Marvel’s Daredevil Season 1 Spoiler-free Review

Every time you think, “Marvel may have all the versatility in the world, but is common throughout everything they do”, they’re going to prove you wrong.

Blind lawyer Matt Murdock is gifted with heightened senses. When he loses faith in the judicial system, he decides to take matters in his own hands and uses his martial arts prowess and superhuman senses to fight crime as… an unnamed vigilante.

Daredevil takes the form of an origin story for both Daredevil and his arch-nemesis, the Kingpin of crime. Matt may already be living the vigilante life, and Wilson Fisk may already be ruling the underworld, but they are still trying to figure out what it is they’re trying to achieve, how they want to go about it, and what they want their place to be in Hell’s Kitchen. (That’s the name of the neighborhood in New York that they live in.)

The series takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and we clearly see the effect the events of The Avengers have had on New York. That forms a starting point for the plot. But you also need to remember that this is a completely new part of the world that none of the other material has tackled yet. This is about regular people living regular lives. And the crime is the sort that makes these lives more difficult. Like corruption. Drugs. Crime you can get away with. Unlike the movies, where the criminals aren’t even trying to pretend they’re not criminals. It’s the kind of life that makes it believable to us that a man who has dedicated years to perfecting his talents as a lawyer would lose faith in what he’s doing.

But with what Matt and Fisk do come moral dilemmas. They question whether they should be doing it at all. They question their methods. It can’t be easy to choose whether or not to take drastic action if you can’t see another way that would work, but can’t allow yourself to go that far. And it gets even worse when the third factor comes into play: your own wants. If you are uncomfortable with doing what you deem beneficial to your cause, it can cause problems. If you start enjoying the necessary evil parts of your job, that is a problem too. And we see all of that play out in this series.

Production quality-wise, superhero series like Arrow and Agent Carter are never mentioned in the same league as others like True Detective and Sherlock. Daredevil, I believe, transcends its peers in that regard. The actors deliver convincing performances, and I believe a shout-out is in order for Vondie Curtis-Hall’s portrayal of Ben Urich, an investigative reporter who has decades of experience, but his exhaustion makes him uncertain what to do with it. The score is great, too, with an especially creepy and haunting opening track. But the part that really stands out here is the action. The action is generally well-choreographed, as it really looks like the stunt doubles know their stuff, but there’s more to it than that. The choices made in terms of how to depict the scenes are downright brilliant, leading to some of the greatest fight sequences in TV history. The way it shows how Matt uses his senses to his benefit, the way it makes us feel how tired he is, the choice of when to cut the shot, or not to, and the sheer number of times Matt gets hit all contribute to scenes which go beyond fun, and actually contribute to storytelling through character development.

One thing I realized on watching this series is that Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D. wasn’t going to stay the best superhero TV Series forever. One thing I realized on reviewing it is that I cannot sufficiently express my love for it while restricted by the ‘spoiler-free’ tag. Expect a ‘thoughts on Daredevil’ post soon. Or whatever soon means for this website. Meanwhile, up next is my rundown of thoughts on, hopes for and expectations for the Eisner Awards 2015. Stay tuned.

I recommend: If you liked The Dark Knight Trilogy (that was a joke, I know you did), you’re going to love this. The grit, the realism the depth and the desperation are all reminiscent of Bruce Wayne’s own struggles.

Awesome 2014 #4: Yudh Spoiler-free Review

There are times when I feel like all hope for Indian TV is lost. Then Yudh comes up and I feel like we’re back on track. And then I get depressed again.

We’ve complained for years about the lack of watchable Indian TV. But what incentive do visionary creators like Ribhu Dasgupta have when people won’t watch? When the network airs the show at 10:30 PM, 4 days a week, and doesn’t even have a repeat telecast, how many will even bother?

Enough moping around, time to gain the series a few viewers.

