Like any self-respecting Geek-Girl, I totally binged watched Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix this past weekend. Don’t judge! I’m not ashamed – I love comics, I love Marvel, and I love TV, so this was a win-win for me. But I was weary, yes dear readers, I was weary of how it would all pan out. So the question is, did Daredevil live up to the advertising hype? Spoiler alert: IT DID! And I’ll tell you why it’s changing the future for superhero stories on TV.
I love comics, but had never read any Daredevil trade paperbacks. I love Marvel, but some of their other shows on TV have been watered down to appeal to the masses (ex: Agents of Shield). I love TV, but sometimes TV takes your favorite stories and twists them into something they shouldn’t be (ex: ABC’s Once Upon A Time). So many factors come into play when you want to adapt a story into a living life-force. Subject material, writers, budget, and fans all contribute to the success of the transition.
To truly understand what Daredevil has done to change the future of superhero stories on TV, we have to remember where we’ve come from. Come take a stroll down memory lane with me.
Think back to when Batman and The Green Hornet were popular in the 60’s, and then move to the 70’s & 80’s with the short lived Incredible Hulk Series. Then move to the 90’s with the kookie Flash series, and at the turn of the century we were given Smallville. And as we look forward to today, we have the likes of Arrow, Gotham, and Flash to satiate our senses. What do all of these “before Daredevil” shows have in common?
Constraints can be TV’s worst enemy. Constraints with budget, technology, network rules, poor writing & acting, etc. can all lead to the demise of the show’s popularity, and even worse, a dedicated fan base if squeezed too hard. Television constraints can hinder the fantasy and wonder that is supposed to be comic book stories. How do you adequately show a regular man transforming into a manacle larger than life psycho beast? Back in the 70’s that answer was Lou Ferrigno. But with advancements in technology and budget, you can see how things have changed over the years, because that answer now lies within CGI.
But will Daredevil change the history of comic book stories on TV through CGI? Nope, not even close. Well maybe close, because CGI allows for some killer special effects, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Daredevil will change the history of comic book stories on TV because it set a precedent. Daredevil producers said – we don’t care about constraints. They laid a solid foundation and got many things right.
I’ve been told that Frank Miller’s version of Daredevil is the token standard for DD fans. And when you have loyal fans like Miller’s you don’t get much wiggle room to screw it up. But thankfully with a writing team made up of: Drew Goddard, Marco Ramirez, Joe Pokaski, Luke Kalteux, Douglas Petrie, Steven S. DeKnight, Cristos Gage, & Ruth Fletcher Gage – the fans are in good hands.
One of the things I admire the most about Daredevil is that it makes no apologies when it comes to a good story writing. And good story writing takes time. I have heard a few complaints about how the series starts off slow. Well you know what, tough! Breaking Bad had the same criticism, and look where it landed once everything was said and done.
But what I like about Daredevil is that we really get a chance to get to know everyone without it taking 3 seasons to do so. All we needed was a few defining episodes for each character (and each character get’s their turn), and we are privy to see their light and their dark. Nobody is perfect. No one is portrayed as only one thing. And I like that about the characters. I like that each person is portrayed to have a compass, whether we agree with it or not. And to me, that’s good writing. We should hate the “villain” but you don’t. We should agree with Matt Murdock and how he handles each situation, but we don’t. And I think that’s what set’s this series apart. It shows that humans are not perfect, and that heroes and villains can be one in the same.
One of my favorite scenes is featured above when Karen is talking to Wesley about what he thinks she should do to save her friends, and herself. I won’t spoil it for you, but if you were to be a guessing person, I think you would guess Karen’s actions and answers based on previous experience with damsels in distress. The fact that after this scene you are left surprised, and almost glad it unfolded the way it does, leaves you with your own personal moral dilemma. Did I just route for something I shouldn’t have?
Complex characters make for good storytelling. And that’s what Daredevil offers it’s fans. And so much more.
