Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Daredevil Wishlist

A wonderful thing happened while watching Daredevil. Stuck in bed with bronchitis, too wiped to even sit up and read (my poor copy of Grace of Kings...), the show was exactly what I needed. There's so much worthwhile about it that I actively hoped certain characters from the comics wouldn't show up, and certain stories wouldn't play out, because of how cracking they would be as the focus of later seasons.

And lo, Netflix's Daredevil restrained itself. The season is about the feud of Murdoch and Wilson Fisk, The Lawyer Vs. The Mobster, with a few side characters fleshed out. Mostly side-characters are introduced with unlimited potential: the best buddy Foggy Nelson, Karen Page with a checkered past, the Night Nurse willing to treat heroes without exposing their identities. It's a great season of television as well as a cracking origin story, and at the end I had a wishlist of things for future seasons.

We'll get to that wishlist in a paragraph, but be forewarned: we're about to spoil the crap out of the show. If you like superheroes, you ought to give Daredevil a shot. The list of what could be coming will be waiting when you're ready. But if you're caught up, or if you don't care about spoilers*, let's dig in.

1) Elektra
Because finding her was a great idea.
Daredevil's college sweetheart who sweeps back into his life... as a master assassin. She has ties to the worst criminal syndicates of the world, and can go stonecold even faster than Daredevil. Throughout the 90's, she was one of my favorite characters in comics, and there's
at least one hint that she's coming, in a flashback to college where Foggy asks, " The Greek girl...whatever happened to her? She was smokin."

She's also a prime candidate for a paradigm shift on the show. So far, Daredevil has struggled through combat. He gets cut up, necessitating his new suit, but even with his agility and boxing training, he can't bowl over enemies. In the now-infamous hallway fight, he has to take a break gasping on the floor while the goons get back up. He's very mortal. He's very not Captain America, who would one-punch all of them.

What happens if a villain shows up who is on Captain America's level? She would be a terror for Daredevil, a villain he can't out-fight and has to strive to out-maneuver to save her targets from execution. In the comics, Elektra is arguably above Black Widow's skill in combat and stealth. She was born to tear through ninjas, and this show is already promising us more ninjas.

2) Bullseye
People had great teeth in the Nineties.
There's debate over whether Fisk or Bullseye is Daredevil's true arch-nemesis. Bullseye is a marksman that never misses. Any villain can peg you with a sniper rifle. But this guy? He'll ricochet a peanut shell off the coffee table and into your mouth so that it lodges in your windpipe. What's first a rivalry becomes an obsession when Daredevil is able to deflect Bullseye's shots - he can't handle missing.

He's another candidate for that actual super-level opponent that terrorizes Daredevil. It's great that the show puts the hero in positions of complexity, uncertain of how to move, and that'll deepen as he navigates enemies that are physically out of his league. He doesn't even have to out-melee Daredevil; if he's just even with the hero hand-to-hand, but can constant fire off shots and ricochet projectiles, he can put anyone in a fight scene at risk.

For better or for worse, Bullseye is also intrinsically linked to killing Daredevil's love interests. More interesting to me than fridging girlfriends, though, is the prospect of Bullseye and Elektra going at it, with Daredevil unable to stop them, unable to save either of them from the consequences of their actions. It can broach the entire topic of how he fits into a world that's increasingly outside of the grasp of mortals. Daredevil is always a better character for grappling with the things he can't do yet.

Bullseye is an even better candidate for that level of threat because he's often been depicted as loving superhero culture. He *wants* a gimmick and gaudy costume. Batman attracts themed villains for no apparent reason, while Bullseye cooks up his shtick because it's a fad he wants in on. He'd be a perfect reaction to the rash of costumed heroes setting a trend in the MCU.

3) A Fisk/Murdock team-up
With Fisk in jail, an easy way forward is to have him figure out Matt's identity and engineer his downfall. Kingpin is historically tied to both the "Born Again" storyline, and his more recent public exposure that landed him in prison for vigilantism. I suspect both of those stories are coming. And while both of those stories are ripe with pathos, what the first season really set up was the two of them teaming up.

In their first conversation, Fisk gives the classic "we're not so different" speech, but Fisk's arc suggests he really did want to improve his city. He was simply too unhinged to deliver. He clings to romance with Vanessa because he's in dire need of affirmation. Right now, the two absolutely despise each other, but are still driven by visions of how to best serve Hell's Kitchen. That's why the best end game is to make them work together.

Of course, if you want your original villain and hero to cooperate, you need an even bigger villain. Luckily, the show already teased its existence.

4) The Hand
Look familiar?
A guild of assassins in red, and possibly what Stick was getting the young Matt ready to fight (unless that tease is about what's coming in the eventual Defenders series). They are a perpetual thorn in Matt's side, hiring and later resurrecting the love of his life, tearing apart his friends, courting him in his darkest hours, and gladly leaving Hell's Kitchen on fire.

