Okay, gang! It’s time to start tackling these reviews again. Old friends of this site know the drill, for those who are new, the format I always follow is this: We start with a longish, and fairly detailed Recap. These are honestly more for posterity, or for people who need to refresh their memory before commenting on a particular scene. If you have this episode fresh in your memory, you can easily jump straight to the review portion of the post.
The review portion always consists of the sections My thoughts, Senses watch, Easter egg watch, Quotes, and Star player. Senses watch is where I analyze the use of Matt’s senses in each of the episodes. It’s me, how could I not? The others are pretty self-explanatory.
For season one, though not season two, I also had a segment called Accessible gadget watch, but since there’s virtually nothing to report on that front (except a single text message read aloud in one of the later episodes), I’m obviously scrapping that. Instead, I’m adding a new section I’m jokingly going to call Matt’s thoughts. Because Matt’s arc isn’t always easy to follow this season, and my own opinon on it changed pretty dramatically (for the better) between first and second viewings, I thought I’d take a swing at tracking what exactly is going on in that noggin’ of his as the show progresses.
Crystal clear? Let’s get going!
Matt is seen being thrown, very angel-like upward (downward?, to the side?) during the collapse of Midland Circle and is pulled out through a drainage pipe that takes him to the surface. The less we think about the details of this particular scene, the better. Either way, he is eventually discovered by a passing cab driver. Barely conscious, he asks for Father Lantom at Clinton Church.
Next, we find Matt is at the church, there is a distinct underwater effect at work and the agitated voices of of Father Lantom and Maggie are heard, distantly, in the background. When Maggie is told who he is, she interrupts her 911 call and agrees to treat him there.
Matt, still just semi-conscious remembers Elektra and his last moments with her. As he comes to, and Maggie is called for, he asks about Elektra, and where he is. In response, he is told that he is at St. Agnes and that he’s been there several weeks. Matt keeps pushing for information about Elektra. (I’ve decided to assume he’s been going in and out of consciousness, since there is no life support equipment and he cannot have gone without food and drink for weeks.)
Against the nuns’ orders, Matt tries to stand, while complaining about his right ear, and falls off the bed. He exclaims that “He can’t see” and echoes of young Matt shouting the same thing are heard before we cut to the intro.
We get back to the show, and Matt tries to assess the damage to his body when Father Lantom shows up to speak with him. Matt is noticeably distressed by the fact that he didn’t notice the priest coming in. Father Lantom explains why he brought Matt to this place and assures him the nuns can be trusted. He offers Matt communion, or a friendly ear, but Matt is still wondering about Elektra. Lantom obviously doesn’t know about her resurrection, but doesn’t object when Matt tries to explain. Matt is told that no one else was seen leaving the building, and he dismisses Lantom’s second offer of communion. Lantom reminds him that it truly is a miracle that he survived, but a distraught Matt indicates that he is not interested in one of their usual conversations about God.
Some indeterminate time later, Matt is approached by a couple of the children from the orphanage who are asking him questions. Matt acknowledges that he grew up there, same as them, when Maggie arrives and tells them to leave. Maggie is there to tend to his wounds, adding that she’ll do it “preferably without you flailing around like an idiot.” Maggie, in trying to make sense of what she knows about the new patient under her care, notes that she shouldn’t be surprised and that she remembers Matt’s anger. At the time, she clearly saw it as a natural response to his circumstances. This leads to a brief conversation about The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen and whether Matt really is blind. She gets a bit of sarcasm from Matt before he explains that the accident that blinded him sharpened his other senses. However, he is now deaf in his right ear and, as he puts it, “can’t even walk to the bathroom right now.” Maggie assures him that he’ll be back on his feet, whether he can do backflips or not, but also suggests that he needs to leave as soon as he’s able. When asked if there is anyone she can call, he responds that there is no one.
