Devilish Musings (Part 1)
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that not all superheroes are created equal. Neither, now that we mention it, are their TV shows. While DC has made a modest splash with the likes of Arrow and Gotham, Marvel - even with the cult favorite Agents of Shield - seems to have made nary a ripple. Until now.
With the premier of Netflix's 13 hour serial adaptation of Daredevil, Marvel is making a splash. A big splash. Remember the time Col. "Hannibal" Smith and the rest of the A-Team dropped a tank into that quiet little alpine lake? That kind of splash. The show boasts savvy writing, an exemplary cast (Cox and D'Onofrio are revelations), an irreproachable sense of style, and some of the best fight choreography in the business. (On that note, the MA-rating is well-deserved. Put the kids to bed first.)
Terrific as all these things are, the story itself is the show's greatest and most effective asset. Like Nolan's Batman trilogy, Daredevil is proof that a well-written superhero epic can transcend simple entertainment to become something more: an elegant yet sobering meditation on good, evil, and the war between them in the human heart.
"The question you have to ask yourself..."
You know how it goes. Our hero can only be a hero for so long before he faces a villain so good at being bad, that it seems the only way to stop him is to end his life. Lesser stories acknowledge the question with a perfunctory nod that often "resolves" the tension in one of two ways: either our hero drops crimefighting altogether, or he violates conscience and the law of God, seeking to justify murder with rank consequentialism.
This is a false dichotomy, one which Daredevil roundly rejects. In a conversation between Murdock and the local parish priest, Murdock admits that as far as he is concerned, he can either get his hands dirty or "stand idly by" while his enemy destroys the city. This inspires a rebuke from the priest: "There is a wide gulf between inaction and murder, Matthew. Another man's evil does not make you good. Men have used the atrocities of their enemies to justify their own throughout history. So the question you have to ask yourself is, are you struggling with the fact that you don't want to kill this man, but have to? Or that you don't have to kill him, but want to?"
At least two important things are happening here. The first is a reproof of the either/or fallacy and its handmaiden, consequentialism. Murder and inaction are not the only options on the table; one's ends do not necessarily justify one's means. The second is an acknowledgment of a signal biblical truth: that the heart is the heart of the matter. Murder is conceived, birthed, and nurtured there first, long before it achieves physical manifestation.
"Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked," the priest continues, quoting Proverbs 25.
"Meaning righteous men have a duty to stand up to evil," Murdock says.
"One interpretation," the priest answers. "Another is, that when the righteous succumb to sin, it is as harmful as if the public well were poisoned."
(to be continued)