Friday, September 4, 2015

Netflix's Daredevil: A Man Without Fear Finally Seen & Heard

"What? What did you say? 'Here Comes WHO?'
Look man, you're going to have to speak up!"
So there I am, chawin' at the bit to watch the new Daredevil series that was uploaded in it entirety on Netflix, and I can't see it. Don't have Netflix.

Yet my bud Tony Trendl does. Like his alliterative moniker, he is a super writer of romantic imagery. He can wax poetically about paperclips like no one else, let me tell ya.

So he graciously invited me over to his domicile to watch this series in doses of four episodes each. We had good discussion between viewings and good coffee. Several months earlier I had loaned Tony Batman: Year One and he  said "If comics were always written like this, I'd buy them."

I know. This was later.
But that cover is SO perfect!
He's not a true geek like me, but he has good taste. And like Miller, he's an incurable romantic. So I had to tell him the reason he was liking this Netflix series so much was that it was lifting about 90% of the backstory, color and characterizations from Frank Miller's run on Daredevil, which he wrote just before Batman: Year One in the early 80s at Marvel.

He was not too surprised. He knew what he liked and liked how this hero was paying an emotional cost to save what he loved. He liked Miller's characters and their goals. He liked the fact that Kingpin was a flawed sympathetic character - with his flaw being his overprotectiveness of whatever he loved and his ruthlessness once that line was crossed. Extreme ruthlessness.

The casting is spot-on perfect. From Charlie Cox playing the blind son of a prizefighter turned lawyer to Vincent D'Onofrio's physically imposing and impeccably dressed Kingpin, we believe in their motivations, their hopes and dreams. The way Cox holds his head as a blind vigilante listening to the city's voice to the way D'Onofrio speaks Mandarin softly to his Chinese dowager mentor, you believe these men have all passion, intelligence, wit and dedication to wage war in Hell's Kitchen.

Much like the ruthless ethics of Breaking Bad, we see the cost and the payment for every heroic stance and every villainous action. By the end of the twelve episodes, you sit back and say "It could've been no other way."

What was notable for me was seeing the origin of Daredevil told with extreme fidelity to the comics, especially Miller's re-telling. How being blinded and getting his extremely heightened senses hurt Matthew. It almost drove him mad.

With the truck company denying all culpability in blinding him, and his dad being so poor, they have to settle on charity from nuns for Matt's recovery. He thinks it a curse at first, until an older and craggy mentor appears. He is Stick, and he despises self-pity. Played to perfection by Scott Glenn [I told you the casting was great], he begins haranguing Matt and making him work and move as if sighted and how to use his remaining senses to maximum effect.

"What you have, is a gift," he says in no uncertain terms. "You can hear and taste and smell things no one else can." Sight is overrated, he continues. It can fool you.

Jesus said that. Jesus lived that.

Let me show you how one day, Jesus healed a blind man. A man who ended up seeing Him better than anyone else:
John 9 [various verses]
6 Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?”
Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.”
10 
So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”

11 
He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.”

12 
They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
Now that he can see, and it was Jesus who did it to him, he runs afoul of the Pharisees. They don't like Jesus. They don't like his law-breaking: he healed on the Sabbath, don'tcha know? They don't like his way of fighting evil [sound familiar, geeks?]. He's a loose cannon, in their eyes, so they begin busting on this healed guy about Jesus.
24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.”
25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”
28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”
See how nasty they are? How like a crime fighter Jesus is? They can't even figure out where he comes from. Like Daredevil being accused of being a terrorist, Jesus is getting the guns for not going through official channels [which, of course, are all corrupt].

It goes downhill as the man answers with godly reason. Remember how I said strict naturalism is not logic? Well, here the healed man uses that to blow up their bigotry against Jesus. And in one of the funniest passages in scripture, he smarts off to his elders!
30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.
31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.  
34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.
He's done with their unbelief, and they are done with his "lack of respect."

Jesus hears about it - seems He must have been busy healing others or something - and finds the man.
35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36 
He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”

37 
Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”

38 
He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

39 
Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”

40 
Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?”

41 
Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
You ever need proof of Jesus' divinity, it is right there: He gets worshipped and takes it as a matter of course. He does not correct the man. He does not say "Worship God!" and tear His robe.

He just continues to explain what's going on - to this poor man, and to His disciples standing by His side: "Yeah, guys. My presence here makes it all too clear who loves God and who loves their place in power."

God lets the blind man show off the works of God. To show His power. And while for decades it must have seemed to be a curse to him, it was actually a blessing. It kept him from being fooled by what he saw.

Did you notice in the text, that the moment he hears the voice of Jesus, he says "Who is he, Lord...?" He has a completely different tune when Jesus talks to him. Reverent and respectful, awed and hopeful. He seems to possibly know it is the voice of Jesus, but he wants to make sure it is not an impostor, not another man.

Jesus' reply removes all doubt. Doubt removed, the man worships willingly and freely.

Not so the pharisees. Not so the religious professionals with power.

That shows their blindness. Jesus we are told elsewhere "knew what was in their hearts." He was never fooled by appearances.

He must have known this guy's heart. How healing would make him bold, not bitter.

Like a daredevil, he certainly stuck it to his "kingpin"s.

Amen.

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