This provides a nice segue to one of those supposed “no ones,” as we cut to Karen on her way to Matt’s apartment, finishing up att call to the paper. She knocks before entering, in the vain hope that someone will be home, and picks up the latest of Matt’s bills to add to the growing piles on Matt’s coffee table. We now get a flashback to when Matt told her he was Daredevil, at the end of season two. Next, we cut back to present-day Karen who takes a look at the empty chest that used to hold Matt’s Daredevil suit, before we are being treated to another flashback to what happened after the reveal scene, a conversation between Matt and Karen that took place at his apartment:
We see Karen entering Matt’s apartment and walking past him over to the window. She asks if he can see her. Matt says “no, not see exactly.” He says it’s different, and that he thinks it’s better. Karen prods him for a better answer and he explains that he can sense things about her, mentioning that he knows where she went just before she came to see him – “their” Indian place – explaining all the details he can pick up on. Karen says she feels humiliated, and they both agree that she has every right to be angry.
For Karen, this is complicated by the fact that Daredevil has saved her life. She says she’s been playing it over and over, asking herself how she could be that mad at someone who’d saved her. Matt is very understanding and knows he broke her trust. He offers her a drink, and she nods commenting that, of course, he knew she nodded, as he goes to get it. She asks if the “cane thing” is just an act and Matt admits that it is, and apologizes. This sets off another round of questions from Karen about why he didn’t trust her, and whether he thought she would judge him, especially when she didn’t judge Frank. Matt comments that maybe she should be judging Frank, and that while he doesn’t know what motivates people, he knows when he’s being lied to.
Matt promises that he will never lie to her again and, when asked, directs Karen to the suit in his closet. He promises that it’s over and that he’s going to leave Daredevil behind. She draws a subtle comparison between his past behavior and that of an addict, and how Matt and Foggy nearly had her convinced that Matt had a drinking problem. Matt finally puts her hand on his heart once again assures her that he doesn’t need Daredevil to be a part of his life anymore. Karen wisely points out that Daredevil may not be the problem.
Back in the present, Karen is joined by Foggy. He is under the impression that they would be packing the place up when Karen admits she asked him there under false pretenses, and that what she really needs help with is talking to the landlord about getting an extension, as Matt is being evicted. Unbeknownst to Foggy, Karen has been paying Matt’s rent since his disappearance.
Foggy sits the two of them down on the couch and tries to talk some sense into Karen, asking her to look at the facts of what happened and come to terms with the fact that Matt is dead. Foggy admits he doesn’t want to accept it either, especially since he feels guilty for bringing Matt the suit. Karen comforts Foggy, and then admits that she’s being irrational but that she can just “feel” that he’s not dead. They agree to split the bills.
Back at the church, Matt is being pushed in a wheelchair by Father Lantom and Sister Maggie. They are moving him to new sleeping quarters underneath the chapel (currently on loan to the local mosque). Everything viewed from Matt’s perspective still looks blurry and sounds as if it’s happening under water. Father Lantom apologizes for the place smelling a bit musty, but Matt drily responds that he can’t smell anything anyway. Maggie notes that the space is also the laundry room and will be noisy at times. Matt sarcastically responds that he can always turn a deaf ear to it, which Maggie counters with a bit of snark of her own.
Matt once again dismisses Father Lantom’s offer to talk, but decides he wants to stay up a while. Maggie shows him where the bed and the call button are and comments on his attitude, jokingly noting that maybe he doesn’t actually have any friends. Matt talks about Stick’s motto, that caring for people would make him weak, for which Maggie once again has a flippant response you would never expect from a nun.
Equipped with a walking cane for his limp, Matt starts exploring the space and finds his childhood braille Bible. This takes us into a conversation about religion, and Matt says that he has finally learned where he and God stand, and that he has now seen his true face. Matt tells the story from the Book of Job and ends with declaring Job a “pussy.” Matt says that he too believed he was God’s soldier. Sister Maggie gives him her crucifix which he flings to the end of the bed. Maggie insists that while Matt may hate God now, the feeling is not mutual. Matt says that it’s simply the case that he’s seen God’s true face now. He also says that he does have friends and people he cares about, but is choosing to let them believe that he is gone because he is. He knows his truth now, that in front of this God, he would rather die as the Devil than live as Matt Murdock.
