Hey gang! I know I usually show up on The Robot’s Pajamas to review movies but I’ve been asked to give a review to the first episode of the much anticipated Daredevil series.
Okay, so the wait is finally over and after months and months of news, teasers, trailers, set photos, those motion-poster thingys, and tons of hype, the Netflix series from Marvel based on the blind hero from Hell’s Kitchen has finally debuted this last Friday. I don’t think I have to even ask so I’m just going to assume that you—yes, you!—were excited as all hell for it like I was. In my eyes, Marvel has been doing no wrong with establishing their cinematic universe and they keep getting bigger and better.
Marvel proved their world was too big for just a movie or two for the summer and they expanded into television with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Sure, AoS had a rocky start but it’s worked its way into something that acts as a great companion to the films. Daredevil, on the other hand, is much, much different. This series, the beginning of the Defenders shows to air on the streaming service Netflix, is clearly aiming to not be something that acts as a side-character to the films’ main show but be something that is just as good as the movies and, right off the bat, the first episode proves that.
“Into the Ring” sees the beginning of Matt Murdock’s rise as Daredevil. The episode opens with the infamous accident that stole Murdock’s sight and set him on the path to clean up his city. After that and years later, we are introduced to Matt the lawyer (Charlie Cox) and his best friend and business partner Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson). The duo are struggling to get a law practice up and running and are wide-eyed and hungry to make a difference in the world—a theme that drives Murdock to his night-time alter-ego. Nelson and Murdock’s first client comes in the form of Karen Page (True Blood’s Deborah Ann Woll). Page becomes a target after she accidentally uncovers some embezzlement action in the construction company Union Allied. Now, in order to survive, Murdock must protect her as both a lawyer and a vigilante. However, Murdock might not be prepared for what his actions will lead to… (and that’s my way of trying to describe the episode without any of those dreaded spoilers).
Origin stories can be hard and, sometimes, boring for some people—even to fans. For fans, we already know what happened to Murdock and we just want to see him in his red suit kicking ass. For those unfamiliar with the man, they have to learn where he came from but still have a desire to watch him kick some tail. This Netflix series has the benefit of having longer than just two hours to tell the background that forged Daredevil. The show excellently kicks off the series with a glimpse of Murdock’s past by starting with his accident and then cutting to the present. It prepares you for the fact the series will feather out his youth, his important relationship with his father, his training and even his Catholic background throughout the show’s 13 episodes. I really enjoyed this approach because it doesn’t make the origin feel rushed and it allows for slow, methodical development of Murdock/Daredevil. Now, while this approach may be a bit slower than something we have seen in Iron Man or Thor, it offers a deeper glance at the character that you can’t get in a single film.
This episode also establishes the overall look and feel of the series. While I expected the film to be gritty due to the descriptions from the cast and crew (and also thanks to the trailers), I wasn’t really prepared for how gritty, brutal and dark the series would actually get. Hell’s Kitchen is not a pretty place and the show really sells this. The overall look of the show relies quite heavily on shadows and darkness and is stupidly effective in that use. Murdock’s world is one of darkness and that is reflected in the visuals that the show offers. Episode director Phil Abraham knew how to make light, shadow and near consuming darkness work like they were characters themselves. Without a doubt, this series is the darkest and grittiest the MCU has gotten but, despite this, it still feels like it belongs in the same world as The Incredible Hulk and even Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s truly amazing how Marvel can have so many different properties for their shared universe—all of them with very different tones—and have them all feel like they all belong together. Daredevil has never been a light-hearted hero like the arrogant Tony Stark or our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man; instead, he’s a man of faith and deep, deep conviction who is without fear and battles his own ideas of ethics and morality and the show is showcasing that with its darkly beautiful cinematography.
As far as the cast is concerned, I didn’t see anyone who wasn’t perfect for their role. Marvel has been proving since they began this shared movieverse that they truly understand casting (try to imagine someone else playing Tony Stark) and they prove it in this first venture into their Netflix shows. Charlie Cox really balances the drive in both Murdock and Daredevil, Woll is excellent and very likable as Page, and Henson teases you with the reality that he is going to be a lot of fun as Foggy. Cox so quickly establishes himself as a true incarnation of Daredevil that one can quickly forget that our new Batman once played the character. Cox, like so many actors who have entered the MCU, just feels right and like the character jumped off the pages. It really makes me want to see Daredevil show up in the soon-to-be-over-crowed Civil War.
But how is the action? You are probably asking. Daredevil is, after all, a superhero and superheroes are all about getting into scuffles. I can say this about the action scenes: They do not disappoint. “Into the Ring” might not have been the most action-oriented of the show so far (as I type this, I’ve made it through 6 episodes) but what you get is not only amazingly crafted and executed by the cast and stunt performers but also fits perfectly with the hero you are seeing. Murdock isn’t invulnerable or a super soldier like Steve Rogers—no, he’s a regular guy who has a lot of training under his belt and super-senses to back him up. The fight sequences show this through amazing use of sound editing and fast pace fighting that is, without a doubt, movie quality stuff. Furthermore, the fight scenes ain’t kids stuff, friends. They are brutal and more hardcore than anything you’ve seen in any of the movies. I honestly wasn’t prepared for the near R-rated type of violence this film has. It’s shocking but damn entertaining.
“Into the Ring” is an exceptional first step in the Daredevil series. The characters are established without over-explaining who they are, the setting and location is revealed and crafted excellently though the show’s visuals, and the fights shown will prove to be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mind-melting awesomeness. This episode had no real drawbacks and quickly gets the heart pumping for more action, more diving into the insanely intriguing story, and a chance to see the Kingpin come into play. And the best thing about it is the fact it is a Netflix series and that means no waiting an entire week or having to deal with mid-season breaks in order to get your next fix. If you want some sort of score (like I give to my blog) I would give “Into the Ring” a 4 out of 5.The end thought that comes to mind is this show has set the bar very high for Marvel’s Netflix shows and that’s not a bad thing. Happy Binging, guys and gals!
Rev. Ron is a semi-retired stand-up comedian, a real life Hank Hill, a bad Shakespearean actor and a wannabe movie critic. If you wanna read some of his reviews or tell him how awesome he is (he likes that) you can visit his blog at RevRonMovies.blogspot.com or follow him on Twitter at @RevRonster. That is, if you can pull yourself away from Daredevil.