Daredevil: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray Review)
Release Date(s)2015 (November 8, 2016)
Studio(s)ABC Studios/Marvel/Netflix (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A+
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: F+
Few things in life are as enjoyable as Marvel’s Netflix series of shows. While not all of them are perfect and some are considerably not as good as others, they offer plenty of entertainment value, whether you’re a comic book fan or not. It all began with Daredevil, which now in retrospect, is difficult to imagine being unsure about. The only on-screen Daredevil that we had up to that point was the Ben Affleck film version, which had problems of its own. 13 one-hour episodes meant that the show could spend more time setting things up and getting to know all of its characters. Most folks were cautiously nervous about the venture, but handsomely rewarded. It’s now considered THE great portrayal of the character in live action form, helping to set up a universe of Marvel characters that eventually culminated in the recently-released The Defenders, which brings together all of the Marvel Netflix shows: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist.
The premise of the show involves a young man named Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), who was blinded at an early age due to an unfortunate accident. After the tragic death of his father, he is taken in by a blind martial arts expert named Stick (Scott Glenn), who trains him to be a powerful and proficient fighter. Later on in life, he becomes a lawyer, creating his own firm in Hell’s Kitchen with his best friend Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson). By day, he seeks to help clients who have no one else to turn to, but by night, he wields justice as Daredevil, fighting the criminal underworld with his fists, including the feared crime lord Wilson Fisk, AKA Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio). Along the way, Matt Murdock receives help from a recruit for the firm and eventual close friend named Karen (Deborah Ann Woll), a plucky and resourceful nurse named Claire (Rosario Dawson), and much to his surprise, his former master Stick.
The positive aspects of the first season of Daredevil know almost no bounds. The show is first-rate when it comes to performances and characterization. Everyone is given careful consideration and their relationships with each other develop in interesting directions as the story unfolds. Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson are, in some ways, the heart of the show, even though bigger things happen both to them and around them along the way. Their connection to Karen also blossoms and she becomes integral to their connection to each other. Wilson Fisk is, perhaps, the most complicated character of the show thus far. He’s given an ample amount of back-story wherein we’re asked to empathize with him. On the other hand, he is also a ruthless time bomb of a person, killing his underlings on a second’s rage. So even though we’re meant to care for him in some capacity, we still root for his downfall. As to how closely the show resembles its comic book origins, I’m not overly familiar with them, so I can’t fully comment on that.
On the technical side of things, Daredevil is quite adept, regardless of who’s in the director’s chair. The action scenes are perfectly shot with style and substance, choreographed in such a way as to be artful and interesting, rather than bombastic. The camera is almost still at times, allowing the action to unfold without an overt need to shake things up. The show also looks amazing. Although it’s primarily set at night, it oozes the atmosphere of the city, getting down and dirty with its world, only occasionally looking sophisticated when needed from a character perspective. The show’s highly-stylized and colorful opening (a trademark of every Marvel Netflix show thereafter) sets the mood perfectly, and you walk away from the show almost humming the opening theme. Speaking of which, much of the music in the show is used for effect rather than grandiosity, which also suits the realistic nature of the show’s world as well. All of these various aspects combine to make one of the most satisfying seasons of a show in recent memory. It has some minor flaws along the way, but none of them overshadow the immense quality that it carries.
Making the leap from streaming with variable speeds and bitrates, every episode of the show’s 13-episode run continuously impresses on Blu-ray. Although it was shot digitally, a strong and almost-organic presentation is on display, revealing a colossal amount of fine detail on both foreground and background elements. Skin textures, costumes, and objects are all captured at the highest level of high definition quality that you could ask for. The color palette, which doesn’t offer a wide variety of hues, is also electrifying (Elektrafying, if you will). Blacks are inky deep but with a vast amount of shadow detail, while brightness and contrast levels are virtually perfect. Nothing seems out of the ordinary, but if you look hard enough, you might spot a tiny bit of video noise or banding in certain areas. However, both are so diminutive in nature that they’re of little relevance, not to mention overshadowed by the sheer quality of the overall presentation. The only audio option available is an English 5.1 DTS-HD track, but it’s all that you’re really going to need. It’s a track that’s always in motion, meaning that all of the speakers get a constant workout. Dialogue is always perfectly clear and relegated to the front for the most part. However, score and sound effects, in particular ambient activity, are constantly being shifted. It makes for an involving and immersive sound experience, with a copious amount of clarity, dynamics, and LFE activity. Subtitles are offered in English SDH, but unfortunately, there are zero extras to be had.
As the Marvel Netflix universe continues to unfold with season after season of show after show, it’ll be interesting to see what directions they push each of their characters. While a second season of Daredevil followed, as well as his aforementioned participation in The Defenders, it’ll be a curious time to see what elements are incorporated from the comics while trying to maintain the world that Drew Goddard and his associates have created. The bottom line though is that if you’re any kind of a superhero fan, Daredevil is a must watch. Whether owning the show on Blu-ray is important to you will be a key decision in getting future Netflix shows on disc, something that is increasingly becoming something of an anomaly and could be a bad omen for said content. My gut feeling says to go out and support these releases. They may not be loaded with bells and whistles, but they’re absolutely stunning and solid presentations of a show that is definitely worth re-watching in a non-streaming environment.
- Tim Salmons