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Marvel/Netflix’s Daredevil delivers a 5 star series

A spoiler-free review of the new Marvel & Netflix TV show.

DC has usually fared better (in recent times at least) when it comes to TV versions of their rich catalogue of characters – Gotham, Arrow, The Flash, Smallville etc. In this time, Marvel has asserted their cinematic dominance and have created lasting legacies for the likes of Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. Their first major foray into modern television was Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, a failed attempt that never took off or created anything more than a knowing wink in the direction of their bigger, more important theatrical ventures. This most definitely isn’t the case with Daredevil.

Taking a lot of influence from Frank Miller’s seminal tale ‘The Man Without Fear’, Daredevil has a very strong sense of identity and direction right from the start. The opening credits and score are haunting and act as a precursor to an involving storyline that constantly keeps you hooked. The style of the show perfectly treads the line between TV and Film, utilising the best of both worlds when it needs to.

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Having this show debut on Netflix has stripped away certain restraints and curtailments – something that studio-based network TV invariably imposes onto its acquisitions. Daredevil is a character that’s dark and to do his legacy justice, it requires a certain type of story-telling. Having watched the first season, it’s very clear to see that this is a cinematic vision that’s been serialised into 13 parts. This is a huge asset and means that you are investing in characters, story and situations that can easily translate to the big screen.

Charlie Cox is perfectly cast as Matt Murdock. He has the charm, charisma and physical attributes to easily sell the premise and give audiences a hero to champion. Leading a show like Daredevil isn’t easy but he manages it exceptionally well. His dramatic presence gives Daredevil a strong backbone and makes the Matt Murdock side of his persona both relatable and engaging. His chemistry with all of the supporting characters is also a big reason why this first season of Daredevil works so well.

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Deborah Ann Woll’s return to television is a welcome one after her memorable turn in True Blood. She gives the show a nice dynamic, starting off as a damsel in distress but soon developing into something much more pivotal. Her chemistry with Cox and Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson is also well-paced and never overplayed. Henson and Cox do a great job as old friends with frequent flashbacks to their college years acting as a nice platform for their ongoing story.

Vincent D’Onofrio will most likely gain most of the headlines for his wonderful portrayal of Wilson Fisk aka The Kingpin. His troubled history mixed with his desire and compulsion to get what he wants makes for an intriguing character for D’Onofrio to play with. Frequently the best thing in every one of his movies, he is now given the chance to run with an iconic character and really create a lasting legacy – especially given how important Kingpin is to the greater Marvel universe.

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Rosario Dawson is Daredevil’s most memorable guest-star as nurse Claire Temple. Her scenes with Charlie Cox frequently ground the show in realism, as does Cox’s scenes with Peter McRobbie as Father Lantom. Their conversions about faith and good vs. evil are so well-written and give the duality of Matt Murdock’s battle a human face. Perhaps Daredevil’s finest attribute is its ability to give every character a rounded personality, each peppered with personal tragedy, angst and troubled choices.

Bob Gunton, Vondie Curtis-Hall and Ayelet Zurer are all pivotal supporting players and give their respective roles plenty of noticeable substance. But it’s Toby Leonard Moore who steals the series as Fisk’s right-hand man Wesley. Carrying an unmistakable charm and grace despite his characters malevolence, Moore does a remarkable job in making you care about the opposing side and gives this conflict more than just a boo-hiss villain to hate. His dynamic with D’Onofrio is also wonderful to watch.

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This incarnation of Daredevil will clearly work in every existing Marvel property. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to see this Matt Murdock in future Marvel Universe movies because they have got the tone and style perfectly right here. Charlie Cox and the rest of the cast deserve a few big screen outings on the strength of this first season and the work they have put into creating these characters that you’re invested in from the start.

The action in Daredevil is remarkable (especially for serialised television). The fight choreography is amongst the finest you’ll ever see on the small screen, with amazing set-pieces and confrontations that will leave you in awe. Episodes 2 and 9 are particularly amazing and both feature sequences that will go on to define the very essence of this compelling show. Again, there are no spoilers listed here, but these two episodes personify everything that’s right about Marvel and Netflix’s remit for this character and act as the perfect benchmark for Daredevil’s tone and approach to its story.

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Daredevil is a real triumph for superhero-led TV stories. By focusing on one big story arc, it gives the 13 episode run a cinematic feel at every junction. The story keeps you hooked and the performances are all amazing. Daredevil has defied the odds and come in as one of 2015’s best new shows, with an emphasis on classic story-telling and proper characterisation that does justice to the man without fear.

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