I wanted to talk more about Daredevil, and you can’t stop me. What follows is both disjointed and spoilerific, so don’t say you weren’t warned.
— First of all, there are a lot of ways to screw up a show like this, and the easiest one would be to get Foggy Nelson wrong. In the comics Foggy is a scold, a jerk, and a mediocre lawyer. He’s more exposition device than friend.
On the show, he has tremendous warmth and charisma pretty much from the start, and the second episode makes you love him. It’s no secret why he’s Murdoch’s best friends. Yeah, he’s sort of screwed up and inappropriate a lot of the time, but he also has a lot of heart.
— And that’s why the change in tone in later episodes so powerful. There’s a lot of helpless fury and despair in this show, but there’s a lot of warmth, humor, and humanity, too. The latter makes the former more powerful and I hope the people creating direct-to-DVD cartoons for DC watch this show and realize this.
— What about Easter Eggs? I’m not the guy to speak to that, but here’s this guy:
And here I thought there was no Stan Lee cameo.
BTW, they mention Leland Owsley’s son several times, and he could certainly have his father’s name (They call him “Lee”). I bet he’ll show up as a villain in Season 2, without being the creepy freak show from the comics.
— And this:
I wasn't 100% sold until I saw that fire extinguisher drop down the stairwell. I'm in. #Dardevil
— Emily Blake (@Bambookiller) April 11, 2015
For me, it was the scene in Josie’s where Foggy is talking about the other regulars.
— Ben Urich! I love Ben Urich’s character, but when we were 3/4 of the way through episode 12, I turned to my wife and said: They’re setting things up as though Urich is going to die, but there’s no way they’ll kill off this character. Not in the whole connected Marvel movie universe. I was honestly astonished when they did it. It’s one thing to kill off walk-on characters, but Ben Urich is the go-to “honest reporter” in Spider-man and Daredevil comics.
— Which leads to one of the worst scenes in the whole series, the “We never had kids of our own, but…” scene with Urich’s invalid wife at his funeral. The three main characters don’t have to be the center of everything, show.
— Which is just one of several odd choices the show makes. The biggest issue is that the narrative routinely portrays the characters as overmatched in a conflict or endangered by a threat they don’t know about, only for them to make a surprise turnaround at the end. Everyone do this in the fight scenes all the time, where it’s completely expected, but they also do it in the legal scenes. For instance, in the (terribly lit) first confrontation between Foggy and his ex, Marcy, the scene is played as if she has the upper hand from before he even leaves his office. Then he turns things around, makes his argument, and comes out with the upper hand. It’s a great scene.
The thing is, they do this even with the villains. Fisk is repeatedly shown as nervous, unsure, or outmatched, and then he turns things around at the last moment. On his first date with Vanessa, he’s nervous and awkward. When the date is ruined, he has his first berserk rage on the guy who interrupted them. On his second date, he’s more commanding, but that initial impression lingers, especially because, while he’s sitting having dinner with this woman he loves, his enemies are moving against him.
Now, it turns out that he’s orchestrated everything, including what looks like a restaurant worker informing on him for a cool million reward, but for most of the episode, the viewer doesn’t know that.
It makes him, the main antagonist, look feckless and ineffectual, and that undercuts the tension. It’s almost as if the show wants us to see Murdoch and Fisk as co-protagonists, which they’re not.
— Another issue with the show is the oil-and-water mix of noirish crime drama and superhero power fantasy. Unless you’re very carefule, the latter undercuts the power of the former.
Frankly, I think this could have been solved by featuring less of the crime bosses and more lawyers vs regular folks. The scenes where regular folk were threatened or attacked by criminals was scary, yeah, but the scenes where expensive attorneys bullied people with threats of lawsuits were the most infuriating. Frankly, DAREDEVIL needed more lawyer stuff. There was plenty of corruption, plenty of guns, plenty of violence, but it needed more instances of the wealthy and powerful turning supposedly legitimate institutions against regular folks.
That’s the sort of thing that makes a viewer angry enough to cheer the power fantasy parts, rather than view them as inevitable wrapup.
— Finally, another huge issue is that fucking devil suit. Boy howdy, does it not work. The black “Man without Fear” suit that people were complaining about looks way better than what they finally went with.
— What does work? Like, what really really works? For me, it was the mix of warmth and despair that permeates the whole show. There are so many characters who are good but flawed people, caught up in a system that could grind them down to nothing.
I plan to make full use of that for my next project.
— Finally, I just want to say: so many great voices, and so many great clothes. I’d dress like Ben Urich all the time–plaid jacket, check shirt, striped tie–if I wasn’t so damn fat.