So I really liked the first two episodes of Netflix’s “Daredevil”, then disliked the next two, then skipped to the last one, which didn’t make me want to go back and watch the others. (I know, I know, I’ve been told that I missed the best stuff.) It seemed like this series was Marvel’s attempt to merge their sensibility with Christopher Nolan dark, gritty superhero-realism, and it worked far better than it had any right to, but ultimately failed for me.
The problem is this: Both Batman and Daredevil seem on first glance like ground-level heroes who can be given a more realistic treatment, but you quickly run into big problems, both logically and thematically.
As I watched the series, it just so happened that I was reading “The Wars of Reconstruction: The Brief, Violent History of America's Most Progressive Era” by Douglas Egerton, and it made watching the show into a queasy experience. Quick Quiz: Who’s talking here?
- “The corrupt authorities allow a ‘criminal element’ to act like they own our cities and endanger our loved ones, but we’re going to use vigilante action to stop them—Luckily, our enemies are cowardly and superstitious, so we will wear scary masks as we hunt them down in the nighttime, then leave them dangling in public places with notes pinned to their chest warning others of the same fate.”
One of my favorite moments from those first two episodes of “Daredevil” was a flashback to Matt’s childhood in which his father encouraged him to take a swig of whiskey. That takes a big load off the story, because it opens up the possibility that this guy was simply raised wrong, which allows his actions to be less logically-motivated.
But I felt like the show’s biggest mistake came when DD finally graduated to a real superhero costume at the end and they felt the need to explain that it was simply necessary body-armor...with horns, for some reason. Ugh. Please don’t pretend that this is logical. Ultimately, there’s only one good reason to wear a superhero costume: Because of course you would. That’s it. Either you live in a world where costumed heroes make sense, or you don’t. But if you try to make it make sense in our world, you have to make some very unpleasant assumptions.
More on the dangers of superhero-realism next time…