Review of Daredevil, Season 3

“Turn around and walk the other way….” — Daredevil

This one might be shorter than my typical reviews. For one thing, I didn’t take notes like I usually do when viewing the season, so I may forget a few notable things. For another, I’m a bit pressed for time — more than usual, that is — to get this one out the door, as it were. But, I’ll try to hit the major points….

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!

So, we finally got to see what happened to Matt Murdock following the events of “The Defenders”. It was both painful and fascinating to watch Matt reluctantly dig himself out of a pit of guilt, grief, self-pity, existential angst, etc. Even once he was physically (mostly) healed, he was still very much broken. Finally, he seemed to find a sense of responsibility and purpose again in bringing Fisk down, perhaps permanently. It was also a relief to see him reunited with Foggy and Karen — once they all worked through some “issues” over Matt’s behavior, that is.

Wilson Fisk was his old self, a psycho with a veneer of civility… most of the time… who quietly orchestrates and manipulates people into doing his bidding, whether they realize it or not. Speaking of which, I had a feeling things wouldn’t end well for Agent Nadeem, and sadly I was right. (It was a surprise to learn that he had been targeted by Fisk so early.) On the other hand, I knew Agent Poindexter was destined to become the assassin-for-hire, Bullseye. There were indications that Fisk was manipulating his life, too, but I admit I was surprised at how much. His journey was not what I expected but did end up being interesting. I hope the final scene indicates we’ll see more of him — perhaps more in character with the comics version? — next season. Kudos to the ironically-named Wilson Bethel for his portrayal of Benjamin ‘Dex’ Poindexter!

Incidentally, you may not realize it, but Dex’s posing as Daredevil was likely taken from a Daredevil storyline from back around 1990, in which Bullseye took over as Daredevil, while an amnesiac Matt suffered an identity crisis.

Back to our program…

It was a bit surprising that the FBI was so easily fooled by Fisk’s machinations, especially once he was in their custody. Of course, much of that turned out to be due to SAC Hattley’s having been coerced into working for Fisk, as were several agents under her command. As for Nadeem, I wouldn’t call him naive, exactly. But, I guess his need to excel (and, hopefully, get a pay raise to ease his debt issues) blinded him to any clues that Fisk was truly the one in control. In the end, he got sucked in, too, and paid the ultimate price.

I missed not seeing Claire Temple this season. She was also absent from Season 2 of “Iron Fist”. Too bad. But, I did like Joanne Whalley as the tough-love Sister Maggie, who served as Matt’s primary caregiver. She also wasn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with him — verbally, that is — and give him advice, regardless of whether he was listening. (Note: Her involvement seems to have been pulled from the comics’ “Born Again” story.) I was wondering if they would reveal that she was his mother, and sure enough, they did. (I found it a bit sloppy on Maggie’s part, though, since I’m pretty sure she knew of Matt’s enhance hearing.) Matt was understandably hurt that neither Maggie nor Father Lantom had ever told him, but I thought he should have come to terms with it and forgiven them sooner.

Wilson Bethel as Agent Poindexter

Just a note about Vanessa. I always wondered if Fisk was treating her too delicately. I realize that she represents a very idealized image of purity, innocence, class, elegance, and of course love, to him. I can also understand why he wanted to keep the darker side of his business away from her. But, as we discovered this season, she not only wants to be involved, she can be just as ruthless as he is. (I wonder if she’ll ever get the gray streaks in her hair like in the comics.)

Despite the fact that the season took the normal 13 episodes, I didn’t feel it really dragged at any point. There were a couple episodes devoted to the personal histories of Karen and Dex, respectively. At the time, I admit I was itching for more action. But, I have to admit, fleshing out those characters did help move the overall story along, as we learned the secrets that they struggle with. I’m not sure about Bullseye, but those familiar with DD comics will remember that that version of Karen Page became addicted to heroin after she met Matt and later betrayed him to Kingpin in exchange for a fix.

