Daredevil Retrospective: Where Superheros and Faith Collide


Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock.

   Daredevil is Marvel’s Charlie Brown. He is a man, who despite all his best attempts to stop it, can’t help but have things go poorly for him. It may be a strange comparison at first, but when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Both are very down on their luck, and seemingly wallow in the self-pity that comes with their situations. Whether that be Charlie not being able to kick a football because Lucy pulled it away just before he could kick it, or Matt Murdock failing to save a life as the vigilante Daredevil. In both situations, the two characters are like a car crash you can’t look away from, and despite failing and failing again, the characters both have this stubbornness that stops them from changing their approach. Matt is a very special character to me, for this reason. I love all things Daredevil, but the thing that really got me into his character, and that showcased this inescapable failure that I find to be so relatable, is the TV series Daredevil.

   Daredevil first aired on April 10, 2015, on Netflix. The show stars Mathew Murdock (Charlie Cox), a devout Catholic, who fights for justice within the legal system as a lawyer by day, and outside the system as a masked vigilante by night. Despite being an acrobatic hero, Matt has a disability. Murdock lost his vision during an accident when he was a young boy after he pushed an old man out of the way of a car crash. One truck involved in the crash was transporting dangerous chemicals. Those chemicals ended up in Matt’s eyes, causing him to not only go blind but also to have his other senses heightened, allowing him to be the skilled fighter he is later in life. 

   The show follows Matt, his law firm partner Franklin Nelson, or Foggy (Elden Henson), and their receptionist Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), as they try to uncover a criminal conspiracy taking over the NYC neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen. Not only does the show have an amazing cast of protagonists, but it has a stellar cast of antagonists as well.

   Daredevil has three seasons, in the second (and most lacking) season the villains are both The Punisher and the Hand clan, who are for the most part forgettable, and for the first and third season, the main villain is Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio). The series took a typically comedic villain, a character, for the most part, was known for being called fat by Spider-Man, and made him into a sadistic crime boss who seems unbeatable with the amount of power he holds over the city. A hero can only be as good as their villain, and Fisk is one of the best villains in not just television, but cinematic history in general. In the first season, he seems to be just a typical mob boss, but as the season goes on we learn more about his traumatic childhood and how he came to be such a cold-hearted person. As the series continues, Fisk meets a woman named Vanessa, who becomes his love interest. Vanessa is able to make him seem more human to the viewer, and as she does this, it is revealed he is essentially just a traumatized boy living in a terrifyingly strong man’s body. Humanizing him does make him more relatable, but no less evil. It makes him more violent because now all he cares about is protecting Vanessa. As the series goes on he almost acts like a dog protecting a bone. He has violent outbursts of anger, whether physically or verbally, and that aspect makes him even scarier.

Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk, AKA The Kingpin

    Making a villain a figure to be feared in fiction is very common, but giving the hero that same treatment is not. Daredevil is similar to other heroes. Like Batman, he strikes fear into his foes or has to juggle a double life like Spider-Man, but the show makes him frightening for a different reason. As I mentioned before, Matt is a romantically sad character. Everyone in his life seems to end up leaving him: his mom left him when he was a child, his father ended up being killed by corrupt criminals he was working with, and his mentor left him and made him feel worthless. Despite this, Matt always managed to stay strong and stay positive. The character in both the comics and the show uses his Catholicism to explain his almost superhuman ability to keep fighting despite all the issues he faces. This all changed in the third, and best season. After facing a near-death experience, Matt goes into hiding and has his faith tested. Matt doesn’t stop believing in God, but he starts to hate God for testing him and taking away the people he loves. He gives up having a life outside of Daredevil and abandons his friends, so they don’t get hurt either. Having Matt take this drastic turn made me very uncomfortable when watching it. Seeing someone lose faith isn’t uncommon, but seeing him still believe in the thing that gave him strength, only now he resents it is a shocking turn of events and makes an incredibly compelling character arc.

Even the posters for the third season reference Catholic imagery

   Speaking of character arcs, my favorite part of the show is how both Matt and Fisk’s character arcs are intertwined. Both are scared individuals looking for outlets to cope with the pain they are going through, and both see violence as a method to get their anger out. Matt uses his thirst for violence to help innocent people by protecting them as a vigilante, and Fisk uses it to grow more powerful in the criminal underworld to prove to himself he is a person to be feared. All good villains are a mirror of the hero, and the Kingpin is exactly that.

   Daredevil is one of my favorite shows. It takes a character I love and tells a deep and compelling story that I, and many others, can relate to, just like the stories of Charlie Brown. The themes of faith, and how it can help people get through difficult times is a great message, and I love the religious parallels the show draws. I think everyone who enjoys character dramas would love this show. Don’t let the fact it’s a “superhero” show fool you. It’s unlike any show I’ve watched, and I recommend it to literally anyone (as long as you’re okay with a decent amount of violence). All seasons of Daredevil are now streaming on Disney+.