Marvel's Daredevil


It's hard not to compare Netflix's first Marvel show, Daredevil, with Fox's Gotham. Both are based on superhero comics that are relatively well known, and both are kind of experimental in a way. The former is Marvel's first foray into video-on-demand programming through US Internet subscription service, Netflix, and the latter is a Batman show without Batman. However, both of them share a strong crime drama bent; they focus more on the crime and corruption in their cities, rather than the superhero aspects of their heroes.

After watching 5 episodes of Daredevil, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that Marvel's experiment succeeded, while DC's has failed incredibly.

I gave Gotham a shot, but it suffered from so many issues that I could never get into it. Start with the fact that it is a prequel, so we essentially know what's going to happen (Bruce Wayne grows up to become Batman and he fights all the supervillians). Nothing really feels like it matters since we know Penguin's going to live, Catwoman's going to become a super-thief, E. Nygma becomes Riddler, and eventually the Joker's going to show up somehow. Oh, and Gordon won't ever die, because he's supposed to be Commissioner.

On top of that, it feels like the showrunners never had a plan for the show. They came up with this high concept gimmick, "Hey, what if we saw what Gotham was like before Batman?", and didn't layout any kind of overlying plot to give people a sense of continuity. As a result, the series is episodic, as if they write it on the fly.

Thankfully, Daredevil doesn't suffer from the same lack of vision.


In the series, Charlie Cox plays Matthew Murdock, a lawyer who helps those who live in his hometown. Growing up in Hell's Kitchen, a neighborhood in New York City which provides transport, medical, and warehouse infrastructure to Manhattan, young Matt saves an old man from being hit by a truck carrying toxic chemicals. Hurt in the accident, Matt loses his eyesight but gains enhanced senses that grant him abilities beyond most men. Learning that the law can't always help those in need, Murdock takes matters into his own hands as a masked vigilante.

The first episode sets the tone for the series right off, and it's not the campy superhero show of the CW DC universe. The Netflix Marvel-verse is tied lightly to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and mention of the alien invasion that devastated Manhattan sets the scene of the first season. In the void after the attack there are new heads of organized crime, and they've bought out the politicians, the police, and the media.

This is a straight up crime drama.


Matt is assisted in his crusade by Foggy Nelson, his partner in the new law firm that he's started in the center of Hell's Kitchen. Elden Henson plays Foggy well, and is a prime example of how none of the characters in this series go to waste. Foggy is Matt's heart, keeping him on the straight in his moral path.

Others help Matt from time to time as well. Deborah Ann Woll plays Karen Page, Nelson & Murdock's first client. Framed for murder, she is saved from a prison sentence by Foggy and Matt and becomes their secretary. Vondie Curtis-Hall plays Ben Urich, a reporter dead set on exposing the corruption in the highest levels of the city government. Rosario Dawson is Claire Temple, a nurse who patches up Murdock after his nights on the town.

On the flip side, we have Vincent D'Onofrio playing Wilson Fisk. He's never called "The Kingpin" in the show, but his performance was every bit worthy of the name. He plays the role like an animal just barely kept in check by the trappings of civilization, and he becomes more and more unhinged as his plans for the betterment of his city are torn away.


Because the show isn't on network TV, it has a license to be more intense and grittier than other programs. One benefit of this is the foul-mouthed Stick, Murdock's mentor who appears towards the middle of the season. He's ably played by Scott Glenn, and is one character I want to see more of in future seasons (or in the coming follow-up, Iron Fist).

You also see this freedom in the brutal fight scenes. Each episode has at least one well choreographed and well shot set piece. If you've watched The Raid, or Old Boy, you'll find the fights very familiar. There's one single-take hallway fight that is just sublime. Murdock's style is less super mystic ninja, and more down and dirty bar room brawler. There's a roundhouse kick or two somewhere, but most of the time he's taking damage as well as giving it. Not an episode goes by where he's not injured in some way or other.

Which makes the show all the more human. He's not super-powered, just very, very ornery.


