The first of four Marvel series planned for Netflix, “Daredevil” (streaming via the online service) distinguishes itself from other Marvel shows (ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “Agent Carter”) by a tighter focus on an actual, primary comic book character as opposed to supporting players.
And with a smaller cast in the first two episodes, the emphasis is as much on character development as it is on derring-do fight scenes, although there are plenty of those, too.
Previously made into a 2003 movie that starred Ben Affleck, this new “Daredevil” again follows lawyer-by-day, crime-fighter-by-night Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), who was blinded as a child.
Flashbacks to 9-year-old Matt figure prominently in this better-than-average superhero story executive produced by Steven S. DeKnight (“Spartacus”) and Drew Goddard (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”). Viewers see recently blinded Matt with his boxer father and later his mentor, Stick (Scott Glenn), which helps fill in the blanks to explain the psychology of the show’s masked hero.
In the present, Matt opens a legal practice with best friend Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson, who gives the show its lighter, funnier moments). Their first case involves Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll, “True Blood”), who ends up becoming their law firm secretary.
“Daredevil” wisely takes its time to introduce its characters. Episode one is all about Karen and her case; episode two introduces ER nurse Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson). A staggered introduction of characters gives each one time to breathe and grow; it’s not the forced introductions that bog down so many broadcast network pilots.
While TV and movies currently feature an overabundance of comic book-inspired stories, Netflix’s “Daredevil” makes the case that not all superhero shows are created equal and this one improves markedly on both the previous “Daredevil” movie and the other, current Marvel universe TV series.
BBC America’s “Orphan Black” (9 p.m. April 18) lost steam in its second season, growing too convoluted and devoid of the fun-with-clones tone that at least occasionally popped up during the show’s first season.
The season three premiere seems to recognize the need for some lightness, opening with an amusing dream sequence, a talking scorpion and a new project for uptight suburban soccer mom clone Alison (Tatiana Maslany, who also plays clones Sarah, Cosima, Rachel and Helena).
There’s also an entertaining series of scenes where one clone impersonates the other: Sarah pretends to be Rachel while dealing with Dyad Institute cleaner Ferdinand (James Frain), then Cosima pretends to be Sarah.
But the plot focus this year will surely be on the discovery of a male series of clones, Project Castor, all played by actor Ari Millen. It’s a welcome re-set that may prevent “Orphan Black” from becoming more complicated than it already is.