The wildly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe has entered its fourth phase with no signs of slowing down. With each new chapter, the mythology continues to diversify to great effect. Whether it’s the globe trotting kung fu exploits of Shang-Chi or the century-spanning epic of the Eternals, Marvel’s brand seems poised to explore every manner of the superhero genre. The MCU’s venture into Disney+ has proven tremendously successful, and long form storytelling is a perfect match for that of the comics they’re inspired by.
Marvel’s resume obviously speaks for itself. While there are a great number of characters and stories that I love, Daredevil has always had a special place in my heart. I’d dare say it’s one of the best comic book adaptations we’ve ever gotten. The characters were rich, the writing was exceptional, and it crafted a layered corner of the MCU to dwell in. Despite the show’s cancellation, Kevin Feige has confirmed that Charlie Cox will return to the role of Marvel’s beloved blind lawyer. In my mind, Matt Murdock’s place in the MCU is not only exciting, but massively essential. Here, I’d like to explore why exactly Marvel’s Man Without Fear is such an important part of their library.
The Devil In The Details
Matt Murdock’s life is a seemingly never ending cycle of despair. The dour, crime ridden setting of Hell’s Kitchen accentuates the demons dwelling within him. As his world grew darker, so did he. The MCU is a tapestry of worlds and stories beautifully fleshed out by Marvel’s creative teams, but Daredevil’s narrative found a way to weave intricate threads into an established universe, making it feel that much more alive. Using film noir and crime thrillers as heavy influences, Daredevil was given a wholly original voice among other comic book adaptations. The Avengers save the Earth, but it’s shows like Daredevil that allow us to spend time with the communities and people they fight to preserve.
With three seasons comprised of thirteen episodes each, we came to know each character intimately. Matt, Karen, Foggy and Fisk felt like human beings that we could reach out and latch on to. Hell’s Kitchen, their beloved home, was as dark and cold as the show’s antagonists. But our heroes had a warmth and sincerity that made the city come alive. While the Avengers battled otherworldly threats, Matt Murdock lurked down below, combating common criminals, murderers and thieves. The smaller stories matter too, and Daredevil is the vulnerable every man in a world of gods and monsters.
A World On Fire
As stated, Daredevil’s story is not one to envy. He’s a tortured soul navigating an enormous amount of challenges. His friendships, his career, and moral code are difficult enough to balance, but his enemies are what push him to his breaking point. Though Matt often prevails, he struggles along the way. He endures the cuts, bruises and broken bones, but his spirit remains intact. As the audience, we need heroes to relate to and feel for. Luckily, Daredevil’s environment packs plenty of nuance and layered grit to challenge Matt’s ideology. In the depths of Hell’s Kitchen lurks a grimy criminal underworld that serves as a fantastic vessel to explore Matt’s inner conflicts.
Wilson Fisk and his subordinates challenge Matt’s faith and morality. The character is a walking contradiction. He believes in the law, but engages in brutal vigilantism night after night. His actions conflict with the word of God he chooses to live by, and it creates a beautifully engaging dilemma at the center of the superhero drama. Daredevil’s themes often explored ideas of guilt, parenthood, depression, and forgiveness. In doing so, the series perhaps granted viewers with one of the most innately human stories ever brought to screen by Marvel. He often displays levels of selfishness and irritability, valuing his double life over his friends’ feelings. He’s not gifted with superhuman strength or invulnerability. For the most part, Matt Murdock is an ordinary man, but he faces extraordinary hardships both internally and externally.
Hope And Faith
Daredevil’s third season begins with Matt Murdock at his lowest low. His faith is shattered. On top of that, he’s seemingly lost everything. He takes up refuge in a church cellar, dwelling in the depths of his own personal hell. His relationships with God and his friends are strained. However, over the course of the season, Matt finds his way back to being the man we want him to be. By the finale, he sits side by side with Karen and Foggy sharing a laugh. With Fisk beaten, Matt is ready to rebuild his life and career. It may not seem so initially, but Daredevil’s story is an incredible testament to the importance of hope in the darkest of times. Moreover, it’s a reminder that one can recover from unimaginable suffering.
Daredevil explores a number of themes, but everything circles back to one single idea: faith. Not simply religious faith, but faith in all things. Faith that life can improve, that evil can be beaten, and that there’s a better tomorrow. The story of Matt Murdock is one often marred with tragedy and turmoil, but he presses on with a belief that the demons of New York’s underworld can be stopped. This single idea is inherent to most forms of superhero media, but Daredevil found a beautifully complex way to convey it. Matt faces a number of traumatic experiences over the course of the show’s three season run, but he emerges with a newfound optimism about the world around him. Daredevil and his corner of the MCU are incredibly important, and deserving of an everlasting cinematic life. –Danny O’Brien