Last month you joined me for an Anatomy Lesson where we dissected The Godfather, and gazed into my Crystal Ball when I tried to predict what lay in store for upcoming blockbuster Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. In this month’s new feature, I’m asking you to take on the role of big shot entertainment industry exec (sans the pay, I’m afraid) in order for me to deliver my first Elevator Pitch.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, an elevator pitch is a concise summary of a subject delivered so compellingly that it practically demands further elaboration.
The name for this type of brief proposal is drawn from the idea of someone finding themselves in an elevator with an influential person and using these few moments to pitch them an idea, with the hope that this person will be impressed and arrange a follow up meeting to hear more.
With the Elevator Pitch feature, I’ll be providing my own elevator pitch for different pop culture projects, followed by the more detailed proposals I’d deliver once I was invited to the discuss these projects further (yes, I’m assuming all of my initial pitches will be successful; I have my own website – of course I have an ego…).
The subject matter for these hypothetical projects will be drawn from existing and upcoming films, comics, novels and the like, and will take the form of adaptations, reboots, sequels and more; in a lot of ways, you could consider Elevator Pitch almost a sister project to Trailers from the Public Domain.
At this point, it’s important I make one final comment before we press on to the main event: this feature is not about me saying I could do it better (in the case of a remake or reimagining) or that I alone know how something should be done (where upcoming releases are concerned); all I’m saying is how I’d do it.
If you find yourself strongly disagreeing with my take on a project, by all means let me know, but please try to keep in mind that this is (to borrow the words of Royal Tenenbaum) “just one man’s opinion.”
Now with all the preamble out of the way, on to the inaugural Elevator Pitch, which will be for a TV series based around Marvel Comics’ blind superhero, Daredevil!
Ever since Mark Steven Johnson’s Ben Affleck-starring, Evanescence-featuring Daredevil failed to launch a superhero film franchise in 2003, I’ve been kicking around ideas about what I’d do if given the chance to reboot the story of Matt Murdock and his battle to save Hell’s Kitchen, New York City from supersized crime lord The Kingpin.
I wasn’t the only one, either; before the rights to the property reverted back to the filmmaking arm of Marvel Entertainment, former rights holders 20th Century Fox hired director David Slade to helm a soft reboot that would function as a vague sequel to the Affleck film, then once that fell through, they invited Joe Carnahan to pitch his idea for a Daredevil movie, a thriller set in the 1970s that also never saw the light of day (an awesome sizzle reel for which eventually surfaced online).
As I mentioned previously, the big screen rights to Daredevil finally came full circle back to Marvel Entertainment, who have opted to tell ol’ Hornhead’s story as a big budget web TV series for Netflix.
With Steven S. DeKnight as showrunner, a talented cast (including Charlie Cox and Vincent D’Onofrio) and a great trailer, Daredevil certainly looks promising.
And well it should, given that, from everything I’ve seen and heard, DeKnight and his team are drawing from several of the most influential Daredevil comic storylines in the character’s history. In particular, they seem to be mining Frank Miller and John Romita Jr’s Man Without Fear and Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s four year opus from the comics of the mid-2000s.
Interestingly, the latter of these stories has long formed the basis of my own pitch for bringing Daredevil to the screen (so consider this a spoiler warning for what’s about to follow: I’ll be revealing major plot points from the Bendis/Maleev books; if you plan on enjoying the comics before watching the show, you might want to come back to this post when you’re done reading).
This brings us at long last back around to the original question at the heart of this feature: What would be my pitch for the Daredevil TV series?
THE ELEVATOR PITCH
“I see Daredevil as a morally complex story of crime, redemption and fate. Think The Wire, only set in Hell’s Kitchen instead of Baltimore, and focused around the rise, fall and ultimate atonement of a crusading blind lawyer who secretly operates outside the law as a costumed vigilante.”
THE FULL PROPOSAL
First things first: I wouldn’t be interested in telling an outright origin story, and my vision for the show’s narrative involves kicking off at a point in Daredevil’s crimefighting career several years down the track.
That said, when you’re dealing with a blind martial artist with superpowers and a bespoke costume, you do kinda need to explain at least some of his creation story to the audience, if only for the prosaic rationale of plugging up potential plot holes.
So with that in mind, Season 1 would open with a 10 – 15 minute montage (everybody loves a montage!) covering the following key info:
- The location and violent origins of Hell’s Kitchen (including the story behind its name).