A Daredevil review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the fight scenes. Once again, “Daredevil” delivers. There’s just something about them: the brutality and desperation, mixed with a beautiful choreography. There were several fights, but the main four that stand out to me were in the prison, Bulletin, church, and penthouse. The first of these was all Matt, and he hadn’t even fully recuperated! Awesome! The next one was his first fight against Dex (who was never referred to as “Bullseye” in the series, btw), and thanks to the faux Daredevil’s surprisingly deadly ballistic skills, Matt barely made it out alive! The church fight was pretty good — and, of course, ended tragically for one character — but could have been better. (Note: Never turn your back on the bad guy, even if he’s just dropped 20+ feet. Duh!) The final fight involved both Dex and Fisk, with everyone fighting everyone (though Matt saved Vanessa from Dex more than once), and we finally saw Fisk really let loose. He’s really more of a street-brawler who relies on his size too much, but it was sufficient to mostly hold his own and even maim Dex — before Matt gave him a beatdown, that is. (Fisk’s face should have looked more battered and pulped!)

Miscellaneous:

1) Something I can’t put my finger on regarding Matt’s recovery. I can’t help but think that he never did quite get back into full fighting form. If he had been, I think those fights would have ended more decisively in his favor.

2) Great to see Fisk in his trademark white suit and being called “Kingpin” (at least, by the underworld bosses).

3) Do you realize that Matt never wore the DD costume this season?

4) Nice cameos by Rosalie Carbone (Annabella Sciorra) and Melvin Potter (Matt Gerald)!

5) Everyone needs a friend like Foggy.

Joanne Whalley as Sister Maggie

I have mentioned in a previous post or two how I would prefer the portrayal of Kingpin was closer to the comics version and without the particular inflections and idiosyncracies that D’Onofrio uses for the character. Still, he continues to do a great job with the character as written. In fact, all the main players delivered terrific performances!

I’d like to end by quoting John Orquiola’s summary at ScreenRant:

“Daredevil’s three heroes, Matt, Foggy, and Karen, spent the season using their respective abilities to fight back against Fisk: Matt through his fists as a vigilante, Karen by being a reporter and investigator, and Foggy via the law. Yet the Kingpin was several chess moves ahead of them the whole time; he masterfully outmaneuvered Nelson, Murdock, and Page until the very end. By telling one macro story involving their greatest villain, while also finally introducing Bullseye (Wilson Bethel), Daredevil delivered arguably their best season of all and possibly the best season of a Marvel Netflix series yet.”

I’m not sure if I’d call it the “best”, but perhaps equal to Season 1. All things considered, another “A-” rating for ol’ Hornhead.

P.S.  One of these days (or months), I’m gonna have to binge-watch all 3 seasons (plus “The Defenders”), just so I can more fully appreciate the journeys of these characters, the terrific acting, and of course those bonecrushing fight sequences.

P.P.S.  Well, I guess that was a full-length review, after all. It seems I had more so say than I thought….

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Review of The Defenders (Netflix)

“It’s been a long week.” — Jessica Jones, “The Defenders”

The much(?)-anticipated “The Defenders” mini-series has finally been released, capping off the first four Marvel/Netflix series. I finished watching it a few days ago, so I have a few thoughts to share….

You probably figured I’d put out some sort of review, right? Regular readers already know how I feel about the actors and these versions of the characters from my earlier reviews, so I won’t say too much on that front. (Too many to link to here; just do a search on “Netflix” or go to the Reviews page linked above.) I assume most people who are interested in the show have already watched it, but I’m adding a Spoiler Alert, anyway.

SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!!

Let’s start with… I liked the opening/closing credits music. It reminded me of a cross between those for Daredevil and Iron Fist.

I also really appreciated the getting-to-know-each-other scene at the Chinese restaurant, after our heroes survived their first team-up. It was reminiscent — probably intentionally so — of the shawarma shop scene at the end of Avengers.

Our heroes all remained very much in character. Luke Cage and Jessica Jones did their usual strong-guy/gal thing, smashing, slamming, punching, and kicking the crap out of The Hand’s lackeys. Nothin’ pretty. Luke also got to play “human shield” on occasion. (I think he actually enjoys it, despite the costs to his wardrobe.) Once he was on board, Matt Murdock / Daredevil re-confirmed that he’s the best fighter of all of them, in my opinion. However, he also takes some chances — specifically, re Elektra — that put himself and others in danger. Of course, the writers can make even foolish decisions turn out to be the “right” ones in the end.

Each of these three, at some point along the way, had their doubts about taking on The Hand, preferring to stay out of the “war” or just not ready to go “all the way”. But, they realized the threat that The Hand represented to the people of New York (and likely beyond), and they stepped up. They knew they might not survive, but they were the city’s only real chance. That’s what makes them heroes.

