Action hero movies or television series don’t capture my leisure interests. Their typical tissue-thin characters, soupy relationships and gratuitous actions don’t make a good story. But I like Netflix’s “Daredevil.” The series is based on Stan Lee and Bill Everett’s “Daredevil” comics first published in the 1960’s. The TV series is a story well told. With 13 one-hour episodes, it takes its times in character and plot developments.
The Daredevil is a black-clad vigilante who fights crimes by night and is Matt Murdock who fights injustice, as a lawyer, by day. Because of a chemical related accident when he was a child, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) develops some extraordinary abilities. His blind disability is vested with other enhanced sensory perceptions. His law partner is Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson). His once damsel in distress and now office secretary is Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll). Foggy and Karen’s goodhearted presence is his urban-tribal comfort and security. They keep him grounded with acceptance, loyalty, affection and courage. His love interest Clare Temple (Rosario Dawson) is a ghetto-seasoned nurse who nurses his hurts, in body, heart and soul.
His antagonist is Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onotrio) who is the “Kingpin” of a crime syndicate in New York’s Hell’s kitchen. Like all evil personified, Fisk is delusional with self-grandeur and deceptively self- possessed that he is doing good by doing bad. His self-justification excuses evil intents with Biblical parables and philosophical discourses. What is more unsettling is his assistant’s banal evil. Most evil, Wesley (Toby Leonard Moore) carries out his boss’s brutal cruelties with acute professionalism in amoral quietude.
Far from being a perfect hero, Matt’s Daredevil also has a propensity for violence. After beating a thug to a pulp, he freely admits that he enjoys it. But Matt’s conscious is conflicted. Before and after every violent encounter, he agonizes over its moral implications. Implicitly, Hell’s Kitchen is still part of a moral universe governed by God. Matt’s moral compass is his Christian faith. His path finder is Father Landom (Peter McRobbie), a Catholic priest. Unlike how clerics are often portrayed as a tragic parody or a whimsical caricature, Father Landom’s earthy spirituality is refreshingly genuine. His authenticity is at once sensible and sensitive, and wise and righteous.
Matt’s faith in God is both his source of strength and sacrifices as well as doubts and guilt. When Father Landom asks where he is going, Matt replies, “I’m off to do my Father’s work, Padre, off to do my Father’s work.” His life calling is to fight evil. But his soul is tortured for want of violence to do good. Clare offers this to Matt’s angst, “I remember from Sunday school – that all those martyrs, the saints and saviors, they always end up bloody.”
“Daredevil’s” murky world is a dark place, where even good intentions are soiled with blood. It is so because its inhabitants are dark with sinfulness – even the hero. But as a study in contrasts. Fisk and Matt respond to their dark side differently. Fisk justifies his evil intent with self-delusion and deception. Matt’s better angel wrestles his sinful demons with prayers. In earnest, he seeks redemption and transformation from God.