I complain an awful lot about the explosion of superhero movies in the last few years, and about how virtually generic and same-y they're starting to become, but you may have noticed I have not made the same complaint about superheroes on TV, and that's because I genuinely believe the serialized nature of comic books and these stories in general has always lent itself perfectly to the medium of television. These stories were meant to be on TV, just like how they were originally played as serials that would play before films, way back in the pre-television days of the 1930's and '40s. That's where this material belongs and always will, at least in my opinion, because that's where they have the most opportunity to get it right.
Nowhere is this more readily proven than in the new Netflix Daredevil television series, created by Drew Goddard (fanboy extraordinaire and Buffy alum), which fully embraces the lack of content restrictions on its network to give us what is, in my opinion, having watched all of these things to date, by far the best filmed superhero story (movie or TV) Marvel has produced since the dawn of the new studio back in the mid-2000's. This is exciting, well-acted, action packed and perfectly serialized storytelling that takes full advantage of the medium it's been made for, and embraces the dark, Frank Miller-ized version of the Daredevil character to give us a gritty, brutal, made for adults (that's right folks) comic book series that will have fans eagerly binge-ing every episode until it's all over, and you have to wait a whole year for a new season.
The plan Marvel and Netflix came up with was to create four different superhero shows, and then team the characters together for a limited event miniseries called The Defenders, an extension of the MCU for the TV world. But Marvel's other attempts at television so far, Agents of Shield and Agent Carter, have turned in product that next to Daredevil seems fraught with mediocrity and Saturday morning cartoon adventures (and that's from someone who liked Agent Carter and thinks Shield has drastically improved since its first season). Daredevil is in another league though- this series takes a dark Batman-esque character and gives him a gritty Hell's Kitchen filled with scumbag, real world criminals to face down. Daredevil comes up against human traffickers, rapists and child molesters and spares no one in his viligante quest to rid his city of the rot that's infested it.
The show treats its audience like adults who can pay attention to detail, showing rather than telling us Matt Murdoch's abilities, which of course involve his heightened senses and martial arts training in the wake of the childhood accident that blinded him when he was nine. The backstory on Matt unfolds in fragments over the course of the entire first season, occasionally out of order but never out of place, as we see the adult Matt in the early days of his nighttime viligante activities (no red suit yet- it's more of a black ninja style getup, which is a lot more practical if you think about it, but the payoff to the costume is a thrill in the final episode). Matt's played by Charlie Cox, who gives us a sensitive, noble, brooding and conflicted Matt Murdoch, who takes his quest seriously, and embraces torture readily as a means of confession, yet agonizes over how close he really is to becoming the people he is fighting against. Unlike other superheroes, Matt is devoutly religious, a practicing Catholic whose frequent confessions at Church explore yet another angle on the superhero not seen very much, if ever, in these depictions.
A defense attorney by day, Matt Murdoch's secret identity, also unlike other heroes, is one that actually matters, as occasional episodes show us a procedural where Matt, his partner Foggy Nelson (a very funny and likable Elden Henson) and secretary Karen Paige (Deborah Ann Woll) attempt to take on criminals through the legal system, which is a setup that could even serve as its own separate series. Finally, the last element that makes this show the best thing Marvel's ever done is the establishing of a truly great and compelling villain in Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin, as he's known to comics fans everywhere (although he's not yet referred to as that by name here). Vincent D'onofrio plays Fisk, and he makes a conscious choice to play him exactly the opposite of what you'd expect. His Fisk seems constantly in pain, socially awkward and almost oddly sympathetic in what he explains are his own plans for rebuilding Hell's Kitchen that conflict with Daredevil's, yet his murderous monstrous side comes out when it needs to, just to remind us that this guy really is the supervillain you've been wanting to see- but a complicated, more interesting one than you thought.
Not every episode is perfect- in the middle of the season there are some storylines that are clearly introduced in order to set up the obligatory upcoming Defenders team up, and every time there's a reference to the actual Avengers, which are supposed to exist in the same universe as this one, you're taken out of the show a bit, because trust me, there's no way you can imagine the goofiness of Thor, Captain America and the Incredible Hulk in this dark, dangerous, reality-based city where heads are bashed in, brains are splattered and Matt takes graphic, brutal beatings that genuinely almost kill him on a weekly basis. In this show we get to see that he's not Batman, and though quick and abnormally alert, his humanness is put to the test each and every night as he's sliced apart and pummeled nearly to death, requiring constant care and stitching up (courtesy of Rosario Dawson, a friendly nurse who also seems bound to connect the Defenders in the future).
There are constant nods and Easter eggs for comics fans in this series- as much as the content is dark, adult and catered to a more mature demographic than the movies seem interested in reaching, there are plenty of hints and clues about what's to come for Daredevil lovers themselves. This is a show that was obviously made by those with affection and appreciation for the character who wanted to see him done right (and make good on the not so good 2003 Ben Affleck movie, which also attempted to go dark, but looks downright cartoonish next to this). The action scenes are spectacularly and even cinematically filmed, showing us just how much you can do without a gigantic budget for CGI effects (the answer is quite a lot- look out for a thrilling, Oldboy style fight sequence at the end of the second episode that will leave you slackjawed). At this point, Daredevil ends on such a note that I'd rather see a Season 2 of this show than I would any of the other, more obscure characters that are slated for the next two years- I only hope that Netflix takes heed and decides they feel the same way.