I don’t know much about the Man Without Fear. I haven’t read a lot of Daredevil comics and I thankfully avoided Ben Affleck’s version of the blind vigilante. I knew the basics of Matthew Murdock’s story, but went into Netflix’s Daredevil with a relatively clean slate. And after watching the first three episodes, that slate has been filled with intense stories, jaw-dropping action and deeper questions of morality.
Daredevil is great and definitely provides a different look at the MCU. Up to this point the MCU has been filled with movies and television series with large-scale issues and galaxy altering consequences. Daredevil is a much more intimate experience, focusing on Hell’s Kitchen in New York City. The heroics of the Avengers are simply known as “The Incident,” and are only mentioned in conversations about how they impacted regular people.
Along with a more intimate feel, Daredevil also offers a darker and grittier take on the MCU. Marvel’s movies are grand, crowd-pleasing blockbusters, and I mean no insult with that statement. Marvel makes big movies for big crowds, which means those movies have to play things relatively safe. Without those restrictions and those of network television, Marvel is freed to give us a somewhat morally ambiguous hero, who is definitely more of a vigilante than the face of the Avengers.
Here are some other thoughts I had while watching the first three episodes of Daredevil.
The series pretty much begins in a confessional booth, with Matt Murdock asking forgiveness for what he’s about to do. The priest says it doesn’t work like that, but Murdock moves forward with whatever he’s planning. That plan includes assaulting some bad guys and rescuing three women who were going to be sold into slavery. Beating up some bad guys and rescuing innocent women doesn’t seem that ambiguous. However, later in the series, beating up bad guys turns into torturing bad guys, all to save another kidnapping victim. At what point is a moral line crossed and do the ends ever justify the means? These aren’t just questions born out of a television series, but are also found in our world. Is something either right or wrong or do the consequences create shades of ambiguity? I’m definitely not going to answer those bigger questions in a single post about a television show. Each of us has to look at the issues our world is facing and get a feel for how much moral ambiguity with which we’re comfortable. In our personal lives, though, we shouldn’t have much need for moral ambiguity. We’re probably not beating up bad guys to rescue innocent lives; our choices are a little more black and white. For our daily decisions God’s word is very clear on what’s right and what’s wrong. For the most part when we feel moral ambiguity in our lives, it’s because we don’t want to acknowledge the truth of God’s standards.
Ambiguous as some of his actions may be, it’s hard not to root for Murdock, both as a lawyer and as a masked hero. By day Murdock is a defense attorney and his first case is defending an innocent woman. By night Murdock takes to the street, protecting the innocent and bringing justice to those who would pervert it. Violence is never the answer, but I can’t help but cheer when Daredevil beats up kidnappers and human traffickers. God is all about justice and ensuring that people are treated with the dignity they deserve. But when a group of thugs kidnaps a little boy for no reason, I feel like they deserve a beating instead of dignity.
The beatings that Daredevil doles out are ridiculous. The action in Daredevil is absolutely stunning, by far better than anything I’ve ever seen in a television show. So many action sequences follow the example of the Bourne movies, filled with quick cuts and frantic action. Daredevil eschews this trend and instead show its street fights with relatively stationary cameras. Without constant cuts and shaky cameras, the brawls really gain a sense of brutality, once again something Marvel could only get away with on Netflix. I’ve only watched three episodes, but I have a hard time believing the series can top the action sequence at the end of the second episode. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the screen because the action was so good and unlike anything I’ve seen on the small screen.
At its core, Daredevil is a television action series about a New York super hero. Beyond that it’s an examination of the choices we make every day and how they impact the world around us. Matt Murdock and his friends are living in a world that has been transformed by alien invasions and gods from other worlds. They’re simply trying to make the best of the their situation, living their lives in light of circumstances beyond their control. For the most part, Murdock is making choices to better his city and the world around him, even if those choices lead to some moral ambiguity. While we may not want to completely follow his example, we can learn from his desire to make things right and stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.
What have you thought about Daredevil so far?