I would really love to see Daredevil pair up with Cage. That could be an awesome partnership. (Cage and Rand, not so much.)

Not surprisingly, I thought Danny Rand / Iron Fist was quite disappointing. Without the chi-powered fist, his fighting skills are still mediocre — clumsy-looking, even. Good thing The Hand seems to only have mediocre-level soldiers, rather than the ninja-assassins from the comics. (Elektra aside, of course.) He also continued with the part-petulant child, part-stranger-in-a-strange-land bit, while never understanding why people aren’t impressed by his “I am the immortal Iron Fist” claims, followed by tales of dragons and mystical cities. Sheesh! Either give it a rest, or at least show off the “fist” a bit earlier.

Colleen Wing’s presence mostly made up for that of her boyfriend. She’s attractive, passionate, willing to do what needs to be done, and brings some much-needed skill with bladed weapons to the good-guy side. She seems to start many fights by charging at her opponents, which doesn’t seem too smart to me, particularly when it’s a superior fighter like Bakuto. Then again, it’s not like she’s gonna surprise him/them, especially beginning from several feet away. Maybe the head-on approach is best, just to get the fight underway?

Some of the best acting in this series was in scenes with the Colleen and Claire characters, especially the one where Colleen briefly broke down in tears. Well done, Miss Henwick.

Claire’s how-did-I-get-myself-into-this reflections and lines were welcome as usual. She really is the heart of the (non-)team, and not just because she is the acquaintance that they all had in common. She also probably surprises no one more than herself that she is still in the thick of it and, well, not dead, yet. Like Colleen said, Claire’s a hero, too.

It was nice to see Malcolm, Trish, Karen, and Foggy, too, and to find out what they were up to since we last saw them. There wasn’t much for them to do in this story but hide out. But, it made sense in the plot to have them involved, since they were the closest associates of our heroes. However, it still seems odd to have them essentially camp out in the police station, when the cops never really understood what The Hand was or how dangerous they were.

Misty Knight… yowza! (Ahem, sorry.) The lovely Detective Knight returns! Yay! (“Detective Knight” sounds like a twist on a certain Distinguished Competition’s pointy-eared vigilante, doesn’t it?) She continues to be frustrated by our heroes, but she comes through in the end and supports, even aids, them. Yay, again! She pays a dear price for it, though, since she (finally) loses her arm. Triple-yay! That’s right, I’m glad she lost her arm, ‘cuz that means she will probably, eventually, get a super-strong bionic arm, just like in the comics. (I have a feeling her benefactor will be Rand, though, instead of Stark.) Then, she just needs to become a P.I. and partner with Colleen Wing, and I’ll be a happy man. (Especially if they get their own series!)

It sort of makes sense that Stick would be the one to unite — however reluctantly — our heroes. Or, at least, try to keep them together after that initial big fight. (Btw, since we already know these Netflix shows take place in the same world as the films, it would have made sense to have someone say something like, “Why not tell those Avengers guys? Let them HANDle it!” OK, maybe without the pun.) I’m a little surprised that they killed him off, but not real disappointed. For one, he was getting annoying; for two, with The Hand out of commission (thankfully, at least for now), there’s little reason for Stick to show up, and this should help our heroes — well, Matt, anyway… and Elektra — move on.

I hate to say it, but Sigourney Weaver looked… old. But, then I realized she’s 67, so she’s allowed to have a few wrinkles and such. Don’t know that I would have thought of her as a villain for this series. But, as the Alexandra character was written, she was a decent choice. We suspected they would bring Bakuto back, as well as the ever-present and deceptively powerful Madame Gao. The other two new Hand leaders — Murakami and Sowande — seemed formidable at first. But, the latter was too easily defeated, and the former was ultimately not that impressive.

I have mixed feelings about the whole Elektra thing. I mean, we already knew she was being resurrected by The Hand, so she’d probably be involved in another series storyline. And, it makes sense the way it was done and why. I think. Her betrayal of Alexandra was a surprise, which made for a nice plot twist. However, I don’t understand why she suddenly became so cold, amoral, etc. I guess it had something to do with her soul being affected (seared? tainted? infected?) by her brief time on “the other side”. I don’t remember hearing a good explanation for her behavior, but maybe I just missed it or didn’t put the pieces together.

