Reevaluating early Daredevil

Daredevil swings down and lands on a car in Daredevil #14, apparently guided more by its sound than its shape.

If you were thinking that I had gone back into hiding, I certainly wouldn’t hold it against you. It’s been over a month since my last post, and I’ve had my share of false starts over the past few years. However, I do have a few posts planned that I would like to get out there before too long, and I’m hoping to finish the year with a total of at least twenty for 2021.

For this post, I would like to talk about a rather surprising epiphany I’ve had over the summer, while working on my book. Or to be more specific, while rereading every single issue of Daredevil and taking detailed notes about how Matt Murdock’s senses are actually used. What I’ve discovered is that, contrary to the idea I’ve had that Daredevil’s senses have stabilized and gotten more “grounded” over time, a case could be made for a very different kind of evolution. Depending on what aspect of the character’s senses we’re talking about, Daredevil has actually been getting more powerful in at least some respects.

Considering that this is not my first time reading every issue of Daredevil (I have, in fact, read most runs many times), how could I have missed the things I’m now noticing? Where does my bias against the sensory portrayals of early, “pre-Miller” Daredevil come from? Well, I think it comes down to a few different factors:
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The BUILD Series Daredevil season three interview(s)

Well. the BUILD Series interview with the cast was just broadcast live a few hours ago, and I tried to live blog it. However, the plugin I used for this purpose pretty much took the site down, so I had to “unpublish” this post. I’m putting it back up now with video of the interview embedded below.

My main take-aways? This cast really enjoys working together, Erik Oleson is a total fanboy (in a good way), and Elden Henson lets a pretty big spoiler slip! I had heard the rumors on this one, but if you thought the trailer was too much information, you may want to skip this video.

Speaking of trailers, later today I’m getting together with Claire from The Defenders Podcast to record our thoughts on the season three trailer. This has become a tradition, as we did the same thing for the first and second seasons. I’ll try to put it up as soon as we are done!

The other “mask”

One of these days, I’m going to try to catch up on reviews of the current ongoing Daredevil book (it’ll probably be as a video). And, when I get some time this weekend, I want to do a post detailing Daredevil’s many encounters with Bullseye. However, in search of a topic for a slightly less ambitious post to start the week, I turned to Facebook to ask TOMP’s followers for ideas. One idea was put forth about a science post on Matt’s kinesthetic abilities. Of course, this is a great idea, but one I’ll be covering in the book. When I get to that chapter (I’m currently busy writing about the “radar”), I’d be happy to put together a digest for the site.

The other suggestion, endorsed by two people, was to write a little something about Matt’s (pretty obvious) insecurities about showing his eyes to people. I actually touched on this subject when I did a post about the various looks of Matt’s sunglasses over the years, But 1) that was six years ago (pre-Netflix), and 2) psychoanalyzing the shit out of Matt Murdock can usually be done on short notice and with a minimum of preparation. So, perfect for a slightly shorter post.

Matt and Dakota North having a heart to heart while working out, as seen in Daredevil #111 (vol 2), by Ed Brubaker and Clay Mann

Perhaps the handful of panels you see above, from Daredevil #111 (vol 2), by Ed Brubaker and Clay Mann, is really all that needs to be said on the topic. Aside from the rather odd segue between what Matt says in panels three and four (which I think has to do with Matt’s recent loss of his wife Milla to villain-induced insanity and relating this to his own father’s inability to protect him), much of what I think this boils down to is: “So much of my life… It’s been about how people see me. Not wanting to let them see too much.”

What I like about this line is that there are so many facets to it. There are at least three ways to read it that all say something about Matt. We have the literal interpretation that reminds us that Matt has to pay very close attention to his outward behavior so that he doesn’t rouse suspicion. In his civilian life, no one except a select few can know he has heightened senses, and as Daredevil, no one can know he’s blind. This, in and of itself, would inspire a certain amount of paranoia and hyper-vigilance about how he’s perceived.

The second way to read this reminds me of what Elektra said to Matt at the end of the second season of Daredevil, when she suggests to him that he hides from the world, and refuses to let people in. In so doing she calls out a character trait shaped by a lonely childhood and some pretty major abandonment issues. Of course, the Netflix show takes this to extremes, in that Matt is actually raised in an orphanage. Add to that the thoughts that Stick put in his head, and you can begin to make sense of other reasons Matt may not want people to “see too much” of his inner thoughts and wants.

More to the point here is the third way to look at this: Heightened senses or not, Matt obviously knows he is perceived differently than the average person, and that he risks standing out. I also think it’s very much in line with his basic personality to try to manage people’s perceptions as much as he can. I think it boils down to a control thing with him, and in this context the shades make sense and become a different kind of mask. If he can’t look people in the eye, making sure that no one can look him in the eye either evens out the playing field.

Matt and Foggy working in the office while Karen is out, as seen in Marvel's Daredevil, episode three of season one

Because Matt’s behavior in the comics surrounding when and to whom he will reveal this side of himself (see that post from six years ago) has been carried over more or less intact to the Netflix show, you would have to assume that the writers and directors of the show have done so very deliberately. As in the comic, it kind of becomes a proxy for trust and intimacy, and perhaps says even more about Matt’s level of trust in Foggy than anything he says or does.

In that first episode scene with Karen, he makes what we can assume is a big exception for her. But he does so in a situation where she’s feeling exceptionally vulnerable and he’s willing to go to great lengths to put her at ease. In the third episode, Matt and Foggy are working in the office (see above). When Karen comes back from lunch, Matt is very quick to put his glasses back on (see the featured image). He continues to do this more often than not throughout the show. It is hard to interpret it as anything other than a physical manifestation of him raising his guard.

Of course, there’s a slight difference between “managing others’ perceptions” and a genuine insecurity about one’s appearance. In Matt’s case, and this goes for the comic as well as the show, you definitely get the sense that the latter cannot be completely disregarded. I actually find this incredibly humanizing. Even people who seem to have everything in life sorted out probably have a complex about something. Things we experience in childhood seems to have a particular power over us, and a stupid comment by the school bully can linger for years. For all we know, hearing something insensitive said about him at just the right (wrong) age might have planted an idea in Matt’s head that he can’t quite shake, despite knowing better on a rational level.

Considering Daredevil’s near-complete mastery of his body and remaining senses, his eyes become that one part of his anatomy that will never behave as expected, and can never be fully reigned in. Effectively covering his eyes is the only way Matt has of addressing this, and I suppose his need to do this is yet another one of those quirks that makes him interesting.

Will these elements from the Daredevil comic make it into Netflix’s third season?

I don’t necessarily go looking for every last potential spoiler or piece of set footage, especially the more obscure stuff. I will, however, discuss information that been covered by the major comic book news sites. If even this is too much information for you, you may want to stay away from this post. If, on the other hand, you are someone who does go looking for every last nugget of information available, please think twice about sharing that in the comments. Everything that’s been covered by at least 2-3 news site is fair game, as far as I’m concerned, but please err on the side of caution.

It was really hard to come up with a snappy title for this post that wasn’t a total mouthful. And, as you can tell, I pretty much failed at it. Either way, it’s high time we got to this item on the agenda, especially as the filming of the third season wrapped last week, incidentally while I happened to be in New York myself. I wish I could say that these two events were connected. Alas, they were not. πŸ˜‰

With this post, I’d like to discuss some of what we know already, and also toss some ideas around for which elements from the comic might make their way into the third season. People seem to be clamoring for two things in particular: Bullseye and Born Again. The inclusion of Bullseye has all but been confirmed, so that ticks one box, and plenty of seeds have been planted for at least some elements of Frank Miller’s most famous storyline, beautifully illustrated by David Mazzucchelli, to make it into the show.

Not quite Born Again

What seems obvious to me, though, is that we won’t see the same exact story we know from the comics adapted for the Netflix show. First of all, the previous two seasons have taken plenty of liberties with the source material, drawing inspiration from events and well-known themes rather than copying them outright. We have no reason to expect anything else – or should I say less? – from this season.

Secondly, some of the things that have already happened thus far in Daredevil, and the Defenders, precludes an exact retelling of the Born Again arc from the comics in season three. The Defenders ended with Matt beginning to regain consciousness while being nursed back to health in a convent. There is mention of Sister Maggie, whom we know to be Matt’s mother, and the entire scene is staged to look very much like a panel from the comics. But, it’s taken from a scene that happens over two issues into the the Born Again arc (in Daredevil #230, as seen below next to the corresponding scene from the final episode of The Defenders), after Matt has already had his life destroyed by the Kingpin. In the Netflix take on this scene, the events leading up to his meeting with his mother has already been altered completely compared to the comic.

Matt seen injured on a bad in a convent. Scene comparison between the final episode of The Defenders and a simliar panel from Daredevil #230, by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli

It is also highly unlikely that we will be dealing with any kind of scenario in which Karen becomes a drug addict and betrays Matt. It certainly looks as if we’re finally getting some insight into Karen’s background, and her dark secrets, and there’s no reason to make her character even darker by having her develop an addiction to hard drugs in the current timeline. Especially since there’s no need for her to turn Matt over to the Kingpin, when the latter has already declared that he’s going to destroy him. As you might recall, this happened in the second season of Daredevil after Matt went to visit Fisk in jail, and ended up threatening Vanessa, for which he also took a severe beating.

