If you haven’t seen Marvel’s Daredevil yet, then I think a binge-watching session is in order! If you don’t have access to Netflix, it might mean commandeering a friend’s television – I’m sure they’ll buy the whole ‘we haven’t spent any time together in ages.’ Until they catch on, that is. Camping out for thirteen hours is a dead giveaway.
But seriously, I’m sure if you’re a fan, or you saw any of the hype, you’ve already watched at least some of the show. This is the first of a five part review. I will be taking the episodes three at a time (the last post will be dedicated to the finale), and discussing Marvel’s newest addition to the universe.
Episode 1 – Into the Ring
The first episode of Marvel’s Daredevil did not disappoint. The show opened with a little backstory – the moment Matt Murdock lost his sight. The scene was dramatic, with just the right amount of mystery. Young Matt is involved in a car accident and exposed to toxic chemicals. It was all we were really given at that point, and it was enough. The fact he heroically saved a man’s life, even as a boy, set things up in terms of what we could expect from the man.
Back in present day, we saw Matt in confessional. I loved the whole feel of that scene – the darkness of it. He ended his monologue by asking for forgiveness – not for what he had done, but for what he was about to do.
Seeing Matt in action, wearing a costume which echoed the early comics, was pretty exciting. The disguise might be primitive at this point, but no less effective. His fighting skills were top notch; the way he anticipated his opponents and dodged whatever came his way, it all spoke of his heightened abilities and discipline.
One of the things I enjoyed most about the opening episode was how quickly the show set up Matt’s relationship with Foggy Nelson, his friend and partner. It is clear from the start Foggy is blissfully unaware of Matt’s extracurricular activities, but the pair have a good rapport, which can only get better.
Karen Page is introduced when she is arrested for murder (she is found bent over a dead body.) Enter Matt and Foggy who, posing as her attorneys, join her in the interview room. There was more evidence of comedic timing, but the best part was seeing Matt use his senses (assessing Karen’s responses). They slowed the action, allowing us to experience things from his point of view; the changes in her tone, the inflection – it was artfully done.
Karen’s innocence was established pretty quickly, and the fact she witnessed something which put her in danger – namely embezzlement. At which point we were introduced to the ‘big bads’ – a group causing havoc in Hell’s Kitchen. Their sins include human trafficking, drugs, and money laundering. The Kingpin wasn’t present, but his existence was hinted at.
Matt saved the day, and Karen’s life. He delivered evidence to the police which blew the embezzlement case wide open. A grateful Karen then offered to work for Foggy and Matt for free, as payback for saving her life. Since they have no clients and little capitol (their business sign was made out of cardboard), they hired her on the spot! And so the team was born.
The show obviously intends to use flashbacks to add in the backstory, and we already saw a taste of Matt’s father ‘Battlin’ Jack’ and references to his boxing career. Matt was seen training in a gym, and his own boxing skills were evident.
All in all, the introduction set things up pretty nicely. There is a dark feel to the show, especially the crime element in Hell’s Kitchen and the conflict which drives Matt to wear a mask and fight crime. His relationship with Foggy adds a lighter side – a little comic relief. This is an important balance and worked well. I’m keen to learn more about Matt’s history, and his training.
Episode 2 – Cut Man
This ranks as one of my favourite episodes, but let’s face it – they are all pretty fantastic! Matt is found bloody and beaten in a dumpster, which immediately brought back the closing scene in episode one – a boy being kidnapped.
Claire Temple, a nurse, comes to his rescue and treats Matt’s injuries in her apartment. These scenes were great because we got to see more evidence of Matt’s heightened abilities. He heard someone in Claire’s building going door to door, and could smell a man on the third floor (the aroma of premium cigarettes and discount cologne). Using his abilities, and the awareness of his surroundings, he gets the better of those on his tail – with a fire extinguisher no less!
As the masked man, Matt is causing havoc for the crime element in Hell’s Kitchen – especially for the Russians. Taking the boy was a way to lure him out and Matt took the bait. After ensuring Claire had somewhere safe to stay, and beating the location out of a man named Semyon (he dropped the Russian off the roof and into a dumpster), Matt went to finish what he started.
