Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Daredevil Series: 102 - 104

Daps, finally. Mostly for that hallway fight, but we'll get to that.

Four episodes in and a third of the way through the season, my enjoyment of this show has been inconsistent. Most of the players are fair in their roles, some are bland, and Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin, I cannot abide. The plot is thickening, but as it seems all roads lead to Kingpin, I'm not getting a sense of mystery or suspense. (It's Kingpin! He's behind it all!) My general feeling, which I suspect won't change much over the course of the show, is that there is a lot to appreciate about Daredevil, but the execution at times feels uneven, clunky, or just plain run-of-the-mill.

Episode 4 was more engaging than 1 or 3, because the show is starting to take shape, but the high point was episode 2. Rosario Dawson makes her debut in episode 2. Coincidence? Unlikely.

But seriously, I really feel like episode 2 should have been the pilot, as it best exemplified what this Daredevil is made of (way better than that speech to the priest. Show don't Tell anyone?)--the parallels with his Dad in flashbacks (predictable and a smidge heavy-handed on the foretelling, but kudos to the actor playing Murdock Sr.; one role where playing it straight set the right tone for the story and made me believe him,) and the crime Daredevil stops and how he does so--that hallway fight!

I previously said that Daredevil's heightened senses didn't appear to give a real edge in the first episode. Well, that's because in this show his real edge is in taking a beating and getting up again and again. That fight in eposode 2 was exhausting, and after the opener where we find Daredevil left for dead in a dumpster, viscerally intense and dangerous. But Daredevil just would not stay down. That's when I started rooting for the guy. Points for badguys also getting up. I've seen too many conveniently get knocked out by one punch. Bonus points for the camera work. Well-shot. Well-choreographed. Perfect location.

We do get to see more of Daredevil's abilities, which include enhanced smell and parkour. But the show has thus far stayed away from using any fancy 'tells' (CG, slo-mo, etc) to indicate when or how he's using those abilities, so his stuntwork around the city looked a little too much like he could see what he was doing.

Matt, not to be confused with his crime-fighting alter ego, is still too flat, and I don't know whether it's the actor or the writing. I get they are going for downplayed, but when he interacts with others on a personal or professional level, it just feels one-note. There's hardly any lawyer stuff going on, save for episode 3. Matt's colleagues, Foggy and Whatshername? Not interested*.

*Whatshername gets a pass, though, because she at least appears to have an arc. She's teamed up with Whatshisname reporter guy (I like him,) to follow the money in her former employer's shady dealings which almost got her killed in the premiere.

But on the whole, I found myself more engaged by the characters who were not major. Like Claire (Dawson, Daredevil's personal healthcare provider,) Murdock Sr, and Bob Gunton. Gunton can do no wrong.

And what about those bad guys? What we have so far are henchmen of the week. Presumably, Daredevil will work his way up the ladder, Streets of Rage style, while Whatstheirnames will work a different angle into the business side. There was Evil Josh Whedon (h/t Fields for the nickname.) Nasty bugger who's weapon of choice is a bowling ball. Then came the Russian Brothers, who specialize in rib-bone shivs. Mr. Slick, Kingpin's pointman, who has some interesting moments (I lol'ed at the quarter on the arcade machine, "I got next") but is otherwise played to type. Is he more dangerous than he appears or just a suit?

In any case, if the aforementioned examples of nastiness didn't clue us in on just how violent it will get as we move up the ladder, in episode 3, we finally meet Wilson Fisk hisownself and before we know anything else about the man we must know he is Complicated. That's why there is a piano playing and an art gallery and his confession to his crush, Vanessa, that he feels lonely. Ookay? But do go on.

We get lots more of him and Vanessa in episode 4 via their lovely dinner date. He was all shy and not confident at all in his game, so she pretty much encouraged him into it. Over dinner, we learn he's no monster--he had a childhood. On a farm, even.

Where he probably stoned the animals to death!

Look, I spent more time debating this character than any other but I'm good now. I'm not trying to understand what makes the psycho tick anymore. The writers may well be trying for unexpected or subversive characterization, but that one scene? That one scene, tho, with the Russian and the car door? Yo. Case closed. Not interested.

What made it worse was the clunky setup that took us from Fisk to Kingpin strained my suspension of disbelief. <spoilers> How did that guy get past Mr. Slick and into the restaurant which was apparently full of bodyguards posing as diners? Why the heck would he even barge in on another man's dinner? Is that bowing respectfully, per his original intent, or acting like a disrespectful fool? And why did Kingpin have to leave instead of having any one of the dozen guards throw the guy out? He was that embarrassed? If you say so, show. If you say so. </spoilers> Like I said, clunky as heck for so early in this Fisk/Kingpin/Vanessa arc. Makes me curious, though, how the writers will handle the romance. Trainwreck or masterstroke? Different clever or different like a sore thumb?

So, I guess I'm watching the whole thing, but this is where I end my reviews. I know my viewing tastes and I very much doubt this show will be as impressive, surprising, or engaging as I'd like. If it is, you'll likely hear about that. Positive reviews are much more fun.

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