I actually think it’s a very interesting twist that Fisk’s initial motivation to go after Matt in his civilian identity has nothing to do with Daredevil. Somewhere along the line, he’s going to have to connect Matt and Daredevil, but this can just as easily come about as a result of careful research. The fact that Matt and Daredevil both vanish from the scene at the same time is another obvious clue. I’ve seen some people suggest that Matt making any attempt to fight back during his encounter with Fisk would get the latter thinking that Matt may not be blind in the “traditional” sense, but that makes little sense to me unless you set your expectations for real life blind people at the level of Mr. Magoo. Whatever the case may be, we don’t actually need Karen to spark Fisk’s interest in going after Matt Murdock. He’s already looking to do just that.

How long will Matt have been away?

Let us now turn to the things we can’t really know much about. It seems reasonable that the entire first season of The Punisher takes place after the events of The Defenders, if only because of the publishing schedule. The second season of Jessica Jones definitely does. We’ll get more to go on when the second season of Luke Cage comes out in June since Matt’s “death” very neatly coincides with Misty getting her arm cut off. At the very least, we’re probably looking at something like several months of absence on Matt’s part. I’m guessing that as many as six to eight weeks can realistically be spent on his recovery (not that we’ll necessarily be privy to that information), but my guess is that we’re still going to be left with a rather big gap for the writers to try to address in terms of why he’s not announcing to even his closest allies that he’s alive. I honestly wouldn’t put it past the creators to throw some amnesia into the mix.

Matt has suffered amnesia on more than one occasion in the comic, and the may draw some kind of inspiration from this. There’s the storyline which begins in Daredevil #284, by Ann Nocenti and Lee Weeks, when Daredevil returns to New York after traveling around upstate – and literally going to hell – where he suffers a gradual mental breakdown that causes him to forget about Daredevil, and most of his previous life. He believes his name is Jack Murdock, takes up boxing, and forms a relationship with a woman named Nyla. He also does an interesting role reversal with Bullseye who steals his Daredevil costume early in the story, which goes on for several issues. Matt also has something that looks like some kind of psychosis in the Inferno storyline (Daredevil #345-347, by J.M. DeMatteis, and Ron Wagner), following a long period of living under the name Jack Batlin after having faked his own death. This breakdown, which is partially brought about by the death of his former girlfriend Glorianna O’Breen, also includes elements of amnesia, and famously ends with Foggy finding out about Matt being Daredevil. Amnesia storylines are quite difficult to pull off, but there’s obviously some less extreme takes on the topic that might make more sense.

Foggy discovers Matt's secret, as seen in Daredevil #347, by J.M. DeMatteis and Ron Wagner

Even if Matt fully remembers his past and has a smooth(ish) recovery, there might be other reasons why he’d be hesitant to declare to the world that he’s back. We all know that he can get really self-destructive and might actually believe that his friends are better off with him dead. He may also want to try to engineer his return – in and out of costume – so that Daredevil (now apparently back in the old black costume) and Matt Murdock don’t reappear at the same time. There’s some genuine concern that it may take a long time for the gang to get back together, and that Matt may stay “hidden” for several episodes, and I think those concerns may be valid. I wouldn’t give it more than, say, the first third of the season though, since Wilson Fisk is not going to be spending much time on destroying the life of someone he believes to be dead. And, considering that there has to be some kind of quality life for Wilson Fisk to destroy, you’d have to assume that Matt will at least be lulled into some sense of getting his life back on track, before things start unraveling again.

Much of the point of Born Again, if you want get down to the essence of the story, is that it’s Matt’s life that’s being attacked, more so than Daredevil’s. I can see them taking their time with this, but spending too much time on the big return seems counterproductive. For instance, what point is there to Karen getting to tell her story, and Matt not even being there to find out? But maybe I’m overly optimistic.

Will there be a subway scene?

Daredevil strains and fails to find Bullseye in the subway in Daredevil #169, by Frank Miller

I would be willing to put some serious money on there being a subway scene in this season. Specifically one that involves Bullseye, because that battle is one of the most iconic in the history of these two characters. One thing that might affect how it plays out though is that the Netflix version of the character doesn’t appear to be very sensitive to noise, the way he is in the comics, and that’s kind of an important element of the scene. Any other famous Bullseye moments you’re counting on seeing in the show?

Though, while we’re on the topic of Bullseye, I’m not at all counting on anyone very close to Matt (i.e. Karen or Foggy) being killed off this season. Not because I think that the creators don’t have it in them to break people’s hearts, but because I suspect there will be additional seasons of the show and Daredevil’s supportive cast is already small enough to fit in a utility closet. I know people are saying that Bullseye has to do something to make it really personal for Matt, but we’re also talking about a character who literally feels he’s responsible for everyone. Hurt people in Hell’s Kitchen and you’ll be hurting Matt. Though if you want to make it really painful, maybe have Bullseye kill off Sister Maggie? Yup, I went there.

Will Vanessa be kidnapped?

Okay, this may sound like an odd one, but as soon as we got confirmation, sort of, that Vanessa was returning, my thoughts went immediately to her really creepy disappearance during the Frank Miller run where she’s kidnapped by “mole people” who live underground. I’m not expecting anything of the sort, but with Vanessa back in the picture, I do expect some kind of threatening situation for her to be in. I realize that the whole damsel in distress thing is old and tired, but there has to be some kind of pressure applied to Wilson Fisk as well, for maximum tension, and I’m sure the writers can come up with something. I really like Ayelet Zurer as an actor, so I’m happy to see her back, whatever her story brings.

What exactly is Karen hiding?

As mentioned, I don’t think that Karen will develop a drug addiction during the course of this season, but she will most definitely deal with some pretty dark stuff. I’m actually very excited to find out what she’s been hiding all this time. And I can’t wait to go to Fagan Corners, Vermont! Of course, the last time we visited that place in the comics was decades ago, and involved a rather convoluted storyline in which Karen’s father was the inventor of something called the “cobalt bomb,” and also the villain Death’s Head.

I don’t expect there to be a literal Death’s Head, but would squeal with joy if there were at least a background shot of a pub by that name or something similar. If there isn’t, you’ve dropped the ball Netflix people! If you want a refresher on this crazy story, go to this post, where I mention it among my “seeing goofs.” It also comes up in this Wacky Powers post. Below are panels from Daredevil #56, by Roy Thomas, and Gene Colan.

Karen gets off the train in her home town of Fagan Corner.

Everything else

I really meant to cover a lot more stuff in this post, but it’s getting late, and I really want to get it out there so we can cover the rest in the comment section. And I know I haven’t been great at contributing in the comment sections lately, but I promise to catch up. πŸ˜‰

However, before clicking on the “publish” button, let me mention some of these things briefly:

  • Foggy’s career – It appears as if Foggy may find reason to reassess his career goals in light of Jeri Hogarth getting the boot from her own firm. I doubt he’d be anxious to go with her, but staying behind with the mean partners may not be such a sweet deal either. And, if there’s ever going to be a Nelson & Murdock to go back to, things need to change. I would love the chance to see Hogarth getting involved in legally raising Matt from the “dead” though, as she has some experience in that field (see Iron Fist).
  • Sister Maggie – What kind of liberties will they take with her? Are they going for something more traditional or the kick-ass nun version from the Daredevil, volume four? What will her reasons be for walking out on Jack and Matt?
  • Marci Stahl – I like Marci. She’s irreverent, and this kind of show needs that. I’m guessing we might see more of her, especially if, they’re looking for way to “pad” the story (not necessarily in a bad way) before getting everyone reunited. Also, the cast needs to grow, and giving a bigger role to characters that have already been introduced is a way to to do that.
  • Will Claire make an appearance? – My guess is no.
  • Other characters – Will anyone interesting emerge as a new Wesley type character? Will we see Josie? What about Blake Towers? (My guess is yes). Will there be a police officer (I can’t imagine it would be Brett), who will sell out in some way when it comes to Matt/Daredevil, along the lines of what happens in Born Again in the comic?

Well, the list could obviously go on, but I think I’ll hand the reins over to you, my esteemed readership. Take it away!

The 50+ additional ways in which Daredevil and Defenders remind you that Matt is blind (for real)

In August of last year, I wrote my longest posts yet (now second longest since this one is even more of a monster), detailing scenes and details from the first season of Daredevil in which the viewer is reminded, directly or in more subtle ways, of Matt’s de facto blindness. I’d already prepared the background notes for that post when certain events prompted me to put them out there. I won’t rehash everything here, but I invite anyone who is interested to read that post again for my longish preamble on the topic. Since that post was published, I’ve had quite a few people ask me to do a follow-up with scenes from the second season, as well as the Defenders. I’m obviously happy to oblige, which is why I spent a lot of time over last weekend revisiting a massive amount of televised footage (though I must admit to skipping most of the scenes that didn’t have Matt – in and out of costume – in them) and taking plenty of notes.

