Tech Not on Film: Netflix’s Daredevil Season 1 Part 3


Continued from Tech Not on Film: Netflix's Daredevil Season 1 Part 2

The Writing

If you're a Marvel Comics reader from the 70s and 80s, then you'd agree today's Marvel Comics is absolutely soul-selling, shallow, self-important garbage. Christos Gage, one of the staff writers of Marvel's Daredevil, wrote badly for a variety of books for today's Marvel Comics and he was probably a factor why the show is uneven, self-indulgent and immature in some episodes.

From the Gladiator's contrived discussion with Matt to the long-running pointless plot involving the Russians, Daredevil loses its way often and audiences never really find out WHY Matt Murdock decided to fight crime in "his city". Maybe it's because D'Onofrio has more of a Hollywood clout, but so much focus is on Fisk that very little character development occurs in the offices of Nelson and Murdock. When Ben Urich is introduced, a character that is a staple in Daredevil and Spider-Man's comic book adventures, subplots and emotional encounters force audiences to lose focus. In fact, the involvement of Fisk with Page's predicament early on is never quite clarified (ask anyone who has watched the series to explain it and watch dandruff fall) and the whole "don't say his name" was forgettable and guffaw-inducing.

 

Stick retrains Matt Murdock in Daredevil #177 (1981) by Frank Miller.


Matt's law background is wasted as the episodes spend more time with Foggy and Karen's nonexistent relationship, Fisk's wooing of Vanessa and Matt's pseudo-philosophical conversations with the local pastor. Even the swift introduction and then sudden dismissal of Rosario Dawson's Claire is forgotten by the final four episodes. 

 

The suit and Murdock's encounter with Gladiator was a hurried plot piece that was inserted out of nowhere as a pointless wink to older fans. 

The episode featuring Stick, sadly depicted as a White American (Scott Glenn) once again, is probably the only segment that shows a strong consistent plot and more comic book undertones (complete with a mentor and student fight), though the ominous ending was a bit too farfetched and predictable. How many times have we seen the main character dubbed as the chosen one of some odd group, sect or organization? To be fair, the episode with Glenn, although jarring the overall narrative of the series, is actually true to the 80s books, which were categorized either as street level crime stories, courtroom dramas or mystical tales involving martial arts or the supernatural. 

 


Although the show featured Android phones, one episode inadvertently showed an iPhone 6S billboard.


Note: Unlike Spidey, who is always depicted as a fish out of water in tales involving other dimensions, magic and the supernatural, Daredevil seemed even more out of place when facing characters like D'Spayre, Nightmare, Blackheart, Ghost Rider and Mephisto. A misplaced story involving the literal 'devil' and the Hand in the 90s is a strong example of why sales of Daredevil comics have never been very good. Hard-hitting crime stories seem more appropriate for the blind attorney despite moronic writing from guys like Waid and Bendis, who like to think Daredevil can take out huge sophisticated robots using his ceramic billy club.

 

Owsley (the Owl) reappears in Daredevil #301 (1992). The comic book in the 90s was a third-tier title with poorly written stories and horrible art, but the title's struggle for sales didn't last long. After jumping into mystical and supernatural tales, Daredevil, along with Spidey books, suffered Marvel's bankruptcy in the mid-90s. The quality of Marvel Comics writing has never recovered since.

Many "fans" of Marvel's Daredevil overlook the weak writing mainly due to the impressively choreographed fight scenes, which are far superior than anything on Arrow, The Flash or any other TV show for that matter. Cox and Cox's stunt double perform too many useless spinning but otherwise the in-fighting is pretty convincing. Sadly, the final encounter between Fisk and Murdock is the least interesting set piece despite Matt wearing the fabled red horns and carrying his sturdy physics-defying bouncing billy club.

Note: For decades after Kingpin's first 1960s appearance in Amazing Spider-Man, it was conjectured by Marvel readers that Fisk wasn't entirely human. During his first encounter with Fisk, Daredevil even considered the possibility he was a mutant. Spidey fans in particular derided Fisk, who was able to last a minute fighting the powerful Spider-Man, who was not only 16x faster than a normal person but could bench 10 tons. Fisk in the 80s books even displayed raw strength greater than Captain America, who is peak human. Realistically, however, Fisk is probably just using strength-enchancing drugs and home court advantage in the form of Marvel writers running out of ideas.