If Elektra survived and if she eventually returns (though hopefully not for awhile), I hope she becomes more the assassin-for-hire that comic readers are familiar with. One with a damaged, yet still present, moral compass and ethical code.

The overall plot wasn’t bad, though it seemed to take a little while to get moving. Definitely room for improvement here and there, which might have been do-able if they had another episode or two to work with. Or, maybe fewer episodes would have forced them to tighten it up and get to the good stuff sooner. For the most part, though, the four heroes’ individual stories came together fairly well. It all flowed OK (though the earlier episodes were a bit rocky), and there was some good character development. (Even Rand.) Most of the interaction between our heroes was good, too, and I appreciated the occasional doses of humor.

Open questions: Why didn’t the NYPD file a report? Why wouldn’t they charge our heroes with terrorism? I’m not saying there isn’t a plausible way around it, with Jeri Hogarth (and Foggy, of course) coming to their aid. (Even “The Defenders” sometimes need a legal defense of their own, right?) But, the “wrap-up” at the end seemed too easy.

Overall grade: When feeling generous, I’m tempted to give “The Defenders” a solid ‘B’. Other days, I might go as low as a ‘C’. So, let’s split the difference and go with a ‘C+/B-‘.

Review of Daredevil (Netflix series), Season 2

Daredevil_Season_2_Trio_PosterYes, yes, I know. Season 2 was released ages ago and everyone has already watched it and read all the reviews they care to. But, as I’ve said before, I don’t binge watch, preferring to spread the good stuff out over time. As it was, I watched two episodes each every Sunday and Wednesday, so I finished up a couple weeks or so ago. Then, I wanted to get the Axanar post and the quarterly Mr. Zeus post out, so… now I’m finally getting around to my second Daredevil review. I hope it’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

To be honest, initially I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the time reviewing Season 2, since I had the Axanar review and a follow-up “Supergirl” review planned. I’d also said just about all that I wanted to about the casting and about these versions of the characters in my Season 1 review. But, this time they gave us Punisher and Elektra, plus some, you know, character development in & between the central three, so I almost felt obligated to say something. But, I may not be quite as verbose as in the first review.

SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!

Regarding those central three, I maintain that the characters could have been better cast, but they’re growing on me. I always thought Foggy should be more supportive of Matt’s nightly exploits, so I’m having to mentally get past their verbal sparring. Still, Elden Henson’s doing a fine job. I am more impressed with Matt/DD and Karen, though. I still think Charlie Cox’s jawline is a giveaway, and I would prefer that he be redheaded and more muscular. Nevertheless, Cox does a great job bringing a conflicted Matt Murdock / Daredevil to life. (Not sure how much he is in the DD action scenes and how much is a stunt-double. Probably almost all the latter.) Seems like the big cases/problems they deal with are due to Karen’s determination to solve puzzles — and, y’know, dogged determination to see justice done. I’m of two minds about her being such a forceful character. Not that I don’t like strong women, but I don’t remember the comic version doing that. I guess they couldn’t have the 2016 TV version be a simple receptionist/secretary. The character is growing into herself, as they say, and that’s usually a good thing. I’m also appreciating Deborah Ann Woll’s talent more. I’m glad they finally decided to pair Matt and Karen romantically — some nice scenes there — though it sure didn’t last long. I still think he should reveal his secret to her — c’mon, already! It would explain so much of his behavior, and she could cover for him, etc. (Like Foggy should be doing.)

There may have been additional, minor, recurring characters, but I’ll limit my comments to the top seven. I hesitate to even call Wilson Fisk / Kingpin a “minor” character, but he was only in 3 episodes this time. That said, his scenes were memorable and his actions significant to the plot. I may not care for the Netflix version of Fisk’s personality & eccentricities, but I can’t fault Vincent D’Onofrio, who always gives a riveting performance. I haven’t decided if I like Sgt./Det. Mahoney (Royce Johnson), but I guess I can understand his uncertainty about DD’s activities and whether or not to help him. In Season 1, I didn’t like Ben Urich’s editor, Mitch Ellison (Geoffrey Cantor), especially when it seemed he might have been corrupt. But, now he’s turning out to be a decent guy and a good new mentor for Karen. It was great to see Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) back again, too, if only for 3 episodes. She’s a great character, even if (like Foggy) she isn’t entirely supportive of Matt’s extracurricular activities.

