Daredevil: The Ones We Leave Behind/Daredevil

Posted on May 12, 2015

Daredevil-Season-1-Finale-Television-Review-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLOCharlie Cox in “Daredevil” on Netflix

 

We’re pretty sure our old composition professors from college would frown on this, but we’re starting off with an apology. We’re sorry it took us so long to wrap up these final two episodes. Writing roughly 5000 words a week on Mad Men tends to empty our tanks, but when you add the red carpet celebrity fuckfest known as the Met Gala to the mix, our other efforts tend to suffer. In addition, it took us the longest time to come to some sort of conclusion about these final two hours and we kept opening up this draft, with all our notes in it, and finding we had not very much to say about it. We’ve been enjoying this series so much (if we gave letter grades, no episode would be below a B+), that it actually took us some time to realize that the reason we couldn’t complete this final review is that we hadn’t yet come to terms with the fact that we were disappointed with these final two episodes in a lot of ways. We’re reviewing the last two episodes together, partially because, as we always do when it comes these Netflix series, we inevitably fall behind in our reviews and partially because the story would have worked much better if these two hours had been compressed into one – and even then, there still might have been some problems.

Now, we have a reputation for sometimes coming on too strong in our dislikes and giving people the impression we hated something when in fact we just had some problems with it. Maybe we’re unique in this view, but we’ve always felt you can like something and still be disappointed in it or find fault with it – and more importantly, that there’s real value in delineating and discussing those perceived flaws. Having said that, let’s get to the good parts, which were so good at times that it really blinded us to any of the problems for a good while.

First, that simmering sense of danger that has been underscoring the series since the very beginning reached an almost unbearable boil as we neared the climax. Mrs. Cardenas’ death did nothing to alleviate that sense that every character was in extreme danger at any time.  Karen’s killing of Wesley ramped that feeling up as high as it could go and until Ben’s death, there was a feeling that anyone but Matt could be dead before this is over. To be honest, we were shocked to see Marci survive the whole thing, given how colorful, but somewhat unlikeable she can be. But no, it was Ben. And in retrospect, it was clearly always going to be Ben. You can’t get much more tragic than the death of a crusading hero leaving behind a wife suffering from dementia.

Second, the ways in which the dominos all fell in a particular order and at just the right time to bring Fisk down, from Leland’s betrayal to Wesley’s murder to Gao packing up and leaving town (after delivering a little Yoda action on Matt, of course), everything was conspiring to make Wilson Fisk go unhinged. One thing we can’t really fault this series for is the plotting, for the most part. They established a world that made some amount of sense, populated it with people bursting at the seams with agendas and histories, and rather meticulously set them all against each other and built to an unexpectedly satisfying climax. In fact, we ended the series pleasantly surprised that it had resolved so much of what had been set up. It felt like the ending to a movie rather than the ending to a TV season. This was the origin not only of Daredevil, but also of the Kingpin, both of whom we met for the first time in the final hour of the season. Just as Matt embraced his heroic side and the need to provide a symbol for the beleaguered people of Hell’s Kitchen, Fisk abandoned any pretense of wanting to save the city and embraced the fact that what he really wanted most of all was power over people and there was no longer any need to pretend otherwise. In other words, they both unveiled their new costumes by stripping off their old pretensions.

And speaking of which, Lorenzo, who’s unfamiliar with the comics that inspired the show, was unprepared for what Matt’s final costume was going to look like and couldn’t prevent a very disappointed “He doesn’t look hot anymore!” to escape his lips at the first sight of it.

Yes, we’re getting to the complaints now.

But really, aside from the costume disappointment (which admittedly, was considerable), the rest of it really only comes down to one thing: the pacing of these final two hours was way off and it felt like a great deal of time was spent spinning wheels or setting things up for season two. We still slog our way through Arrow every week, although we’ve made a vow not to bother returning to the show next season because the melodrama and constant weepiness of the characters has gotten incredibly dull. These last two hours of Daredevil reminded us very much of some of the worst elements of Arrow. WAAAAAAY too many scenes of Karen getting weepy with Foggy, Karen getting weepy with Matt, Karen getting weepy with Ben, Matt getting weepy with Foggy, etc, ad nauseam. We get it. You’re a family. You’re all hurting for various reasons. That’s all fine and well, but for a show that distinguished itself by being an adult, somewhat natural and realistic (within reason) take on the superhero genre, all y’all people sure do spend a hell of a lot of time standing around and talking about your feelings in a way people generally don’t.

We absolutely understand that the story needed a darkest-before-the-dawn tone. It’s not that we have a problem with the fact that everyone was hurting. It’s that we got very bored with the “We’re all hurting right now” conversations, which seemed to stack up to the ceiling by the time the end came. And what made it so odd was how unnecessary so many of those scenes were, since the previous few episodes had more than made the following points:

1) Matt felt alone and unsure of how far he was willing to go in his war,

2) Foggy was deeply hurt by Matt’s betrayal, and

3) Karen cries a lot and tends to get people killed because she’s reckless and has some sort of secret.

We honestly didn’t need any more scenes depicting any of these things. It’s not like weeks had gone by between episodes and we needed a refresher. At some point, the crying and the long talks with priests start getting really repetitive and right around the midpoint of the penultimate episode, we lost our patience with it. That’s when we started getting nitpicky (as we do) and wound up rolling our eyes at things like the massive cliche that was Ben’s funeral scene and wondering just why the streets of Manhattan seemed to be completely devoid of traffic and people when Fisk made his grand escape and pretty much declared war on the city. Maybe our expectations were too high going into the finale, but a lot of these things seemed fixable or preventable in retrospect. It felt like a series that had done an amazing job of avoiding them for 11 episodes, suddenly found itself drowning in cliches when it got to the finish line. After a while, watching Fisk give another halting speech before having a temper tantrum stops being all that tense or interesting, amirite?

Having said all that, we don’t want to end this review on a sour or negative note, because make no mistake about it, Daredevil season one has been a watershed moment in the superhero genre for television. It’s certainly miles ahead of similar shows like Arrow and Agents of SHIELD. And even if there were parts of the last two hours that frustrated us, we can’t deny that the emotional payoffs by the end of the season were very well-earned, not least of which was that immensely satisfying Kingpin vs. Murdock fight at the end. Like we said, it wrapped up like a superhero movie, rather than a superhero TV series, which is probably why they ran out of story near the end. Origin stories don’t really need to take more than ten hours to tell, it would seem. Since that’s a freshman season problem, we’re more than primed for the upcoming second season, as well as the companion shows coming up on Netflix in the next year; namely, aka Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, not to mention The Defenders. Considering how strong this initial foray by Marvel into Netflix programming was, we’re practically salivating at the prospect of the shows only getting better over time.

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[Still: tomandlorenzo.com]

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