Daredevil is a popular Marvel superhero for many reasons. He’s blind, yet able to turn his disability into an advantage. He’s got a cool costume (as long as we forget about the yellow). Almost paradoxically, he’s a lawyer that takes the law into his own hands. These are all things that make Daredevil compelling, whether it be as an interesting character study or because we personally identify with some aspect of his story. The thing I find most compelling and accessible about Matt Murdock, however, is not disability or his all-but-lost neighborhood, but the struggles of his faith.
Murdock’s Catholicism is deep in his roots. Even in the Ben Affleck film, Daredevil’s opening moments take place in a church. This Netflix/Marvel series doesn’t bring that element in quite as quickly, but it soon becomes an integral part of Matt Murdock’s character, as he tries to reconcile the seeming rigidity of Christian morality with the pragmatism of the vigilante. He knows that the Bible doesn’t condone violent behavior, but isn’t his violence saving people? Isn’t saving people part of God’s will? Is that a paradox?
This conflict is illustrated in the character beautifully by Charlie Cox. While he initially keeps his distance from the local priest, afraid to unleash his inner demons, he eventually has conversations about faith, and even openly asks questions around the other characters in Matt’s life, namely Foggy and Karen. Can he still believe in God when his city is drowning in sin? If he can, does he? If he does, does that faith condemn his actions? Where is the line?
This dilemma is done so well exactly because the show doesn’t lead with it. The show begins with a dark and gritty take on the city, expanding into a crime drama as the first few episodes of the series progress. You see Foggy and Matt in over their heads in their efforts to represent Karen, their first client who becomes their friend. In that episode, the corruption of the city becomes apparent, and the enormity of what Daredevil is up against begins to take shape. His enemies continue to mount throughout the first act of the series, and he has no more than one ally in his fight, an E.R. nurse who patches him up when he bites off more than he can chew. Then and only then, after we’ve seen the darkness that the city’s sin has cast on its citizens, can we appreciate the depth of Daredevil’s dilemma. Murder may be a sin, but it sure seems like it would save an awful lot of people.
Ultimately, this show has a respect for God that is all too rare in secular entertainment. I have no illusions about the motivation for this – it is far more about the conflict within the character than a conviction about God Himself in the hearts of the writers. The impact, however, is the same. The priest is a wise mentor who is to be respected. There is a place for faith in the life of a hero, even if it is a struggling one. And ultimately, even in the midst of a dark, gritty superhero crime drama, God’s morality wins out to a certain degree.
So we have Daredevil, in some ways a more explicitly Christian superhero than Captain America himself. There are a lot of things that make Daredevil a great show. Foggy Nelson offers up comical relief without making it feel forced. Vincent D’Onofrio’s performance as Wilson Fisk leaves little to be desired. The fight scenes are some of the most realistic in comic book adaptations to date, and the cinematography is wonderful. But I’m most excited about this show because it’s a respectable look at a Christian hero. He may not be evangelical. He may even use some language we wish he wouldn’t, and he is in general a bit rough around the edges. But it’s still a respectable take, particularly from secular writers. God has become quite popular in Hollywood recently, and that’s not always been a good thing. We’ve been forced, for the most part, to choose from either sacrilegious train wrecks like Noah or overly sanitized prosperity gospel takes like Facing the Giants.
This, however, is a step in the right direction.
Editor’s Note: This post originally said “Killing may be a sin,” and was changed to “Murder may be a sin” to more accurately convey the author’s intent.