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10 Things We Learned at the Netflix Daredevil Junket

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Barry Wetcher/Netflix
Charlie Cox in Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix

We don’t blame some people for having already planned to call in sick on April 10 when Marvel’s Daredevil goes live on Netflix. It’s okay, your secret’s safe with us. People do it for new seasons of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, so now it’s our turn. The first show in Marvel’s deal with Netflix isn’t just a chance to do the character right after the atrocity of the Ben Affleck movie. It’s also the beginning of Phase 1 of Marvel’s TV plans. They’re also doing TV series of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, to build up to a team-up series The Defenders.

Yesterday, Netflix held a junket in Los Angeles for Daredevil. Stars Charlie Cox (Matt Murdock), Rosario Dawson (Claire Temple), Elden Henson (Foggy Nelson) and Deborah Ann Woll (Karen Page) were there, along with showrunner Steven S. DeKnight and Marvel Head of Television Jeph Loeb, who is basically the Kevin Feige of TV. Here are the 10 things we learned about Daredevil to tide you over until you can watch it next week.

10. Daredevil Has Something in Common With True Detective.

Will Daredevil win a bunch of Emmys? Will it somehow resurrect Matthew McConaughey’s career yet again? Both those scenarios remain to be seen, but one thing it does share with the HBO hit True Detective is an opening title sequence designed by Elastic.

“We had multiple companies come in and pitch and all of them had a variation of the same idea, you zoom into the human eye and there’s a SONAR layout of the city,” DeKnight said. “This company, Elastic, came in and they had multiple pitches. This was one of them with this dripping fluid like blood revealing everything.”

Watching the titles pitch turned DeKnight and Loeb into gushing fanboys for at least one day. “Jeph and I sat up like an electric shock when we saw that,” DeKnight continued. “You’re always very polite in the room and ‘Oh, that’s really great.’ And they left, I’m like, ‘Oh, we’ve got to do that one.’ Then we showed it to Marvel and Netflix and they really liked it, and they knocked it out of the park. I’ve seen all the episodes, I’ve watched them back to back and never once fast-forwarded through that opening sequence because I love it so much. It’s such a joy to look at.”

9. The Script Was the First Daredevil Issue Charlie Cox Read.

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Barry Wetcher/Netflix
Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock in Daredevil

So Daredevil debuted in Daredevil #1 in 1964. 12 issues a year for the next 50 years would mean at least 600 Daredevil comics have been printed, but that’s not even including crossovers and spinoff runs. Charlie Cox hadn’t read any of them before he got the part. Even his costar, Rosario Dawson, is a comic book geek who’s read a ton. But they say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so maybe it’s good that Cox’s first time was the actual script he would be shooting.

“I didn’t grow up on comics and I read very few, and I hadn’t read any Daredevil comics,” Cox said. “Which is a shame, I now know is a shame, but actually in some ways kind of served me quite well because the first anything Daredevil that I was subjected to were the first two scripts by Drew Goddard. So in a way it was quite helpful because I was then able to go away from having read them, read the comics starting from 1964 and work my way up. I was able to identify series or different artists or illustrators and writers that best suited the show that I read. As it were, I didn’t have too many preconceived ideas of who I thought the character should be or what the show should be like. I was able to just isolate the comics that best suited the show that I’d read and focus in on those.”

8. Why Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist Are the Perfect Defenders

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Barry Wetcher/Netflix
Charlie Cox and Elden Henson in Daredevil

When Marvel said they wanted to create TV’s version of The Avengers, Netflix must’ve had to think long and hard about whether they wanted to commit to something so lucrative. Like, probably for as long as it takes to switch between episodes of a binge-watching session. It was harder for Marvel.

“We needed something that was organic,” Loeb said. “We couldn’t just randomly pick four characters and say this is what we’re going to do and then we’re going to put them on the team and hope it all works out. These were characters that had known each other in the comics and had had relationships, particularly in the case of Jessica and Luke Cage. It gave us an opportunity to really look at that and find the best way to tell those stories. That’s where it always begins. The Avengers, as we like to say, are here to save the universe. These heroes are here to save the neighborhood.”

7. Daredevil Is Picking up the Avengers’ Garbage.

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Barry Wetcher/Netflix
Charlie Cox and Deborah Ann Woll in Daredevil

Speaking of saving the neighborhood, it turns out the job was not done when The Avengers severed the Chitauri from their mothership. The big guys didn’t stick around long after that. They just had a nice shawarma dinner and left for their respective solo movies. Now Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson are getting a lot of business defending the criminal element that’s moved in.

“New York’s been torn apart by the aliens and now everyone’s trying to deal with it,” Henson said. “That’s how the mob got their foothold in Hell’s Kitchen, from the whole Avengers fight. The Avengers don’t realize all this crime has trickled down because of their actions and I think that’s so interesting how now that New York’s been torn apart, what’s going to happen with the criminal element if they’re not dealing with it.”

We’re not trying to start an Avengers/Defenders turf war here. The point is we need both. “There’s a rationalization for why we need people to deal with the stuff on the streets and we need people to deal with the gods and aliens,” Woll added. “They’re all linked but in the same way, Thor can’t bother himself with a gangster and Daredevil can’t take on an alien.”

6. Blind Eyes Do More Than You Realize.

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Barry Wetcher/Netflix
Charlie Cox a Matt Murdock in Daredevil

They say when you lose one sense, your other four senses compensate for it. And when you get blinded by toxic chemicals, your other senses become super powered. So Matt Murdock can basically “see” better than the rest of us, but biologically his eyes don’t work. To play Murdock, Cox had to do more than just wear sunglasses. These are the sorts of things we take for granted, but actors notice what blind people do with their eyes, since they’re not scanning the room like the rest of us.