- The childhood and coming of age of Matt Murdock, raised in poverty in Hell’s Kitchen by his father, washed up boxer “Battlin'” Jack Murdock.
- Matt faces bullies who taunt and beat him, and later loses his sight in a tragic accident that gives him extrasensory powers that compensate for his visual impairment.
- He is trained by mysterious blind mentor Stick in martial arts (this would be kept super brief and very vague), and suffers the loss of his father after Jack refuses to throw a fight.
- Matt honours his father’s memory by graduating school and studying law, where he meets life-long friend Foggy Nelson, and he ultimately becomes not the villain his upbringing would suggest, but a costumed hero fighting to protect Hell’s Kitchen from the type of scum who murdered “Battlin'” Jack (the origin of Matt’s costume and billy club weapon would also be covered here, in passing).
- Intercut with Matt’s story would be the ascension of Wilson Fisk to the role of the Kingpin of Crime in New York City (specifically Hell’s Kitchen); while Matt is facing off against bullies, the Kingpin is battling rival gangsters, and as Matt and Foggy open the doors of legal practice Nelson & Murdock, the Kingpin is consolidating his hold over all organised crime in the city.
- Having been established as both equals and opposites, Daredevil and the Kingpin soon go to war with each other, both publicly as attorney and “legitimate” businessman, and in the shadows of urban legend, as vigilante and crime boss.
- This is shown to run for several years, with the Kingpin learning Matt’s identity, the ensuing game of chess between the two from that point on, and crucially, both men losing the women they love – Matt’s girlfriend Karen is brutally murdered in the crossfire of one of his skirmishes with the Kingpin, and Fisk’s wife Vanessa walks out on him after he refuses to give up his life of crime.
- And so we arrive in the present day, with Daredevil and the Kingpin locked in their own personal cold war even as they privately grieve the loss of their loved ones, and with Hell’s Kitchen caught in the middle, neither totally free nor utterly damned.
This would be narrated by the Greek Chorus for the series overall (wow, this got pretentious fast), Ben Urich, the cynical yet principled newspaper reporter who knows Matt Murdock is Daredevil.
From this we’d segue into the story proper, where it appears that Matt has finally gained the upper hand on Fisk in the courtroom once and for all. It’s at this point that wannabe crime boss Sammy Silke arrives on the scene ostensibly on “loan” from the Chicago crime family (in actuality, in exile after things turned sour there), eager to prove himself as a big player in the New York underworld.
Silke, seeking to ingratiate himself to Fisk, asks for permission to whack both Murdock and Nelson, causing the case against the Kingpin to fall apart. Surprisingly (to Silke at least), Fisk flatly refuses to authorise the hit.
Fisk does this because he sees the greater benefit to himself of keeping Murdock (and therefore Daredevil) alive, as their detente means Fisk is viewed as the only thing between the criminal element and their feared aggressor. On a more personal level, Fisk also enjoys the game of wits that his ongoing struggle with Daredevil provides, and this includes the current courtroom drama he is faced with.
Not privy to this information, a frustrated Silke turns to the capos within the organisation for answers, but none of them appear willing to discuss the topic of Matt Murdock. It’s not until he encounters Richard Fisk, the Kingpin’s pathetic alcoholic son, that he learns the truth: Murdock is Daredevil, and the Kingpin knows it, and his men KNOW he knows it, but they are too intimidated to do anything other than stay silent and comply with his wishes.
Silke and Richard enter into a partnership to bring down the Kingpin, and are soon joined by another ally in the form of Leland Owsley, formerly costumed supervillain the Owl, but are stymied by their target’s lack of vulnerability – Fisk is not just a mastermind, he’s an absolute powerhouse too, and even the most hardened crooks are terrified of him.
This all changes during a confrontation between Daredevil and the Kingpin and his men, when the Kingpin discovers an informer within his ranks – a man Murdock desperately needs alive to keep his trial against Fisk afloat. In the ensuing conflict, Matt is able to save the informer, and Kingpin is temporarily rendered sightless by a severe case of flash blindness thanks to a gun discharged too close to his face.
Sensing the Kingpin’s weakness, Silke and Richard enact their plan, first declaring open season on Murdock, leading to Murdock and Foggy being attacked outside the courthouse by a super powered assailant who functions like a living bomb. Murdock and Foggy survive the hit, and Murdock (as Daredevil) is able to apprehend their attacker.