I was never one of those that really hated the Daredevil movie. It was entertaining, but I realize it never aspired to be anything more than that. Its approach to it was that it was a campy comic book, but from my admittedly meager knowledge of the character, that was never the tone of the original material. Frank Miller, famous for his dark take on Batman, also did some seminal work for Daredevil. Other creators have also taken a pass at the character and it's more of a noir piece than anything else.

The themes of the book, the questions about morality, Matt's Catholic guilt, his father's influence on his life, and the all encompassing corruption are the same aspects that make this series probably the best comic book adaptation out there. I'd put it even above Nolon's The Dark Knight.


And I haven't even mentioned the subplots that the series has hinted at. There's easter eggs about The Chaste (an ancient group of samurais), The Hand (an ancient group of demon ninjas), and the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven (warring mystical cities that tie this in closely to the Iron Fist mythos). Exciting stuff!

To sum it up, Marvel's Daredevil is by and large worth the 11 hours or so that it'll take you to binge-watch the entire first season. Since it's a Netflix show, all 13 episodes were released last week, which is a good thing.

It just sucks that now we've got to wait a year to see any more of it.

iZombie

There are only a few shows that catch my attention straight out of the gate. Even one of my favorite programs of all time, Firefly, didn't wow me when I first watched the pilot episode. So when Hollywood comes out with a winner like this one, I feel I need to spread the word.

iZombie is a series that airs Mondays on CW, the home of other great comic-based tent pole shows, The Flash and Arrow. It's a little different from those two shows in that it's less superhero action, more crime/buddy cop comedy, and that it stars a woman in the lead role.

The story focuses on Liv Moore, a med student who has a happy, stable life with her loving family, sweet fiance, and bright future as a Doctor. One night she decides to live a little and go to a big party she's been invited to. Unfortunately, a zombie decides to crash the party and Liv is among the casualties lying in a body bag on the beach in the morning.

Naturally, she gets back up.

Now needing brains in order to survive, she takes a job as a medical examiner in order to feed off corpses before their committed to the ground. While she needs the brains to keep from turning into a mindless, well, zombie, she finds out that eating them also allow her to see flashes of the owners' last moments of life, as well as adopt a few character traits.

What's a young woman to do?

Well, if your in a series developed for television by Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero, the pair behind the awesome Veronica Mars, then you decide you need to fight crime to a nice, upbeat voiceover track.

The show really does feel like Veronica with zombies in it. The lead actress, Rose McIver, has almost as much adorable pluck as Kristen Bell did and still manages to portray Liv with a vulnerability that makes you hate the fact that she can't tell her family that she's actually already dead.

Speaking of, Liv's family and friends look like they'll play a pretty big role in the show. Aly Michalka of Hellcats plays Liv's best friend, Molly Hagan is her mother, Eva, and Robert Buckley plays her estranged fiance, Major Lilywhite. The pilot episode's B plot is focused mainly on how worried these folk are that she's changed so much since the boat party and essentially become a closeted shut in, dropping out of school, leaving Lilywhite, and spending all her time at the new dead end job.

Her job is where we meet the two supporting cast members, Rahul Kholi as Dr. Chakrabarti, Liv's boss in the morgue, and Malcolm Goodwin, Detective Clive Babinaux, a cop who thinks that Liv is a psychic thanks to Chakrabarti.

The second episode introduces David Anders as Blaine, a former drug dealer who turned into a zombie at the same boat party Liv attended and is apparently going to play the main antagonist of the series' first season.

 


The first two episodes that have aired show us a quirky little show that offers a much lighter tone than other zombie media out there. If you want gory, depressing melodrama, then you should probably be catching up on The Walking Dead. If you want campy B-movie type action, you should try out ZNation.

But if you're looking for something a little bit funny and sweet, but with just a hint of that undead color (or lack thereof) you should give iZombie a try.

