A Town Called Hell’s Kitchen

Watching Daredevil, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to the Cinemax show about a thief with a heart of gold becoming a small town sheriff, called Banshee. It’s a town not many people have heard of nor do people really care. The town is under the chokehold of the local crime lord until the would-be sheriff becomes an opposing foil brave enough to stand up to him. Daredevil has a knack for hitting some of those same notes and that’s not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination. I know the basics of the character even though I’ve never read any of the source material and went in to the show relatively blind. (Pun intended) I had no idea of what to expect, but after wrapping up the first season I wholeheartedly recommend that both comic book fans and casuals check it out.

So how is the show? For starters, its completely different from anything that Marvel had released in its ever-growing cinematic universe. Not only is Daredevil a dark tale it is also ultra-violent. If you thought some of the Captain America films or the Avengers had some heavy moments, you’re in for quite the shock. I was routinely surprised by some of the events that transpired over the course of the season and I don’t know if an episode went by where I didn’t cringe at some of the hits during those unforgettable fight sequences. The show is dark by necessity rather than for the sake of being dark. An upbeat and joke-cracking tale this is not and I don’t think that would ever work for this character. At its core, Daredevil is about the war on crime in Hell’s Kitchen and it is not a happy song and dance.

Why does it work? For me, I think it all comes down to believability. The motivations of each character and the plot points throughout the story all need to maintain some level of plausibility. Even in a comic book story, which gratefully doesn’t spend too much time setting up the origin story. From the beginning, we learn that Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) is lawyer by day and a guy in a mask trying to protect a small piece of New York. He’s not the rich billionaire or super serum advanced type we’ve become accustomed to either. Rather, he was blinded at an early age from chemical exposure to his eyes, which results in all his other senses being heightened. Although it is later explained that he doesn’t see complete darkness, he also isn’t given the “sonar vision” he had in the film.

It works, and you believe that it could work. Using his heightened senses and years of training he is able to keep up with the thugs on the mean streets of Hell’s Kitchen. Keep up, is key in that statement, because even though he has the advantage of being well trained he is still only human and he gets hit, and hit a lot. Those bumps and bruises don’t magically disappear at the end of each fight or episode either, which helps add weight and a sense of urgency to every encounter. Every victory feels earned. Also working in the show’s favor is that it takes place on a much smaller scale. Although it is a part of larger MCU, specifically taking place after the events of the Avengers, our hero is only trying to protect an area within New York rather than an entire city or the world. Even a city as large as New York manages to feel small by limiting the number of iconic places you see which further enhances your belief that one non-superpowered individual with finite resources could actually make a difference.

A show like Daredevil can’t work without interesting side characters and foils for hero. Thankfully Daredevil also delivers on that front. You’re given a reason to care about every character and they each have their own complex backstories and motivations, none more so than perennial big bad, Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio). All credit to Marvel and D’Onofrio for flipping the script on what is normally expected of the Kingpin character. Rather than portraying him as a Bond-esque wheeling, dealing and boisterous villain that we normally get, we are instead treated to a reserved and socially awkward individual who doesn’t yet appreciate the taste of fine wine. With a mission to make Hell’s Kitchen a better place by any means necessary and his tragic upbringing you instantly care. His introduction was handled perfectly, as we don’t see him for the first couple episodes and he is never mentioned by name. This adds an air of suspicion and danger to character so that when you finally see him you believe it and understand the trouble brewing beneath the surface.

Combine the excellent cinematography and lighting as well as the choreography and fighting with the rock-solid cast with great chemistry and you all the makings for a great series. As an added bonus, they managed to include a religious element within the story that isn’t overbearing and honestly feels downright enlightening at times. If I knew a priest similar to the one in Daredevil I might be a more religious person myself. So all in all Daredevil has a lot going for it. While the tone and violence are a shift away from Marvel’s normal fare, it makes sense for this series and this particular set of characters. This story of two opposing forces operating in shades of gray to achieve a similar goal makes for some truly fun and compelling television and I can’t wait for more of it to unfold. One case, punch and drop of blood at a time.

My one wish for next season, is a little more in court time with the “Best Damn Avocados”.

Originally published at www.89pixels.com.