Some of the cast of "Daredevil" Season 2 at AMC Lincoln Square on Thursday, March 10, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Some of the cast of “Daredevil” Season 2 at AMC Lincoln Square on Thursday, March 10, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

The returns of the next three were just as surprising — to me, anyway — as that of Fisk. Not entirely unforseeable, but I hadn’t heard/read any rumors that any of them might show up. The mysterious Madame Gao’s (Wai Ching Ho) cameo was welcome and satisfying, if brief. (Hope we see her again.) Nobu (Peter Shinkoda), the Hand’s formidable warrior, seemed less impressive in his fights with Daredevil this time. Although, that “resurrection” trick is pretty , er, handy. The appearance of Stick (Scott Glenn) was both enjoyable and exasperating. Man, that guy’s a royal pain in the butt (among other places)! Still, I wouldn’t wish that torture he endured on anyone.

Now for the new vigilantes/assassins on the block…

Elektra was OK — certainly attractive — but not close enough in look or mannerism (imo, anyway) to the original for my liking. (E.g., should be a little taller and could stand to have more meat on her bones.) She had some great moves, though. Since Elodie Yung is a black belt, I wonder if they bothered with a stunt double…. I was glad that they at least retained some aspects of her “origin” story and early relationship with Matt from the comics. Not enough, though. I’m not sure if I want her back in another season (if there is one), but events from the Season 2 finale make me think she will be.

Frank Castle’s portrayal was mostly satisfying, but not entirely. Jon Bernthal was a pretty good casting choice, though I’d have liked to see him bulked up a bit more. I expected Punisher to be very cold, emotionally distant, as he initially was. But, then, between the talks with DD and the scene in the hospital with Karen in ep. 6, they humanized him a bit. Not sure I approve of that choice for his story. Also, the hospital pursuit scene reminded me of something from a Terminator film, as did the times when he unloaded tons of firepower on his targets. THAT’s the sort of “machine” Frank needs to be! Lastly, I was glad that they finally gave him his trademark skull-shirt at the end. If Netflix goes forward with a Punisher series, that symbol must be front-and-center.

Plot-wise, this season had a different feel to it than the first did. I guess that’s because the core of it was less of an origin story and more about our hero coming to terms with who he is and what he does, and how that affects his career and those around him. Throw in an old flame who has a few dark secrets, a returning SOB of a mentor, and a gun-happy vigilante/client, plus a few other surprises, and it makes for a pretty exciting time in the old town tonight… and the next night… and the next. I admit, there were parts that seemed to play slow, or where I didn’t like where a relationship was going, or I was frustrated with changes from the source material. (Not surprising, eh?) But, the occasional surprise revelation or twist helped keep it interesting, and it was generally quite fun.

Amazing cosplayers, Kevin Porter and Tatiana DeKhtyar

Amazing cosplayers, Kevin Porter and Tatiana DeKhtyar

The costumes… I’m OK with Daredevil’s red-n-black outfit, I guess, though I would prefer a few changes. For example: more red, simpler, without the black leather/kevlar inserts (especially on the abdomen). I am thrilled, however, that he finally got his extendable, nunchuk-like billy club! That was cool! Ditto for Elektra: her costume should be all red (like Yung wore in G.I. Joe: Retaliation), but at least she eventually got her trademark sais. True to form, Castle stole a *lot* of ordnance from the bad guys and then used it in his war against them. Bravo! I already mentioned his skull-shirt making an 11th-hour arrival, but at least he was predominantly in black the whole time — minus the white prison jumpsuit, of course.

With or without weapons, the fight scenes in this series remain a highlight. They are simply some of the most brutal stuff written and choreographed for the small screen, and they are exactly what is called for in a realistic portrayal of these sorts of characters — mobsters, biker gangs, hardcore prisoners, martial artist warriors, vigilantes — in this sort of environment. Guns, blades, fists, and whatever else may be at hand… they’re all deadly weapons. Not for the squeamish! (Major props to the stunt team, by the way!)

Overall, I thought Season 2 was an enjoyable and worthy successor to Season 1. Looking forward to more….

