YES, I will be spoiling the Daredevil series in this article so please don’t read this unless you watched the show.
On April 10, 2015, Netflix debuted Marvel’s Daredevil. After a weekend of folks binge watching and praising it on Social Media, it’s pretty clear that the series worked out for the best. This must have been a relief for folks at both Marvel and Netflix as I’m sure the series (despite the success of the Marvel Studios movies) was considered to be a bit of gamble. What’s funny to me is that after finishing the whole series and letting it digest….I kinda understand why the show is working on folks.
The Netflix Daredevil series, if it’s by designed or not, shares a lot of elements of other popular TV shows that are in the zeitgeist now. Breaking Bad. Hannibal. The Walking Dead. Game of Thrones. It’s that element of darkness, that loss of a beloved character dying, and the harsh violence that these shows share and Daredevil fits right in.
Wilson Fisk’s rise to power is one of the most surprisingly compelling things about the show. Being invested in him, seeing his weakness, and seeing him happy, were things that made Fisk more than just the big bad of the show. His relationship with both Wesley and Vanessa were such an important part of the series that I got emotionally invested with the “villains” of the series, just as much as I was invested with Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson and Karen Page.
Is it easy to compare Fisks story to Walter Whites from Breaking Bad? Yes..it is, and I’m certainly not saying that Fisk’s tale is nearly as great or original as Walter Whites….but that same reason we found Walter so enjoyable to watch is in the way of they portrayed Wilson Fisks story. We are almost rooting for him to succeed.
Truthfully, Wilson has a bit more in common with Hannibal Lecter. Both are deeply disturbed men, with refined dignity and class. Look at the opening scenes of Episode 8; Fisk making his daily omelette clearly echoes the elaborate meals that Hannibal makes in his show. They both share that appeal seeing the rich and powerful as deadly human beings….but their charm (and yes, Fisks has charm.) makes it hard to not be drawn to them.
Let’s talk about the shows violence for a bit. I might argue that it might push it a bit too far, but we are in a new era of acceptance for this. We have seen heroes get their heads chopped off, people covering themselves in zombie guts and melted men in a bathtub. The violence in Daredevil (while still extreme) seems tame compared to those shows. However, it’s still shocking enough to cause some attention to folks who have gotten used to (and even like) this brand of TV gore.
Now, while killing off a beloved character is not even close to being a new idea, the way how a beloved character gets killed off on Daredevil reminded me of shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. The death of Ben Urich was a huge punch in the gut. He’s a man who put everything on the line; his job, the safety of his wife, the safety of Karen Page all before his own life. He was willing to fight for the truth. In a show that’s about a costumed vigilante with powers, Ben Urich was another hero in this show. Sadly, some heroes tend to be martyrs in these shows. But the death of Urich proves that Daredevil isn’t afraid to kill off a character as good as Ben. And like The Walking Dead it isn’t afraid to go “off book” and kill off someone who’s still alive in the comics. Its that edge of thrill that will keep people coming back for more, and make the comic fans keep guessing (which sadly means that Foggy could be just as easily killed off.)
There is one edge that this show has, and it’s pretty obvious…this show has a superhero.
“Well DUH genius, we know.”
Ok Snarky, but here me out because having that superhero in it’s show is the element that makes Daredevil unique. In a television climate full of dark, complicated leads with questionable morals, Matt Murdock is full of compassion, heart, humor and selflessness. Oh sure, he has his own demons to get through, but Matt is at his heart a protector. While I did say that Ben Urich was a hero, he couldn’t survive a fight with Wilson Fisk, but Matt Murdock can.
That’s part of the rules of superhero fiction. The superhero (most of the time.) can’t die. He’s the titled character. We know he’s gonna team up with other Marvel characters with Netflix shows. He can’t be killed…and that’s ok. Some say that having the rule of not killing off our title character ruins the tension, where as I’m good with it. I can read/watch that story any where else. The superhero story is the place I go where I want the heroes to win.
See, the fun for me concerning Daredevil is that despite the fact that it’s set in a world that contains Captain America, Thor and Iron Man….the villains in this show are so below their radar they will be able to slip past the Avengers. Thus allowing a world that the bad guys can win…which makes every victory that Matt can do as either a lawyer or as a vigilante that much more rewarding.
That’s the enjoyment of superhero fiction; seeing good people with the abilities and skills to stop the bad people.
Except in Daredevil’s case, the “bad” people are just as complex.
In a way, the Daredevil show is having it’s cake and eating it too. You get to live out two power fantasies; the lives of folks who choose the criminal side, and the lives of the the folks who do good.
TV has had the bad guys rule the airwaves, while the heroes are the saviors of the box office. The Daredevil show successfully combines both.