“Daredevil”: Marvel proves once again its unique understanding the world of multi-platforming with its new series for Netflix. Charlie Cox is a brilliant choice for the blind, bare-knuckled vigilante, here so low-rent he doesn’t even have the slick costume yet. New York hasn’t looked this menacing in years, with its rain slick alleys and prowling baddies. And the supporting cast, including Elden Henson, Vincent D’Onofiro and Rosario Dawson, bring depth to their roles as best friend, super villain and conscience minder, respectively.
More important, “Daredevil” is custom built for both its audience and its delivery system. An elliptical introduction, random flashbacks, long punch-'em-out scenes followed by blaze-by exposition, sudden side trips into the world of supporting characters all mark a we’ll-get-to-it-when-it's-time sense of storytelling that works best when consumed in multiple episodes.
Adult where other Marvel shows skew adolescent and dismissive of super powers, gizmos and badged agencies, “Daredevil” may be part of a franchise but plays by its own rules, and it may be the first show explicitly built to binge. Netflix, as of April 10, any time.
“Game of Thrones”: The best show ever is just as good, if not better, in season 5 than its ever been. Having established itself as television’s first real fantasy epic, it goes on to redefine its own terminology. Gone (in many cases, literally) are the characters once so archetypal they could be sorted into houses and identified by animal symbols and mottoes. In there place are people, some still-power hungry or oppressed or in extremis, but all shaped by what has happened to them over the course of the show and all now individuals faced by personal choices.
Is Jon Snow ready to be a leader, and what kind will he be? Does Arya really want to follow the tutelage of her faceless man assassin, and has she become nothing but the desire for revenge? Will Sansa finally stop whimpering and flinching and step up to become her mother’s daughter? Has Tyrion come full circle, back to the cynical dissipation of the outlier, or will his true mettle finally be put to better use? And will Daenerys get it together and control those crazy dragons and her kingdom before all the good she has done collapses because she’s too nice to lay down the law?
This doesn’t mean early episodes lack blood and breasts and scenes of great beauty and brutal death. All is as it was in Westeros and its environs, winter is coming, etc, only now it is as human a world as it is fantastic. “Game of Thrones”: The first truly character-driven epic. HBO, Sunday, 9 p.m.
“Outlander”: So is it bigamy if the man you married first hasn’t actually been born yet? Just one of the many imponderables faced by Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), former World War II nurse turned time traveler who finds herself, and true love, after an ill-timed visit to some standing stones lands her in 18th-century Scotland.
Armed with the scant knowledge she accumulated on her trip to the Highlands with her 20th century husband, Frank (Tobias Menzies) — like that many Highlanders die attempting to protect their way of life near those fateful standing stones — Claire spent season 1 attempting to not be raped, killed or put on trial for witchcraft. Earning respect from the local clan for her first-aid skills (memo to self: Learn your herbs in case of accidental time travel!), she is subsequently terrorized by Frank’s ancestor and doppleganger, English Captain Jack Randall, a man so sadistic he would fit right in on “Game of Thrones.”
To keep her from Randall’s clutches, gallant Scotsman Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) marries her, and by the end of season 1 the two were legitimately in love.
As they are in season 2, though the cultural differences are beginning to show. Lush and lovely, with smatterings of history to sweeten the general absurdity of certain things (how does she bear her new standard of personal hygiene?), “Outlander” remains at once preposterous and very serious. How much of who we are is born of context and how much our essential self? What are the human qualities that transcend time and place, and is romantic love one of them? Would I look that great in an enormous plaid shawl and a wide belt?
Don’t stop watching til you get some answers. Starz, Saturday, 9 p.m.