Malta loves being reminded that it is indeed a part of the rest of the world, most recently due to an honour thrust upon us some months ago, when the American streaming service Netflix announced that it will become available to pretty much anyone, anywhere with a workable internet connection. Malta is now part of a joyous international club of streaming goodness.
Apart from being very much plugged into the recent ‘TV Renaissance’ – with it being something of a given that television drama has become just as good, if not better than, mainstream cinematic produce – Netflix is riding the crest of an additional pop culture wave. Wisely, Marvel have begun to consolidate their cinematic successes by breaking into TV, using Netflix as their conduit. This move also allows Marvel to explore characters within its ‘shared universe’ that would fall on the ‘middle-to-minor’ scale of its superhero hierarchy, and tell stories that perhaps have a rougher and/or more intimate edge than the big players.
Now two seasons in and headlined by Cabin in the Woods (2013) director Drew Goddard, Daredevil, set in the pits of urban squalor and dealing with the comparatively grounded wing of the Marvel universe, does a fine job at presenting itself as ‘gritty’. With a fantastic villain in Vincent D’Onforio’s charismatic but deadly Wilson Fisk (aka ‘The Kingpin’) and an equally alluring romantic interest in the exotic assassin Elektra (Élodie Yung), coupled with the more ‘mundane’ but just as well-played forays into Matt, Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and Karen Page’s (Deborah Ann Woll) courtroom wranglings, Goddard’s show hits the sweet spot. A Punisher spin-off series was announced right before Daredevil’s second season wrapped, and it will be curious to see how this plays out given that the character’s previous on-screen incarnations never quite hit the spot.
Culled from the comic book Alias and cleaving even closer to film noir tradition than Daredevil by having an actual private eye as its protagonist, Marvel’s acclaimed female-led drama Jessica Jones has won hearts and minds thanks to former Breaking Bad star Krysten Ritter’s turn as the no-bullshit titular – and reluctant – heroine. Placing a lot of stock on Jessica’s relationship with her childhood friend Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), – whom comics fans will recognise as ‘Hellcat’ – Jessica Jones makes for refreshing viewing, especially given that the threat of Tennant’s Killian is bound up to intimate relationship dynamics rather than the staid motivations of revenge and/or the good vs evil binary.