Daredevil is one of those shows it took me a while to get into, but once I was hooked I was totally addicted. Made as part of the Netflix Marvel series, which link subtly but directly into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Daredevil initially caught audiences with its visceral fight scenes, high production quality and troubled hero. Here was a superhero show that actually took the genre seriously, and to a certain extent, had more in common with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Night Trilogy than Joss Whedon’s brightly coloured Avengers movie. It showed a darker, deeper side to the MCU that had been sorely lacking, and provided it in a way only television could.
I love movies, but television and Netflix have always been my preferred medium to watch. There’s a wonderful quote that says something along the lines of, “You get to see the lives of movie characters through a window, television characters you invite into your home.” You get to see the ups and downs of characters on television, not just their heroic moments but their personal ones. You share every crisis of faith, every water cooler conversation and every in-joke, and Daredevil does this better than almost any other show. Why? Daredevil doesn’t just show you the ups and downs of its hero, it also shows you, in great detail, the life of its villain, Wilson Fisk.
At the beginning of the show, the villainous power of Fisk is demonstrated through his manipulations and right-hand man, James Wesley, but as more of the person is revealed through his interactions with Wesley and his love interest, Vanessa, a more complex picture is shown. The closer Matt Murdock gets to crossing the boundary from hero to villain, the more Fisk seems twistedly heroic. Here is someone who is genuinely convinced what he’s doing is not only right but is the only way to save his city. He doesn’t care what he has to do, or how many laws he has to break, as long as the city is ultimately made a safer, better place.
The absolute brilliance of the first season of Daredevil is showing how close villain and hero are to each other in terms of beliefs. This could have very easily been told from Fisk’s point of view showing Daredevil as the vigilante villain. The near-perfect execution of this symmetry is what makes Daredevil such compulsive viewing. I found myself caring more about the villain that I did the hero in many of the episodes, and that is a truly incredible feat.
But like any good show, the second series cannot repeat the same story as the first. Instead, Daredevil chooses to build on its already developing theme of the line between hero and villain, this time by introducing two more vigilantes to the show; the gun-toting Frank Castle and the mysterious Elektra Natchios. Both of these new faces have a very different approach to Matt Murdoch’s “no kill” policy, in fact, Castle spends the first four episodes gunning down every gang member and criminal he comes across. As Daredevil is confronted and challenged by these other vigilantes, he begins to ask himself the same two question the audience has been asking since series one: “Is Daredevil really a hero?” and “How far is too far to go in the protection of the greater good?”
While Elektra and Castle are both incredibly compelling characters, and the show is better for their existence, but it’s interesting that the questions they pose to Daredevil are ones Wilson Fisk spends the time before and during the first series asking both himself and his nemesis. He doesn’t need to fight on the rooftops, or infiltrate parties to bring justice, he simply orders people to do it for him, but he is still bringing a form of vigilante justice to Hell’s Kitchen.
It’s wonderful to have a show available that asks the questions that most superhero media (outside of comics) doesn’t ask. What actually makes a hero? What is the difference between them and the villain? Daredevil and Fisk’s relationship doesn’t provide the answer, really, but the question is out there for the audience to decide.