Unlike Kingpin, The Hand doesn't care about making the city a better place. They will destroy it for greater goals. At any time one Hand ninja can show up as a monster, or a swath can show up as fodder for Luke Cage and Iron Fist. They already got one dead-obvious appearance, as a red-garbed assassin laid a beating on Daredevil  that, frankly, it's ridiculous he survived.

I mentioned them resurrecting Matt's girlfriend in the comics. If you're like me, you were disappointed to see Owl, Ben Urich, and Wesley die. It seemed like a waste of good characters. However, The Hand has a history of raising dead characters in corrupted versions of their old selves, forcing their souls to serve the guild. A revived and corrupted Wesley would make a fantastic mouthpiece for the guild, and give them a psychologically troubling interface with Fisk, who was clearly so attached to him. In many ways Wesley was more responsible for the criminal empire thriving than Fisk, so sticking him in the new enemy camp, possibly resenting Fisk, would be juicy.

Similarly, Urich could return as the ghost of integrity that Matt and Karen failed to protect. Unlike most un-deaths in fiction, these returns would add an emotional edge to a group that mostly consists of fight scene fodder. And if the series holds true to Elektra's eventual demise, well...

5) More Night Nurse
Is this the Catholicism, too?
I didn't know that Rosario Dawson had been cast as the Night Nurse, and didn't even recognize her at first. The Night Nurse is a niche Marvel character, medically trained and willing to treat superheroes after hours, keeping their identities secret.

Dawson inhabits the character so terrifically that it's a disappointment when she vanishes - presumably because of scheduling conflicts or short budgeting. Every episode could have benefited from her conscience and the emotional tension between her and Matt .

I won't pretend to know why Dawson is only in five of the thirteen episodes. The matter is I want her in many more of the next season.

6) Devil in Cell-Block D
The storyline in which Ed Brubaker made me a Daredevil fan. After years of serving the innocent as lawyer and hero, Matt Murdock is publicly exposed as Daredevil and sent to jail with everyone he's locked up. Killers who've held grudges against him now can come after him in the shower, or by bribing a guard to leave a door unlocked. Murdock can't even defend himself half the time, because the more capable he seems, to harder it will be to convince a judge he isn't Daredevil.

In my favorite use of the character ever, the Punisher gets himself arrested just so he can keep an eye on Murdock. It's just brilliant, and a case of Daredevil out-Knightfalling Batman.

The tone and dire stakes of Netflix's series has Brubaker's fingerprints all over it. Several of Season One's shots even have that Frank D'Armata stark color balance. I could feel the show teasing me that my favorite Daredevil story might come to life later.

It's something that they can only do in later seasons after they build up more of a rogues gallery - with Gladiator, Mr. Fear, Tombstone, Bullseye, and others. It'll be tougher to pull off with Marvel's insipid and frustrating habit of killing villains (remind me why Owl needed to die?), but they've already deposited Kingpin in jail. It'd be too perfect to stick Murdock one cell over from Fisk.

Anyway, those were my six big desires. Other fans are dying for a Karen romance, and adaptations of Born Again and Guardian Devil. What about you, though?

*If we're talking about spoilers, you have to kick Netflix for holding off Daredevil's special costume until the last half of the last episode, and then making that same costume the damned series image you have to click to watch the show at all. Come on!


  1. Someday, I'd like to see the Daredevil movie with Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner.

    1. I enjoyed it, and don't think Affleck should have disowned it. It has a lot of strengths (a good Bullseye, Foggy and Kingpin, decent music, a few clever ideas). But Garner is so awful at playing Elektra in dialogue and choreography, and the character is so weakly written, that it's easy for the movie to fall apart. I didn't discuss her in the post because I'd rather focus on what Netflix can get right, and I have faith they can.

  2. I really should see and read these things

    1. I highly recommend them, naturally. Brubaker's run on Daredevil is remarkably easy to pick up from, too.

  3. I read the beginning but skipped the spoilers because I haven't seen it. I have to admit, when I saw they did a Daredevil show I groaned because wasn't the movie bad enough? But now you've got me curious, so I'll have to add it to my queue. Thanks for the recommendation!

  4. I hope you are feeling better. Being so sick you can't read is a bummer. Glad you had Daredevil to keep you occupied. I haven't read the comics, but the show sounds cool.

  5. I was also surprised at how good this show was- and so happy to see Iwen from Boardwalk Empire reincarnated as the title character (though I confess I miss the accent). I know nothing about the comic so anything they do will be new and awesome to me.
    Thanks so much for your comment on my story, btw!

    1. Oops- Iwen = Owen.
      also, Miss you like crazy^_^


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