We cut to Wilson Fisk cooking one of his trademark omelettes (are we ever going to get a recipe for that?) in a setting that turns out to be a flashback to better times. The setting cleverly changes from a luxurious kitchen to a prison with paper plates when we join Fisk in his current predicament. He yells at his prison mates to be quiet and pushes the omelette to the side as his attorneys enter. They let him know that his appeal is proceeding according to plan, but that his beloved Vanessa is facing criminal charges if she is located, or if she returns to the U.S. Fisk asks them to leave and takes a long hard look at the grey-white wall.
Back at the church, Matt at least tries to explore the space he’s in, snapping his fingers to hear the echoes and trying to look for the surrounding statues with his hands. He then gets overconfident and trips over a low bench. That’s when Maggie joins him and offers him hot toddy, and medicine. Matt complains that he can’t smell anything, that all he can taste is blood and ash. When Matt cracks wise about the pills and alcohol, Maggie calls him out. On finding out that Matt’s symptoms aren’t improving, she tells him to give it time. She then dishes out some hard truths about how he’s feeling sorry for himself when many of the kids in her care, who are worse off than him, are trying to make the most out of life, while he is “bravely” giving up despite his many gifts.
Matt, noticeably annoyed, accuses Maggie of having a simplistic worldview and tells her that she doesn’t know anything about him or his life. Maggie says she knows self-pity when she sees it and reminds him of his father, “famous around here,” who would go down many times, but always got back up. She leaves, and Matt lays down on his bed and listens to the sirens in the distance, looking infinitely sad.
What looks to be the following morning, Matt walks over to the sink and accidentally knocks down a neti pot from the shelf. This gives him the idea to rinse out his sinuses, which dislodges a whole shit show (pardon my French) of blood and mucus. When he touches the sink, and then the mirror, he notices that he can sense the vibrations trough hard surfaces. Running around the area, his sense of space is coming back. We see him getting back in shape through a sequence of scenes in which he is doing pushups, and practicing his boxing using laundry bags filled with detergent. When Maggie walks in on him, he frantically talks about all the subway trains he can detect, and correctly identifies the food she’s brought.
Sister Maggie and Father Lantom discuss an idea of hers, that he is not entirely comfortable with. We quickly learn that what she has in mind is a sparring match with another boxer. Maggie says it’s the only thing that’s getting him out of bed, and that he needs to know he’s still got it. Lantom arranges to have a sparring partner brought in and Matt refuses to wear protection, in order to hear and feel everything. His opponent is a little taken aback when he realizes he’ll be fighting a blind guy, but the two go at it with Matt holding his own until his hearing once again betrays him, after a blow to his bad ear, and takes away his spatial awareness. Matt goes down in defeat.
Sitting on his bed later, Maggie tries to cheer him up. This time when she puts her crucifix around his neck, he lets it stay on. At this point, Matt seems more sad than angry and acknowledges that Maggie has been very kind to him. The two joke about how others might think she’s gone soft. They talk about Matt’s stiches and how he used to stich up his dad. Before leaving, she asks him to come to mass with her but he asks for a raincheck.
After listening in to the music above for a while, Matt digs out some scraps of fabric from the laundry room and takes to the streets, climbing on top of the church to listen to what’s happening in his city. He doesn’t have to wait long to hear screams for help.
We cut to a scene of Matt interrupting a kidnapping. The victims get away but Matt stays and fights. And he does so longer than he needs to. In fact, when they fight is over and the perpetrators are ready to leave, he finds a metal pipe and throws it to them, striking a pose that invites them to keep hitting him, all while muttering “God forgive me.” When the police sirens draw close they walk away, leaving Matt still very much alive and waiting in vain for that final blow.
We now cut to two new characters, Ray Nadeem and his wife Seema who are in the kitchen for a family event. When Ray asks for more turkey, Seema tells him that none of their credit cards work anymore, and the atmosphere gets a bit tense before they are interrupted by their son Sami. Their conversation after that continues in Hindi, and we learn that their financial troubles are quite serious.
