by Michael Drinan
For the last few weeks I've immersed myself into Netflix’s contribution to the Marvel Universe with its series Daredevil and Jessica Jones. This round of binge watching was due ever since I saw the trailer for Season 1 of Daredevil but never got around to actually watching the thing. When Season 2 launched on March 18th, after hearing all the raves about it on social media along with Jessica Jones, it was time to get off my ass (er, I mean, firmly plant my ass down on the couch) and start it. Thank God I did because both were incredible.
I’m not going to get into any of the finer details of the plots of both shows in an effort to prevent any spoilers (and there are plenty). I’m just going to run through the different things I liked about each show.
Here’s how to watch these shows: Daredevil Season 1 and then Jessica Jones Season 1 and then Daredevil Season 2. Is it necessary? No, but the crossover material will play better if you watch it in that order. It heightened the experience for me because every time I saw a character or storyline crossover moment happen, I celebrated it with a “Heyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!” and my wife said “Oh my god it’s…” We loved the crossover stuff. It’s pretty obvious from these two shows that Netflix is building a New York Marvel Universe, the crossover material helps make the characters and incidents believable and real and hammers home that these characters exist together, at the same time.
I love the casting on both shows. Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock was a fantastic choice, even without red hair, proving once again that Affleck’s awful dye job wasn’t necessary. Cox’s mannerisms, such as all of his sudden head movements when he hears something, where his eyes are focused and how they’re locked away from an opposite character, are really convincing. It feels as if Cox really took time and watched a bunch of blind people and their mannerisms. Love it.
Vincent D’Onofrio is a beast on this show! Such a great casting job putting him in the role of Wilson Fisk. D’Onofrio’s everyday facial expression itself is a little intimidating and sinister, so when put in a role of an evil crime syndicate boss, the evil becomes pronounced. D’Onofrio’s vocal delivery is astounding as well. Being a fan of Daredevil comics as a teenager, I never really could imagine how Fisk would sound but here D’Onofrio’s interpretation just felt spot on. He really gets the character and it’s scary as hell.
This might be a bit of a spoiler but Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle (aka The Punisher) in Season 2 is one of the best Punisher casting jobs since (in my opinion) Dolph Lundgren. Bernthal wrapped himself in the character of Castle and it never wavered. He’s my favorite Punisher so far.
In all honesty, I was unfamiliar with the comic character Jessica Jones so my opinion on Krysten Ritter being cast is based on being introduced to the character through this show. With that said, I thought she did a really good job playing a cynical, drunken, head case with superhuman strength.
The role of Killgrave, the villain who controls people’s minds and actions, performed by David Tennant (of Doctor Who fame) was very enjoyable to watch as the character became conflicted with his existence, his ability and the use thereof. Tennant had a real good handle on the character and was perfect for the character’s anger along with his sick sense of humor. Tennant is a talent!
I’m sure there are tons of people, like myself, who might’ve never heard of Jessica Jones before this show, so giving the character her own show is fantastic. I love her character and what she brings to the Marvel Universe. Jessica Jones is a strong female lead character, which you don’t get too often with all the comic book movies out there. She’s a very flawed character. She drinks a lot, likes to sleep with a bunch of guys, holds a pretty cynical view of people while still feeling a responsibility to help, and has serious issues stemming from the death of her parents and little brother, not to mention her acceptance of her abilities and how to use them. The character feels real and relatable and the back and forth inner struggle makes her a very compelling character to watch.
Daredevil also has his own issues, particularly with the moral question of killing. He’s a lawyer during the day and abides by the law and what is right during his time as a vigilante hero at night. The inner conflict with Matt Murdock is very prevalent on the show and makes for a stunning dichotomy once The Punisher shows up. Plus, Murdock’s insistence to not let people he cares about get too close to him out of fear that he’ll hurt them or, at least, disappoint them while also needing their help is a great little tactic to push the storyline forward, continually making the show interesting.
However, the really great thing about these two shows is their inclusion of some of the more obscure comic book characters. Look no further than Claire (played by the wonderful Rosario Dawson), the nurse who patches him up after his fights. She is a composite character from the comic series Night Nurse from 1972. She also appears in the last few episodes of Jessica Jones causing the character’s own story arc to progress across two shows. Really well done.
Then there’s Will Simpson, an NYPD officer who falls under the influence of Killgrave and tries to kill Trish, Jessica Jones’ adoptive sister, only to become her boyfriend, and then takes it upon himself to hunt down and kill Killgrave. I won’t go too much into this but will say Simpson’s character is an origin story for what could possibly be a future villain for Jessica Jones. I will also say that the villain in question is himself another minor, maybe not quite obscure, comic book character that has been introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And he should be a doozy if they continue with the character.
The problem I’ve always had with cinematic portrayals of comic books is that the fight sequences are over the top, campy and just silly. As much as I kind of liked Punisher: War Zone, the scene where he hangs upside down on the chandelier spinning around while shooting bad guys is a good example of this complaint.
With Daredevil, there’s none of that. It’s hand-to-hand fighting and the choreography is really fucking good. It doesn’t go overboard with the stunts and it’s mostly believable with the characters involved. Also, there’s not a lot of special effects used and when there is it’s done very well. There’s a great buildup of tension before each fight scene and none of the fights feel as if they are obligatory or unnecessary, it fits well with the plot.
In Jessica Jones, the fight choreography isn’t as prevalent mainly because of the character’s own superhuman strength, she’s able to simply throw them across the room and be done with it. However, in the instances where there is choreography, it’s just as good as in Daredevil.
In conclusion, Netflix is hitting it out of the park with these two shows and with their contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The shows are some of the truest incarnations of the characters from the comics (albeit still with some flaws, if you’re nitpicking) that you’ll find, especially Bernthal’s Punisher. The shows take on a serious tone and they don’t veer from it, even in the small moments of humor.
The shows benefit from really giving a shit about the characters’ development and evolvement, something that gets missed in the majority of comic book movies. There’s painstaking care in the small details of each character’s qualities and personalities, emphasizing the point that they’re human, they’re flawed and they tend to fuck up from time to time. For me, this is the crux of Netflix’s success with these shows. If they continue with that in mind then there’s no telling how good it can be. All I know is I’m really looking forward to the Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Defenders series in the future, not to mention the recently announced Punisher series that Netflix ordered. That series should be a great fucking time!