Last week, I sat down with the express purpose of starting Marvel’s Daredevil and watching as many episodes that I could get away with in one go. While I’m definitely a binge watcher during my work off season, I decided to review this particular show not as one big she-bang, but in parts over a series of weeks. This system relieves the pressure of having to binge watch the entire season, while allowing me to marinate on the themes and characters of this new Marvel phenomenon. Let’s get started, shall we?
Spoilers ahead, Sweetie…
Episode 1: Into the Ring
Daredevil begins with Matthew Murdock, a lawyer who, along with his buddy Foggy Nelson, sets up a lawfirm in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen for the innocent, whom he can pick out via their heartbeat and his keen sense of hearing. Matt is blind, but he doesn’t let that get in the way of his job, either as a lawyer by day or vigilante by night. When Matt and Foggy pick up their first case, it is that of Karen Page, a secretary who found herself in a room, with a knife and a body, but no recollection of how she got there. Karen fears she is being set up, and, spoiler, she has been. Karen found out something that she shouldn’t have, and there is a larger villain at play in terms of her story that we only barely get to see. All we know is that she survives because she is allowed to survive, and, while she may have leaked vital information about her former workplace to the press, the Big Bad isn’t interested in killing her, yet. The end of the episode reveals three major crime families working together in the city, and Matt encounters on part of the conglomeration, the Russians, while busting up a sex trafficking ring. It becomes obvious the streets of Hell’s Kitchen need cleaning, and Matt Murdock is just the man to do it. He fights like a old school boxer, and boy, can that man take a punch. He has no qualms kicking ass, and even seems to enjoy it, which we come to understand is the reason the opening scene shows us Matt in the confessional, struggling with the dark part of himself that seeks justice and forgiveness, but not penance.
The show uses flashbacks to reveal to viewers the history of Matt’s blindness, the relationship with his father and his journey into vigilante-ism, while not giving away too much of the story. There are also vague references to an “incident” that almost destroyed New York a while back, which I’m assuming is the Avengers fighting the Chitauri, and it made my fangirl heart happy to see the MCU tie-in. I also appreciate that blindness is part of the narrative and a topic the writers don’t shy away from. We see in the final sequence of this episode blind factory workers packaging drugs and there is the introduction sequence of the show, which has the image of a blind Justice, balancing the scales. Matt discusses his affliction and the people around him ask questions about it, bringing blindness into the discussion of survival, instinct and purpose. While this episode wasn’t overwhelmingly exciting, it provided a base of reference and enough build up, that I’m excited to keep pushing through.
Episode 2: Cut Mat
While chasing after the Russian sex-traders, Matt walks into a trap and the beginning of this episode finds him in a dumpster, bleeding out and unconscious. We meet Claire Temple, a nurse who pulls Matt out of the dumpster and into her apartment to tend to his wounds. There are two storylines happening in this episode, Matt and Claire in her apartment dealing with the Russians, while Foggy and Karen grab a drink and try to work through Karen’s trust issues. There is an obvious visual and textual juxtaposition between Foggy, who is trying to convince Karen that the city isn’t full of crazies like she is wont to think, and Matt and Claire, who capture a Russian and torture him on the rooftops above Hell’s Kitchen.
The torture scene is dark and riveting. Along with Matt, audiences are surprised to see what Claire is willing to do to help her city and those in need. In order to survive and to capture the bad guy, Matt has to tell her the truth about himself. She has seen his face, but he doesn’t give his name and, when she hears the story of the Russians, who kidnapped a man and his son to lure Matt into their trap, she vows to help him. Both in masks on the roof of her apartment, Claire guides Matt into stabbing the Russian in a painfully sensitive place on his face, and watches as Matt kicks the man off the roof and onto the ground below.
This ain’t your mama’s superhero.
Rosario Dawson brings depth to this episode that was lacking in the first one. I enjoy her performance and the lengths Claire is willing to go to in order to keep innocents safe. I want these two to team up again and I really hope that we get to see her in future episodes. The story is gaining momentum, and, even though we don’t interact with the Big Bad as of yet, we are seeing more of his PA, James Wesley, who is as professional as he is creepy. So far, so good.
Episode 3: Rabbit in a Snow Storm
This episode opens on the most violent scene of the show so far, involving a bowling ball crushing the skull and exposed broken bones with plenty of blood on the side. After being put on retainer by James Wesley and his mysterious boss, Foggy and Matt are immediately placed on the case of John Healy, the man who smashed a skull in the opening scene and then surrendered to the police. The theme of morality and purpose run through this episode pretty blatantly, with Foggy at first desperate for a case because they’re broke and need the money, while Matt is not sure about taking on Healy, who is obviously guilty. With Matt’s undercover, nighttime vigilante activities and super heartbeat hearing skills, he discerns that the case of Mr. Healy might lead him to Wesley’s boss, who Matt suspects is a criminal behind the sex-trade activities as well as Karen’s set-up. The case goes to trial, and Matt and Foggy, even though they suspect their client is guilty, fight for his freedom and win. Healy is free to go, but is intercepted in a dark alley by the masked vigilante. Healy’s fighting style is similar to Matt’s, and it makes me wonder if these men are two sides of the same Hell’s Kitchen coin. Fist fights in city streets have led them to opposite sides of the law, and the confrontation between the two is gritty and exciting. Matt gets Healy to reveal the name of his employer, Wilson Fisk, but even a low-level criminal like Healy knows when he’s fucked. Healy stabs himself in the face with a fence post after telling Matt that he and his entire family are already dead.
We also get the story of a reporter, Ben Urich, who looks to be fighting against the crime families of Hell’s Kitchen with his mighty pen and paper. He and Karen meet, which leads me to believe she has more of a story to tell and hopes that Urich will be the one to help her tell it.
Well, this just got dark.
I’m digging the dual storylines, but I do miss the flashbacks to Matt’s father and his childhood. We finally get a peek at the Big Bad at the very end of the episode and Vincent D’Onofrio is a wonderful balance of intimidating and pathetic, even in the single scene we get of Wilson Fisk at the end. I’m excited to see where this show takes the mytharc and especially pleased to see the story revealing the consequences of what happens when superheroes like the Avengers save the Earth but leave the small time crooks to the vigilantes.
Onward and upward, my friends. I plan to watch episodes 4-6 and write about it next week, Friday. See you then, you little Daredevils.
xoxo The Collectiva Diva