Daredevil Was A Netflix Masterpiece
With the fifth anniversary of "Daredevil" recently having passed, I couldn’t pass up the chance to talk about how much I absolutely loved the show. while it may have only ran for three seasons of and one mini season of “The Defenders”, the show gave us both an astounding superhero show, and yet another strong action hero. Just as Netflix did so well with The Punisher. Not only does the show honor the comic origins of Matt Murdock, but it also created its own unique vision of the character. In an effort to remain concise, I'm choosing to focus on the development of Murdock as a character rather than the show in its entirety. Major spoilers will follow, as I'm going to go through the major story arcs of the series.
What worked the best about the show was the perfect storm of strong storytelling, patience, a clear love for the source material, and the stunning fight choreography that was grounded enough to feel very real, but also fantastic enough to make Daredevil truly awe inspiring. But none of this would have worked if the titular hero wasn’t as strongly developed as he was in the show. From the very first time we meet Matt Murdock, we’re shown a very conflicted person who’s caught between his desire to fight crime in the city he loves so much and protect those he cares for, while balancing his aggressive behaviors with his devout Catholic beliefs. This internal struggle between doing what he believes he needs to do as a hero and what god would want him to do as a man of faith, lead to emotional arcs for the character that truly push and change Matt Murdock over the course of the story.
Following the Arc
Over the course of the show Matt continually struggles to maintain the balance between the separate halves of his life, as “Matt Murdock Attorney at Law” by day, and “The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen” by night, ultimately leading to his eventual desire to let Matt Murdock die, so he can just live as Daredevil when he hits his lowest point in Season Three. This struggle also sees him distancing himself from those who care for him and even at one point believing god has forsaken him, pushing him further away from the Matt Murdock half of himself. At his peak, the firm he runs with his longtime friend Franklin “Foggy” Nelson, is doing great business and they’re helping as many clients as they can, while also managing to control crime as Daredevil at night, and even managing to hold a relationship with Karen Page. Making for what could be considered for Matt, a healthy work/work/life balance.
The Breakdown of Balance
All of this is upended when in season two we first meet The Punisher, and Elektra, who both push Matt into giving up his life as Matt Murdock, as he destroys that healthy work/life balance we saw him strive so hard to achieve. In having to constantly pursue Frank Castle, stop the yakuza and the ancient organization known as The Hand, with his former/present lover Elektra, things get rather complicated in the life of Matt Murdock as a result. In his attempt to apprehend Frank Castle, Matt grows sympathetic to his cause, and eventually becomes his lawyer in order to defend Frank, but this doesn’t pan out as Matt gets entangled in the affairs with Elektra, causing him to neglect his professional duties. These lead to the defining aspects of Daredevil as a character, as he struggles to maintain the professional duties as a lawyer, the responsibility of Daredevil, and the desire to uphold himself to the religious beliefs of Catholicism.
After the events of The Defenders place Matt at his absolute lowest in season three, we watch as Matt fully give into his alter ego of “The Devil of Hell's Kitchen”, as the general public believes him to be dead, he refuses to see his friends, the accident leaves his abilities impaired, and Kingpin/ Bullseye make daredevil out to be a criminal. All of these elements going wrong in his life lead him to lose faith in his religion, as he thinks god has forsaken him, causing our hero to spiral into a dark place where nothing matters but, his mission to stop Wilson Fisk, eclipsing all other parts of his life. Yet just as his father “Battlin” Jack Murdock, instilled a catholic spirit into Matt, he also impressed the spirit of a boxer into his son before his own untimely death. No matter how hard he gets hit, he always gets back up. with that mentality in mind, our hero eventually pushes himself to train and recover from his injuries and reclaim his place as a defender of the city.
The Heroic Value of Fragility
Not only are the fights in the show an absolute blast to watch, (obligatory shout out to those amazing one-shot hallway fights.) they go a long way in establishing the humanity of Matt Murdock. Similarly, once again to John Wick and The Punisher, the balance of human fragility with an endless strength to keep fighting, grounds the hero in a very important way. In the very first hallway fight of the show, Daredevil fights through a ton of bad guys in order to save a young boy, after spending the beginning of the episode recovering from a beating that nearly kills him. One small choice that perfectly defines the character in this scene, is when in the middle of the fight, Matt pulls himself off the wall after catching his breathe and dives right back into battle without missing a beat. As I mentioned earlier, the place Matt finds himself in the early episodes of season three, further cement his fragility. When he first decides to put on the mask again, he loses one of the first fights we see him get into. The injuries he sustained cause his enhanced senses to be weakened, preventing Matt from being able to fight to the full extent of his abilities. But the loss doesn't last long,as he trains, learns from his mistakes, and tracks down the criminals at the end of the day. Just as the balance of work and life defines Matt Murdock, so too does the harmony of fragility and pure ferocity in his alter ego Daredevil.
The Human Factor
While I wish I could have taken time to speak on the fantastic depiction of Kingpin by Vincent D’Onofrio further, in the interest of remaining as brief as I can, I chose not to get too far into him. Yet, with strong villains, and the mental highs and lows and life-threatening beatings Matt endures, (very similarly to what I said about The Punisher), Matt Murdock’s fragility both mentally and physically, create a hero who we are constantly reminded that (enhanced senses aside), is just a human being at the end of the day. No matter how fantastic a superhero is, the all-important factor to creating a hero is managing to craft a character that is relatable on a human level, someone who isn’t defeated by their personal demons and downfalls, but instead uses them to become something more than just themselves, even if it costs them everything they strive to be.