Monday, April 27, 2015

Daredevil is awesome and if you haven't seen it, you should!

You guys, I am sold on Daredevil now. I didn't give two flips about the old movie or the comics before, and when they said they were making the show, I was like, okay that's fine, but I was more excited about AKA Jessica Jones because she'd be the first female lead in the MCU to get her own thing. But this show, you guys, this is how you make someone care about a dark, gritty, brutal story of a good man making extreme choices.

In no particular order, some things I want to think about:

This is not really an origin story. When the show starts, he's already a vigilante, and he's already starting to get noticed. Which is great, because I sort of hate origin stories now that we've had so many of the same ones over and over again. (cough - Batman and Spiderman and Superman - cough) He's still early in his career, doesn't yet have his suit, and because of that, he's making choices on the fly, he's hitting his limits, he's getting his ass kicked a lot, and he's dealing with actual consequences. It's unclear in the show whether he actually has powers, exactly, but even if he does, they don't include any of the useful superhero ones like healing or invulnerability--and that forces his lone-wolf-ness to compromise, and he gets Claire, who is awesome and who patches him up and sort of falls for him. And later, more people to help him, even when they still don't know what he's doing with the help.

In fact, the show constantly deals with consequences, something the MCU movies only do when it's convenient. It's not convenient here--but a thirteen episode series has a lot more space to watch things play out, I guess, so this is where it'll be.

Also, for most of the show, he's just a dude in black clothes, like a Navy SEAL with a face mask. Which I actually liked the look of more than the actual suit, but you know he had to get that suit before the end of the series.

There's connections to the MCU Big Plot, but they aren't integral. SHIELD keeps getting tangled up in their promise to connect everything, and then not actually being able to because of dumb plot points they won't drop for whatever reason, like Coulson supposedly being dead. Here, that doesn't matter much. They vaguely reference the Battle of New York, because they're there and things happened around them, but their purpose is much closer to home. Street-level, like the pre-release stuff said. They're dealing with the crime and corruption that existed before the Battle, and the fact that there are super heroes in the world is treated like the way we treat sports stars and celebrities--it's not the center of the world, it's some distant other thing that most people don't worry about on a daily basis. Which is nice, because it means this is definitely in that world, but it can tell its own story without being hampered.

SHIELD should take note.

The villain is the saddest creature ever created. Wilson Fisk is quiet, shy, possibly neuro-atypical, the victim of terrible abuse, and honestly thinks that what he's doing will save the city he honestly loves. He's extreme, but he makes so much sense, that he's way scarier than I've ever seen him be onscreen in any other version, and mostly what I feel for him is sadness. This huge, crushing sadness that can't quite excuse anything he did, but also knows why he did, which makes it a multi-layered sadness.

He obviously loves Wesley, who is a different sort of sociopath, and was loved by him in return. He fell for Vanessa almost at first sight. And a villain who can love is one that I love, because that's a well-rounded, multi-faceted character. He is complex and nuanced, and basically stole the show.

I feared constantly for all the women, and they all did fine. In shows that call themselves "gritty", I've come to take that to mean, at least some of the time, "women get really shitty behavior directed at them", so I was a little worried going in, and as I got to like Claire and Karen and Vanessa, I got a lot worried. The old lady was killed, which hurt, but Vanessa recovered from poison, Claire was not beaten to death and held her own as much as she could, and Karen didn't go insane or get killed or anything. None of them were sexually attacked, which was awesome, because too many shows rely on that to weaken or damage female characters, and this show didn't need that.

There's humor! And it's used right! The best use was when they were contrasting how poorly Foggy took the news of Matt's side job with how happy they were in college--those scenes where they were young and drunk and happy were so silly and sweet, and then brutally opposite from the pain and struggle of the present-day dealing-with-the-truth. Plus, through the rest of it, Matt is a sweet dork, but he will dangle you off a roof and punch you three-quarters to death to get the information he needs. Foggy is adorable, and his joking only gets more poignant as she show progresses, and when Karen stops joking with him, it makes it even more so.

It makes the rest of the MCU look like it's hobbled by it's rating. The fighting is brutal, much more brutal than any of the rest of the MCU stuff. There's blood and people die and things go wrong and there's lots and lots of actual physical damage that has to be healed and never really gets a chance to--like, at one point, Matt is speared with a hook and dragged across the floor, which should have left him in the hospital, but that he just deals with.

But it's also beautifully done, with all these long, slow single-takes, and this artful use of seeing and not seeing what's happening, and the lighting and cinematography was gorgeous. I wished that I could synch my Hue lights to it, actually, because some of the lighting was that pretty.

It hammers home the stance that this show seems to take that the bad and the good are always side-by-side, and that you can't have one without the other.

The pacing is great. At the beginning, it feels a little slow, but after a few episodes you see why it's slow, and that's so you can really get to know these characters, so you can really see how everything is set up and how little movement it takes to make it all fall down. It's a remarkably quiet show, overall, with only a small cast most of the time, and these quietly tense conversations happening all over the place--and then it's punctuated with amazing fight scenes that get really violent, with Fisk flipping out and then getting control of himself again, with explosions seen from across town, with all sorts of really beautiful and terrible things that are given the actual chance to punctuate. And it's all paced perfectly so that when we get to those punctuations, they have the right weight and impact.

It's renewed for season two! This was a whole story, and it could have stood as is (with minor interaction with AKA Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, which I'm pretty sure this show set up without us even realizing it, since it deals with all these different gang factions), but now it doesn't have to. I was so happy when it was announced that it was coming back, because now we can see how these characters fare in the future! What will Fisk do? Will Vanessa become a villain in her own right? How will Foggy and Matt handle this second life, and when will Karen tell them what she did and when will she find out who Matt also is? Will Claire come back?

I can't wait.

How about you, readers? What did you take away from this show? What are your favorite details?
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