Daredevil then goes to visit Urich to discuss who could be behind the attack, having discounted the possibility of Fisk ordering the killings due to their existing relationship.
The two discuss Daredevil’s less than secret identity (Fisk knows, Matt’s girlfriends over the years have found out etc), which makes narrowing a suspect down difficult, and also the likelihood that the attack against formerly “safe” Matt Murdock suggests that the Kingpin is going to have his power usurped; the uncertainty of a new and unseen enemy has a visible effect on Daredevil’s composure.
While Daredevil continues his investigation into who put a bounty on Matt Murdock’s head (escaping several more attacks on his civilian identity during this time), Silke and Richard manage to convince the chief capos in the Kingpin’s organisation to join them in a coup de tat against their boss. The capos, along with Silke, Richard and the Owl, assault Fisk in his office, severely wounding him before departing.
Silke’s time in the top spot doesn’t last long, however. Receiving word that her husband is in a critical condition, Vanessa arrives back in Hell’s Kitchen, and her love for her estranged husband proves stronger than her hatred for his business. With the aid of the few remaining lieutenants loyal to the Kingpin, she orders hits on Silke, the Owl, and all the treacherous capos; her son Richard she kills personally.
Barely surviving an attempt on his life, and without the support of either a duplicitous Owl or his fed up gangland connections in Chicago, Silke turns to the only lifeline he has left: the FBI. The problem is, they want him to inform on either the New York or Chicago crime families, which Silke refuses to do. With his back against the wall, Silke offers up the one piece of info that he’s willing to part with in exchange for protection: the secret identity of Daredevil.
Meanwhile, gangland warfare has broken out between Vanessa, who is promising to divvy up her husband’s former territories to those who side with her, and The Owl, who is pushing a new drug that provides users with temporary super powers. Daredevil is working overtime trying to contain the resulting carnage from harming the Hell’s Kitchen community, and during one such instance of heroism, he rescues blind social worker Milla Donovan from certain death (can you say “future love interest”?).
At the end of the first season, Vanessa dies as a result of her vendetta, Daredevil is able to defeat the Owl, the Kingpin wakes up in a hospital bed, and Murdock is besieged by the media after his secret identity is leaked to the press by an unscrupulous FBI agent!
Season 2 would then hit the ground running. Murdock denies the allegations that he is Daredevil, and launches a lawsuit against the tabloid newspaper that published the story. Despite this, Milla contacts Murdock to thank him for saving her life, and even though he never explicitly admits to being Daredevil, he and Milla begin a relationship.
In the underworld, the Kingpin is getting his house in order, and decides he needs to distract Daredevil. His first order of business is to murder the publisher Matt is suing (which ends up with Murdock called in for questioning by police while on a date with Milla). He then engages the services of deranged killer Typhoid Mary, first setting her loose to dispatch any remaining threats to his comeback, and then to assault Murdock.
At the same time, Murdock and Foggy’s rock solid relationship becomes strained after Foggy learns from Murdock that the allegations are true: despite being a blind man, Matt is also a crime fighting vigilante. Although Murdock has been lying to Foggy for decades, he remains by Murdock’s side, but it’s clear he has serious misgivings about doing so.
In order to keep up appearances, Murdock hires a bodyguard, Jessica Jones, as his protector. During this time, fellow urban superhero Luke Cage comes to Matt and Foggy requesting they defend a C-list superhero in a murder trial. Despite not wanting to touch the case, Murdock reluctantly accepts, but it soon becomes a fiasco and ends in tragedy.
By this point, Typhoid Mary has eliminated all of Kingpin’s competition, and comes calling on Matt. She attacks him on the steps of Nelson & Murdock with Milla present, and despite her pyrokinetic powers (oh, I forgot to mention: she can set stuff on fire with her thoughts), Typhoid Mary is taken down by the combined efforts of Murdock, Jones and Cage, although Nelson & Murdock is left badly fire damaged.
Slowly but surely the stress of the Daredevil-related media circus, coupled with the growing realisation that he is part of a seemingly endless cycle of violence and misery, both personally and on a citywide scale, begins to take its toll on Murdock, and it seems more and more likely that something is going to give.
This becomes even more apparent after the Kingpin unleashes his final distraction: Bullseye, the man who killed Karen.
A psychopathic and almost-supernaturally gifted assassin, Bullseye is obsessed with causing Daredevil pain, and upon being employed by Kingpin, instantly sets out to kill Milla. Daredevil manages to intervene in time, viciously taunting and beating Bullseye, further revealing the extent of how unhinged he is becoming (and hinting at his unresolved issues over Karen’s death).
