We may have read the articles –which I have deeply enjoyed – about the humanization of the characters, the terrifying resilience and audience-softening vulnerabilities of our heroes and villains alike, of the gritty fight scenes, dark DC-like cinematography, and the steady and gripping flow of the one, main compelling story from one episode to another. But what about the lesser talked-about entrancing things that make the Daredevil universe so well-crafted?
Here’s 5 things – and don’t worry there’s no spoilers here – that really make this series really worth watching:
1. Representation of all, real relationships
Romance, innocent flings and flirting, confused tumbled ex-somethings, sweet, long-lasting marriage, tested friendships, parental protections and religious connections. The series doesn’t focus on the great, grand love arch of our superhero. But instead we get dozens of fleshed-out relationships spiralling out from the central characters to build a real world with dynamic relationships within it.
And these are relationships that transform very believably, often slowly, adjusting and growing from simple conversations, or exploding with catastrophic revelations, as relationships do in reality.
Let’s take just one of many beautiful-crafted connections – Doris & Ben’s marriage: A love triumphs all kind of relationship that is sincere and sad. No need for dramatics. They talked in the ways people who truly know each other would speak, their vulnerabilities open and protection of one another strong.
2. It’s a diegetic sound masterpiece
Here we have our blind superhero, with tuned and seriously heightened senses. As an audience we sense the world a little more like our main character, Matt. No, not in the embarrassingly clumsy techniques the Daredevil movie uses, instead using ubiquitous subtlety… Alongside the color scheme and careful cinematography we experience this wonderful clarity of sound. And this isn’t just limited to the closeups of our hero closing his eyes, really listening into the world. Go ahead, watch an episode, take in the close-up shots of coffee cups and drink in the sounds of lattes being poured – the clinking and rattling. Footsteps and typing, mobile phones ringing and doors closing.
The world-view we have through the screen has been carefully built through sounds and image to give us a slightly unique sensory experience – a symphony of the everyday sound of life.
3. The gritty, unromanticized corruption No spoilers, I promise! In our Marvel world, of course, we get some justice. But, death and injustice also unapologetically target the innocent and vulnerable, and then… just moves on. Alongside the terrifying high-level corruption, greed and power of the rich, we see the harsh truth of minorities who are exploited and ignored by the system.
Dramatics and superhero escapades fade to reveal, on a very personal level, what businesses and governments are getting away with in places like the US, and who pays the price for merely existing or challenging the powerful.
4. Upending of Stereotypes
“That’s what they teach you in trauma recovery – define yourself by what you have, value the differences. Make no apologies for what you lack. Ah, it’s all true for the most past but… doesn’t change the fact that I’d give anything to see the sky one more time.”
Though painfully honest about his feelings about becoming blind as a child, throughout the series Matt doesn’t perceive losing his sight as a disability or something negative. When hearing about a people ‘feeling sorry for him’ he retorts that he never wants that, as it’s just that he sees the world differently to his peers. Granted, he does have ‘super senses’ and knows what somebody across the room ate two days ago, but individuals all over the world experience the world in such different ways for thousands of different reasons. There isn’t a ‘normal’. Not really.
And, for once, our neighbourhood Catholic priest has his own journey, personal battles and story to tell – he isn’t merely a plot device. And characters whose rare involvements are for plot momentum, are still fleshed out and presented as people rather than things.
5. Feminism and masculinity – a united front
Feminine and masculine qualities are all twisted up together, reaching all characters. We see the destructive quality of the male ego -no spoilers- and our male characters sobbing, chests heaving, fragile, with no judgement. As it should be.
Thankfully, our female characters are grounded in reality – they are complex, strong, sharp, frightened, frivolous and vulnerable. Their varying strengths and weaknesses, basically all the women are so freaking different but not placed into stereotype tropes.
Especially in regard to one of our female characters who we’re lead to dislike, as the character’s appearance and attitude is something we -especially other women – have been brought up to hate as it’s a ‘stereotype’. But, nearing the end of the season we’re hit with her humanity and individuality, whether she fits into this yawningly berated stereotype or not. Our view is turned around, not because she has a sudden personality change and make-under, but by a decision and a little bit more screen time to present her as an individual – like all the other kick-ass and awesome women in the series.
Yes, the series could have pushed things further – they could have delved more into the representation of race, class, health and lifestyle, and they could have included audio description from the beginning instead of waiting for complaints –
But there are all of these things that they have done right, based on truth. When, through the screen, we can look at the reality of corruption on a local, national and international level, when we look at the feminine and masculinity in all persons in our own societies, communities and cultures, that people die for everything and nothing, seeing the subtlety loaded conversations between friends we all experience. And that secrets, small and heavy, are both guarded and released.
And that everybody looks at the world from a different part of the kaleidoscope.