Yudhishthir Sikarwar (Amitabh Bachchan), boss of a huge company he built from scratch, is suffering from a disease which weakens him psychologically and gives him only a few years to live when every aspect of his life is simultaneously and systematically attacked.

Yudh is a psychological thriller and I don’t use that term lightly. Amitabh Bachchan plays a character who, on the surface, is the typical angry not-so-young badass Amitabh Bachchan character, but inside, he is seriously screwed up. But even as he descends into insanity, it is impossible not to care about him when one realizes that he really has nothing to lose here. The thousands (or was it tens of thousands?) of people working for him could lose their livelihoods, bridges could collapse, everyone who cares for him may suffer, and that really is what shatters him, and not any significant personal harm.

And he’s not the only one. The show takes the typical tropes of the loyal daughter, the bratty son, the cautious sidekick, the efficient secretary and turns each one of them into characters we know and care about, but with some really ugly skeletons in their closets. There is no clear right and wrong here, and the biggest question here isn’t really “Who’s the bad guy?”, because we are left wondering how many of the decisions made by the so-called heroes make them the bad guys.

What a series like this needs the most is a mood. Yudh has it in spades. In terms of plot progression, the series moves at a breakneck pace, but in any individual scene, we feel not hurry, but tension as the action slows down for reflection, and to give the characters more time to really pull us in, to convince us of the gravity of the situation. And the score isn’t just the best I’ve heard in Indian TV, it’s one of the best I’ve ever heard. It was ringing in my head days after the series ended. In fact, it’s been playing in my head the entire time I’ve been typing up this review. I wish they released a soundtrack, but then again, how many people would really buy it?

Kay Kay Menon has a minor role in the series, and it’s worth mentioning because when he and Amitabh Bachchan are in a scene together, it’s him one focuses on. He commands it. Watch Shahid for more of Kay Kay Menon being awesome.

I recommend: It’s free on the Sony website and youtube channel. Watch it. Please. In fact, watch it and then rate it on IMDb. Also, recommend it to others. Indian TV is calling out to you.

Awesome 2014 #3: True Detective Season 1 Spoiler-free Review

This is one of those TV Series for which I will have to tell you how awesome I think it is before telling you the premise. The reason being that the greatness here lies less in the plot itself and more in the execution. This series is the best I’ve ever seen in terms of setting the mood and the tone of the story and the setting. So, in my opinion, the ideal way of entering it is with no prior knowledge of it. Take the word of the hundreds of thousands of people raving about it and watch it. It’s just eight hours long. Let the series tell you what the premise is and who the main characters are.

Not convinced? Sigh.

In 1995, two Louisiana police detectives partner up and their first case is an occult murder mystery. In 2002, for mysterious reasons, they end their partnership. In 2012, another dead body is found, murdered with the same M.O. The series jumps around between the three timelines, with a focus on the relationship between the two protagonists, played by Matthew Mcconaughey (Joseph Cooper from Interstellar) and Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy from The Hunger Games series).

Though once you’re done with the series, you’ll probably be introducing them as the guys from True Detective. Incredible actors as they are, these are some of their finest performances.

Now the premise makes it sound like a show about a murder mystery, somewhat like a police procedural (except that it’s one mystery for eight episodes), but that really isn’t the case. Corny as it may sound, the series is about life, the universe and everything. How does that even make sense, you ask. The answer to that lies in the runtime. The mystery doesn’t take eight episodes to be resolved because of how complicated it is, in fact, it could easily have been fit into one episode of a police procedural. Instead, the series spends an incredible amount of time to make sure we know exactly who these people are, what they believe and what makes them tick. Also, with the presence of the three timelines, the work of the series is tripled, but by the end of it all, we know not only who they are at the three stages, but can feel how and why they evolved with time, and how two people like these could ever be friends.

