Friday, March 4, 2016

Kingpin vs Kilgrave, or Thoughts on Daredevil

Fifteen years after 9/11 and we’re coping with the destruction of the Twin Towers by composing elaborate big screen fantasies involving New York being blown up in equal parts by an alien invasion and a team of superheroes, referred to in Netflix’s Daredevil as simply “The Event.”  Like 9/11, life changed after The Event for the people living in the Marvel Universe and created a power vacuum for opportunistic gangster land developers.  I could make an obvious reference to the 2016 election but I don’t like to get political, and I’m not interested in the low-hanging fruit.
Charlie Cox, AKA Owen “Bone For Tuna” Sleater from Boardwalk Empire, plays Matt Murdock, idealistic lawyer and doubting Catholic by day, and blind parkour MMA vigilante by night.  Also, Matt Murdock, Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Stan Lee never said no to a good alliteration when it came to naming his alter egos. 
The opening credits feature New York landmarks dripping in crimson, with angels and religious iconography finally turning into devil horns to a pulsing techno beat.  The religious overtones are essential to Matt Murdock’s character, his time in the confessional serves as a bookend to the series and his motivations.
But the real star of Daredevil for me was Vincent D’Onofrio aka The Kingpin with his sumo-wrestler physique in a tailored Kevlar suit.  He’s a classic villain who doesn’t consider himself a bad guy, introduced relatively late in the series at the end of Episode 3, graphically silhouetted against a white painting in one of those high end Manhattan art galleries.
Wilson Fisk is referred to as “him” and “my employer” for the first third of the series.  He’s a voice on the phone in the back of an armored SUV cavalcade.  His influence is shown before he’s onscreen, as loose ends are tied up in a murder montage intercut with blind workers in a drug factory and scenes of gun-running and kidnapping, all while Matt hits the heavy bag in a darkened boxing gym.
Both of these characters are idealistic, Wilson Fisk also grew up in Hell’s Kitchen and loves New York just as much as Matt Murdock, he simply has a different vision for the City and is also interested in building an empire and making a couple bucks by any means necessary.  At the end of the 19th century he would have been a Rockefeller or a Carnegie and have helped to build American Industry.
As played by the eminent Vincent D’Onofrio, the Kingpin is all controlled rage under a veneer of refinement, awkwardness and confidence in equal measures.  We get to see exactly how close to the surface his rage and brutality is when he decapitates a Russian mobster with a car door after a sympathetic and even more surprising, charming first date.  We understand men like Wilson Fisk, and we can empathize with them far more easily than say, Zebidiah Kilgrave from Jessica Jones.
Daredevil is an older series than Jessica Jones and the Kingpin is a villain with a rich history who’s fought both Spiderman and Daredevil.  He’s more relatable than Kilgrave and more significant, he’s not a meta-human.  He’s ambitious but not creepy, far less twisted than David Tennant’s Kilgrave and interesting enough to have his own series.  As charming and likeable as David Tennant is, he wasn’t able to make Kilgrave as sympathetic and vulnerable as Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin.

Season One of Daredevil is one long and traditional superhero origin story, there’s nothing post-modern about Matt Murdock.  Daredevil doesn’t even wear his iconic costume until the final episode.  But we get to spend a lot of time with all the major players; Deborah Ann Woll from True Blood as Karen Page, Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple and especially Elden Hensen as Matt’s partner Foggy Nelson, whose name always reminded me of Fozzy Bear from The Muppets. 


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.