A couple of things are interesting to point out, before I get into the details. Daredevil season two contained less of some of the kinds of things I found noteworthy during the first season. Between season two and Defenders, I was still able to reach and exceed fifty things that qualify for this list, but when comparing the two seasons of Daredevil, there’s a slight difference in both number and quality of the cases I was able to spot. I think this might be due in part to the greater need for season one to establish the character and his power set. It probably also has to do with Matt doing considerably less office work in season two than he did in season one. Defenders, meanwhile, contains quite a few pretty explicit examples of Matt’s occasional limitations. In the Defenders, the writers and directors had to introduce the Daredevil character to people who may not have watched his solo show, which may account for the difference.

Matt and Foggy have a talk on their way to work, as seen in episode one of Daredevil, season two

Also, what makes both season two of Daredevil and the Defenders show different from Daredevil’s first outing, is that he’s spending much more time around people who know him both as Matt, and as Daredevil. This makes it much easier to pin down the difference between Matt asking about something as part of a kind of performance to hide his powers, and his doing so because he’s genuinely suspecting that he might be missing something. There are a few instances where this is quite enlightening.

Matt’s interactions with Elektra in season two also show how easily the two fall into a very natural division of labor, along these lines. He casually and unapologetically passes on the vision-heavy work to her while focusing his attention on the things that he does best. I’m personally quite pleased with this as it proves the point I’ve always tried to make with regard to this character: There are things he can do that makes him truly one of a kind and a very strong player for anybody’s “super team,” but there are also perceptual “holes” for him to work around.

I’ll have more to say about this when we get to the specifics, so let’s move on to the actual list. There’s much less snark this time. On the other hand, there’s also more going off on tangents. My bad.

Daredevil season 2

  1. Episode 1 (at 06:10) – The walk and talk

    Matt and Foggy are walking down the street, chatting about Foggy’s failed romantic adventure from the night before. This includes the following exchange.

    Foggy: “You know what my problem is?”
    Matt: “Well, it ain’t the moves.”
    Foggy: “You know I got the moves. That’s the tragedy of you being blind, you’ve never seen me dance.”
    Matt: “Yeah, but I can cite the legends I heard in law school.”

    To anyone who is even the least bit interested in what Matt does and doesn’t perceive – and how – the above exchange is quite interesting. We know that some time has passed since last season, and that Matt and Foggy have likely talked more about what exactly Matt “sees” or otherwise perceives. Obvious signs of this are the many subtle examples throughout the season (more on that below), where Foggy will supply just the right amount and kind of information that you would expect might be useful to Matt. No more and no less.

    Which of course brings us to what exactly Foggy means when he says that Matt has never seen him dance, and what Matt means when he, at least indirectly, agrees. He must have, in a general sense, “experienced” Foggy dancing (for some reason, thinking about this brings to mind the scene of Elaine’s dancing on Seinfeld…). What this experience entails is honestly unclear to me. Of course, I have my own personal idea of what Matt “sees,” and in what detail (and at what range), but the Netflix show has also been pretty inconsistent in this regard.

    On the one hand, we have the dubious “world on fire” effect which might suggest that a dancing Foggy might appear as a flailing body-shaped “flame.” On the other, we have the “silent ninja” scenario, later in this season where a (ridiculous) case is made that Matt can’t detect silent objects – or bodies – despite the fact that his whole way of operating is completely dependent on his ability to do just that. What does make sense to me, and I base this in part on the comic, is that Matt 1) may have real trouble distinguishing the movements of individual people in dense crowds, and 2) this is especially true at some distance away from him. If Foggy is out on the dance floor, in the middle of a crowd, some twenty feet away, Matt’s impressions of what he’s doing may very well be dominated by (direct) sound, and not be very “sight-like.”

    I will, of course, also allow for this exchange simply being a case of Matt not wanting to screw too much with Foggy’s memories of the friend he knew in college. However, it does show that Foggy has come to understand that referring to Matt as blind is still appropriate in many cases, and whatever Matt’s senses may allow, they at the very least offer a very differnt “view” of the world, including Foggy’s dancing.

  2. Episode 1 (at 17:50) – The water at Josie’s

    At Josie’s, Matt and Foggy joke with Karen about the very questionable quality of the water. Matt mentions the rust and mold, and Foggy says, “I think I can actually see the bacteria floating in there.” So, I’m obviously mentioning it here because Matt wouldn’t be able to see whether the water is cloudy or not. Of course, he would know as well as anyone – probably better – that the water isn’t safe to drink, and this is also evident from this scene. However, it is a reminder of the types of properties of liquids (and other objects) that are exclusively visual, i e. color and opacity. Milk barely lets any light through and is essentially opaque, water appears to be virtually transparent and colorless (at least in small quantities), and beer is translucent and registers as amber in color. But these are visual qualities. It’s the same thing with a piece of window glass on the one hand, and a mirror on the other. In the world of light, these surfaces behave very differently. If your experience of them is not light-based, they may appear virtually identical and will not give you the experience of either the mirror or the window.

  3. Episode 1 (at 19:00) – The game of pool

    Matt and Karen playing pool, as seen in episode one of Daredevil, season two

    The scene where Matt, Karen and Foggy are playing pool has become a fan favorite. It is not only entertaining in and of itself, it also reminds fans who are well-acquainted with the comics of a scene from the mini-series Daredevil: Yellow where Matt impresses at the pool table. I don’t doubt for a minute that Matt would be great at sinking one ball after another, given his typical arsenal of skills. One thing has always bothered me slightly about the idea of Matt playing pool, however. That is when it is talked about without reservations, as if we’re forgetting that there are rules to abide by.

    In this scene, Karen guides Matt’s hand to the cue ball, and this is the one ball I’m sure he would he could keep track of pretty easily. What I’m less sure of is how he would keep track of every other ball, during the length of an entire game (especially early in the game), without an occasional verbal reminder. To him, they all appear identical. Of course, there are people who can keep track of every move in parallel games of chess, but now we’re talking about an exercise that is more about perfect recall than anything else. In this scene, Matt actually does prematurely sink the eight ball, and at least a part of me likes to think that he forgot it was the eight ball. πŸ˜‰

  4. Episode 1 (at 20:35) – The guy at the bar

    Matt notices that Grotto, who has shown up at Josie’s, is taking an unusual interest in the three of them, and so asks Foggy: “The guy at the bar looking this way, you know him?” There are two ways for Matt to recognize people, and that is either if he has ever met them before, or if he has heard their voice. I suppose he could also recognize someone from the way they smell, but that of course takes having access to a sample of that person’s clothing or a personal item beforehand. When Matt asks Foggy, he knows that Foggy might either recognize the person in question from a personal contact, or from having seem him on TV, a wanted poster, in a newspaper of through some other visual medium. Simply put, the odds that Foggy might recognize someone he hasn’t met in person are substantially lower than Matt doing the same.

  5. Episode 1 (at 38:20) – The slaughter house

    After squeezing Turk for information, Daredevil goes looking for the Mexican cartel in the Meatpacking District. He finds several men there, one still alive, hung from meathooks among the animal carcasses. He doesn’t recognize that they’re there until he gets fairly close, and even then, it takes him a beat or two to realize what he’s up against. Given that the smell of dead human body is probably drowned out pretty well by the overall stench of the place, it’s not surprising. A sighted person would probably react much sooner to the contrast provided by the men’s clothing and spot them from a greater distance. It’s a nice detail that Matt unveils the horror of the scene a bit more gradually.

  6. Episode 2 (at 12:00) – The silent panic

    In what was a pretty shocking scene to me when I first saw it, Matt temporarily loses his hearing in the beginning of the second episode, after having had his head grazed by one of the Punisher’s bullets. Considering everything Karen and Foggy get up to while we cut from this scene, and then back again, it is safe to assume that he probably went full Helen Keller there for a good couple of hours. What this scene shows pretty clearly is that, in losing his sense of hearing, Matt is losing his all sense of his surroundings as well (there is no traditional radar in this show). What he probably experiences as two senses – hearing direct sound from a sound source and “feeling” objects through sounds reflected off their surfaces – really stems from the same sensory organ.

  7. Episode 2 (at 32:00) – The crime scene

    I’ve talked about this scene before, and I really like it. Matt goes to examine the scene of where the Irish mobsters were shot, and examines it for himself (he’s already overheard what the crime scene investigators have had to say about it). There are a lot of nice details about this scene, including a hitherto rare display of Matt’s sense of smell – this much underused sense! There’s also some touching going on, such as feeling the bullet hole in the wall to sort of verify that it’s there, and the kicking of the dog chain. Of course, he’d have to be carful with touching a scene like that, or risk leaving fingerprints.