Through these contrasting characters, the show says almost as much about human nature as A Game of Thrones. These people aren’t ideal, not even close, in fact, they’re basically a***oles, but the series questions what we mean by good and bad, and how relative these terms really are. Moreover, one of these characters has a worldview that goes against the norm, so there’s a string of observations from his end about ‘the human condition’, making the show interesting even at the surface, but it gets even more intriguing when it goes one level deeper by showing us the contrast between what people say and what they really believe.

As for the execution, there’s a scene in which one of the detectives is questioning a local, while the other is just standing outside, looking around and taking notes. What’s interesting here is, that the focus isn’t on the detective who’s doing the questioning. Moreover, we see neither what the other detective is writing nor what he’s looking at. All we see are his facial expressions, for half a minute or so. That’s how these people approach storytelling, they show, not tell.

All in all, this is a series that approaches storytelling in a novel way, and is great because of that, and not the story itself.

I recommend: If you like really slow, moody storytelling, you’ll want to check this series out. If you don’t, let this change your mind.

Awesome 2014 #2: Comics and Related Stuff Goes BOOM!

2014 was a big year for comic book enthusiasts and pop culture fans, as the two worlds came closer to merging into one. With Marvel announcing Star Wars comics and Disney making an animated feature adaptation of a Marvel property, I think it’s high time to put these developments in perspective.

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Superhero movies rule: Two movies came out this year from Marvel Studios, one about the Guardians of the Galaxy, who we didn’t care about because we hadn’t even heard of them before, and Captain America, who we didn’t care all that much for because we had seen him before, once in a fairly average movie and once in a movie where RDJ stole the show. And both the moviesĀ ended up being awesome. So now we’re going to watch anything Marvel makes. As for the X-Men franchise, a movie series riddled with continuity errors, we got X-Men: Days of Future Past, the movie which, using some time travel tropes, deleted every other X-Men movie from continuity except X-Men: First Class, which was awesome. More importantly, X-Men: Days of Future Past itself was awesome, so there’s that. Notice that the three movies fall into genres of their own, one a political thriller, another a space opera, and another a sci-fi adventure. Superhero movies clearly have no limits.

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. … uh… changes…? Season 1 did not get off to a great start in 2013. Sure, there was Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, which was fun, but we could only watch the team take on another case every episode for so long. Then, Captain America: The Winter Soldier happened, and everything fell into place, everything started making sense, the stakes rose, and the series found a direction. Though if you thought that was it, Season 2 happened, and I started wondering if I was even watching the same series anymore. They dropped the case-of-the-week format, fleshed out, and developed, every character, and that’s saying something once you see the size of the cast, and the stakes are so high I’d sell my soul to get the next episode NOW. (Not my PlayStation, though, still need that.)

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Avatar: The Last Airbender follow up comic series concludes (hopefully not): The most essential thing to note here is that the series isn’t just additional tales of Team Avatar, it completes the story of the show. Questions left by the series, crucial ones like the nature of the new world order and the identity of Zuko’s mom are answered, and beautifully so.

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Marvel and DC diversify: Marvel comics introduced us to a black Captain America, a female Thor (just a woman holding Thor’s hammer), and a morally shady Iron Man, but the biggest achievement in my opinion was Ms. Marvel, a series focusing on a teenage Muslim Pakistani girl growing up in the US, not just because of the idea of diversification, but spectacular execution. DC Comics, on the other hand realized the importance of having fun once in a while and started a bunch of new series with a relatively lighthearted tone. It has payed off well so far.

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ALL THOSE ANNOUNCEMENTS! With Marvel and DC’s competition heating up, the two went into a frenzy of trailers and announcements, each trying to one-up the other until it escalated to the point that we already know what movies they’re going to make for who even cares how many years. Batman vs Superman! Civil War between Iron Man and Captain America! Of course, then Marvel dropped the trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron and now I don’t really care about anything else.

Now all we have to wonder is how long it will be before Christopher Nolan collaborates with Joss Whedon on a Justice League meets The Avengers movie. I doubt much else will qualify as news anymore.