Finally, the time comes for Daredevil and Kingpin to face off, and as you’d expect, it’s a very personal affair: a bloody brawl inside the burnt out husk of Nelson & Murdock. Despite holding his own early on, it soon appears that a battered Daredevil is going to be defeated by Fisk.
That is until Matt contemplates what losing to the Kingpin means: a return to the same status quo as before, trapping him and the people of Hell’s Kitchen in a cycle of violence overseen by a greedy, cruel man who thinks the world is his to do with as he pleases.
Upon comprehending this, Matt finally snaps.
He lets fly with an onslaught of blows so savage even the Kingpin cannot withstand, and he ends up thrashing Fisk within an inch of his life. Not content there, Daredevil dramatically unveils his barely breathing foe to the denizens of a major underworld watering hole, where he rips off his mask and declares HIMSELF the Kingpin!
Matt makes it clear to those present that he will now be in charge of all criminal operations in the city, and he is putting a stop to them all. Those who wish to continue to commit crimes in Hell’s Kitchen are threatened with the same treatment as Fisk received.
The second season draws to close with Nelson & Murdock moving into the Kingpin’s old premises, Foggy feeling even more ostracised from Matt, Matt and Milla using the wealth and influence Matt has forcefully acquired via his underworld position to undertake charitable works in the community, and Urich watching these events unfold with concern.
This brings us to Season 3, which is the last I have plotted (although it would not have to be the last season of the show, by any means).
Rolling on from the end of the last season, Matt and Milla continue to pump the resources from his newly acquired criminal empire into projects designed to clean up Hell’s Kitchen. Matt’s Daredevil persona has not been sighted in six months – not since he went on a month long rampage through the seedy underbelly of New York, driving out criminals who didn’t head his earlier warning to quit crime or leave town.
Foggy and Urich meet to discuss what has happened, as they have both been almost totally shut out of Murdock’s life. They are worried about the state Matt’s life has gotten into; little do they know just how bad things will get…
On the one hand, the formerly sympathetic FBI have decided that they want Daredevil brought down now that he’s joined the criminal fraternity, and on the other, rival criminal empires have sensed an opportunity to expand their own territories in Fisk’s absence, and they are starting to circle New York like sharks in the water (after all, Matt is only one man, even if he is the Man Without Fear).
The situation comes to a head when Matt and Milla are confronted one night during a downpour by a large gang of Yakuza soldiers. Matt sends Milla away before engaging the armed mob on his own; despite the numbers, Matt puts up a helluva fight, and he survives long enough for the FBI to arrive and intervene.
Thanks to the heavy deluge and Matt’s stealthy retreat, the FBI are left with nothing more concrete linking Murdock to the scene than a badly mangled white cane, but the net around him is closing.
Milla, understandably hysterical following the ordeal, visits Urich and Foggy and begs them to help her find Matt. Using his network of journalistic contacts, Urich is able to guide them to the Night Nurse, who functions as the superhero version of an underworld doctor – when a costumed vigilante is badly injured and can’t risk going to the hospital, they go to her. Once at the “clinic”, they find a badly injured Matt recuperating in one of the “wards” (and comically high on morphine).
Even as these events play out, the Kingpin finds himself in a pickle of his own. Having recovered from getting his prodigiously large ass kicked by Daredevil, Fisk has been brought in for questioning by the FBI.
While they might want to bring down Murdock almost as much as they do Fisk, the Feds aren’t above picking up the pieces of Matt’s case in order to lock the Kingpin away for life. Thanks to his recent reckless attempt to reclaim the mantle of King of Hell’s Kitchen, Fisk has compromised his legitimate businessman reputation for the first time in decades, and the G-Men are making the most of the opportunity.
Sensing that his luck might have run out, and wanting revenge on Daredevil, the Kingpin makes a deal: he offers the FBI his most valuable asset, the Murdock Papers (airtight evidence that Matt is Daredevil), provided all current investigations into his criminal dealings are terminated.
Back at Murdock’s bedside, an exhausted Milla has fallen asleep by Matt’s side, leaving Urich and Foggy alone with their friend. Urich runs through Matt’s recent self-destructive behaviour, chiefly taking on the Kingpin role and pushing away his two old friends.