  8. Episode 4 (at 07:05) – The wardrobe

    Matt picks out a shirt to wear

    This was one of the scenes I mentioned as a suspected homage to the Daredevil movie, where Ben Affleck’s take on the character has a very similar moment going through his clothes. Anyway, what we see here is that Matt’s shirts, more specifically the hangers, are all labeled with braille tape stuck to index cards. (And it’s a nice little detail that the braille labels are Daredevil red.) This is an obvious indication that Matt’s relationship to the world of colors is like that of any other person with little to no vision.

    Early in the life of the comic, Daredevil used to be able to distinguish colors by touch, but it was an ability that was completely phased out over the first ten years or so. Probably a good idea given that it doesn’t make much sense at all. Color is, first and foremost, a visual quality. Even the gadgets many blind people use to match clothes or separate laundry may not always behave perfectly because the underlying task is so tricky. For an illustration of how something as simple as the tone of the incoming light might affect the color something appears to be, I’d remind you of that dress that went viral a few years ago because people couldn’t agree on what color it was.

  9. Episode 4 (at 08:20) – The tie

    Matt is just getting ready to put on his tie for Grotto’s funeral when Karen shows up and offers to help. As Karen goes through the motions, Matt comments “Not that I can verify, but you seem good at this.” Well, Matt actually can verify, by using his hands, but if his definition of verify boils down to a visual inspection, he’s certainly right. Like I mentioned for the list from the first season, everything that has to do with dressing and grooming, for which sighted people typically use mirrors, are tasks that Matt would approach the same way as any other totally blind person: tactually.

  10. Episode 4 (at 15:00) – The X-ray

    Karen is telling Matt and Foggy about what she’s found out about the Punisher, showing off Frank’s head X-ray that Matt obviously can’t see.

  11. Episode 4 (at 17:25) – The Punisher files

    Karen leaves the office without telling Matt and Foggy, the two of them busy discussing other things. When they realize she’s gone, Matt wonders aloud whether she took the Punishers files and briefly pats around on her desk to look for them. If he could see, he wouldn’t have to do that.

  12. Episode 4 (at 18:45) – The new mask

    Matt goes to Melvin’s place to pick up his new mask (or should we call it a helmet?) Melvin has placed it in a case, which Matt doesn’t even bother opening up all the way, instead examining the contents with his hands which obviously give him a better feel for it. It’s actually quite surprising how little interest Matt has in at least pretending to look at things around Melvin (this isn’t the only scene like this).

  13. Episode 4 (at 52:00) – The arrest

    After the Punisher is arrested (and Daredevil nearly arrested with him) Matt meets up with Foggy and Karen at Josie’s for a drink. Meanwhile, the story about Frank Castle’s arrest is playing on the news. Matt obviously gets the audio only version of these events.

  14. Episode 5 (at 01:30) – The flirtation

    Matt meets Elektra for the first time, as seen in episode five of Marvel's Daredevil, season two.
    After we all learn that Matt was an assignment from Stick, Elektra’s approach to reeling him in at the faculty party makes much more sense. There’s the clattering of her bracelets, and the sound made by her finger circling the rim of a cocktail glass that she uses to get his attention. Of course, Matt seems almost hypnotically drawn to her. Whatever the pull may be though, it is not her physical beauty that does the trick.

  15. Episode 5 (at 08:50) – The Castle photo

    Karen shows a photograph she stole from Frank’s house. Matt can’t see it, obviously.

  16. Episode 5 (at 20:05) – The complication

    In another flashback scene, Matt and Elektra breaks into Fogwell’s gym, where she soon discovers his secret. Although, to be fair, she knew before she even met him that he had certain gifts. What’s interesting is the conversation between them.

    Elektra: “You said you were blind.”
    Matt: “You said I was blind.”
    Elektra: “So you can see?”
    Matt: “It’s complicated.”

    Considering that Matt had told Elektra, something like two minutes earlier, that he wasn’t born blind (emphasis on the “b word”), he may need to get his story straight regarding who said what to whom. πŸ˜‰ However, I was quite amused to hear him describe his sight status as complicated. And I guess “complicated” is as good a description as any.

  17. Episode 5 (at 35:05) – The menu

    Matt is taking Karen out to dinner at a fancy restaurant (much too fancy, it turns out), and when she steps away for minute, Matt asks the waiter for help with the wine. This is very obviously not merely a blindness-related issue, as Matt’s main concern is that he doesn’t know much about wine, but the fact that he can’t read the menu (and in places like that, they often go on for many pages) probably doesn’t help.

  18. Episode 5 (at 36:20) – The driving

    In another flashback, Matt and Elektra drive up to Roscoe Sweeney’s house. When they arrive, Elektra tosses the keys to Matt and says jokingly, “Any time you want to drive…” Daredevil has driven occasionally in the comic, with varying results, and I once read a piece of fanfic that had Matt drive casually down the freeway. I was flabbergasted, to say the least. Of all the complex and visually demanding tasks you can think of, I think driving is near the top of my list of things Matt should realistically never attempt outside of a parking lot or a closed road.

    It’s not merely a matter of “Does his radar penetrate the windshield?” or “But he can hear the lights change!” There’s signage. Lots of it. And lanes with markings in and around them. And weirdly designed intersections. And subtle turn signals of cars way up ahead. The list goes on. There’s a reason people with even relatively modest vision impairments are barred from driving. In my native Sweden the cutoff is an acuity of 20/40, which is also a common limit in many U.S. states. That translates into half the normal (20/20) acuity or five times better than the legal blindness limit (20/200). Matt shouldn’t be driving in real traffic. I’m pretty sure he knows this, jokingly telling Elektra, “I think it’s illegal… Driving under the influence of blindness.”

  19. Episode 5 (at 42:10) – The Indian restaurant

    Matt and Karen eating Indian food, as seen in

    Karen and Matt move on from the stiff, fancy restaurant and find a cozier spot at an Indian place. During this scene, Karen tells Matt that she wishes he could see the place, and he asks her to describe it.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the makers of this show chose such a visually distinct place for this scene. It makes the scene feel much more genuine to have Karen describe something that is overflowing with light than if they were in a place where Matt’s take on the place would have been more in line with hers. This way, Karen – who is still in the dark about Matt’s abilities – can talk about something he can’t really appreciate otherwise.

  20. Episode 6 (at 13:35) – The hospital lobby

    When Matt and Foggy arrive at the hospital to visit Frank Castle, the lobby is full of people. Matt asks “What’s going on?,” directing it at both Karen and Foggy. True, Karen is there too, but this is not an unreasonable thing for Matt to be asking. He can obviously tell that the place is packed, that there’s a general commotion, and it wouldn’t take long to figure out that some of them might be reporters, cops, and hospital staff respectively. But, there are certain visual shortcuts available to Foggy and Karen that makes this particular information-gathering exercise much quicker for them.

  21. Episode 6 (at 14:10) – The promotion

    Along the same lines as above, and as mentioned in the first item on this list, Foggy seems to have figured out a nice balance for what kind of information Matt might find useful. When they step out of the elevator on Frank’s floor, Foggy exclaims: “Brett? You’re wearing a tie. And it’s not a clip-on!” This quickly segues into talking about Brett’s promotion. Would Matt realize pretty quickly that there’s something different about Brett, including how he wears his badge? Sure. But Foggy’s ability to casually weave these little details into their conversations is probably helpful.

  22. Episode 6 (at 16:20) – The red tape

    When the trio enter Frank’s room, Matt steps forward and is about to step over the red tape around Frank’s bed when Karen calls him back. I can actually sort of buy that he might be able to sense the tape (it would cause sounds to reflect differently compared to the tiles around it, and even have a distinct smell), especially since they’ve all been told about the tape before going in. But, it’s a much more subtle detail from his vantage point compared to everybody else’s.

  23. Episode 6 (at 30:55) – The fawning men

    When they arrive at the gala, Matt points out to Elektra that “You must look nice.” She responds with a “How would you know?” This is another example of Matt interacting with someone who presumably knows everything relevant to know about how his senses work. As has usually been the case in the comic, Matt’s idea of what people look like is rudimentary, at best, aside from their overall shape, and Elektra knows this. And, of course, Matt responds with how it is that he knows what she looks like: Indirectly, by gauging other people’s reactions to her as they walk by.

  24. Episode 6 (at 39:50) – The key card

    After knocking out Gibson and his guards, Matt feels for the key card in his jacket pocket and verifies that he’s got what he was looking for by scanning the surface with his fingers. For anyone worried that we’re straying too far into the print reading of the comics (I’m fine with it there, but think it’s been an appropriate move to downplay it in the Netflix show), I’d say there’s no need. Identifying the name and logo, printed on top of the card, should fall perfectly within the realm of what’s actually possible in real life. You’d barely need heightened senses for that.

  25. Episode 6 (at 45:30) – The search for the ledger

    Matt sits back and lets Elektra look for the ledger, as seen in episode six of Marvel's Daredevil, season two

    After opening the safe – very cool scene, by the way – Matt sits back and lets Elektra do all the visual searching for the ledger. I’ve mentioned this scene before and think it’s a great example of what any type of team-up between Daredevil and other (sighted) characters should look like, all the time.

