While I have previously discussed my instant love for the ABC TV series Marvel’s Agent Carter and my lesser enthusiasm for ABC and Marvel’s first attempt at a TV spinoff of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., today I’m going to take a look at the first two entries into a darker corner of the Marvel universe as featured on Netflix: Daredevil and Jessica Jones.
These two shows represent the introductions of the first members of a team that will eventually come together in a mini-series event (ala what the MCU did with Avengers) called The Defenders. Both of these shows, along with their anticipated companion series that have yet to air – Luke Cage, Iron Fist and the newly-announced Punisher – are all clearly working towards a specific endgame that make their mythology in coming together a lot of fun to watch from the very beginning!
Daredevil’s first season was released in April 2015, with all episodes immediately available to view per the typical Netflix binge-watching format.
When I saw the show, I went in ready to forget the failed film version featuring Ben Affleck and I immediately was taken in by this iteration.
Dark and brutal, there was still an element of hope to the series that strongly appealed to me, along with what always calls to me most about Marvel stories: the morality tale component.
In this case, Daredevil is the story of Matt Murdock (played by Charlie Cox), a blind lawyer who by day strives for justice through the court system with his law firm associates Foggy Nelson and Karen Page, while at night acting as a masked vigilante seeking the same results outside the system. His moral code is to take down the bad guys wherever he finds them, using his heightened other senses to compensate for his lack of sight along with his martial arts fighting skills; but he never, ever kills.
The scenes of violence in this show are so graphic and just utterly pummeling, however, that I frequently have to look away from the screen until they are over, despite the beauty of the choreography and cinematography of how they are filmed.
With Jessica Jones, which premiered on Netflix in November 2015, the lead character (played by Krysten Ritter) is a full-fledged former super hero with tremendous strength and the ability to leap and jump so high or far that it could seem like flying to some. But this strength is balanced by a damaged emotional backstory that includes the death of her parents at an early age, leading to her adoption into a new family, including a sister she loves and a mother she despises. She also was psychologically and physically abused by the villain introduced in season one, the mentally-controlling Kilgrave (played by the always-wonderful David Tennant). All of which informs the background for her despondent alcoholism.
Both series introduced characters that will star in their own shows soon – Luke Cage featured as a love interest in Jessica Jones’ first season, and the Punisher was introduced in Daredevil’s second season when it premiered in March 2016. While other characters, including nurse Claire Temple, cross between the two shows (and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her pop up in future series as well).
What quickly became clear to me in both Daredevil and Jessica Jones is that while the main characters are intriguing and both troubled, it’s the sidekick and villain characters who are even more interesting and definitely upped the acting and story components with their presence.
In Daredevil, I immediately liked Rosario Dawson’s Claire and the equally driven Karen (though granted I was already a fan of Deborah Ann Woll from True Blood) and Foggy grew on me – especially in the second season where he became more than just a Ron Weasley typecast sidekick. I liked Elodie Yung’s warped character right away (avoiding the spoiler of her here) and Scott Glenn’s Stick was just awesome as a twisted version of Master Po to Matt’s modern equivalent of Kwai Chang Caine. (Yes, I did just make a Kung Fu reference. Don’t judge. I’m pretty darn sure it was an influence on this show, too.)
It took me some time to warm to Jon Bernthal as the Punisher, but by the end of the second season of the show, I was totally onboard to see him spun off into his own series. However, the standout character by a huge magnitude from the moment he first came onscreen was Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin/Wilson Fisk.
Vincent D’Onofrio is one of the most powerful, brilliant actors out there. There is no one who can walk the line of controlled rage and uncontrolled insanity and yet still retain a completely compelling vulnerability amidst it all like he can. This role is perfect for him. And he is the greatest gift the show has to offer. Watch it even if only for him. 100% worth it. Simply one of the best performances I’ve ever seen anywhere.
In Jessica Jones, while I liked the cast – and especially David Tennant’s narcissistic Kilgrave – it wasn’t until Mike Colter’s Luke Cage hit the screen that I knew I had to stay with the show. He humanized the defensive and semi-unlikable Jessica into someone a bit more understandable by being as unbreakable, yet broken, as she was. He’s wonderful and I’m really looking forward to seeing more of him in his own series.
While of the two Netflix Marvel series aired so far, I am more interested in Daredevil, I love the tapestry of stories being woven amongst them all and I can’t wait for whatever airs next!
Have you watched Daredevil or Jessica Jones? How do you think these darker-toned shows work in context with the lighter fare of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?