Review of Daredevil (Netflix Series)

“It ain’t how ya hit the mat. It’s how ya get up.”  — Battlin’ Jack Murdock

daredevil0107151280jpg-7f7705_1280wI never binge-watch any TV show — partly because I have many other shows I like to keep up with, partly because I like to make a good thing last a long time. That said, when Netflix released all 13 episodes of “Daredevil” at once, I thought I might be too weak to control myself. But, I managed. In fact, it was 5 days until I even saw the pilot and a full week until episode 2. Meanwhile, the rest of the world — I imagined, at least — were watching multiple episodes per week. Just like with other cult-favorites — e.g., “The Walking Dead”, “Game of Thrones”, “Orphan Black” –, I was several episodes behind everybody else.However, when a recent vacation threw my usual TV-watching schedule all out of whack, I took the opportunity to watch a few more “Daredevil” episodes. Then, I kept to a mostly bi-weekly schedule, and… I finally watched the season finale last week. So, this will be my first review of a new series where I watched the whole season first. I wonder, are there any genre fans who haven’t already watched the entire series by now? (If so, consider this a SPOILER ALERT!, though I will try to keep the spoilers to a minimum.)

I will admit that, as usual, there were changes from the comics that annoyed me. And, yes, I’ll refer to some of them below. But, for the most part, I will try to contain myself. In fact, I have to say that, despite my being irked by certain changes, overall the characters and the feel/tone of the show was… shall we say, reasonably faithful to the source material. Plus, whether I liked the casting or the writing or not, I thought all the performances were top-notch.

I thought the seasonal arc made for a decent story, paralleling Murdock’s initial efforts in crime-fighting with Fisk’s start as a mover-n-shaker in NYC, both in the criminal underworld and as an ostensibly (but not really) legit real estate investor and city benefactor. (More on them below.) Or, as producer Jeph Loeb put it more simply, “This season is about both the rise of the hero and the rise of the villain.” It made for pretty good drama and was certainly about more than just a costumed crimefighter battling punks and villains. (Especially since Murdock didn’t get a real costume or the titular nom de guerre until the final episode.) At the risk of using some overused descriptors, there was a very realistic, “gritty”, street-level feel to the series. This was partly due to the lack of any flashy superpowers but also because the fights were rather nasty & violent. Bone-crushingly, sinew-tearingly, flesh-rippingly, blood-drippingly brutal, in fact. And that’s a good thing.

Now, allow me to give my reactions to and impressions of the primary and main supporting players, beginning with the good guys:

Matt Murdock/Daredevil is quite impressively portrayed by a British actor who was not previously on my radar (pun alert!), Charlie Cox. Even if I had heard of him, I would never have thought of casting him for this role. In my opinion, the role calls for someone a bit taller and more muscular. (I suppose he might bulk up more for the second season.) Also, there is something about his mouth & jawline that doesn’t look right behind the mask, and I think it would be quite identifiable by anyone who knows Murdock fairly well. That could be a problem when you’re trying to keep your identity a secret. Plus, he didn’t seem to try to mask (hah!) his voice, either. So, for those reasons, Cox isn’t my ideal casting. But, he does have talent and did a terrific job showing the different sides of Matt Murdock — from loyal friend to driven vigilante. Also, it was good to see him struggling (as in the comics) with what he thought he needed to do “on the street” and when dealing with Fisk et al., as opposed to what the law allows and what his Catholic faith would seem to allow.

Daredevil_Armor_SuitI don’t know why, but the people who adapt comics for the screen seem to have an aversion to red hair, especially for the heroes. Both Barry Allen (aka “The Flash”) and Matt Murdock are supposed to be redheads, but they both have dark hair on TV/Netflix, and I haven’t read anything about why they couldn’t apply a little coloring to keep the character authentic. Is that really too much to ask? Anyway,… Regarding Matt/Daredevil’s abilities, the martial arts and gymnastics were well-done. They need better F/X to demonstrate use of his radar-sense, though. As for the costume, it definitely looks bad@$$! (Or, DD looks bad@$$ in it.) I don’t know if he’ll ever get it completely red, but I think I can accept the red/black combination. Now, if we can just get a swingline (or whatever) to eject from the billy clubs, so we can see him swinging between buildings and onto rooftops and such….

Franklin “Foggy” Nelson is ably played by baby-faced Elden Henson, another actor that I was not familiar with. I know I’ve seen him here and there, but nothing really stands out in my mind. I don’t know if I would have considered him for Foggy, though he does fit the general physical description. On the other hand, the character was written as a bit more jovial and playful (and with longer hair) than he is in the comics. I would have preferred sticking to the original characterization, but maybe they decided the show needed someone who was (usually) a little more fun and able to joke a bit amidst the doom & gloom. I didn’t care for his relationship with the lawyer (their former colleague) at the big firm. It just seemed like a really unlikely pairing, and the only reason he let her treat him like that was because she was hot and would “sleep” with him.