    Of course, if you think about all this a bit longer and harder, you also realize everything that is always conveniently skipped over in both this show and the comic book. Daredevil rarely comes up against obstacles that might actually be quite challenging for him, despite the fact that these should realistically be quite common. The same way early Daredevil faced off against an unusual number of villains with blinding rays and the like, his stories are often written in a way that plays to his strengths, not his weaknesses. This is reasonable from a storytelling perspective, but obviously biases people’s perceptions of the extent to which Matt’s blindness might be a real issue. As I mentioned in my previous post on this topic, we rarely follow Matt to the store (or a tailor) to buy a new business suit, or pick up a present for Foggy, or to a law conference. Those kinds of things lie far outside the typical scope of the book, so it’s easy to downplay vision-heavy tasks. We’re simply not reminded of them very often.

  26. Episode 6 (at 50:10) – The pupil check

    Matt gets his pupils checked by the security guards after he and Elektra are found making out. There was a pupil check last season too, as you might recall. Obviously, Matt’s pupils are unresponsive to light. This doesn’t really prove anything, though, in terms of whether he should be viewed as blind or not, since no one has ever argued that Daredevil can see with his eyes. I’m still bringing it up here though, since it might be a good reminder that total blindness is relatively rare. In this case, Matt is extremely fortunate that he really has no light perception, since he would have otherwise been pegged as a fraud. This despite the fact that most people who fall under the blindness umbrella can, in fact, detect light.

  27. Episode 6 (at 50:55) – The secrets of the ledger

    In the car leaving the gala, Matt and Elektra go through what’s in the ledger. Matt leaves the reading of it up to her, not only because it’s in Japanese.

  28. Episode 7 (at 04:00) – The laptop

    There’s not a lot of office work this season, since Matt’s been busy elsewhere, but in episode seven, there is at least one scene of Matt on his laptop, which looks about the same as last season, that is perfectly ordinary but with some additional equipment.

  29. Episode 7 (at 10:25) – The dictaphone

    Before he runs off with Elektra, Matt makes an attempt to get started on his opening statement. He does so by recording it on a dictaphone, rather than writing it down. This may simply be a personal preference, but it’s probably safe to assume that blindness affects this preference.

  30. Episode 7 (at 14:50) – The note from the creepy professor

    Matt receives the note from the professor who encrypted the ledger and immediately passes it to Elektra, in another division of labor task.

  31. Episode 7 (at 20:00) – The train cars

    The note sends them on an expedition to the docks in search of the particular train car revealed in the previous scene. While Matt is very helpful in identifying which cars need closer inspection, Elektra obviously has an edge when it comes to identifying the one that matched the number they were given.

  32. Episode 7 (at 24:20) – The cut

    Matt and Elektra get into a fight with some bad guys down by the docks and Elektra ends up with a nasty cut on her neck. “Let me see,” Matt says before he examines the cut with his hand. It’s certainly not very hygienic, but it’s his best chance of actually getting a good look at it. In the next scene, he stitches her up too. I found that bit mildly questionable, not because he shouldn’t be able to do it, but because he’d have to do it entirely by touch which is probably not the best idea when stitching up human skin. On the other hand, they don’t really have much of a choice.

  33. Episode 7 (at 26:50) – The scar

    The above scene leads into a rather amusing one where Matt and Elektra compare scars. For the complete show and tell, Elektra guides Matt’s hand to a scar on her thigh that he obviously wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

  34. Episode 8 (at 00:50) – The silent ninjas

    Matt and Elektra fighting ninjas, as seen in Marvel's Daredevil season two, episode eight.
    I covered this topic separately in an earlier post, so you know how ridiculous I find the notion that Matt can’t detect the ninjas in this scene. Detecting otherwise silent objects is kind of what he does, after all, and he couldn’t be Daredevil without this ability. However, this idea, flawed as it might be, is yet another indication that Matt’s abilities are fundamentally dependent on hearing.

  35. Episode 8 (at 18:00) – The origin of the Hand

    One thing occurred to me when I saw the scene where Stick is telling Matt the history of the Hand and the Chaste, and that’s the neat inclusion of an additional soundtrack to go with the story being told. Rather than showing the audience a visual image of ancient Japanese warriors invading villages, we get only an idea of what it might have sounded like. Of course, the main reason there are no visual images probably has to do with the cost of shooting such a scene, but I actually think that omission works brilliantly here. This is, after all, a case of a blind man telling another blind man a story. Both of them, Stick especially (being born blind), would play such a scene to their “mind’s ear” rather than imagine the scene in full color.

  36. Episode 8 (at 33:20) – The courtroom

    In a scene that’s similar to the hospital scene mentioned earlier, Matt asks Foggy to tell him what’s going on when Frank enters the court room. In this case, he is asking Foggy specifically, and Karen doesn’t really factor in to it, so we have to assume the question is genuine. Foggy goes on to tell him what Frank is wearing. While we didn’t see it happen, it also makes sense for Foggy to have told Matt what was written on all the signs the people were holding.

  37. Episode 8 (at 35:05) – The missed glance

    Frank trades glances with the bailiff, as seen in episode eight of Marvel's Daredevil, season two.
    Before Matt questions Frank, he hears the bailiff whisper something to Frank and gets that something is seriously off with the way Frank is acting. With Frank on the stand, though, quickly glancing over Matt’s shoulder to look at his co-conspirator, I’m reminded of how Frank would not be counting on Matt to notice such subtleties. He would be right, and this would, of course, be a more general issue. Matt is very good at noticing how people react to things, he (usually) knows when he’s been watched, and so on. Subtle glances, and other interesting things that people’s eyes are doing, and that people have been shown to be very sensitive to, are a bit beyond him though.

  38. Episode 9 (at 53:30) – The Farm

    There is something about the way Matt decomposes the scene when he reaches the kids in the basement of The Farm that appeals to me. It’s as if he’s making sense of it a little at time before full comprehension happens.

  39. Episode 10 (at 06:50) – The painkiller

    At the hospital, Claire gives Matt two aspirin. He asks her what they are. While one might argue that he’d be able to smell aspirin, he would obviously be unable to glance at the bottle in her hand and recognize it visually.

  40. Episode 10 (at 14:40) – The X-ray, part two

    Reyes shows Matt, Foggy and Karen the picture of a skull X-ray she found in her daughter’s backpack. Karen explains to Matt what it is they are being shown.

  41. Episode 10 (at 21:00) – The braille document

    Matt gets a braille document to sign while visiting Fisk in prison. I read or heard somewhere that they didn’t plan for Matt to be handed the document upside down, as happens in this scene, but I like that little detail.

    Matt then signs his name at the bottom to consent to the terms, but we sadly don’t get to see what his little scribble looks like. As I mentioned for the first list post last year, Matt should be able to write by hand (and he does so in the comic), but he’d be relying on muscle memory much more than a person who can see what they’re writing while they’re writing it. (It might look a bit odd, as in this example from Daredevil #26 (vol 3), by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee.)

  42. Episode 11 (at 26:50) – The paintings by Madame Gao

    A minor detail, certainly, but Madame Gao is painting when Daredevil pays her a visit. To him, her paintings won’t look like much.

  43. Episode 12 (at 11:30) – The subway map

    Matt examines a tactile subway map, as seen in episode 12 of Marvel's Daredevil, season two.
    Matt is frustrated that the Hand is eluding him so goes to the soon to be empty law office to do some research, which entails some kind of tactile subway map, and a book of what appears to be tactile maps. Foggy surprises Matt by helping put. This actually isn’t the first time we’ve seen Matt use a tactile map. He did so way back during the Chichester/McDaniel run, as seen in this panel from Daredevil #314.

  44. Episode 13 (at 11:00) – The billy club

    Melvin gives Matt his billy club, and he takes his glove off to feel it. As I’ve mentioned before, I think Matt is surprisingly lax with his routine around Melvin. He very possibly doesn’t care what Melvin might suspect.

  45. Episode 13 (at 14:25) – The phone call

    Foggy calls as Matt and Elektra are getting ready to head out, and we hear it call out the name of the caller for the first time this season. I sounds to me like Matt switched to a different, much weirder-sounding voice for his phone.

The Defenders

  1. Episode 1 (at 09:20) – The braille printer

    I think I may have cheered when I saw Matt’s braille printer for the first time. Because I’ve honestly been wondering where this fairly essential piece of office equipment might have been hiding for two seasons of Daredevil.

  2. Episode 1 (at 11:40) – The pep talk

    Matt gives a pep talk to his client Aaron James, as seen in the first episode of The Defenders.

    It might seem strange to include Matt’s talk with his client Aaron James in this list. Does it really suggest or “prove” anything with regard to Matt’s blindness, specifically. I think it does. This whole conversation, and the impact of it, hinges on Matt’s genuine ability to emphasize with Aaron. Like Matt, he’s had his life dramatically altered at a young age and knows that he may never walk again. I don’t think anyone would deny that, regardless of the eventual outcome, losing his sight would have been very traumatic for Matt, so we might argue that his ability to relate begins and ends there.

