I wanted to love Daredevil. The casting was exemplary: Charlie Cox, Elden Henson, and Deborah Ann Woll made a perfect Nelson-Murdoch-Page family triangle, and Vincent D’Onofrio as Kingpin was a mind-blowing idea. Whoever came up with that one, I hope you’re still blissfully drinking champagne as all your friends and loved ones toast your incredible cleverness. Rosario Dawson was fantastic and it was nice to see Scott Glenn again, even though he did bring with him that first hint of “Uh oh,” because he’s one of those actors who lately seems to specialize in things that, ultimately, turn out to be not that good. (Also in this category: Gabriel Byrne and Donald Sutherland.)
My first Marvel love was Spiderman and I partook heavily of all the mutant titles in the Eighties, but Daredevil always spoke to a particular sliver of my soul, even through writer switches and artist changes and wild swerves in tone and direction. He had a Don Quixote quality and loads of Catholic guilt, in a mix that appealed heavily to my readerbrain. Matt’s particular brand of self-imposed isolation always seemed to me to be more believable than Peter Parker’s. I think I’ve seen every attempt to adapt Daredevil to the live-action screen format, even the disastrous attempt to launch Rex Smith in a tie-in, “The Trial of the Incredible Hulk.” (I’m only choosing to not mention the film because then I’d have to confess to liking it far more than it, and its lead actor, more than either of them deserves.)
Anyway, I came to the newest version ready to enjoy, ready to love, and at first things were going swimmingly. The line about Matt’s father always being on his feet when he lost a fight? Perfect. Great characterization, a smooth start-up, and the tease of knowing that eventually D’Onofrio was going to appear–everything seemed on track. The chance to see Manhattan regrouping after the events of the first Avengers movie was also a plus.
Ultimately, the story didn’t quite hold up. Fisk’s scheme was haphazard and poorly executed, and when you undercut your villain, your hero loses juice, too. It takes a smaller amount of grit and brains to defeat a random chaos machine. You find it and spork it, which is about what Matt did.
The true failure in the writing, though, was a lack of payoff on the thematic promises made by the earlier scripts: they talked about friendships that are more meaningful than romantic relationships, and then left Foggy and Matt in business-marriage detente. Losing on your feet? Didn’t happen. Who did put the devil in Matt, and did it get bored with the fight to drag him to the dark side? Fisk chips away at his villainous base of support while Matt builds his, but where was the underlying point? Additionally, I’d like someone to send all of us who watched this series about $50 for every time after the first incidences of either Matt or Fisk getting all emo and then starting a sentence with, “This city…” *
(C’mon guys, vary it up a little next year!)
I will say that Karen’s story arc was beautifully executed, and I loved where she ended up. As for the rest, what we got, in the end, felt like half of a season. Nothing much resolved, and everything put on hold.
Daredevil wasn’t a complete disappointment so much as a faint let-down, and there are still characters and storylines I’m fascinated by. So I’m a sucker, but since it is a very special kind of poison, I’ll tune in for at least the first couple of Season Two stories. I’m glad they got a next year. Still, it was more or less a swing and a miss.
*On a similar note, I am thinking of adding a $10 really/actually charge for every manuscript I edit. You get three reallys and two actuallys per 200,000 words, and after that I start tacking money onto the invoice.