Deborah Ann Woll does a fine job as Karen Page. My gripes are that she is too tall and, to be honest, not pretty enough. (My personal preferences, of course.) She can look quite attractive, especially with red hair. I just wanted someone with a very different look. So, I obviously would not have cast her. But, acting-wise, I thought she was very good. They obviously gave her a different “origin” than in the comics and had her be more personally involved in the case(s) in the show. There were hints at her instant attraction to Matt but a growing attraction to Foggy. (Of course, she spent more time with Foggy, who is also a more open person.) It will be interesting to see how her relationships with her two bosses develop next season, as well as how involved she gets in the cases. Also, will Matt reveal that he is Daredevil to her? I suspect he will, especially if they get romantically involved, though I don’t think it is as necessary as it was to reveal it to Foggy.

Ben Urich is played by the terrific actor/director Vondie Curtis-Hall. He did a great job as the dogged-yet-weary investigative journalist. Unlike in the comics, they gave Urich some extra, emotional stuff to deal with — namely, his wife’s slowly succumbing to dementia and the financial struggles to continue her care. His interactions with Karen Page were interesting, and I can’t help but wonder if she will eventually start a blog of some sort. (Sort of like Iris West did in the early episodes of “The Flash”.) The Urich character is white in the comics, and as usual, I would have preferred a white actor. However, Urich’s race is not integral to who he is, so I did not mind the change. And, while Curtis-Hall is a few years older than the character should be at this stage in DD’s career, I couldn’t have asked for a better talent to portray him. That is what makes Urich’s fate in this series doubly troubling. (I think it was a mistake.)

daredevil-tv-series-on-netflixTo be honest, I don’t remember the Claire Temple character from the comics. Maybe she appeared at a time when I wasn’t reading “Daredevil” for awhile? A quick check of Marvel’s wiki reveals that she had connections with Luke Cage and Bill Foster (aka “Black Goliath”) but it says nothing about Daredevil. (Will she show up in Netflix’s “Luke Cage” series?) Nevertheless, I think Rosario Dawson was a great choice, and she knocked this version of Claire out of the park. As suspected, Scott Glenn’s portrayal of Matt’s gruff, pain-in-the-butt mentor, “Stick“, was spot on. My only complaint is that he was only in one episode! We need more Stick, even if only in flashbacks to young Matt’s earliest training. Matt Gerald’s Melvin Potter is also pretty good. I think the writers made the character a bit more dim-witted than in the comics, but generally they got him right.

Fisk’s “business associates” are an interesting bunch and each deserve a brief mention. The Russians, Vladimir and Anatoly Ranskahov, are played by Nikolai Nikolaeff and Gideon Emery, respectively. The characters were stereotypical, macho bullies — Vladimir in particular — but well played. Too bad they weren’t around longer, but they did serve as, er, object lessons re doing business with Fisk. Yakuza representative Nobu is played by Peter Shinkoda, who brings a sufficiently serious (and cocky) air to the character. Wise and wizened Madame Gao is a great character, played by the wonderful Wai Ching Ho. I hope we see more of her next season, or maybe after that. The only “business associate” not created solely for the Netflix series is that of ruthless financier, Leland Owlsley. The comics version creates his own small criminal empire, calling himself “the Owl” and his organization “the Owl’s Gang”, and becomes one of Daredevil’s persistent foes. He also gains powers of limited flight, enhanced strength, enhanced senses, and sharp talons. Of course, this version pushed Fisk too far and will not be able to do any of that. (He did refer to a son, though.) Still, Bob Gunton does a fine job playing the role of the perpetually perturbed “money guy”.

Famed Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer was an interesting choice for Vanessa Marianna. I would never have thought of her for it, but, of course, she did a wonderful job. (I don’t find her particularly attractive, but that’s neither here nor there.) Though I don’t know a lot about the comics version, I do know that she and Fisk married and had a son long before Daredevil appeared in Hell’s Kitchen. In fact, the adult Richard Fisk would become a deadly thorn in his parents’ side. That Vanessa was eventually driven to try to clean up the underworld (while Wilson was out of the picture for awhile), but died of “heartbreak”. I am curious how any of this may play out in the Netflix series, though I doubt there will be any Fisk heir to cause trouble. I also wonder if Vanessa will get the white streak in her hair like the original has.

