Time for my review of the second episode of Marvel’s Daredevil (I keep writing “issue” instead of episode, being so used to the comics, so if any “issues” snuck their way into this text, you know why). Same format as yesterday; I’m starting with a full recap, for the sake of completeness, follow that up with my overall thoughts, and the things I want to make sure I mention as we make our way through this show, one glorious episode (not issue!) at a time.
Things start off in a back alley where Matt is found in a dumpster by a teenage boy. Right after the intro plays, we see the boy call a woman over to the dumpster where he found Matt and the two carry him up to her apartment where she examines him. He regains consciousness just in time to prevent her from calling 911. He stubbornly tries to stumble out the door when he collapses on the floor.
We see a flashback to young Matt, still sighted, who watches his father’s boxing match on TV. When the match ends, we see him listening to other people in the building while waiting for his dad to come home. When Jack finally arrives, Matt stiches him up. Matt is worried about rent, but Jack has brought home money despite losing. Those of us who know what this means probably cry a little on the inside.
While Matt is unconscious on the floor of his good samaritan’s apartment, Karen and Foggy spend a late night at the office. Foggy is in a good mood, but Karen is sticking around because she’s reluctant to go home, and the two decide to go out. Next, Matt wakes up on the couch, disoriented and freaked out. He and the woman get acquainted, and we learn that her name is Claire. He is more secretive and refuses to give his name. When she decides to call him “Mike,” us hardcore fans are smiling wide.
Matt dozes off and has another flashback to waking up in the hospital right after his accident as a child. He’s frantic and screams that he can’t see and that “everything is so loud,” before Jack calms him down. It’s all very heartbreaking and also gives us a wonderful segue to a scene taking place in the present, where grown-up Matt is on Claire’s couch straining to breathe because his lung has collapsed. Claire lets the air out of his chest with her mad E.R. nurse skills. Claire is (justifiably) concerned about what will happen if Matt dies on her couch. Matt convinces her to keep his secret by letting her know what happened with the young boy who was kidnapped by the Russians in order to set a trap for him. Next, Matt detects a man in the building going door to door.
At this point, we see another flashback to young Matt, newly blinded, studying at Fogwell’s gym while his dad is working out. Matt shows his father the finer points of braille when Jack is called over by Sweeney and Silke who are looking to fix a match between him and “Crusher” Creel. Matt listens in on their conversation and, again, it’s heartbreaking.
Back in Claire’s apartment, Matt raids her kitchen drawers for a knife while they prepare for the man who will be at the door. Matt hides while Claire opens it. After he leaves, Matt immediately realizes that the man, who is posing as a cop, didn’t belive her story of not having seen anything suspicious. Matt grabs a fire extinguisher, and goes out to the staircase. He drops it on the man who is now heard speaking Russian on the phone.
We now meet Karen and Foggy again and see them entering Josie’s bar. The two have drinks together and they find an eel in the bottle! Karen talks about her feelings in the wake of everything that happened to her, and the two have a nice scene together that sheds new light on both of their characters. Just a short distance away, Matt and Claire are now on the roof where the Russian they took out is tied up. Things are about to get ugly, and Claire is wondering what exactly she is getting herself into.
Before getting on with the story in the present day, we see another flashback to young Matt reading Thurgood Marshall. Jack shows him his new silk robe and Matt runs his fingers over the emboidered letters on the back. Next, we see Jack on the phone at the gym making arrangements for Matt after deciding to not throw the match against Creel.
In the present day, Karen and Foggy, both drunk, are now at Matt’s apartment trying to get him to come out. The only person they manage to wake is Matt’s neighbor (I don’t know who this Fran person is, and she doesn’t have a single line, but I kind of want to see more of her), and they go for a walk instead, while Foggy seems to be enteretaining the notion that they should kill another two hours waiting for the fish market to open.