 

Doctor Who: Death In Heaven

The last time I’ve seen a Doctor Who finale this satisfying was with The Big Bang from way back in 2010. Death In Heaven is a fantastic, if subdued, finale that neatly ties almost all of the ideas that were introduced with Peter Capaldi’s first outing as the Doctor. Sit back, and I’ll talk about Death In Heaven and the first eleven episodes that led us here.

Warning: spoilers after this point.

One of my biggest complaints with Matt Smith’s tenure as the time travelling alien in Doctor Who was that the stories were too ambitious and stuffed with ideas while the execution suffered from a host of problems. Mainly, the BBC’s budget isn’t enough and the annoying no two-part stories imposed by the BBC in Series 7. While I believe Matt Smith is one of the best Doctors ever, his era will be largely be remembered as the “time-wimey era” – a time where bootstrap paradoxes and plot pyrotechnics took precedence over character growth. Bootstrap paradoxes are fine by me, believe me – The Big Bang is my favorite finale ever – but by the time The Time Of The Doctor rolled around that particular plot device elicited nothing but a huge groan from me.

And as I predicted when Capaldi was announced as the Doctor, he doesn’t fuck around.  The scope of the stories may be smaller – no more threats against all of space and time – but the Twelfth Doctor is a darker, more abrasive incarnation who doesn’t flinch when people die, doesn’t mince his words when he knows he’s about to kill his enemy, and doesn’t fancy himself as a big hero or legend like his predecessors. He’s just a traveler passing by, and you’re lucky if he manages to be there to save your life.

The eight season dwelt a lot – maybe a bit too much – on death. It was a major theme introduced in the very first episode when the Half-Faced Man found himself in Paradise with the mysterious Missy. Death was a constant presence in this season, and it all came to a head when Missy literally raises every dead being on earth in Dark Water/Death in Heaven.

Read more: Doctor Who: Death In Heaven

 

What made Batman badass? Gotham.

Warner TV is set to launch Gotham, the action-packed series that tackles the story of the city's thriving system of organized crime and the law enforcers who are fighting a losing battle against the darkness and decay that threatens to swallow them all whole. 

You have to admit that there's the making of a great story there. Gotham has always been the city of Tim Burton's dreams, always dark and seedy and dangerous - even when it's the middle of the day, there always seems to be something nasty and grimy about it, tinged with a bit of despair. Plus, it's the city that made the goddamned Batman. While Bruce must have been pretty twisted to start hopping around in a latex suit after someone shot his parents, you have to be pretty curious about what happened to push him over the edge.

So yes, technically, the series could have been titled Bruce: the Lost Years, but who'd tune in to see that?

Read more: What made Batman badass? Gotham.

 

Post-Mortem Report: Alberto del Rio

 

POST-MORTEM REPORT


Autopsy: 0820144D

DECEDENT: Alberto Rodriguez

KNOWN ALIASES: Alberto del Rio, Alberto Banderas, Dos Caras, Dos Caras, Jr., El Hijo del Dos Caras, Dorado, Joaquin Swagger, Mexico’s Greatest Export

Rigor: absent
Age: 37
Race: Latino
Sex: Male
Height: 77 in.
Weight: 240 lbs.
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Black
Heat: Lukewarm at best, unnervingly cold at worst

CLOTHING

  1. Black T-shirt with the words “Hecho en Mexico” printed
  2. Driving scarf
  3. Wristbands
  4. Wrestling trunks
  5. Kneepads
  6. Wrestling boots

 

EXTERNAL EXAMINATION

Well-developed, well-nourished Latino male with adequate bulk and build for any championship in pro wrestling. Fair, smug-looking face, not ugly but not modelesque; perfect for a heel. Decent to solid talker with comfortable command of the microphone. Excellent in-ring worker with an agile and athletic yet hard-hitting and impactful style of offense. Moves quick in the ring as a result of this training. Peppers his work with mannerisms expected of a pro wrestling heel, but has also shown to be capable of gestures intended to charm the audience. Overall, a total package asset, regardless of actual and perceived legacy.

Read more: Post-Mortem Report: Alberto del Rio

 
   

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