He argues that Matt has been punishing himself for Karen’s death, and asks whether Murdock thinks he might have suffered a nervous breakdown. Tears run silently down Matt’s face, confirming he agrees with Urich’s diagnosis.
The moment is broken by Luke Cage, who (despite having himself fallen out with Daredevil over his recent questionable ethics) arrives to say that the word on the street is that the FBI are on their way to Fisk’s old office to collect evidence that will lead to Matt’s arrest (this comes courtesy of yet another handy FBI leak; a boat with this many holes would have sunk by now).
Murdock reconciles with Foggy, Urich and Cage, admitting that all his choices after being outed were wrong, and despite his fragile condition, he and Cage (along with Jessica Jones, who Cage is now dating, just FYI) embark on a mission to steal the Papers from the Kingpin’s office before the FBI can get to them.
Daredevil, Jones and Cage manage to make it to the new Nelson & Murdock offices (which are, of course, Kingpin’s old digs), despite being hindered by a small army of FBI agents, as well various criminal syndicates interested in getting their hands on the Papers for leverage over Daredevil. However, Jones is badly injured during the turmoil, and Cage rushes to get her medical attention.
Now totally alone, Matt manages to locate the box containing the Murdock Papers and departs the office with them, stopping to do something (we aren’t yet sure what) on his computer before he does so.
Upon exiting the building, Matt is finally brought down when he is shot by gun fired from a helicopter far enough away that it was able to escape his super senses. The impossible shot was fired by Bullseye, having made his own deal with the FBI (who are REALLY getting their hands dirty by this point); Bullseye has no hope of avoiding jail time, but agrees to cooperate out of retaliation for being humiliated by Daredevil during their earlier fight.
Bullseye’s shot proves non-fatal, and an unconscious Matt is taken into custody, losing the box containing the Papers.
At this point, the Kingpin reveals to the FBI that there are NO Murdock Papers – the whole thing was a gambit to draw Daredevil out of hiding and into a trap for the FBI to spring; he expects the deal to still be honoured, as he was the one who orchestrated Matt’s arrest in the Daredevil costume.
But wait! There’s one final twist left (because twists within twists within twists are never confusing for an audience…); Fisk’s FBI handler responds to the Kingpin that there actually ARE Murdock Papers!
It seems Matt suspected that the Kingpin had no physical proof that he was Daredevil. He also knew that it was only a matter of time before he’d be caught, and wishing to atone for his recent actions, Matt pulled together all the evidence against Fisk that he’d gained from his own time as Kingpin and placed it in the box, handing the FBI everything they need for an open-shut case!
As the final cherry on top, the handler informs Fisk that Murdock also appears to have transferred all of the crime lord’s vast illicit fortune into various charitable causes within Hell’s Kitchen, dealing a fatal blow to Fisk’s criminal organisation (this was what Matt was doing with computer just before he was taken down).
As Season Three wraps up, Matt stands trial (represented by Foggy, natch) and is sentenced to serve time in prison. Things close out as they began – with another montage covering the following:
- The Kingpin’s chair being removed from his former office by repo men, and Nelson & Murdock returning to its refurbished original offices, where Foggy continues to run the practice.
- Luke Cage still actively protecting his neighbourhood from street level crime; Jessica is shown to be expecting Luke’s baby.
- Milla visiting Matt in prison, and Matt later defending himself in prison from the inmates. The Kingpin is also shown behind bars in the cell next to the Owl, who takes great pleasure in antagonising the fallen crime boss.
- Urich working the city beat, reporting on the power vacuum in the New York underworld following the incarceration of both Matt and Fisk.
- The standard of living in the Hell’s Kitchen area becoming generally better thanks to the money pumped in by Murdock (there is pro-Daredevil graffiti on the corner near Matt’s old apartment).
So there you have it: that’s the tale I’d tell. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a fairly controversial choice, given that it only touches upon the origin outlined in Man Without Fear (although I’d expect flashbacks to crop up, as needed) and more importantly, shuts down the possibility of dramatising universally beloved storyline Born Again (which covers Kingpin’s original discovery of Daredevil’s secret ID), but it’s based off the source material that most appeals to me.
You could also argue that it leaves the showrunners who’d be following in a tough position when planning future seasons, but I’d argue that a season set in prison (drawing on the work of Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark) would be awesome and unique for a superhero adaptation, and after that, the current stories by Mark Waid (and a raft of talented artists) detailing Matt rebuilding his life post-prison would be fantastic material to work from, and would allow the series to shift its tone to something more fantastical and fun.