“There’s also the difficulty of the eyes themselves and what they do when he’s not wearing his mask or he’s not wearing his glasses,” Cox said. “What are his eyes doing and what would that look like? I worked very closely with a wonderful gentleman called Joe Strechay who’s been legally blind for 20 years. I spent a lot of time working with him on my cane technique and household chores and things like that, but also I filmed him talking to me and filmed his eyes in particular and what they were doing. That whole area was one area that I concentrated on a lot.”

5. Daredevil Will Get Bloody.

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Barry Wetcher/Netflix
Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix

The Marvel movies have been PG-13 and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and were on primetime ABC. Netflix can go full HBO if they want to, although they haven’t really. There’s language on House of Cards and nudity on Orange but they haven’t done their Game of Thrones yet, and they’re not starting with Daredevil. DeKnight’s last show, Starz’ Spartacus was way bloodier and debauchery-laden. Somewhere in between lies Daredevil.

“There’s nothing that really weirds me out more than a bone poking out of somebody and there’s a couple of moments of that,” DeKnight said. “But a lot of the moments that we have is really, really more than anything suggestive, rather than explicit. But Jeph’s pointed out before, it is certainly darker and more graphic and gritty and grounded than you’ve seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe up to this point, which I think makes it feel even more violent than it is, coming from the property.”

4. Matt Murdock Takes a Beating.

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Barry Wetcher/Netflix
Charlie Cox as Daredevil

When that violence comes, it’s not just Kingpin’s victims getting bashed. Our hero is not an Asgardian God or a genetically engineered super soldier. When he gets hurt, he bleeds. Well, so do the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but DeKnight told us specifically when we would see Matt Murdock get his ass kicked.

“The beating that Matt often takes, when you see him at the beginning of episode two and some stuff that happens to him later that I can’t reveal, it has real-world consequences,” DeKnight said. “We wanted him to be a real person that gets hurt.”

3. Marvel Is Reinventing Their Own Mythology on TV.

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Barry Wetcher/Netflix
Charlie Cox and Rosario Dawson in Daredevil

Rosario Dawson plays Claire Temple, an off duty nurse who patches up Matt Murdock in that aforementioned second episode. You could say she’s a Nurse at Night. In fact that is what they say. Even though the comics’ Night Nurse is Linda Carter, Claire Temple is taking on her mantle. But Dawson still hopes she gets to marry Luke Cage.

“Marvel’s doing something fun which is what we get to do when you have a whole universe that you created that you can play with,” Dawson said. “You can change things and massage things and develop things. So for me, that gets me really excited because I love the question mark that’s on there. There’s a lot of people going, ‘Well, wait a minute. That character was married to Luke Cage, so does that mean she’s going to… Oh wait, that character wasn’t Night Nurse so what does that mean?’ All of that delights me. So much. It’s so fun. It’s my question as well.”

2. The Red Suit May Be the Season Finale.

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Barry Wetcher/Netflix
Charlie Cox in Marvel’s Daredevil

This is a bit of speculation on our part, but the fact is Daredevil begins the series in a simple black mask. You’ve seen that in the trailer already. There haven’t been any stills of Charlie Cox in the red spandex either, so we may be a ways off from seeing it. The way Cox talks about the first season, we wouldn’t be surprised if the final shot of episode 13 features Daredevil trying on his red costume for the first time.

“I think in our show, what we’re seeing is we’re seeing the evolution of Matt Murdock into Daredevil,” Cox said. “We’ve got these 13 episodes to plot that very, very slowly and carefully. I think in some ways the Daredevil that we will come to know and love by the end of the show or seasons to come, or whatever it is, is who he is innately. That’s who he has always been since the accident. He will fully realize who he is as Daredevil, but at this point, at the beginning of the show, I think he’s still having to find his way with that.”

1. Horror Is the Next Marvel Frontier.

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Barry Wetcher/Netflix
Charlie Cox in Marvel’s Daredevil

First they came for movies, and Marvel characters Spider-Man and X-Men began the comic book movie age we’re now enjoying. Then they set up a connected universe, and it worked! Not only is The Avengers awesome but the individual movies in between are too. Then they conquered television. Now they’re doing a shared television universe.

In passing conversation, Loeb revealed the next direction Marvel could go. “It’s my hope that someday we’ll be able to tell stories that take place in the supernatural universe, that take place in the horror universe,” Loeb said.

Some context: the discussion was about how the Netflix series would be different from Marvel movies, as in darker and grittier. While Daredevil is a new direction for Marvel, there is precedent for vastly different films cohabiting the MCU.

“I can’t think of two films that are more different than Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy,” Loeb said. “In Winter Soldier, they are firing live ammo into a civilian populated area trying to shoot Steve Rogers. The Winter Soldier has done some terrible, horrible real life things that are going on. And then over on the other side there’s a three-foot talking raccoon and a tree that’s his best pal and they’re shooting up the galaxy. And yet there’s no point where you don’t look at them and go, ‘They both feel like Marvel.’ If that’s the case, then our feeling is what we’re trying to do with the Netflix shows in general is tell the best stories for Daredevil, Jessica, Luke and Danny. If they have a bit of an edge to them, good. It means that the Marvel universe is expanding to a place where we can now do these kinds of stories.”

So, in a world where Howard the Duck can show up at the end of a space movie and we still believe Ultron poses a threat, anything can happen. For now it’s a lawyer turned vigilante, but some day, Man-Thing: The Series?

Also by Fred Topel

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