into a hero. His opening monologue in which he recounts the struggles watching his father, an amateur boxer, continuously get beaten is only the first glimpse of Cox’s range and ability that he shows in the first episode. The show’s supporting characters, Elden Henson as Murdock’s law partner Foggy Nelson adds some humor to the otherwise dark show but acts as a contrast to our dark and brooding hero. Deborah Ann Woll plays Karen Page who takes center stage in the first episode and seems to drive the momentum of the show into its narrative arc. By the episode’s end Woll’s Karen Page teamed up with Nelson and Murdock as their new secretary keeping the chemistry of the trio alive.
The trio of actors play seamlessly off each other and are the main focus of the show’s first hour that showcases the tone and direction that this show is going to take. From the ever present rain in the city or the near constant darkness that floods every shot it is evident that the jaunty, pithy superheroes, a la Tony Stark, are not present in the crime ridden sector of New York City conveniently called Hell’s Kitchen. This is where Murdock and Nelson set up their law firm and it is also where Murdock patrols the streets at night with a black blindfold around his eyes and a sloppily put together costume not fit for a superhero. In flashbacks to his youth we see how influenced young Murdock was by his father and the struggles that they faced together. Some of the most emotional scenes take place in these flashbacks, as the bond that the young Murdock and his father share is evident.
On one of his nighttime patrols Murdock encounters a gang of men in the process of transporting a group of women for some unknown boss who is a big player in the underground crime scene. In the show’s first fight scene is another show stopping number as the fight is so perfectly choreographed and shot the show could consist entirely of the fight on a loop and I would still watch it. Murdock’s heroic tendencies are a secret to everyone but it is not soon that the forces in the gang world come into contact with Murdock creating ripples that will resonate for the rest of the season
The episode establishes many elements of the world that the characters inhabit but in a way that’s so natural and compelling that a lesser show would fail where this succeeds. Hints are dropped about the backgrounds of the main characters and the seedy underground gang life that affects the city and by the end of the episode the season’s Big Bad is teased enough to keep watching. If you’re looking for a sleek, dark superhero narrative that is expertly acted and incredibly shot then “Daredevil” is the show for you.