    But in this situation, Matt clearly represents something very important to Aaron as a role model. Aside from the details of their respective injuries, Matt has been where Aaron is, and has gone on from there to build a life and career for himself. If blindness wasn’t still something that impacted Matt’s life in meaningful ways, despite his heightened senses and his being Daredevil, then much of the speech would fall flat. Of course, Aaron wouldn’t know it, but we as viewers would.

  3. Episode 2 (at 11:10) – The bandaid box

    After Matt gets his knuckles bloodied, he searches through a box for what looks like an antiseptic wipe, a compress or some kind of bandaid (it’s hard to tell). This is a scene where he’s very clearly using his hands to find what he’s looking for.

  4. Episode 2 (at 12:10) – The phone call, part two

    Foggy calls again! And it sounds like the old voice is back.

  5. Episode 3 (at 17:30) – The braille case files

    When Matt and Foggy meet up, Foggy gives him some case files he might be interested in. When I first saw the pile of documents, I wondered at first whether they were braille files or the originals (had it been the latter, I suppose Matt could have scanned them and used OCR software), but when Matt goes to see Jessica in jail, we see that they are already in braille. Nice little detail.

  6. Episode 3 (at 26:20) – The pursuit

    Matt and Jessica play a game of cat and mouse, as seen in episode three of The Defenders

    To everyone who thinks it’s insane for Matt to miss that Jessica is right behind him taking pictures, I wholeheartedly agree with you. It’s not that Matt should be expected to be simultaneously aware of everything. All humans have a limited amount of attention to go around. However, this is the kind of thing he should have actively been paying attention to.

    But this is not why this scene is on the list. Rather, it reminds me a little bit of the scene from season one, where Matt is following Wesley’s movements, but doing so only by listening. Here, we see him pay attention to Jessica’s footsteps, which really does seem like the best way for him to track someone in a crowd (as opposed to following specific physical shape that may be much less distinct and vanish completely when there is a lot of movement going on).

  7. Episode 3 (at 50:45) – The return of the dead ex-girlfriend

    When Elektra appears again, it takes Matt several minutes to realize that it is her. Probably because, on top of being presumed dead, she likely smells different than she used to, and may seem different in other ways as well. Had he been able to see, though, he would have recognized her instantly.

  8. Episode 4 (at 11:15) – The non-explanation

    I know a lot of people groaned at Matt’s explanation of how he can do what he does, when it comes up after meeting the other defenders. “Well, sight is overrated” really isn’t much of an explanation after all. But at least it’s a subtle acknowledgement that whatever he can do, seeing isn’t how he does it.

  9. Episode 6 (at 13:05) – The braille Bible

    When Elektra goes to Matt’s apartment, she finds a braille Bible (parts of one, more likely) and the program for her own funeral. I really have to applaud the Netflix people for including so much braille in these shows, and demonstrating so clearly that this would be Matt’s preferred mode of written communication, regardless of whether or not he technically can read print in the show.

  10. Episode 6 (at 18:15) – The brownstones

    “All these brownstones look the same, don’t they?” Jessica asks, as she and Matt head to the home of the now dead architect who was going to blow up Midland Circle. Matt gives her an expression of “how should I know?” and she catches herself. Of course, it makes perfect sense that subtle architectural details are not what Matt uses to figure out where he is in relation to where he needs to go.

  11. Episode 6 (at 34:40) – The hidden plans

    When Matt and Jessica find building plans inside the piano of the dead architect, it is obviously up to Jessica to figure out what they are.

  12. Episode 7 (at 06:30) – The new shirt

    Matt finds himself in a strange environment wearing a new t-shirt, as seen on episode seven of The Defenders.
    When Matt comes to at the police station, he is not only very disoriented, to the point where Foggy rushes in to tell him where he is (he probably would have figured that out sooner rather than later, but being able to see the bulletin board in the room would have been helpful). He’s been given a tee shirt to wear in place of the clothes that were confiscated for evidence, and does a quick touch check of his new attire.

  13. Episode 7 (at 23:20) – The surprise change of clothes

    When Foggy mentions to Matt that he’s brought him a change of clothes it takes a few moments for him to realize what it is, and puts his hand inside the bag to verify. In general, there’s been a good amount of “touching” going on in season two and the Defenders. It’s a step in the right direction, if you ask me, since his sense of touch is almost as ignored as his sense of smell (though probably for very different reasons).

  14. Episode 8 (at 49:50) – The map of Midland Circle

    At Midland Circle, there’s more map reading again, by pretty much everyone but ol’ hornhead

Oh boy, with that out of the way, I’m off to bed! I never intended for this post to be this long, or anal, but I guess I have a lot of stored Daredevil energy that needs somewhere to go. As alway, feel free to comment. And have a great week!

Daredevil season 2 – The relationships and their lingering complications

I ran out of time, and wanted to get this up before the premiere of Defenders. So, for the time being, no pictures. Will add them later. And, I didn’t proofread it either so I hope it’s legible. πŸ™‚

As I mentioned in my review of episode six, I decided to tackle the tail end of season two of Daredevil in a single post rather than one episode at a time. This not only saves a bit of time and space, but it also actually makes it easier to talk about the bigger picture and the broader strokes. As you can see below, I’ve divided this post into various relationships, simply because I think that’s a good way of actually analyzing what’s going on. There are certainly big events happening that lie far beyond individual lives, but the story is just as much about the various players happening to each other.

Before going on, I should add that season two remains difficult for me to watch, though much less so these days compared to a year ago. It is an amazing twelve plus hours of television, but is also really took an emotional toll on me and is one of the big reasons I had to take a break from all things Daredevil for a long time. Over the course of the season, several of the characters end up disappointing both their friends and, to a great extent, themselves. In many ways, this makes for very compelling and lifelike drama, but there are few heroes standing. Ironically, Elektra is the one who most obviously manages to to redeem herself at the end, though Matt is taking steps to do the same by “coming out” to Karen.

At the same time, I have to commend the creators for daring to take the characters in these different directions, and showing their uglier sides too. Hopefully, by showing all of them what doesn’t work in season two, they can be brought back together again, with a more mature understanding of themselves, in season three.

Matt and Foggy

It’s clearly evident at the start of the season that Matt and Foggy still have unresolved issues to address and a questionable willingness to actually address them. For Matt, being Daredevil is something that he enjoys and feels compelled to do, whereas Foggy doesn’t yet understand Matt’s position. Foggy’s reluctance to accept Matt’s choices, meanwhile, is probably both selfish and selfless. Foggy misses the simpler times when there was “just” Matt, and no Daredevil. At the same time, he is genuinely (and legitimately) concerned for his friend’s safety. When we see him yelling at Matt in episode two, after finding him passed out on a roof top, I understand Foggy’s frustration when Matt completely fails to acknowledge the severity of the situation. Compare this to a parent who loses their child at the park. Their priority when reunited is to hug the child in relief and thank whatever higher power they believe in that everything is okay. The second is to firmly tell that same kid that they must never walk off again. I’m not saying that Matt is a child, or that the comparison is perfect, merely that intense worry often turns into anger once the danger is over. Would it have served their friendship better for Foggy to express himself differently? Certainly, but people tend to say a lot of stupid things when they’re hurt or worried.

And the hurt continues throughout the season. Foggy is actually a lot nicer to Matt than I would have been at the end of episode six, considering he just had the entire Frank Castle situation dumped in his lap while Matt went off with Elektra. But, things start to go downhill from here. Much of this is Matt’s fault. Had he been honest about Elektra being the new client, much of what happens next would have turned out very differently. Instead, Foggy is faced with, once again, learning too late that he’s been deceived, as Elektra sabotages their case. Which in turn is not actually Matt’s fault. At this point, Foggy doesn’t want to hear it, and says things that he shouldn’t have. Matt is desperate to explain what’s going on, but is faced with the fact that his past actions have eroded whatever trust in him that Foggy had left. Step by step, these two begin a spiral of hurt, miscommunication and a stubborn unwillingness to see the other person’s point of view.

One of the most poignant scenes of the season, in terms of Matt and Foggy’s relationship, is when they officially decide to break up (around episode nine, as I recall). Foggy comes to ask for a temporary break-up of Nelson & Murdock, and Matt decides to make it permanent, catching Foggy completely off guard. This is also where Matt makes it clear that Foggy’s friend and “the vigilante” are the same person, and that he’s tired of “apologizing for who he is.” I think this is a very important statement for Matt to make, and a necessary one if they’re ever going to form a relationship of true and mutual acceptance. However, Matt’s resolve here is not what it seems, as is evident from the hurt he’s obviously feeling when Foggy leaves and his eyes start tearing up.