The ensuing fight is one of the best I’ve seen. The choreography was almost poetic. Matt, despite his severe injuries, takes on several armed guys – men who keep on coming. He fights them two and three at a time, using a combination of martial arts and boxing. But the truly marvellous thing was the fact he was swaying on his feet and yet, every time he fell down, he got back up. He completely cleaned house! It was a fabulous scene.
The flashbacks were revealing in this episode. We saw a young Matt tormented by amplified sounds, and his dad feeling helpless. Later we saw how this newfound ability developed when Matt overheard a conversation from across the gym. He learnt his dad was purposely losing fights, albeit reluctantly. This becomes more apparent in a later scene when Matt reminds him of their expression, ‘Murdock’s get hit a lot, but they always get up.’ Matt also mentions this in the present when he tells Claire he’s good at taking a beating.
Battlin’ Jack Murdock has a change of heart about throwing the next fight and contacts his bookie, telling him to bet it all on him to win. He gives instructions on where to transfer the money – an account in Matt’s name. He is aware of the danger, but gets his wish – Matt hears people cheering his father’s name.
Of course Matt’s jubilation is short lived. When a gunshot rings out, from outside the apartment, he goes out to investigate and finds his father dead in an alley. It was almost a ‘Champ’ moment. I felt myself tearing up.
Episode 3 – Rabbit in a Snowstorm
At the beginning of this episode, Matt and Foggy are offered a retainer by an organisation called Confederate Global Investments, represented by James Wesley. We first met Wesley in episode one, and he fits the role of antagonist like a well-tailored suit. He offers them a test run of sorts, one with a time limit, and hands them a file.
The case involves defending an employee of Confederate Global, John Healy, who was assigned to take out a man named Prohaszka. We already saw Healy in action when he beat Prohaszka to death with a bowling ball. It was a violent and bloody scene, but what I found particularly chilling was the way Healy dropped to his knees, and put his hands behind his head – just as casually as you please.
Matt is reluctant to take the case, and follows Wesley out of the office in an effort to learn more about the man and his mysterious ’employer.’ He tracks him easily in the crowd, through the rhythmic ticking of Wesley’s watch. As he gets into a vehicle, Matt overhears the words, ‘it’s been taken care of,’ and his decision is made. He takes the case.
Foggy isn’t entirely convinced, especially as it’s apparent Healy is a professional criminal. But they agree to work together. The court scenes were cleverly done. Matt picking up on a juror’s distress and linking this to the arrival of Wesley – he hears the tick, tick, ticking of his watch. The story behind her anxiety soon comes to light, or rather Matt beats it out of the man intimidating her. Confederated Global are manipulating her because of a past discretion.
Matt wraps things up with a closing argument, monitoring heartbeats as he gives a morality speech. He knows before the verdict is delivered that Healy has been acquitted, but that’s okay – he has a special brand of justice. He puts on his mask and, after a brutal fight, learns the name of Healy’s employer – Wilson Fisk.
At which point we see the level of fear associated with Fisk’s name, and Matt gets a demonstration of the Kingpin’s power when Healy throws himself on a spike.
Elsewhere in the story
Journalist Ben Urich is introduced in this episode, and is first seen talking to Silvio (an old mobster). Clearly the two have a history, and Silvio is a familiar source of information. But regardless of how much Ben wants to tell a story about the new player in town, his boss vetoes the idea because it won’t sell papers.
Ben’s personal circumstances are hinted at when he visits the hospital, and we discover his wife requires long term care. Given the talk of insurance and appeals, Ben will soon have to find alternative arrangements.
The interoffice banter between Foggy, Karen and Matt is strong, but Karen had her own concerns to deal with. She met with her previous employer Union Allied and is offered hush money – a six month salary in a lump sum if she signs to agree she will never talk about the company again. A clean slate.
She can’t accept that the company will get away with shuffling some papers and changing their name, and goes to see Ben Urich because she believes there is more to the story.
The episode ends with the first look at Kingpin. Wilson Fisk is speaking to a curator at an Art Gallery. He is staring at a picture, which is basically gradients of white, and she refers to the painting by referencing a children’s joke about a rabbit in a storm. When she asks him how it makes him feel, his words are as chilling as the scene – ‘It makes me feel alone’.
Now it’s time for a discussion. What did you think of the introduction to Marvel’s Daredevil? What are your highlights from the first three episodes? I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Until next time.
NB: Images used within this review are the copyright of Marvel Entertainment/Netflix. All rights reserved.