If anyone has shown a dedication to the long game in big-budget storytelling lately, it’s Marvel. The latest addition to the ever-expanding Cinematic Universe is the Netflix series Daredevil, chronicling the early days of lawyer Matt Murdock and his crimefighting alter-ego. In many ways Daredevil is the best thing to happen to the MCU in a long time. Not only is it far superior to Marvel’s other television ventures Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter, but it often packs more of a punch — physically and emotionally — than the majority of the MCU films. The lack of cable television limitations or MPAA ratings means the show can be as dark as it needs to be. Most importantly, though, Daredevil shies away from the typical overblown grandiosity of many MCU ventures and opts instead for a very human drama.
It’s still a hero vs. villain thing we’re dealing with here, of course, but Daredevil is at its strongest when it plays away from that (striking the super– prefix from both hero and villain). Murdock gets his ass handed to him on a regular basis, Wilson Fisk is diabolical and yet relatable, and the street-level politics of the show are far more interesting than the end-of-the-universe Avengers stories. This is true of the comics, too, and as with live-action Daredevil it took a while to get the character right. There are a whole host of comic book influences for the Netflix series — primarily the Frank Miller tales The Man Without Fear and Born Again —which we’ll dive into now. Ye be warned: spoilers abound.
Continue reading Daredevil – Season 1
We discussed the significance of the episode titles of the first season of The Red Road in our review of the second episode “The Wolf and the Dog“, one of a handful of Native American legends employed as allusion and metaphor for the events of the series. “The Bad Weapons” is no different, but the episode goes one further in attempting to apply the belief systems of the given tribe (in this case the Blackfoot Nation) to the moral quandaries of Philip Kopus, Harold Jensen, and the other residents of Walpole, NJ.
There’s a Red Road subplot revolving around the years-ago death of Jean’s twin brother that rears its head again in “Bad Weapons”. It’s certainly an important history for the show (or at least the opening season), mainly because of the subtle intimation that Kopus might have been involved in that untimely demise. But as Jean and Harold’s daughter Rachel discovers tape recordings of the twin’s stream of consciousness, that particular storyline slips away from importance and approaches convenience instead.
Continue reading The Red Road 1.4 – “The Bad Weapons”
Apart from having an awesome title, “Penguin One, Us Zero” serves to better establish what The Leftovers looks like as a week-by-week television series. The pilot episode did a great job of setting up the new post-Departure America while not hitting us over the head with that world-building aspect, but the second episode really begins to delve deeper into the hearts and minds of those still remaining.
Chief among these (get it?) is Justin Theroux’s Kevin Garvey. Later episodes of The Leftovers will take pages from the Lost playbook and focus entirely on single characters, and “Penguin One, Us Zero” isn’t exactly one of these. But Kevin is front and center, as he should be, and some key elements of his character come to the surface in this second hour. His relationship with his father (played by Scott Glenn) is also introduced, and that’s an important relationship going forward into the thick of the first season. Most importantly, though: there is a bagel. Yes. On second thought, screw everything else. Let’s talk about that bagel.
Continue reading The Leftovers 1.2 – “Penguin One, Us Zero”
The Leftovers isn’t easy watching. The premise is a tough one: roughly two percent of the world’s population suddenly vanishes one October day, leaving the other ninety-eight percent to agonize over where they went, why they went, and what the hell actually happened. Three years on, the weight of the uncertainty left in the wake of the event is so fresh that it might have happened just yesterday. Justin Theroux stars as Kevin Garvey, Chief of Police in smalltown Mapleton, New York, and in the pilot episode it’s already clear what kind of devastating effect the disappearance has had on Mapleton and on Kevin.
Damon Lindelof is a major player here, the writer behind such other head-scratchers as Lost and Prometheus, and his stroke is evident in the first hour of Leftovers. This is one reason why the show likely defies those happening upon it as they lounge on the couch and flip through channels until they hit HBO – The Leftovers isn’t at all a casual watch. Lindelof shares creator credit with Tom Perrotta, who wrote and published Leftovers as a novel before turning it to the small screen, and it appears they’ve both adopted the “mystery box” theory posed once by J.J. Abrams. The Leftovers shows us the box, shows the top and bottom and sides and practically makes us beg to see what’s inside it – and Lindelof and Co. are aware that that mystery itself is more compelling than actually opening the box. The main box – containing the answer to the question where did the departed go, and why were they taken? – is the framework for the entire show.
Continue reading The Leftovers 1.1 – “Pilot”