Batman and the Joker work so well because they’re different sides to the same coin. Batman want’s order, as the Joker wants chaos. This is probably the most famous hero-villain relationship people know of. While it’s most likely the best, there’s another hero-villain relationship that doesn’t get enough praise. And that’s Daredevil and Wilson Fisk aka the Kingpin.
Now, I’m not going to talk about these two characters’ relationship from the comics. While there are certainly some great Daredevil stories (Brian Michael Bendis’ run to name one) that feature these two, I want to focus specifically on Daredevil and Kingpin in season 1 of Marvel’s Daredevil.
With season 3 of Daredevil releasing this week, and a trailer that makes us really hyped for more Daredevil and Kingpin, I want to examine why this relationship is so perfect.
A Backstory That Isn’t Rushed
I think what makes Daredevil and Kingpin so extraordinarily dynamic and impressive in this show isn’t even the hero and villain itself. It’s the people who make those heroes and villains. Matthew Murdock and Wilson Fisk are two of the best characters that the MCU has to offer, and I’d go as far as saying Fisk is the universe’s best villain. While both suffering traumatic childhoods, the two decided to take two very different paths with their lives.
As Murdock used his disability to his advantage, Fisk used the rage that he acquired from his father to desire power. Both these two characters, Murdock and Fisk, essentially want to make the city a better place. A young Fisk is seen being a shy, mother’s boy. Murdock as a child is attached to his father, the “Battlin’ Jack Murdock”. Both of these characters lose their fathers; but here’s where their journeys start to change.
For Murdock, losing his father was not his fault. He loved the man, and losing him really is something that’s hard. For Fisk, it’s the opposite: losing his father only raises him. He’s better without him. No one longer holding him back. This is the crack, losing their fathers, that starts the separation between hero and villain. By the time we see Murdock and Fisk in season 1, we see them both very differently. Yet, deep down, they’re both angry men who feel like not enough is being done for their city, and want to be the change that fixes that.
The time we first see Murdock and Fisk interact on screen is something that was different than most hero-villain interactions in comic book properties.
When Wilson walks into the gallery, everything slows down. You can feel Matthew’s slight fear and anger, as he’s seen even clenching his fist. The conversation between the two is so intense, and not even due to the dialogue. It’s Charlie Cox’s performance, a performance that (in my opinion) is the best in the MCU outside of Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, that propels both this scene and the show. The audience, like Matthew himself, is worried and speechless during this scene. And this is what makes Marvel’s Daredevil great. The fact that the characters, the heros and villains especially, are as interesting as people as they are as heros/villains.
Giving Characters Time To Develop
Marvel’s Daredevil has something going for it that a similar character like Batman hasn’t had: its a 13-hour long movie. This gives the show time to explore the backstories of our characters in a way that most movies just don’t have the time to do. Because of this, Marvels’ Daredevil succeeds. I’d even argue that if we didn’t see the giant words MARVEL at the beginning, it wouldn’t even be obvious that this show was based off of a comic book.
The immense backstory only adds to the dynamic of our characters, most especially with Wilson Fisk and Matthew Murdock. Building up these characters gives the show the chance to show how they really aren’t that different. To me, the relationships between hero and villain that feel like they’re separate sides to a coin are the ones that succeed the best. Joker and Batman, Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto, Spider-Man and Doc Ock, and especially Daredevil and Kingpin.
Let’s say perhaps that at the end of Daredevil season one that Kingpin died. If this happened, I feel like we’d also lose a part of Daredevil. A part that keeps him going because Kingpin represents what he could become. If he lets himself go down that path, a path referenced in the show many times, then he knows he’ll never be able to escape. This is the core of Marvel’s Daredevil. Even though we don’t see Fisk until a few episodes into the show, his presence is felt from the very first episode. Kingpin is so essential to what makes Daredevil, Daredevil. And because of this, Netflix deliver fans something incredible special with season one of Daredevil.
The show really takes it’s time in order to make this story even better. Something I love about this season is that we don’t just start out the first episode with a huge backstory of Matthew Murdock. We get some, but his full story is sprinkled throughout the first few episodes. Because of this, his backstory adds to the scenes in a way that we don’t normally get. We get to see how much like his father Matthew is. This isn’t only the case for Murdock though. Again, the show does this same thing with Wilson Fisk.
It’s not even like the show is telling us “hey here’s how you should feel about this character” or anything. We see Wilson brutally murdering his father, and then a short time later brutally murdering a Russian man. Both these killings are shadowed in moral ambiguity, something that this show thrives on. The idea that there really is no right or wrong, just different ways of viewing the same thing. This, the idea that Kingpin and Daredevil want the same thing but go about different ways of achieving it, works so damn well in season one.
Marvel’s Daredevil is about character. Character drives the plot, rather than action. Yes we get the amazing hallway scene in the first episode that is spectacular in every aspect. Yes, we get amazing fight scenes between our favorite characters. And even with this, I felt like my favorite moments in season one of Daredevil were with Matthew Murdock and Wilson Fisk, not with Daredevil and Kingpin. Matthew explaining to Karen that he can’t do this alone. Wilson showing vulnerability towards Vanessa. These things all add to the characters in ways that superhero shows seldom do. The show is called Daredevil. We didn’t even see the costume until the end of the season finale, nor did we hear the word Daredevil until the final minutes. This didn’t even matter because the show built up the characters so well that we know the core of them without needing titles to help us.
Things like this are why Marvel’s Daredevil is so great. It’s a show that relies heavily on it’s characters rather than it’s action. It gives our characters time to grow and develop, and because of this, the relationship between Daredevil and Kingpin is something special.
I cannot wait for season 3.