As I see it, the main themes that fit with the plot I’ve pitched are blindness, good and evil, redemption, loss, fate, love and community.
Blindness is a pretty obvious one. I mean, Matt and Milla are physically blind, as is the Kingpin for a brief period. But it goes deeper than that, as several of the characters are metaphorically blind as well.
For all that Matt strives to do the right thing, he is often incapable of seeing the great harm he causes. Similarly, the Kingpin won’t accept that his relationship with his wife and son has been destroyed by his lust for power, and Foggy has chosen not to see in Matt’s odd behaviour over the years the proof that his old friend is living a double life.
In much the same way, good and evil are unmistakably key thematic concerns too, not just in the simplistic sense of the Daredevil and his allies representing morality and Fisk and his ilk standing for immorality, but more the potential for both within all of us.
Matt himself is at the forefront of this: while he more often than not tries to do what he sees as the right thing (despite great personal cost), his ethical compass soon starts to falter as the ground beneath his feet shrinks (his constant lying to his lover, friends and the media is questionable, and his lawsuit against the tabloid is inexcusably dishonest).
This then feeds into the redemption discourse, which forms the basis for Daredevil’s entire character arc. As we see in the opening montage, Matt SHOULD have grown up a villain, but somehow, he rose above the uniformly bleak circumstances of his childhood to become a hero, even if he is a flawed one (lawyers really shouldn’t operate as vigilantes, after all).
Once Matt finally steps over the line and actually becomes a villain, even if it was for the “right” reasons, he must make amends; his self-sacrificing means of making reparations restores his heroic status and shows the power of making an active change in your life.
On a less inspirational note, loss is also a fairly easy theme to recognise: Matt and Kingpin have both lost people they love, and Vanessa eventually loses her son (even if she is the one who knocks him off!). The offshoot of this is characters who are each haunted by their past (and their past actions), and calls into question the impact and inevitability of violence.
This of course dovetails with the notion of fate: that sense that Daredevil, the Kingpin, and everyone else in their world is trapped in an inescapable, violent pattern. It’s symbolised most prominently by Kingpin’s office chair (which visually suggests a throne), itself an object of fate – whoever occupies the chair has the power that goes with it, but is also bound to its tragic fate.
Indeed, while Fisk, Silke, Vanessa and Matt all find themselves sitting in the hot seat, they are all eventually deposed by those entranced or terrified by its power. In the end, the chair being removed from Fisk’s office is symbolic of the end of the Kingpin role within Hell’s Kitchen (although Urich’s denouement implies something else will take its place – a completely optimistic ending would ring a little false!).
(I should quickly take a moment to tip my cap to Omar Karindu over at Comic Book Resources, who first drew the symbolism of Kingpin’s “throne” to my attention by way of his excellent annotations on Bendis and Maleev’s original comics).
Speaking of themes that fit together, love and community also complement each other. As the old song lyric goes, love is all around in my version of Daredevil.
It might not seem that way, thanks to all the heavy, dark stuff mentioned above, but you only have to look at the relationships of Milla and Matt and Luke and Jessica to see it in the romantic sense, or at Matt’s friendships with Foggy and Urich to see it expressed platonically (hell, even the Kingpin and Vanessa love each other, in a freaky way).
But most importantly, Matt’s rationale for becoming Daredevil and devoting his life to making Hell’s Kitchen a better place is directly related to his love for his father. Matt fights to improve the quality of life in his community because it’s the only way to stop simple, imperfect, admirable men like Jack Murdock from being killed; he’s trying to protect other families from what happened to his, and on some level, his efforts end up appreciated (the graffiti in the closing montage is supposed to hint at this).
Influences and tone
I’ve already mentioned The Wire as an influence on my Daredevil pitch, mostly because of its gritty vibe, Shakespearean themes and focus on a single city and its community (spoilers: Baltimore is the lead character of that show).
I’m also informed by the crime films of the 70s, particularly The Godfather and The Godfather Part II (the end of Season 2 is pretty much the end of The Godfather with Foggy subbing for Kay, and Season 3 has a character arc for Matt that Michael Corleone would sympathise with).
Closer to the superhero genre, it goes without saying that Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy has left its mark on the pitch; mostly in the sense of inserting fantastical characters into an otherwise straightforward crime thriller, and also in the attempt to work into the story strong (and not always subtle) thematic and symbolic elements, and the reliance on flashbacks to convey additional backstory (but only as needed!).