At first I questioned the casting decisions. I mean – most of what I had seen these actors/actresses in previously, didn’t quite tote the high praise in acting skills from this geek-girl. You could probably argue a few of these roles are not necessary [read Rosario Dawson] but even her role serves it’s purpose. I was impressed with how Foggy is portrayed by Elden Henson. He’s the comedic relief this dark story needs. But he’s not “funny” in a way that dumbs down the series, he’s funny in a “my best friend would have said that” kind of way. And I like that about his character. He feels like he’s one of us.
Charlie Cox was not who I thought of when they (the producers) first announced his candidacy as Matt Murdock. And even after the pilot I wasn’t so sure. But then, after a few episodes in, and after seeing his portrayal of Daredevil vs. Matt Murdock, I cannot picture anyone else in the role. What really hooked me in was his stunt work. I’m all for an amazing explosion here and there. Who doesn’t? But I like imaginative and realistic fighting better. I can’t tell you the last time I watched a series of “you punch me, and I punch you” on TV where it didn’t look totally choreographed – until now. I believe that Charlie Cox is a trained ninja assassin. So much so, that I don’t dare put him on the #Jenny30 for fear he might accidentally punch me in the ovaries. Brilliant casting choice (but leave my ovaries alone).
Jessica from True Blood, I mean – errr – Deborah Ann Woll grew on me. At first I wasn’t overly thrilled with her portrayal of Karen. She seamed like every other comic damsel in distress. She was too willowy for me. Too sappy. Too prissy. And it wasn’t until the scene with Wesley (which I mentioned earlier) that all of that changed. Now I see what the producers saw – now I see how deep and three dimensional Karen’s character needs to be – has to be. This will be a fun game over time to watch Deborah change Karen from where she is now, to where we all know she’s about to go. And I’m looking forward to that kind of depth and crazy.
I leave dear old Vincent D’Onofrio for last because he is what sold me on the show. It’s he and he alone that made me want to watch just one more episode. I love how complicated his character (Wilson Fisk) is portrayed, and I also love how Vincent takes the time to delicately pull you into his mysterious life. You feel pain with him. You feel joy and excitement with him, when maybe you shouldn’t. You feel sorry for him. I found myself wanting to know more about his character, and his background than I did any other character. And that’s all because of the acting genius of Mr. D’Onofrio. I BELIEVE HIM! I believe when he’s sad, angry, excited, and crazy. I believe he will do what he says he will do. And that frightens me – but leaves me fulfilled. If you are on the fence, even just a little bit, just wait till Episode 8 “Shadows In The Glass”. Then tell me what you think.
So what? How Does Writing/Casting Change Anything?
It changes everything. The bar has been raised. And everyone knows it. No longer can superhero series be thrown together with a wing and a prayer in hopes that fans will flock to uphold it’s ridiculousness. And with a powerhouse of series now premiering on Netflix, this makes it hard to just throw something up on prime time TV and hope that the unaware will happen upon it while flipping channels. This is no ABC family phenomenon. This is a dark, gritty, and calculated way to tell a story. And good storytelling is all we really care about anyway. If we wanted mindless TV, TBS would be the network powerhouse, but it’s not. And there’s a reason why the other “Premium Cable” conglomerates like HBO, ShowTime, and now Netflix are taking risks and pouring money into good writing and great casting. Even more so, they are making sure that the story they are telling is real – or…. “real-ish.” Fans like me grew tired of seeing the “SOCK-POW-BOOM” of the late centuries’ superheroes and opted for something more.
And that need for “something more” is what I think will continue to change the landscape of how we’re telling superhero stories. We want realistic, or at least we like it. The more we can feel submersed into the pages of a comic book, the better. We’re starting to grow accustomed to feeling like we’re actually there with the characters. And that’s why I think Daredevil has changed the future for Superhero stories on TV. It transported us into a living, breathing, realistic comic book. Matt and Foggy are our buddies. We’ve seen them at the local pub. You know you have a friend like Karen, and you’ve probably come across a Wilson Fisk (though I hope not) as well. We have seen what it’s like when the trifecta of realism, good acting, and good writing can come together for a comic – and we won’t settle for anything less. And we shouldn’t.