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Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Devil of Broadcast's Kitchen (spoilers)

No really, there are spoilers here. Turn back if you haven't finished the show.

And so, while men of Iron and Magic Hammers fly in the urban canyons of NYC, we have a war brewing, simmering on a smaller scale in the charmingly-named Hells Kitchen. A place where the colours are washed out, and you wonder why anyone bothers wearing a coat in this heat. A place where the shadows themselves will sneak up and knife you in the ribs for your pocket change, and the little old ladies that have lived there their whole lives are harder men than the street toughs themselves.

Cough

Now that I've got that out of my system. Daredevil, won't you? Netflix's first toe dipped into the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to be quite the success. If you haven't seen it, please stop reading now. I mean it. I won't be held responsible for butt-mad over Spoilers. Stop reading this, go watch 13 hours of Netflix, and come back. I'll wait.

In the meantime, how about that costume?! SPOILERS!!

Ok, all caught up? Phwoar. Wasn't that a ride? When I said simmering and boiling earlier, that wasn't just (corny) noir metaphor. What Netflix has delivered us is essentially a 13-hour origin story movie, not just for DD, but for Kingpin and the rest of the supporting cast. The episodic format really allows Daredevil room to expand on the usual flash and noise of the MCU films, drawing much more detail and nuance out of the characters and the world they inhabit in a way that was really only previously attempted with Winter Soldier, where they started the film assuming you already knew Cap, Widow, and Fury. Most origin stories give you maybe 20 minutes of build-up before we see the hero in the suit, but by saving it until the very last episode it has some real impact. We've really invested in Murdock by this point, seen him built up and torn down, and almost can't help but cheer when we finally see the suit.

There were a few, but very few, things I didn't like. I don't like Foggy, at least not yet. He's grown a little on me, but as I've heard it recently said something growing on you means that you're noticing less the things you hate about it. I didn't like Karen Page at first, either, but that may be less her fault and more Frank Miller's (still can't stop thinking “Daredevil's junkie ex-girlfriend” and worrying about her future, especially given her mentioning moving onto something harder than alcohol). I didn't like the surprise deaths of two of the supporting cast either, as I was really fond of their characters, but then Hell's Kitchen is dark and full of terrors. I should be used to this by now.

I adore Vanessa. Especially her acceptance of Fisk and his reality. I appreciate how this wasn't just Murdock's origin story, how it gave so much time to Fisk as well, showing us his childhood, his daily routine, how he fell apart after one of the aforementioned deaths. Vincent D'Pnofrio deserves some kind of award for his portrayal of Fisk, both for the physicality he brought to the role (how much weight did he put on, anyway?) and the mental portrayal as well. I see very clearly the childhood trauma, as well as a possibility of Fisk residing somewhere on the autism spectrum from D'Onofrio's performance. I dearly hope we see Madame Gao again, as well as seeing where her “true home” is,  it being much further away than China she said mysteriously. I enjoy Rosario Dawson in just about everything she's done (even Josie & The Pussycats), and didn't even peg her as Night Nurse until I'd looked her up later. I hope she shows up again. Stick is gloriously un-PC, perhaps the grouchiest old mentor that ever did mentor.


I mentioned, in hyperbole, that Daredevil has ruined Arrow for me. There is a little truth behind that. Netflix is taking a really dirty, realistic approach to the vigilante hero genre, one that is obviously far at odds with the slick, clean presentation of a CW show. There's a layer of grime on Daredevil that makes it so much more grounded, possibly the most grounded of all the MCU offerings yet, and it shows in everything from the establishing shots to the fight scenes. Shots of the streets of Hells Kitchen are teeming with people. There's garbage stacked against walls. Camera shots are much wider. Fight scenes have people rocked with fatigue and are not the clean, graceful ballets shown in Avengers or Agents of SHIELD. People get seriously hurt, and it wears you out just watching Matt Murdock take a beating just to get back up and take out a room full of thugs.

Ok, for real this time. How badass does he look. 
Ending where we began, the fact that this came out all 13 episodes at once on Netflix, and has pretty much set the internet on fire, shows an interesting development. This is a tight and focused story, and avoids having filler episodes or really even filler scenes, unlike other shows that have abbreviated runs.  This is my first experience with the launch of an internet-only show. I understand House of Cards and Orange is the New Black have come before it, but the idea that a show can drop an entire series at once and cause such an impact is fascinating, and it's got me eagerly anticipating the next MCU show.

...even if it is Jessica Jones.  

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