Dare to Watch Daredevil?
Image: Daredevil Logo via Wikimedia Commons.
Note: Mild spoilers for the first three episodes of Netflix’s Daredevil series.
Netflix’s Daredevil, which premiered last Friday, is a TV series about a blind lawyer who doubles as a masked vigilante at night. It’s sort of a weird premise, but for the most part, it works. Three episodes in, I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. It’s much darker than the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which isn’t surprising since Netflix as a platform has a history of airing edgy content. As such, the show is extremely bloody so if that’s not your thing, then I’d suggest steering clear of this series.
I’m not a huge fan of how dark the show’s been so far (nothing says “dark and gritty” like opening with violence against women and children, right?) but otherwise, the show is well-done.
Charlie Cox plays Matthew Murdock, the title character in the series. He and the writers have done an amazing job with Matt. His blindness hasn’t been treated as a tragic character flaw, which happens all too often with disabled characters. Instead, it’s simply acknowledged as a part of his life—and while other characters occasionally stumble over how to act around him, the writers don’t.
At times, they use Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) to help Matt understand what goes on around him—when someone shrugs or nods, Foggy tells him. They seem to be really good friends, although I don’t see them portrayed as equal partners. Instead, it feels like Matt often takes over, and while I’m glad that Foggy calls him out on his dickhead behavior, it’s so cliché for the male hero to take charge that I’m honestly tired of it. Hopefully, there’ll be more to Foggy later on in the series than his current role of “mostly comic relief.”
On the plus side, the portrayal of female characters has been surprisingly good. Before the series premiered, a good friend of mine (and a huge Daredevil fan) told me that in the comics, women were constantly killed off to further Matt’s manpain, so I was pretty wary about how Daredevil would portray women.
Happily, Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen Page and Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple seem pretty well-developed. While I can’t say anything about their comic book counterparts, here they’re both dynamic characters. Woll’s character is perhaps more fleshed out than Dawson’s, but that is hopefully just due to having more screentime. So far, though, neither of them fall into the trope of being a “strong female character” who acts only in a masculine manner. Yes, they can be strong, but they also have moments of weakness that make them wonderfully realistic.
Of course, no show is complete without its problems and Daredevil has several, both in terms of actual content and in its distribution. The majority of the villains so far are people of color or Russians (who aren’t racialized as white the same way that Western Europeans are). Actually, there aren’t that many people of color, aside from the aforementioned villains. I can think of four POC who aren’t villains, and only two of them seem to have a developing backstory. It’s really uncomfortable that in a place as big and diverse as New York City, most of the people of color just happen to be minor villains. True, there are ten more episodes for me to watch, so I’m hoping that it’ll improve. But as it is now, the show is lacking in this area.
There are also a number of small problems. Namely, does Matt Murdock ever go to work? Because we rarely see him there. Additionally, the nighttime setting makes it hard to figure out who’s who, especially during fight scenes. For people who aren’t familiar with Marvel comics, this could be a drawback.
Outside of the show’s content, there are a couple of problems with its distribution. For one thing, it wasn’t accessible to blind fans upon release; that is, Netflix doesn’t have audio descriptions so that people who are visually impaired can understand what’s going on. On Tuesday, though, Netflix announced that they would start adding audio descriptions for their shows, beginning with this one, so it’s good to see that they’re listening to the fans.
Another minor flaw is that the show doesn’t have subtitles for all the non-English languages spoken on-screen. While it seems like there’s a plot purpose for this, it’s kind of frustrating to continually be left out of the action.
Nevertheless, the show is good, with a full cast of dynamic characters and an engaging storyline. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d probably rate what I’ve seen of the series at a 7—it’s fun and entertaining, but I’m also not too sure how much my enjoyment of it comes from my pre-existing interest in Marvel, and it could definitely use some work on its POC representation. The main characters (and their actors) do a lot to make the show interesting, and the way the writers address and respect Matt’s blindness (and Charlie Cox’s abs, I’ll admit it) put this show squarely on my “To Watch Soon” list.