One thing to remember about Matt, and this has major consequences for how things turn out, is that he’s got a lot of baggage when it comes to forming attachments to other people. After his father died, he had no one until Stick showed up.
Stick then turns around and leaves when Matt tries to express his emotions (with the ice cream wrapper bracelet). And before he leaves, he makes sure that Matt is told to not let other people get too close. So, when Matt feels rejected by Foggy and Karen (more on that below), it reinforces Stick’s “programming.” There is a pull and push between Matt’s exciting exploits with Elektra on the one hand, and his civilian life on the other, where he’s beginning to feel that his friends don’t want him and are better off without him. If it weren’t for the fact that this part of his life pretty much implodes, the pull of Elektra, while still obviously there, might not have been as strong.

When we get further along, we’re beginning to see more of a truce between Matt and Foggy. Matt is redeemed somewhat in Foggy’s eyes when they learn of Frank’s escape, and Matt’s suspicions that someone “got to” Frank and caused him to have a meltdown on the witness stand, are validated. Foggy also offers some helpful practical advice near the end when Matt is looking for the tunnels where the Hand might be hiding out. Is this the beginning of Foggy actually accepting Matt’s “other side”? If he can’t make him abandon his vigilante activities, he can at least do something to help. In the end though, they do go their separate ways professionally and that’s another string tying Matt to his civilian life severed.

Matt and Karen

The big irony of Matt and Karen is that they actually have a lot in common, mostly things the other person doesn’t know about because they’re not being honest with each other. Not only does Karen have secrets of her own, she also shares Matt’s tendency to chase danger. It is interesting to see that Matt treats Karen almost the same way Foggy treats Matt when it comes to danger and risk taking. This makes Matt a total hypocrite, in my mind. True, Matt is obviously better able to protect himself against most dangers, but it’s not as if he’s invincible, as evidenced by his many injuries. He feels that these risks are worth taking, but seems completely unable to take in the fact that Karen obviously feels the same way about what she does. One theory, though a rather sad one, is that Matt may actually have a tragically low sense of his own worth.

Matt is a hypocrite in more ways than one, however, in his interactions with Karen (especially when compared with how willing he is to forgive Elektra’s murderous side). In episode seven, the two meet to prepare for Frank’s trial and end up having a conversation about what Frank does. Matt reacts with something akin to disgust when the differences between Karen’s morals and his own on this topic become evident. Which, with his secretly being a vigilante, feels extremely harsh. And while he may like to pretend that his “no kill” methods are beyond reproach, we can be sure he’s given more than one guy permanent brain damage at this point. Maybe it’s simply the case that Matt reacts so strongly because Karen is unwittingly sniffing around those parts of him that he’s ashamed of. Few things get to us more than when people bring our attention to weaknesses or inconsistencies that we know to be true, and Matt’s reaction to Karen might be a result of his trying to distance himself from the shadier aspects of his night job.

Karen, like Foggy, will go on to distance herself from Matt over the tail end of the season, and in so doing further underscores Matt’s existing programming, which tells him that it’s a bad idea to have people in your life that you care about, and that you may not really be worthy of their love. Many have pointed out that Karen overreacts to finding Elektra in Matt’s apartment, and I would agree. Especially with Stick being there which would indicate that this is something other than an affair with some strange woman. And, when Karen tells Matt that he’s no hero, after the Castle case falls apart, your heart aches for poor Matt. On the other hand, in Karen’s defense, she still doesn’t know about Daredevil. She strongly suspects that something big is being hidden from her, and that Matt (and, by extension, Foggy) is not forthcoming on this matter, and that Matt is not emotionally available to her in the same way that she is to him. Combine this with seeing the effect that his no-shows in court has on Foggy, and it’s easier to understand how she might read the whole situation with Matt and Elektra the wrong way. And, she may not even suspect an affair, just that this further proves that something big is up with Matt that he obviously prioritizes over everything else going on in their lives. That would be enough to piss her off, though her unwillingness to really listen to what Matt has to say is not admirable.

Matt and Elektra

I think Elodie Yung nails Elektra and gives us the most interesting take on the character I’ve ever seen. However, she still comes across to me as a bit of a mix between original Elektra and the version of the character we saw in the Man Without Fear mini-series from the 90s where she comes across as much darker. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there was definitely a difference in the dynamics between Matt and Elektra in her original appearance (innocent college student lost to the dark side after her father’s death), and her MWOF appearance (where she’s this borderline psychopathic vixen right from the get go). In the latter case, Matt’s relationship with Elektra feels almost primal. Elektra plays with him, he chases her, there’s passion, and exuberance. This relationship is similar to the one on the show, intense and passionate, but that also means that it makes more sense as that big and exciting college fling, than as a healthy adult relationship. In fact, in MWOF, Elektra simply vanishes, and they don’t meet again.

Much of the narrative of Matt and Elektra’s relationship hinges on this notion that they have so much in common, and I don’t think this makes perfect sense given this particular version of Elektra and their in-story history. There’s a false equivalency between what Matt does, and what Elektra does (even more so when you take into account why they do what they do), that seems even more jarring when you take into account how harshly Matt judges Karen’s take on the Punisher. The fact that they both like “extreme sports” certainly unites them, but there’s more to their respective escapades than that. Another part of the appeal for Matt, which I can certainly emphasize with, is that Elektra knows the whole truth about him, and accepts him. Foggy knows the truth, but doesn’t fully accept everything that comes with it. Karen doesn’t know, but probably would be more accepting (it may be too little, too late considering the way she finds out at the end of the season, but we don’t know that yet). In this sense, Elektra fulfills Matt’s need to be understood and validated, and even cheers him on. In the context of Matt’s civilian life imploding, it’s not hard to understand his “good riddance” attitude. Why not sail off into the sunset with Elektra? He’s already lost everything. And she makes him feel good.

But, the problem remains: Matt probably does get a kick out of the amount of hurt he brings to his “victims,” which means that Daredevil, to him, isn’t just about physical freedom and thrill seeking, or justice. But, he also does value his morality. He definitely has a dark streak, the “devil inside,” and Elektra likes that part of him and encourages it. But unlike Elektra, Matt doesn’t want to give that side of him free reins. At the end of the day, he does draw the line at killing. And he tries to keep himself on an even shorter leash than that. We should not view this as him denying some important inner truth whenever he exercises restraint. Seriously, the difference between a grown person in civilized society and a two-year-old is that the former doesn’t impulsively do whatever their lower instincts tell them to do. Matt’s sense of right and wrong is important to him, and absolutely central to who he is as a character. In this sense, he and Elektra are complete opposites, at least initially. Elektra actually enjoys killing, she’s manipulative, and aloof.

Thankfully, Elektra does go through some interesting changes. She finds her “inner light,” and recognizes that it was that side of him that she loved in Matt. I’m not sure this makes perfect sense, or is enough of a reason for Matt to love her the way he apparently (supposedly?) does. Remember, the story itself has to lead us to this destination, it shouldn’t be enough to say that, “Oh, but this is what happens in the comics.” On a personal level, one thing that does make sense from the perspective of how people usually work, is that he believes he can save her, and falls in love (again) with this idea of her. And I’m not saying Elektra is all bad at the end – she’s not – but it’s Matt’s idea of who she can be that compels her to change.

This in itself is an interesting contrast when you compare Karen and Elektra. In many ways, Elektra can carry her own in ways that Karen can’t, but Elektra needs Matt more (whether she realizes this or not) in ways that appeal to Matt. Karen doesn’t want Matt to save her (and not knowing about Daredevil doesn’t matter much, Matt is still an authority figure in Karen’s live for much of the show). His role when it comes to Elektra is much more clear. Aside from letting him indulge his Daredevil side, Elektra also brings out the side in Matt that wants to do good. This still doesn’t play out for me perfectly, and there’s still something about the Matt-Elektra dynamic that doesn’t sit right with me, but it makes more sense now than it did the first three times I watched this show. I just hope that the Matt and Elektra storyline will be over after Defenders. In the comics, she has always been this enigmatic presence that pops in and out of his life at irregular intervals, not a steady love interest (beyond their college years and her first death).

Matt and Claire

Matt and Claire don’t see a lot of each other in season two, compared to season one. I’m including their relationship here though, because her scene with Matt up on the roof of the hospital, before the ninjas show up, is one of my favorites. Mostly due to the fact that she echoes my own sentiment when it comes to how Matt chooses to distance himself from the people he claims to want to protect. I guess we need to remember that this takes place after he’s gone to see Fisk in prison (a scene that really needs its own discussion, but I’m seriously running out of time before the Defenders airs), where Matt is both still really hurt over being misunderstood, and, at the same time, very much aware of what a target he’s put on the people in his life that he still very much cares about.

What Claire does, though, is point out his arrogance in putting himself above everyone else. She invites him to not let the hero get in the way of also just being a human being, a friend. But Matt refuses to go to see and Foggy. He’s not at that point yet. One thing I hope to see in season three is what Born Again did so well in the comics, which is to make Matt appreciate his civilian life. Disbarred, and away from his friends, Matt starts to completely spiral out of control due to the Kingpin’s machinations. This is another reason I’m a bit ill at ease with Cox’s comments (see my previous post). Cutting the “blind lawyer” out of his life and going full Daredevil, if you will, has historically not been a great choice for Matt. He needs his balance. I hope he realizes that on screen as well.