We next learn the cause of the celebration, which is that Ray’s sister-in-law is officially in remission after battling cancer. In his speech in front of his family members, Ray talks about how it hasn’t been easy for them, with their insurance being denied. Words passed between Ray and his brother lets us know that Ray has helped pay for his sister-in-law’s treatment.
A little later, Ray catches his son playing alone outside and finds out that Sami would have preferred to spend the evening at his friend’s house. A friend with a bowling alley in his basement. Ray then promises that their home will be party central in time for summer, when they put a pool in. This exchange is overheard by Seema who is very worried about their finances and suggests taking up extra work. Ray promises to fix everything.
The next morning we see him get his firearm ready and head to work at the FBI where he goes to see his boss Tammy Hatley about his performance review, so that he can get his much-delayed promotion. He learns that the reason it’s been put off has to do with his finances, as his debt situation puts him at risk for recruitment. Hatley says she’s sorry, but can’t do anything to help. Though while he’s there, he gets sent to carry out the bureau’s regular visit to Wilson Fisk, in prison.
At the prison, Fisk has something to say that, at first, sounds threatening. He asks Ray whether he’s got anyone in his life he’d do anything to protect. It turns out that Fisk is ready to make a deal in exchange for Vanessa’s safety, and that he would do anything to protect her.
I noticed that some of the early reviewers were pretty divided on this first episode. Some loved it, others found it slow. Personally, I really liked it. It may be a brave creative move to spend this much time on dialogue, in a show that usually features quite a bit of action, but I found these longer scenes absolutely necessary.
One thing I’ve occasionally missed in earlier seasons has been the room to just let characters breathe and have conversations with each other that feel a bit more like real life, while also conveying information about who they are. Luke Cage, for instance, occasionally got a bit too slow (especially in the first season), but it never seemed to worry about boring readers with what I thought were reasonable amounts of exposition, with characters just talking to each other for a few minutes.
So much has happened since season two of Daredevil, especially with the dramatic events of The Defenders, that everyone needs some catching up at this point.
It is wonderful that we’re being treated to full flashback scene to when Karen found out about Matt, and I also love the scene that she had with Foggy. After season two, it seemed like they would not be seeing much of each other either, but on display here is a warm and caring friendship. We see a new side to Foggy overall this season, one that is more in line with the character we recognize from the comics.
So, let’s talk about that Karen reveal scene. I know that so many fans had been wishing for that scene, and missed seeing it in The Defenders. Considering that Daredevil’s audience likely dwarfs that of The Defenders, saving such a crucial scene for this season made perfect sense. Is it good? It is. It is not everything I would have wanted, but I’m mostly satisfied with it. The “I can just sense stuff” example (more on that below) was a pretty good one, and they also did a good job of portraying Karen’s ambivalence at being lied to by a man that’s saved her life, not once, but twice.
What I don’t understand, and this applies just as much to the Foggy reveal scene in season one as well, is why he doesn’t take the opportunity to casually mention something he can’t do, or say something that makes “the act” seem more forgivable, and the situation more complex. You could, of course, argue that that would seem like he’s deflecting responsibility for his deceit, and I’d buy that.
However, I also genuinely feel that there are legitimate reasons for why going “full blind guy” is the only sustainable way of hiding heightened senses that would otherwise invite all kinds of unwanted attention. It’s not as if he could have gone through college and law school pretending he can see. (I also feel somewhat obligated to point out that while I agree completely that Matt obviously doesn’t need a cane for mobility reasons, there are other reasons for carrying a white cane that I’ll have to come back to next episode because it contains a scene that kind of illustrates this point.)
I’m giving Sister Maggie “star player” status this episode (see below), and her addition to the cast is spectacular. I’ll be honest, I am one of those people who thinks that Matt’s Catholicism in all his live action ventures is overblown compared to how this subject matter is treated in the comics (anyone who has read a lot of Daredevil outside of the most famous runs will know that there is no mention of religion in the vast majority of the issues, and Born Again deals more with religious themes than Matt’s personal faith).