The Marvel Cinematic Universe also casts a bit of a shadow of the pitch for obvious reasons; and of the studio’s most recent films, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is probably the closest in style to what I’d be shooting for. I liked the approach of taken by that film, which emphasised practical stunts where possible, and which made crazy superpowers fit within a version of our world that didn’t seem too unbelievable.
Lastly, while the overall tone of the show would be quite dark, especially given the physical and emotional violence on display, I’d also want there to be scope for warmth and comedy at times (even The Wire had its share of laughs!), and I think this could be achieved through the interactions of Matt and Foggy, but also in the Matt/Milla relationship.
Something I’ve only really touched on in passing so far is Daredevil’s superpowers, although obviously in a show like the one I’m pitching, this would be a huge consideration. I think it’s important that Matt’s abilities be depicted in a way recognisable to fans of the comics, but that also fits with the established tone of the show.
For those of you unaware, Matt’s enhanced skillset breaks down into two categories: his hyper developed non-visual senses (basically, he can hear, taste, touch and smell far better than any other human) and his radar sense (which, despite what the 2003 film would tell you, isn’t based off sound – it’s basically a mental signal Matt’s brain sends out that provides a rough silhouette in his mind’s eye of his surroundings; it makes no medical sense whatsoever, and it is amazing).
In terms of his two key non-visual senses, I think the best way to show Daredevil’s hearing would be by first introducing the sound off camera, and then having it appear on screen once Matt has interpreted the sound (eg Matt hears a ceiling fan, and then the camera cuts to the same fan, to indicate his awareness of it).
Similarly, I think Matt’s sense of smell should manifest itself as a jumble of related imagery (almost visual vignettes) before resolving into a view of the correct substance or setting (eg footage of a spilled beer, a smoked cigarette and stale vomit would combine to form one shot of a seedy nightclub, as Matt’s senses interpret his surroundings).
In instances where these powers go haywire, this representation would also allow for this to be depicted by rapidly overlapping sounds and intercutting imagery as described above, with the resulting sensory overload confusing Matt (and the audience)!
As to how I’d show the radar sense – I think this should appear visually interesting, but I’d like to keep it fairly stripped down and simple at the same time; just a world of vague objects that often intersect each other (a great example of this would be the effect created by Paolo and Joe Rivera during their recent comic book work).
By keeping it simple, not only would the “superhero in the real world” vibe (I’m not going to call it a realistic vibe; superheroes and realism are mutually exclusive) be maintained, but Daredevil’s bravery and his uniqueness as a blind superhero is upheld (after all, if his radar sense is too acute, he’s not really blind any more than a dog who can’t see colour is).
The shared universe and Easter eggs
I should also probably acknowledge the fact that the Daredevil show I’m pitching would have to fit in with the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe (think Iron Man, Thor etc), as well as the other series they have planned for Netflix.
My approach to this would hew closely to how the actual filmmakers seem to be playing it, which is to mostly have the show be its own thing, with only a few bits of connective tissue in place to join the big screen and small screen worlds together as needed (sidenote: the conceit in the real show that Hell’s Kitchen was badly damaged during the end battle from The Avengers is really clever, and I’d totally adopt that if asked to).
That’s not to say there wouldn’t be some significant crossover elements; for starters Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are both set to headline their own respective series on Netflix, and feature heavily in my plot treatment.
I’m also including superhuman assassins in the plot, which highlights the fact that the story takes place within a wider world of comic book fun.
Best of all is The Owl’s super power drug, which could potentially reference multiple big screen characters like Captain America and the Hulk.
Oh, and with regards to how my “Daredevil’s been doing this for years” timeline works with the MCU, I’d just say that Daredevil has existed as an urban legend all this time, albeit one the Police, FBI and SHIELD kept tabs on.
As to Easter eggs, I’d try to sprinkle them throughout my imaginary series, such as the usual name checks for minor characters from comic book canon, as well as references to stuff like Daredevil’s old costumes (particularly his original yellow kit!). These would all be done when they fit the with the overall story, and never when they seem obtrusive.
That’s about it for the Elevator Pitch this time around – I hope you’re looking forward to the next one!
How would you do a Daredevil TV series, given the chance? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter!
(Oh, and one more thing, for the record: the music for the trailer of my version of Daredevil would without a doubt be Ain’t No Love In The Heart of the City…).