(SPOILERS for Daredevil, Spider-Man: Far From Home, and Spider-Man: No Way Home.)
Daredevil was the first show released in Marvel’s expansion to television, airing on Netflix in April 2015. By its third and last season, which aired in 2018, Daredevil had become one of Marvel’s most acclaimed Netflix shows. But with time, Marvel seemingly abandoned their streaming content, instead focusing on the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The small-scale, gritty settings of Daredevil and its peers – such as Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and The Defenders – lost traction amidst a world of aliens, magic, and apocalyptic threats in the MCU.
Fast forward to August 2021, when Marvel dropped the Spider-Man: No Way Home teaser trailer. The teaser revealed Parker’s team-up with Dr. Strange, but more importantly, it hinted at Parker’s legal troubles after being framed for murder in the previous Spider-Man film. As usual, everyone started sharing theories – the most popular being that Matt Murdock was Spider-Man’s lawyer. That theory sparked a well-earned revival for Marvel’s Netflix shows, and soon Daredevil was trending once more.
Those wishing to watch every Marvel Netflix show were disappointed to discover that Marvel was removing their content from the platform on March 31st. I was one of those discontented people, so I quickly binged Daredevil and The Defenders. I was halfway through watching the first season of Jessica Jones when my time ran out.
In my anguish, I attempted to collect my thoughts on Daredevil. Unbeknownst to me, all of the shows were being transferred to Disney+. Obviously, I can now rest easy knowing that this amazing show can still be accessed, and I highly recommend checking it out.
That being said, I refuse to let my opinions rest, and no one is safe from my crazed Marvel ramblings. First, let me introduce you to the events of Daredevil.
Season one introduces us to Matt Murdock and his ragtag team: Foggy Nelson, Murdock’s BFF legal partner, and Karen Page, an innocent client-turned-secretary. Throughout the season we find out Matt’s backstory through various flashbacks, learning everything from his blinding accident to his beginnings as Daredevil. The overarching story follows Matt taking down the malicious crime boss Wilson Fisk – as a lawyer and as a vigilante.
In season two, we meet The Hand, the quintessential villains from Daredevil’s comic books. They’re basically ancient undead ninjas who are at war with equally ancient undead opposition, The Chaste, and both are searching for – you guessed it – an ancient undead superweapon called The Black Sky. Matt’s former mentor and father-ish figure Stick reveals Matt’s membership in The Chaste, and he must work with his morally gray ex-ex-girlfriend, Elektra Natchios, to take down The Hand. (Yeah…if I’m being completely honest, this season was a bit touch-and-go.) Matt also struggles with keeping his two worlds apart, pushing away people he loves in the process.
Season three takes place directly after the events of The Defenders, another Marvel Netflix show that teams up Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage. Matt (spoilers) has just had a building collapse on top of him, and we follow his recovery as he regains his strength and mental stability in the church where he was raised. But Fisk has returned with a tightened grip on Hell’s Kitchen, now with the FBI as his puppets. Matt must reconnect with old friends – all of whom think he’s dead – and fight his own morality before coming face-to-face with Fisk one last time.
The plot is just the tip of the iceberg, though. The three things that made Daredevil so outstanding to me were the acting, the cinematography, and the show’s larger themes.
Matt Murdock is played by the British actor Charlie Cox. He puts on an impressive American accent, but above all, his portrayal of blindness is amazing. It’s important to me when consuming media that any disabled character is presented with respect, especially when played by an able-bodied actor without the same experiences. But Cox clearly did his research before his performance. He worked with a blind man named Joe Strechay to respectfully replicate the mannerisms and movements of a blind person. Cox ensured that his portrayal of blindness was as respectful as possible, and participated in multiple fundraisers and organizing events for the American Foundation for the Blind.
Aside from Charlie Cox’s portrayal of disability, you can tell how much he understands his character. Matt Murdock is a complicated man who struggles with mental health, religion, and morality. Cox shows the switch from Murdock’s reserved demeanor to Daredevil’s morally dubious rage. When Murdock feels safe and happy around his loved ones, you feel that warmth. When he’s lost, confused, and alone, you feel his hopelessness. And when Daredevil goes completely feral, abandoning his morals, and screaming bloody murder, you get goosebumps. Charlie Cox masters each level of Murdock’s personality. When he becomes scary and violent, remembering the opposite sides of him creates the most gut wrenching scenes.
A show isn’t just good because the characters are good. If someone’s acting well in a horribly lit scene, then it defeats the whole purpose of acting well. Cinematography, the way each scene is framed and lit, is crucial, and Daredevil excels at it.
Because Matt Murdock is blind, he has no need for a light source when he can help it, which makes for really cool lighting in some scenes. For example, Murdock was able to purchase his apartment for very cheap because it’s across from a bright LED billboard that fazes everyone but him. The artificial pulsing lights contrast with his unlit living room create gorgeous night time scenes, and characters in his home are seen in silhouette, since that’s how Murdock would perceive them anyway.
Often a dark scene comes at the detriment of any kind of visibility, which is hard to watch. That’s not an issue here, though, because they use symbolic colors instead. An imperceivable dim hallway would be balanced out with red hues, a nod to Murdock’s alter ego and his internal moral dilemmas.
Finally, Daredevil explores themes I personally had never seen in a superhero show before. For one, Matt Murdock is decidedly a chaotic mess. He’s constantly battling his inner devils (pun certainly intended) and ends up pushing his friends away in the process. The show doesn’t shy away from Murdock’s mental health struggles, but doesn’t vilify them either.
Each supporting character has also faced some traumatic event, whether they’re a superhero or just a civilian in the wrong place at the wrong time. The characters’ responses to those events are a part of the wider plot and are treated with nuance and respect. All of the cast, for that matter, is given at least a small backstory, leaving behind no throwaway characters or bland personalities.
If I’ve yet to convince you, I highly recommend Daredevil. I started the show hesitantly, hoping for a bit of context for the Spider-Man theories. By the time I had finished, that hesitancy was replaced with awe and delight. Daredevil is a fresh look at superheroes and vigilantism in the Marvel universe. It would be amiss to turn a blind eye.