Having said that, I do think that the religious elements have been well-handled in this show thus far and have really added to the overall quality of the story. This trend continuous in the first episode of this season. Sister Maggie and Father Lantom both paint a very sympathetic picture of clergy that even this agnostic-by-default Swede can get behind. The conversations between Matt and his two caretakers are used to explore universal themes and finding one’s personal purpose, more than debating scripture. That works well here.
This first episode also does a good job of setting up newcomer Ray Nadeem and his family. It is always a challenge to introduce new characters into a universe of known players and make people care about them, but Ray’s predicament, as well as his basic humanity, is communicated effectively. As soon as I saw what he was up against, I suspected that he might be a Detective Manolis type character in this story. Since I’m not giving away spoilers for upcoming episodes, I’m not going to give any indication here of where his story takes him.
Fisk has relatively little to do in this first episode, except eating prison omelette, but the scenes he is in are eminently watchable. There is the controlled reaction to the news about Vanessa, and his terrifying encounter with Agent Nadeem where he offers them a deal. It’s really quite fascinating how threatening Fisk can be while simply having a conversation. He’s like a barely contained box of explosives next to a spark.
So, what about Matt? Well, I’m saving him for last, since there’s a lot to talk about in terms of what happens this episide. Some of what’s going on in his head, we’ll save for the section below. This first thing to say here is just was a gem of an actor we have in Charlie Cox. His scenes are always well-acted, and his physical range is just insane.
Many people talk about his fighting chops, and rightly so, but portaying Matt Murdock in any scene always requires constant attention to what his body is doing. How is his posture? What is his head doing? Where are his eyes looking? You get what I mean. For an excellent example of this, look no further than the boxing scene, and observe the change that happens when his bad ear blanks out on him again. He embodies this completely.
There’s also that emotional change that takes place as he oscillates between anger and resentment, on the one hand, and genuine despair on the other. It seems Cox was ready to take on the challenge of “make Matt look sadder than we’ve ever seen him before” and run with it.
So where is Matt’s head this episode? Well, I think the first thing to realize about Matt’s state of mind is that he has just survived what should have been certain death after having put all of his eggs in the same basket. At the end of season two, there was an abyss between him and everyone in his life that continued, despite attempts to make amends and a minimum of hard feelings, throughout The Defenders. For all intents and purposes, Matt had set up a separate life, and severed most of his ties to the life he associates with “Matt Murdock.”
When Elektra appeared again (*sigh*) and turned his head around once more, it was like driving over a cliff. And you don’t really make plans for surviving that dive, do you? And when you do, having cracked all the eggs in your proverbial basket, you’re bound to be confused. And, as far as “Matt Murdock” is concerned, if that life is only defined by those who knew him as such, and they all think he’s dead, it may make some kind of weird sense for Matt to think of that part of himself as dead. As in, civilian Matt Murdock only exists within the context of those relationships. Consequently, only “Daredevil” – this symbolic manifestation of Matt’s perceived purpose, stripped of all normal human attachments – remains.
This place is already a terrible place to be. When Matt realizes that he may no longer be able to do many of the things his heightened senses used to allow, it creates a perfect storm that completely fractures his sense of self and his role in the world. I will admit to being wary when the first teaser came out, with Matt saying that he’d rather die as the Devil than live as Matt Murdock. In this episode, there is a context for that statement, because it comes right after he talks about his new relationship with God, and he puts a distinct emphasis on the word “this”: “…in front of this God I’d rather die as the Devil than live as Matt Murdock.” It’s almost as if he’s sticking it to God. If this new and ugly-faced God has decided that the life he left behind is the only one that is compatible with a life without his sensory endowments, then “screw that.” Pretty much.
This anger gradually wanes and gives room to a profound sadness. This happens after Matt gets some of his senses back, and his hope is beginning to come back to him, but finds that he’s fragile. That a smack across the head from his sparring partner is enough to temporarily rob him of his ability to detect objects around him. It is at this point he actually turns suicidal. It is truly heartbreaking to watch. Though is there perhaps some part of him that can at least see it as a sign that his would-be killers are chased away at the last minute.