The Fat Man

D'Onofrio attempts to portray his Fisk as a sympathetic, devoted and vulnerable criminal, with an inclination to losing his temper and expressing his anger physically. His odd friendship with Wesley, his second, is an interesting take, as is his unequal allegiance with Leland Owsley, Nobu and Ms. Gao. However, D'Onofrio fails miserably and Season 1 depicts Wilson Fisk as an incompetent, lovesick puppy prone to beating someone's face with a fist when he doesn't get his way. Audiences never get to see Fisk fully in control, unless you consider the car door head-smashing scene a sign of his total control of the city and his men. This is why the jovial, stun gun-carrying Owsley seems the superior of the two, and arguably more interesting.

 

Scully in Brooklyn Nine-Nine would've been a more entertaining Wilson Fisk (and looks like D'Onofrio too).

D'Onofrio leans so heavily in the role of a devoted suitor of Vanessa and a public figure who "loves" Hell's Kitchen, that Fisk loses any credibility as a powerful figure of the city. It's hard not to be disappointed by how inferior the Kingpin is here. It's not a physical issue - D'Onofrio fits Fisk much better than Michael Clarke Duncan. The version of Fisk in Netflix's show, which seems to be some sort of prequel version or Kingpin-lite, is just not very intelligent, commanding nor controlling. Wesley, apart from a mistake involving a loaded gun (typical American gun owner), actually showed more authority. Fisk's obsession with a painting that triggers his childhood psychosis is fine, but the writers never established a strong motivation behind his actions even though D'Onofrio gets more screen time than DD himself. 

 

Not enough time was devoted to Cox's excellent Matt Murdock, though he does get to chat with a priest from time to time.

Note: Apart from his obesity, Kingpin was known in the 80s books to have a superb intelligence giving him power over both low-life criminals and super-powered villains. Fisk has outsmarted everyone from Ultron to the Ghost. His will overpowered the Purple Man and both Dr. Doom and Magneto have expressed their admiration for the crimelord's strengh of character and intelligence. His devotion to Vanessa (a weakness which saved Spidey's life once) and his obsession for destroying Matt Murdock's existence (which led to his own fall as Kingpin of crime) were the only two foibles of the comic book version of Fisk. This lack of control and authority is eventually what makes D'Onofrio's version a strangely unconvincing villain - his final emotional rant as he takes on a costumed Matt Murdock in the last episode is the best evidence of this.

Season 2 is Here

Due to events in season 1, three excellent characters (and their corresponding thespians) will no longer appear - Owsley, Wesley and Urich.

Curiously enough, their comic book counterparts, the Owl, the Arranger and Urich the Daily Bugle reporter have always been around in the books. Yes, the bald, bespectacled Arranger died in an obscure issue of Spectacular Spider-Man in the late 80s, but Fisk has always had some sort of lieutenant next to him. Fans of Urich on the show can rest easy knowing the Caucasian chain-smoking version of Ben Urich had a long run as staff writer under the Daily Bugle's J.Jonah Jameson.

I have zero interest in the overrated, gun-toting, brain-dead idiot Punisher, but will tune in for Cox and Woll, the couple finally showing some semblance of chemistry in the season finale. A second attempt at bringing Electra to celluloid life can be a disaster, though Elodie Young is an interesting choice for the role of the half-naked assassin. However, Electra is certainly a better choice on TV than the Black Widow, who as classic Marvel fans know had a long-running partnership and an intimate relationship with DD.

 

Millennials don't know it but Widow was actually a partner of Murdock for a long, long time in the books. Jeremy Renner was right about Black Widow's promiscuity (even Peter Parker got a crack at an amnesiac Black Widow in Marvel Team-Up in the 80s courtesy of X-Men writer Chris Claremont). Writers passed Natasha around for five decades and was a long-time partner of Daredevil. Screen capture from Daredevil #95 (1973).

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