We again cut to the roof of Claire’s building where their prisoner has woken up. Claire has covered her face, and the duo looks pretty spooky at this point. Matt questions him about the kidnapped boy, and Claire instructs Matt to cut into the trigeminal nerve to torture him. This is an interesting twist, but given the kind of scum we’re dealing with, you can certainly see where she’s coming from. He tells Matt what he needs to know, but Matt still throws him off the side of the building and into the dumpster below. He then tells Claire to get herself to safety. Fortunately, she is catsitting for a friend who is out of town.
Another flashback sees Jack Murdock walk to the ring while Matt listens at home. Jack wins his fight, and runs out to the locker room where he can hear the audience cheering him on. Then there’s a gunshot. It wakes up Matt who runs to the site where he kneels over his father’s dead body. Finally, in the present day, we see where the kidnapped boy is kept, his captors keeping busy in various rooms down the hall. Before long, Matt shows up and all hell breaks loose. In a long and very physical fight scene, he takes out one bad guy after another before getting the missing boy. Nice scene, nice segue. Fathers and sons and all of that.
A big part of me actually likes the first episode better than the second. It might be the slightly bigger cast of characters in play, the fact that it’s all new and exciting, or that we get to see a slightly bigger range out of Matt Murdock. There’s also another part of me who thinks that first part is crazy. Because, technically, the second episode has a better idea of what it’s trying to be, and all the little pieces seem to fit together just a little bit better. Considering how much I loved the first episode, it’s really amazing that what comes next is able to match this and, in many ways, elevate the story even more.
This time around, we find Matt in a dumpster. This is really pretty significant in how it completely breaks the superhero mold. When was the last time we saw MCU Captain America in a dumpster? Never, that’s when. On the other hand, Matt getting severly injured while performing his Daredevil duties is certainly not unheard of. Even during the supposedly dark and gritty Miller era, we saw Matt fighting crime with his leg in a cast and using a crutch. Still, it certainly shows that the creators are not afraid to show Matt fail, and fail miserably. Anyone who was looking for a hero who can overpower any number of attackers without so much as a bruise can look elsewhere.
It is this simple fact that creates the need and room for a character like Claire Temple, the off-duty nurse who, with the help of the neighbor who found him, pulls Matt out of the dumpster and to safety on her couch. I like her no-nonsense approach and courage to bend the rules for a man in need, and the fact that very little seems to faze her. When she realizes that the man on her couch is the vigilante she’s heard stories about, and that he’s blind, you still get the sense that she’s seen weirder things.
Despite the dire circumstances, there’s humor in their scenes together. Matt tries to find the front door and instead goes into Claire’s kitchen, Claire makes disparaging remarks about his costume, he jokes about his religion. In fact, even the part where he drops a fire extinguisher on the bad bad guy is just a little bit funny in its own way. This is what happens when our comic book heroes come crashing into the lives of real people. Violence is sure to follow, but there’s a fair share of absurdity as well.
Another thing that’s handled masterfully in this episode are the flashback sequences. They blend in perfectly with what’s happening in the present day, and as such, feel relevant rather than like pieces of disjointed backstory. This is where we get a really good look at Jack Murdock, and it breaks your heart when you know how things must end. I very much appreciated that they scrapped the enforcer-for-the-mob backstory that Jack got saddled with at some point in the comics, and went for a cleaner, more noble approach. There are also no signs that Jack was ever violent with Matt, and with everything that happened to Matt, starting with his accident, you just need for there to have been some light in his life. There’s a scene where Jack is approached by Silke and Sweeney, and one of them says that he’s still young enough to have another kid – as if Matt were now somehow a waste – where you see Jack’s eyes light up with indignation. It’s the little things like that that make his performance so great.
While Matt is in the throes of agony on Claire’s couch, Foggy and Karen spend an evening together out on the town, in scenes which go a long way to adding more to their respective characters. Foggy shows his caring side when he demonstrates his ties to Hell’s Kitchen, and a vast knowledge of the regular clientele at Josie’s bar. Karen, meanwhile, is justifiable reluctant to return home to the apartment where her co-worker was murdered, but shows a more carefree side here. From looking at these scenes, you know this isn’t just Matt’s show. He has other people in his life that matter, and whose stories matter.