Generally though, we do have to look at Matt as someone who is, to some extent delusional. Not in the sense that he is psychotic, but that he is trapped in a kind twisted mindset that is not uncommon in someone who is suffering from a deep depression. There are legitimate reasons for his grief, but his despair takes him a few steps beyond that.
So, obviously a lot to comment on in this episode. First of all, the depiction of Matt’s sense of being under water and cut off from the things around him is done exceptionally well. If you listen to this episode in stereo, you can tell that the sound on his right side is gone. How brilliant is that?
And how brilliant is if of the writer (in this case, showrunner Erik Oleson himself) to destroy Matt’s “radar sense” by making him deaf in one ear? It’s fantastic. It’s one of the most insightful creative decisions regarding Matt’s senses of the entire show, going back to the very first season. As a nice side effect, it also cements the idea that the “radar” really is echolocation on steroids, which is by far my favorite interpretation of the radar sense. (And I’m saying this as someone who has written a ridiculous amount about Daredevil’s radar sense.)
Lose one ear, and the brain loses its ability to extract sound source information using the so-called interaural time difference, and the interaural level difference. These refer to the the slight difference between the time it takes for a sound, at either side of the midline, to reach each ear, as well as the difference in sound pressure (volume) at each ear. Given how crucial every single single spatial cue that can be extracted from sound would have to be, losing two such major cues would absolutely be enough to collapse Matt’s sense of where objects are and the space they occupy. Very, very nicely done.
I’m a little more perplexed by the scene where Matt regains his ability to sense the vibrations around him by touch. I’m thinking that he never lost that in the first place, but by getting that gunk out of his nasal cavity, he is able to help coax his hearing back “online” by pairing his restored hearing with vibrations he can feel. That’s the only way I can make sense of it, even though it’s a compelling scene overall.
What about what he tells Karen in the reveal scene? That he can smell the curry on her (on her clothes, not from something she’s eaten), and taste the Jameson on her lips. Yup, this all checks out. The smell of curry would manifest itself differently clinging to her clothes than if she had been eating it. I would argue that he’s smelling rather than tasting the whiskey though, but these senses tend to blend together anyway so it totally works. Nice example.
Easter egg watch
In terms of imagery, we obviously have the scene of Matt at the top of the church, arms wrapped around the cross which is very recognizable.
Another scene that many people may have missed that is also straight out of the comics (I’m expanding this category to including everything that counts as fan service from the comics) is at the beginning, when Matt wakes up and falls out of bed. This is very similar to a scene of him, also falling out of bed, from Daredevil #170, after he discovers he’s lost his radar sense.
Orphan: “Damn, what happened to you?”
(Mentioned here because Matt sounds so much like an emo 16-year-old, it’s actually quite funny)
Foggy: “What, so when you asked me to help you move boxes…”
Karen: “Uh, yeah I lied. I mean, technically, it was more of, like, a ruse.
Foggy: Gotcha. You rused.
Foggy: Journalism has changed you, Page.
Matt: “You know what I realized? Job was a pussy.”
Matt: “I am what I do in the dark now. I bleed for no one but myself.”
Maggie: “What you said about rather dying as the Devil than living as Matt Murdock… I just want you to know that I think you’re a hero. Hiding down here, feeling sorry for yourself. I mean, just out back, there’s an orphanage full of kids who’ve lost everything and everyone. Some of them are disabled, much worse off than you ever were. And they’re still trying to make the most out of life, the little cowards.”
Maggie: Hands should be used for God’s work.
Matt: Yeah? That’s why he made me this way?
Maggie: No. That’s why he made boxing
Do I need to say it? It’s Sister Maggie, without at doubt. I love her character this season, and she is much more interesting than she ever was in the comics. In this episode in particular, she challenges Matt’s world view, cuts him no slack, and stays firmly grounded when Matt is all drama. Joanne Whalley is a perfect casting choice, and I love that her take on the character challenges the notion of how nuns are supposed to act and think. Bravo!