Daredevil showrunner Steven DeKnight is no stranger to blood, guts, and gore, which undoubtedly is what made him the perfect contender for Daredevil, one of the darkest corners of Marvel’s interconnected universe.
Pre-Daredevil, DeKnight was known for hit shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Spartacus, penning some of the most brutal episodes of each. Because of this, many fans saw Daredevil’s darkening as a direct result of DeKnight’s involvement. When we sat down with DeKnight to discuss his involvement in Travel Boobs, a new comedy series, we asked him how many Daredevil scenes from were left on the writer’s room floor for being too grisly, and how much of this newfound Marvel darkness was due to his influence.
“You know I’d love to take credit for that, but Marvel had decided to go darker before I came in,” said DeKnight. “They were already committed to this being a darker corner of the Marvel universe, and then I came and sucked the light out of the room. I like things really extra dark.”
Where to draw the line?
DeKnight is one of the few credited for coining and reinforcing the “PG-16” atmosphere that permeates the Marvel/Netflix relationship. As the first showrunner to explore a portion of the universe that’s only loosely connected to the bright, shiny MCU films, this meant more than a few conversations about where to draw the line.
“We never really had a problem with the violence,” said DeKnight. “We did have a conversation about language, though. As soon as I came in everybody started cursing more.”
While being the first captain to sail into the nigh-uncensored waters of Netflix might seem exciting to any visionary with a bloody background, to DeKnight it was a challenge to wield the double-edged sword of great power and great responsibility.
“We all agreed we wanted it to be gritty and graphic,” said DeKnight. “But I always used The Walking Dead analogy. I love The Walking Dead, I think it’s a brilliantly constructed show and what they do is truly amazing, but their violence is very R-rated. It’s very graphic. If someone gets their head crushed, you see their head get crushed,” said DeKnight, laughing darkly.
“I love that stuff. I’m a big fan of practical effects and I think for Spartacus and The Walking Dead, it’s the right choice, but for Daredevil, when Fisk crushes the Russian’s head in the car door, even though everyone on the internet said, ‘Ahhh, that’s so gross, that’s so graphic,’ if you look back at it, you never see his head being crushed. We did very much a Psycho thing, we saw the aftereffects of it, but you never saw the car door crushing his head.”
Sure, we never saw the guy’s head explode, but we certainly heard a lot of it. We mentioned this to DeKnight, and got a laughing response.
“Sound effects, absolutely,” said DeKnight. “It’s a very disturbing scene without crossing that line into a horror movie kind of deal.”
An explosive deleted scene
Much of what separated the storytelling in Daredevil from the rest of the universe was its visceral sense of violence and the fact that true consequences were never far behind for Matt Murdock and his colleagues.
However, this also meant that a good deal of scenes had to be left out of the final cut of the series for “going too far” in the wrong ways. In fact, DeKnight had a full alternate ending for a minor character, Ms. Cardenas, an elderly woman that Foggy and Karen meet while working on her tenement case.
“At one point, Ms. Cardenas disappears. We always thought that she went out to get them dessert,” said DeKnight. “And as she’s coming back with flan, that’s when the explosion happens and all they find are her arms and this flan. And we were half joking half serious about blowing her up.”
Fans of the series know that while Ms. Cardenas doesn’t get blown up, the idea to blow her up eventually led to her character’s demise.
“We ended up killing her later to wrap it into the story,” said DeKnight. “And at the time we were thinking ‘We can’t blow her up! That’s too much!’ And then of course eight months later I watch Jessica Jones and they blow up that old neighbor woman and all that’s left is like an arm, and I’m thinking ‘Hey, wait a minute!’”
Not asking for it
According to DeKnight, while Daredevil is certainly a violent, action-packed show, another deleted moment would have crossed into a whole different territory altogether, one that wouldn’t be adequately explored by Marvel until the premiere of Jessica Jones last month.
“In the fourth episode where Rosario Dawson gets kidnapped, the Russian is threatening her with a bat, and in an original draft, it was much more graphic what he was threatening to do,” said DeKnight. “I looked at it and said, ‘That’s way too far, who wrote that?!'”
Indeed, while violence, cursing, and the harsh cruelty of reality were all aspects of Daredevil from the beginning, DeKnight thought that moving into sexual violence wasn’t necessary.
“I feel like Daredevil wasn’t asking for a lot of sexual situations, especially since Matt Murdock is not really in the position to get into a relationship, and it just didn’t fit the story for that season,” said DeKnight. “I think that’ll change moving forward, but I never pushed any kind of sexual agenda on the show. I think once Daredevil was a hit and people were really responding positively, you can see the progression into more of an adult world in Jessica Jones where there are a lot of sexual situations, and for Jessica Jones, it’s absolutely the right thing to do. Anyone who has read Brian Michael Bendis’ amazing Alias storyline knows that.”
The spirit of the series
According to DeKnight, half of what he believes made Daredevil a success was the choice to not directly adapt any one storyline. Instead, they focused on nailing the spirit of the comics and creating their own stories from there.
“I think that’s what’s great about Jessica Jones as well,” said DeKnight. “They’re not following exactly the Alias storyline, but they did a brilliant job of refocusing the thing that haunts her,” said DeKnight. “And Kilgrave, My God, David Tennent as Kilgrave. Just brilliant casting in a brilliant show.”
As a fan, DeKnight can appreciate Jessica Jones for what it is: an incredible and important adaptation of one of the best characters in the Marvel universe. As a showrunner, he’s more able to appreciate how far they can push Netflix’s envelope.
“If you look at Jessica Jones, it’s a lot more graphically violent than Daredevil, and I think part of that is a progression from what we did with Daredevil. They were already looking in that direction, but I think Daredevil’s success made them a little more comfortable about pushing it a little further. We dipped the toe in the water with Daredevil, and now we’re slowly easing into the warm bath.”
About Travel Boobs
DeKnight is currently planning his work for next year, including a possible guest directing gig for a comedy web series called Travel Boobs that will hopefully be coming to small digital screens next summer.
Following the absurd and bawdy exploits of three girls on the run from their own lives, Travel Boobs was the brain child of Jaime Slater, the show’s creator and showrunner.
If you’ve enjoyed envisioning these deleted scenes as Steven has eloquently described above, then please take a moment to donate to a spectacular female-driven project written by creator/showrunner Jaime Slater, Lydelle Jackson, and James Bean (yes, the writer of this article) and starring Megan Heyn, Louise Bond, and Jaime Slater.
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