Daredevil: Hero is a Not a Noun, It’s a Verb

Everyone needs to move on from this ‘binge-watching’ trend. The word “binge” is by definition unhealthy, it literally means ‘excessive and uncontrolled indulgence’ and it’s being misused in popular culture and advertising. I’ll admit this is a classic example of the pot calling the kettle black but let me clarify. Binge-watching, or as we used to call it marathon watching or some variation is primarily for TV shows with multiple seasons or a lighter format. You marathon Friends, or Scrubs, or Battlestar Galactica if you’re masochistic. What you don’t “binge” watch is a complex serial drama or a miniseries. Or anything with only one season. Especially not something like Daredevil or the first couple seasons of House of Cards or Bloodline if anyone would actually watch that. This is like going to an expensive restaurant, ordering a challenging, carefully prepared dish and wolfing it down like a drunk devouring an A1 Thick ‘n Hearty from Whataburger at three in the morning to my great shame. Their great shame, I mean. A hypothetical person. I don’t want to tell anyone how to live their lives but there is just something depressing about how quickly we consume media lately, I’ll include videogames in this cranky old man rant. Things that take years to produce and hundreds of people’s efforts are consumed like buttery nipple shots at bachelorette party. It’s a little depressing because those shots are gross and also there should be some time spent savoring good storytelling, character development, set design, cinematography, choreography, direction, etc. Not always, but sometimes. Which brings me to Daredevil

I’ve always been a die-hard Spider-Man fan. Well, ever since I was about 8 years old and the man who would become my stepfather made a sort of peace offering in the form of my very first comic book, The Amazing Spider-Man. I knew nothing about the comics and he picked me up a couple of issues, handed them over with a kind of knowing nod, and said, essentially, ‘Check this out’. And I was in. Peter Parker was my homie from that point on and I never looked back. I read and reread those books until they dissolved in my hands. I watched the films as an adult with a subdued optimism but the joy I’d found on the page was never really there and I’ve cooled on the Wallcrawler these recent years. 

Imagine my surprise to find Web Head usurped by Drew Goddard’s Daredevil. This is a big deal to a geek, it’s like changing political parties or coming out of the closet. Okay, maybe not that big of a deal. But it’s not easy to do and you tend to feel like you’re betraying your personal hero, albeit a fictitious one, and maybe the newest incarnation will win me back but until then, Matt Murdoch, blind attorney at law, takes top honors. 

What’s first so affecting about this show is how occupied the portrayal of Hell’s Kitchen feels. It’s dirty and rundown, barely held together and dark. There are no holographic computers or sexy cars. No space age weapons or fancy uniforms. Murdoch exists in the Marvel Universe but while the others are fighting aliens and billionaires or insurgent spy networks, The Man in the Mask is deep in the trenches. His hands are dirty, he’s at the ragged edge of civilized society defending poor old ladies and, forgive the language, beating the shit out of the real monsters. The kidnappers. The corrupt. The predators. All on their own turf. This is what made this show so thrilling to me, I kept wondering how Murdoch would fare against Captain America and the rest. He’s not super strong or invulnerable. He fights with his hands and a couple of sticks and when he takes a beating he takes a beating. You feel it. You see it the next day. Then I realized I wouldn’t care if he could run with The Avengers or not, he’s a bigger bad ass than all of them. Maybe he’s not saving the planet but he is, suited up in the red or as a lawyer, fighting to ensure the planet they’re struggling for is worth saving.   

Vincent D’onofrio as Kingpin is almost so well interpreted I have nothing to really add. It’s a clever approach to try and humanize the character and add depth to what would otherwise be a bland Big Bad. The flashback to his youth was particularly heartbreaking if a little truncated but it was effective in making me think, ah maybe he’s not such a bad guy. And then he was again but awarded an air of tragedy. 

The real fault with Daredevil is in the supporting characters, with the exception of Vondie Curtis-Hall, who wears more maturity and angst than the rest of the cast combined. He simply occupies the role with so much heartache I kept wanting the rest of the cast to just leave the guy alone. Other than that, Foggy and Karen were about as interesting as two supporting characters named Foggy and Karen.  

Matt Murdoch visits and takes counsel from a priest several times over the course of the story, he identifies as Catholic. There are conversations about self sacrifice and guilt, and whether or not murder is justified or if violence is an acceptable response to violence and it’s potential effect on a person’s soul, however archaic the idea seems in modern, atheistic-trending times. But, to me, there is something undeniably refreshing about that archaic sentiment, inasmuch as the term ‘archaic’ seems to hold negative connotation. Old fashioned is not always bad fashion. The word ‘guilt’ is not an epithet.  And doubt is not a bad thing when it comes to conviction or faith; it’s intrinsic. Without it you have fanaticism. Zealotry. The kind of thing that straps bombs to people’s chests. If that’s a little too heavy of a sentiment for a think piece on a comic book character, well, that’s what you get for binge-watching. But if you watch Daredevil and pace yourself you might have time to consider that even superheroes doubt themselves, possibly as often as the rest of us. That’s an important thing to remember and ask in the day to day, particularly in our recent, troubling times, Is this worth fighting for? And the great thing about superheroes, as we imagine them and how they inspire us, is how they answer: Yes. Suit up. 

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