In comic book parlance, heroes are rated by the power level they have and where they do most of their work. The kind Hollywood often tried and almost always failed to bring to life on the big screen has been what they termed “Street Level” heroes. (Batman has been the exception to the rule.) These are heroes who’s powers are not necessarily that powerful. They aren’t Thor. And often their villains are of the normal human world, the mob, cartels, corrupt government officials, spies, etc.. Despite his long association with the Avengers, Captain America is considered a Street Level hero because own his own, he is not that physically powerful. In his own title, he is usually dealing in “normal” human crime and political intrigue. Think Avengers films vs. Winter Soldier.
Daredevil is the epitome of the Street Level Hero. Beyond his senses, he has no superpowers. He’s not super strong, he doesn’t fly, he can’t heal quickly. The guy really has nothing but his knuckles (and batons) and iron will out there on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen. And that is pretty much where he usually stays. He occasionally gets wrapped up in the Hand, etc., but Hells Kitchen is his home and he is going to protect it.
Now we all want to erase the two hours of torture that was the Ben Affleck movie. And the Netflix series does that. It’s fantastic. They got everything dead on, and it works. The plotting is fantastic, the characters and actors perfect. It totally rocks.
Not in the least helped by the fact that they got a perfect actor for Matt Murdock/Daredevil. Charlie Cox nailed the character. Righteous without being self righteous. Cynical while trying to make the world a better place.
Who is Charlie Cox?
So if you saw Stardust (and everyone should), the fairy tale for grown ups written by Neil Gaiman (fantastic book, fantastic movie, especially due to the casting), you may remember this adorable fellow.
Who became this handsome young fellow.
Who now looks like this. Rawr.
(Have I mentioned I love brown eyes? And beards?)
And is playing this guy:
Who this character’s secret identity.
Even if the superhero-angle was not involved…
I don’t usually go for guys that much younger than I am, but HOT DAYUM! I’d wake up with him every morning. And not get out of bed for three hours at least.
(Though sadly, he too is a victim of entertainment industry’s chest waxing fetish. Poor lad.)
I just spent the weekend catching up/power watching (it’s a sport, damnit) Jessica Jones (oh so satisfying ending) and the second season/series of Daredevil. The whole Frank Castle storyline was awesome (Best on-screen Punisher E-VAR! And I appreciated the character rejected the PTSD defense because it was “an insult to those really dealing with it.”). But I just hated Elektra. I did not understand why Matt wasted time when he was desperately needed elsewhere, by the people who were truly his friends, on that spoiled, manipulative, murderous, self-involved bitch. She keeps breaking the biggest ground rule he lives by, and he’s keeps folding. The sex must have out of this world for him to decide their differing moral codes don’t matter.
In the comic book, Elektra’s death is one of the great tragic stories of Marvels history. The TV show? “Oh thank the Gods…wait. NO! Don’t bring her back to life!”
Yes, they uncovered a horrific conspiracy, but we’re supposed feel Matt’s angst being torn between these two utterly unlikable characters (Elektra and Stick) and the two characters we adore (Foggy and Karen) when I just wanted to slap the guy. I even felt bad for Frank Castle/Punisher.
Otherwise, the show is fantastic. Just the scene in the graveyard between the Punisher and Daredevil is perfect. It was the perfect reveal, even for a jaded comic book audience who knew why the Punisher did what he did.
This what Daredevil and Jessica Jones are: They live at the human level.
Jessica Jones was, at points, hard to watch. Not because of the physical violence, but the emotional brutality. It should also come with a trigger warning to anyone who has been through an abusive relationship or been raped because Kilgrave is a rapist and psychological abuser. The writers put the classic words of projection, gaslighting, blame the victim, accusation they wanted it, “I wouldn’t have done that if you had behaved,” etc., and then the “pity me, I only do this because horrible things happened to me” flip, of a rapist and abuser into Kilgrave’s mouth and they were delivered with completely frightening verisimilitude by Tennant. I watched Secret Smile a long time ago (utterly, catastrophically, abysmal plotting) and he does do that creepy abusive stalker ex-BF thing well. Kilgrave just gave him a chance to dial it up to 11. He is completely sociopathic/psychopathic. And not in a cute way like Sherlock. In an utterly “People are things to be used, toyed with and disposed of, usually by making them kill themselves in utterly grotesque ways for shits and giggles.”
I heard Ten/Doctor Who fans were having kittens.
And yet Tennant makes Kilgrave’s love for Jessica (at least the closest Kilgrave can come to loving someone other than himself) feel “real.”
And yet, in the almost the same breath he can order the servants he has in thrall to “peel the skin from their faces” if Jessica does not return to him in the two hours promised. (And Tennant makes it work by underplaying moments like that.) He is evil. But his warped care for her, his honest shock and heartbreak of betrayal, it’s “real.” You can’t feel sorry for the guy because he is one of those creatures who needs to be removed from the face of he planet. But it made his character more terrifying because of where those emotional extremes pushed him to. How dangerous Jessica is making him because of his feelings towards her.
I liked that Krysten Ritter was utterly fearless about making Jessica unlikeable.
You usually never see that in a lead. Even if the character is written as unlikable, the actor tries to find some way to make them appeal to the audience. Ritter’s Jessica did not give a shit, but people who have been through a major, life-altering trauma often are unlikeable. They’re prickly, if not actively shoving people away, untrusting, cynical, emotional mood swings. They are extremely adept at keeping people at a distance. And after time, you actually come to like the brutally brusque, drunk, foul mouthed, shame and remorse-filled, dishonest, skirting the edges of morality (occasionally falling over it), courageous, flawed heroine she is. It’s an excellent portrayal of someone who is still a victim stumbling and trying to find her way to survivor. Ritter is brilliant. She’s not afraid to go there. You get to like and root for the character not just because you sense her underlying goodness that she herself can no longer see because of the shame she carries for what was done to her. She’s a hero in spite of herself, in spite of Kilgrave trying to destroy that in her. (And Ritter played that perfectly!) You want to see her crawl back into the light. You want to see her conquer her mental and physical rape, because that is what he did, for an extended period, by conquering her rapist.
And it was so satisfying when she did. (Yes my dears, spoilers:)
And I like that it was not “I’ve killed my rapist and suddenly I’m whole.” That was just her first step. That’s real. There is no magical switch you flip and it all goes away.
The plots was intricate and extremely well done and satisfying, the actors were all brilliant. These are two great shows.
And I’m not just saying that because of this…
Really. I’m not.
(Adorable and shirtless!)