Toby Leonard Moore does a great job as Fisk’s multi-talented and always reliable right-hand, James Wesley. In the comics, the character is never given a first name, seems rather quiet and bookish, and is only seen in four issues of “Daredevil” — in the “Born Again” storyline (see below). Moore’s Wesley is a bit more calm and cold-hearted, but it works for this version, this Fisk, this story. I just wish we could see more of him next season. (Perhaps a twin or clone…?)

My thoughts & feelings about Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk are rather mixed. On the one hand, D’Onofrio is a wonderful and talented actor who did a terrific job revealing the intellectual and emotional layers of the latest screen-version of Fisk. Some might even say it was “masterful”. There were interesting eccentricities — from Fisk’s social awkwardness (especially with Vanessa) to his oddly-paced speech patterns to his sudden and deadly fits of rage. The problem for me is that none of that — with the possible exception of the rage — is part of the Fisk/Kingpin who I grew up reading. The comics version is much more confident, for one thing. He is also clearly a brutish thug with only a veneer of control and respectability. D’Onofrio’s version, it could be argued, was that, but it just wasn’t the same. These and other elements (e.g., the bit with his mother) make me think that the writers/producers were trying to make Fisk more relatable and sympathetic, despite his ruthlessness. IMHO, this was a wrong move.

kingpin-netflixThen there are the physical issues. D’Onofrio is in his mid-50s, which seems a little too old for this stage in his and DD’s careers, but that’s a minor point. While D’Onofrio is a large man, 6’3.5″ and barrel-chested, he is nowhere near big enough to fill the Kingpin’s shoes. However, I have to admit that it would be difficult to find someone who is over six-and-a-half feet tall, roughly 450 lbs. of muscle, and have sufficient acting ability to do the character justice. (Btw, Fisk is supposed to be trained in multiple martial arts, sumo being his primary discipline, and the comics often show him working out.) So, that being said, D’Onofrio was probably quite a coup.

Fisk’s character arc, if you can call it that, had two major focuses: 1) dealing with his criminal business associates as they all tried to keep their plans on track; and, 2) figuring out how to attract the lovely art dealer, decide how much to tell her about his business, and then allow himself to be loved (or some such thing). Of course, Murdock vexes Fisk et al. in both of his identities, which was very faithful to the source material. The bit about Fisk’s childhood was, as far as I remember, not in the comics, but it was believable for someone who turned out the way he did, and it served the writers’ apparent purpose of making him a tragic figure. Not sure how I feel about that. What was more interesting was how they gave Fisk a real love for Hell’s Kitchen, much like Murdock’s own, so that he really is trying to help in his own, twisted way.

I don’t think anyone ever called Fisk “(the) Kingpin (of Crime)” in this season of the show — perhaps because he is only beginning to form his criminal empire. If he returns for season 2, perhaps he will then take on that appellation. I also hope that he will begin wearing his trademark white suits and carrying his jewel-topped cane. Those nods to the comics would help fans like myself accept him even more as “The Kingpin”.

Despite my misgivings over areas that break from established comics history & characterization, I greatly enjoyed Netflix’s “Daredevil”. As I said, for these versions of the characters, the performances were fantastic. The story was pretty good (though not great), and I eagerly await the second season, which we already know will include Frank Castle (aka “The Punisher”). Hopefully, we’ll get a few more familiar faces — Bullseye? Elektra? Rosalind Sharpe? Avengers cameo? Keep your fingers crossed….

P.S.  I highly recommend reading the TPB titled Daredevil Legends Vol. II: Born Again (or, just Daredevil: Born Again) by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, which reprints one of the best and best-known story arcs for the title and possibly within all of Marvel. One might even call it “iconic” in many respects, in terms of characterization of the main characters — especially Matt/DD and Fisk/Kingpin. (Note, this is the one where Karen betrays Matt by selling his secret identity in exchange for drugs.) There have been other notable runs, of course, but this one is certainly representative of a significant time in Matt/DD’s life and career(s), not to mention Karen’s. It also demonstrates Fisk’s physical size, the size of his empire (at one time, anyway), and just how patient, sadistic, and menacing he can truly be.