Final thoughts go something like this:
While the action scenes are a lot of fun, Matt Murdock’s not terribly interesting as a main character in the second half of the season. Whenever he was doing stuff out of costume, I often found myself just waiting to get back to one of the supporting characters’ subplots (Foggy and Karen are pretty much the best; I would watch the heck out of an hour drama that was just about them doing lawyer stuff in the Marvel Universe). It’s not that Matt’s a bad character; he’s just not very unusual in the grand pantheon of protagonists. You know the type, childhood trauma, emotionally stunted, really has to beat himself up for the things that he does wrong.
On the other hand, Wilson Fisk is pretty much one of the most compelling villains I’ve seen in TV in a while. I was wrong about the autism reading that I made in my last post about the show (Fisk’s awkwardness stems from childhood trauma, as we learn in one of the best episodes of the season), though he still reminds me of someone with an emotional behavioral disorder. It’s a testament to the character that every time he’s on screen and he isn’t directly plotting how to make Matt’s life more miserable I really sympathize with him. Where Matt’s at his best when he’s interacting with his friends instead of being the brooding loner, Fisk automatically elevates a scene and makes everyone in it (particularly his assistant Wesley and his girlfriend Vanessa, who aren’t bad characters, but who don’t impress me with a whole lot of depth) seem more appealing.
Besides characters, there are a few plot points that I want to discuss (and complain about).
Spoilers for the end of the season follow.
First and foremost, I can’t emphasize enough how much I love that the show isn’t afraid to carry out entire scenes in Spanish or Mandarin instead of English when the context calls for it. The majority of characters on this show are multilingual and many of them have non-Anglo-Saxon backgrounds, so it makes sense that they wouldn’t converse exclusively in English. It’s a small but important gesture towards showing that the lives of all the characters, and not just the white ones, are significant. Of course, then the show goes and kills off multiple people of color, leaving the remaining cast at the end of the season significantly whitewashed. The most irritating thing about these character deaths is that they really do make sense from a story perspective. Mrs. Cardenas, the tenant who comes to Foggy and Matt as their first legitimate client, is murdered because Fisk needs to eliminate resistance to the acquisition of her apartment building. It happens after we spend a couple of episodes getting to know Mrs. Cardenas, and her death ultimately gets used for the sake of heightening the angst for Karen, Foggy, and Matt (she doesn’t even get the dignity of dying on screen where we might have gotten some last bit of fight from the woman who just wanted to stay in her home). The other character to die is Ben Urich (played by Vondie Curtis-Hall, who I will always remember as the guy who played Captain Prince in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet), a grizzled old reporter for the Daily Bulletin, a newspaper that’s fallen on hard times. Again, it makes narrative sense that Urich is targeted by Fisk; he has a part in uncovering Fisk’s past, and because it relates to Fisk’s mother, there really isn’t any other conclusion besides Fisk killing him once the dots have been connected. Fisk failing to kill Urich in his home in the season’s penultimate episode would have been a huge plot hole based on what we know about Fisk’s character. It’s still just frustrating to see him killed off because it eliminates the one regular heroic character who is also a person of color (Claire Temple, who patches Matt’s injuries up on the down low, appears too infrequently to be a regular character). It’s a frustrating thing.
Beyond that, the ending of the season works well enough, but the story beats feel very rote by the time you reach the finale. Matt, Karen, and Foggy finally make the connection that outs Fisk as a crime lord (I was so disappointed that no one ever actually calls him the Kingpin; the closest we get is Ben Urich’s playing card organizational chart that marks Fisk at the top with the King of Diamonds), he gets arrested in a very satisfying opera montage, and then everything falls apart as Fisk has orchestrated his own escape in the event of him being arrested. Matt shows up in his brand new costume (which he has one of Fisk’s own flunkies make for him in one of the most literal examples of Fisk’s very existence on this show making other characters better) and there’s a pretty brutal fight between the two leads with Matt emerging victorious, marking his debut as Daredevil with Fisk’s real arrest and conviction. It’s not a bad ending, but it’s not an unusual one either.
Ultimately, I have to say that I think Daredevil‘s first season begins much more strongly than it ends, and it has some serious flaws that I hope get addressed in future storylines, but I’m looking forward to watching more.