Much has been said about the shocking nature of the torture (that is what it is) that Matt and Claire’s prisoner is subjected to in this episode. And yes, it is shocking. On the other hand, Matt and Claire are in the fortunate situation – rare as it is in real life – of knowing what kind of man they are dealing with. It’s not just Matt’s senses that can detect his lies, he actually admits to being complicit in the kidnapping of a young boy whose life is in danger. What happens to him is certainly not something that would find support in the Geneva convention, but we are dealing with very human characters who are feeling a very human level of desperation over the plight of an innocent young victim. Matt doesn’t hesitate to do what he feels needs to be done, but what’s interesting is how readily Claire seems to take to his brutal methods, even assisting him in the finer points of human anatomy.
The final fight scene is, in the preferred vocabulary of our time, “epic.” What I love about it is how rough it is. While Matt remains impressive every step of the way, he’s more boxer than ballerina, and he pummels the baddies as much as he delivers clean punches. That little step off the wall toward the end is amazing in its simplicity, and I love that you can see him straining to catch his breath and get a moment’s rest whenever he can. He lost his own father to violence, and there is no mistaking the drive to make sure that the little boy he saves at the end of the episode will see a happier end to his story and be united with his dad. It’s raw and moving, and an amazing way to end an overall strong episode.
Aside from Matt generally kicking ass in that last scene, we see him detecting the suspicious Russian guy posing as a cop going around the building, and then determining whether or not he’s still unconscious after they bring him up the roof. When I first saw one of the previews where Rosario Dawson’s Claire is referencing what just happened in her apartment, I groaned. She talks about Matt being able to smell people through walls and I immediately had a flashback to Matt smelling the saline solution in the eyes of the reporters standing outside his apartment through the wall early in the Bendis run. However, when you look at what actually happens (taking into account the general layout of Claire’s building), this use of Matt’s heightened senses is reasonably modest.
No, you can’t smell cologne through walls, but you can smell it through cracks in the door or other openings that will let air through. This is how I can easily smell the culinary exploits of one of my neighbors. And, with the open layout of Claire’s building, it’s highly plausible that Matt would hear him going door to door, especially in the context of the guy having heightened senses. That being the characters shtick and all.
(Accessible) gadget watch
None to report this time around since Matt spends the entire episode in either a dumpster, on a couch, a roof, or in a basement punching bad guys. Unless Claire Temple counts as a gadget for checking the bad guy’s cell phone. Sadly, the bad guy’s cell phone was broken. This is where torture comes in handy.
Easter egg watch
Claire picks the nickname “Mike” for Matt after he refuses to give her name. As any semi-serious Daredevil fan will know, Michael is Matt’s middle name, and “Mike Murdock” was the identical twin Matt made up to take care of a secret identity snafu way back in Daredevil #25 (vol 1). Search for “Mike Murdock” in the search box, and you’ll find plenty to read about him right here on this site.
Matt: “You’re looking at me like I’m crazy, right?”
Claire: “It seems the appropriate response.”
Matt: “There are some things I haven’t told you about me, Claire.”
Claire: “You haven’t told me anything about you. All I know is, you’re very good at taking a beating.”
Karen: “I don’t see the city anymore. All that I see are its dark corners.”
Young Matt: “We’re Murdocks. We get hit a lot. […] But we get up. Right, dad? We always get up.”
Matt: “I need you to know why I’m hurting you. It’s not just the boy. I’m doing this ’cause I enjoy it.”
For the first episode, this “award” went to Matt’s intellect. If I had to pick just one thing this time around, I suppose it would have to be Matt’s resilience. Or his fists. Honestly though, I think I’m going to have to give major kudos to everyday hero Claire Temple and really-coming-into-his-own Foggy Nelson who is able to put a smile on Karen’s face. Despite all the horrors she’s been through.