Karen and Frank

On the one hand, I really do like Karen and Frank’s budding relationship and look forward to seeing it on screen in The Punisher, later this fall. On the other hand, I think there is a tendency to milk the “similarities” between the characters for much more than they’re worth, in ways that are in some ways analogous to what’s happening with Matt and Elektra. Yes, Karen has killed (at least) one person, but with Wesley, we know it was self-defense. And yes, Karen finds ways to personally relate to Frank’s “war” and feels sympathy for what happened to his family. But, unless Karen has actually taken a machine gun to a house full of mobsters, it becomes a bit of a stretch to overstate how much they actually have in common.

I also have to question Frank’s speech regarding how the only people who can really hurt you are the ones you love. This may be true, but that doesn’t mean that it’s healthy or desirable for a loved one to make you feel like shit on any sort of regular basis. If Matt has hurt Karen, it’s not simply because she loves him. It could be because things happened between them where none of them were at their best. Not a big deal, but I’m not sure I’d recommend that Frank pursue a second career writing advice columns for the Bulletin (hey, it’s supposedly easy to get a job there.) πŸ˜‰

I do like that Karen goes off and does her own thing though, and this kind of goes for Foggy too. Matt is such an overwhelming presence, that maybe everyone is better off just finding themselves before they’re ready to patch things up again.

In closing

After Monday, I just ran out of time this week, or else this post would have been at least twenty-five percent longer. And, it would have had pictures (I’ll add them later). As is, we’re just over nine hours away from Defenders, and I’m at a work conference, and in dire need of sleep. πŸ˜‰

Tomorrow, I won’t be able to start watching Defenders until about 12PM ET, which is still a lot sooner than a lot of people, but I expect to finish some time after midnight my time and get it all in before bed. Needless to say, I’ll stay off Twitter and Facebook. If you want to comment here and talk Daredevil, though (no Defenders spoilers!), I’m all ears.

The 50+ ways in which Marvel’s Daredevil reminds you that Matt is blind (for real)

Matt talking to Foggy and Karen, as seen in episode eight of Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix

Since this post was originally published, I have also writtenΒ a follow-up piece featuring details from season two and The Defenders.Β 

I did not set out to write a manifesto, but I don’t really know what else to call this post. A plea perhaps? I suppose what makes it a “manifesto” is the amount of heartfelt emotion that I’ve put into this post. For as long as I’ve been a Daredevil fan, I’ve always been very protective of his “blind side.” Regular readers of this blog (which passed 800 posts just last week) know this. I know quite a few of you agree with me. Others are probably tired of my occasional rants on the subject, but thanks for sticking around anyway.

This is me pouring my heart out. Again. And my end goal is this: I want to elevate the way “we” (fans, creators, and critics) speak about this character so that it truly reflects his full complexity. Most people have no trouble doing this when it comes to his “lawyer who breaks the law” state of moral shadiness. But when it comes to his physiology, far too many people accept the creed of “my other senses more than compensate” (see, for instance, Daredevil #168, by Frank Miller, below) without a second thought. The problem is that this has always been, and always will be, a logical fallacy. It’s a tagline, a shorthand for describing the character’s powers in one brief statement. And, it’s inaccurate. We can do better.

Scene from Daredevil #168, by Frank Miller. Matt meets Elektra for the first time and comes clean about his powers, saying. "I'm blind, but I have other abilities that more than compensate."

This post is the result of the copious amounts of notes I took on various trends and patterns during season one, which is why I’ve been able to throw something this lengthy together in one evening. Most of what you’ll read below has been living in an Excel sheet that I put together two years ago. This is the reason it only covers season one, though much of this obviously holds true for season two as well. The reason I’m getting this out now has to do with some of the ways Daredevil actor Charlie Cox has been talking about the character he plays so well in several recent interviews, where Matt Murdock is described as a lie, Daredevil is the true identity, and Matt is only pretending to be blind (in some cases, “blind” is even exchanged for the much broader term “visually impaired” which makes the statement even more questionable).

But there’s also a reason I’ve been hesitant to put this down in writing as boldly as I’m doing here, and that boils down to the fact that I don’t wish to “shame” anyone, least of all someone who seems as genuinely nice and caring as Charlie Cox. Who, I should add, does a fantastic job in the role, and who I know has shown an incredible amount of dedication to making all aspects of Matt Murdock’s life as real as anyone could hope for (and he’s also said plenty of things that actually run completely counter to the bits I’m giving him a hard time about here). I’m actually quite dismayed by the current “outrage culture” that sees people being shamed for using slightly outdated terms, not expressing themselves “just right,” or for not being “woke” enough. I think it’s sad when we expect the worst of each other, scrutinize every word someone says and don’t give people the benefit of the doubt. I am not going to be a part of that. In fact, I even suspect that some of the wording that I’m reacting to may actually have come about as a result of not wanting to offend.

Stan Lee has talked about how worried he was, back when Daredevil made his debut, that blind people would find him offensive, that they would say “We can’t do that!” And I’m sure there are droves of blind and visually impaired people who do find the mere concept of Daredevil offensive, just as there are many that feel just the opposite. (What people actually find offensive obviously varies greatly from person to person.) Still, I would imagine that people associated with this show may actually feel that underscoring that Matt only “pretends” to be blind is the best way to shield Daredevil from criticism. Add to this that Cox’s description of Matt hasn’t surfaced in a vacuum but actually reflects how many of Daredevil’s fans and past creators would talk about him as well. I happen to disagree with this decision, and feel that a chance is being missed to highlight the fact that, for many people, vision impairment is more complicated than the simple blind-sighted dichotomy suggests, and that Daredevil is actually an interesting example of this.

So, what gives? What is this “more elevated” way of talking about Daredevil that I’m suggesting gives a better and more complete understanding of the character? Certainly, I can’t be suggesting that Matt doesn’t live a life where there isn’t a lot of pretense? And no, I’m not suggesting that. I quite agree with Cox and many others who would point to the many ways in which Matt Murdock’s civilian life is a faΓ§ade. It very obviously is, and I agree that Matt likely feels very conflicted about this. But I wouldn’t call “Matt Murdock” a lie. I would call him a necessary half-truth. Matt’s heightened senses allow him to be Daredevil, and to do a number of other things that you would not expect of someone who is totally blind, but they don’t – and here’s the kicker – actually make him sighted. Part of the irony of Matt’s peculiar condition is that if his senses actually did compensate for his blindness in any and all situations, he wouldn’t have to “pretend to be blind” in the first place. The reason I’m saying that “my other senses more than compensate” is a logical fallacy is that it is true in some situations, not quite true in others, and not even a little bit true in others still.

There is a reason that Matt Murdock the college student, if he wishes to keep his heightened senses hidden, has no choice but to go “full blind guy.” His advantages over any other blind student in a setting like a college classroom is pretty much nil. He can’t see the blackboard (whiteboard these days), the slides, or whatever movie is being shown. He may know what the professor ate last night, but that’s probably not particularly relevant to next week’s homework. If he wants to type up a paper, he needs to use a computer with a screenreader. (This bit, almost all fans seem to get intuitively, just going by the number of rather inane “how are you tweeting this?!” comments directed at the official Daredevil Twitter account. Sadly, these people seem to have missed the part where Matt owns and operates a computer on the actual show…).

Even Matt Murdock, the lawyer, would find himself in a situation where he, if he were to unwisely try to use his heightened senses to pass for sighted, would find himself severely limited. Many pieces of evidence are highly visual in nature. If he didn’t exercise his right to have photographic or video evidence described and transcribed to him, he would be less effective at his job.

The civilian identity places physical and behavioral restrictions on Matt, there’s no doubt about that. It makes sense that Matt would, at times, find these restrictions limiting and tiresome. And yes, they would often make him feel like a phony. I would point out though, that the Daredevil identity also comes with restrictions. I understand and empathize with Matt’s need to be Daredevil, I understand the immense freedom it gives him. But the thing is, Daredevil can only exist in Daredevil’s world, where the need to be able to see and interpret strictly visual information is minimal, and most situations can be solved by doing exactly those things Daredevil does best.

The mundane truth, however, is that “Daredevil” has to eat, make a living, find a place to live, go to the store, and transport himself over greater distances than his billy club can take him. He has to interact with regular people he is not beating up for information, and generally exist in a society where there is a truckload of incidental visual information that he is not able to see and that his other senses really don’t make up for. The reason people rarely think of these situations is because they are generally not something you would see featured in the comic. You see more of them in the show, but even then we have to live with the fact that following Matt to Barney’s so he can shop for a new suit does not make for riveting entertainment. This means that there is a natural bias in most Daredevil stories against featuring the more mundane situations where his blindness might be an issue.

Panel from Daredevil #301, by D.G. Chichester and M.C. Wyman. Daredevil, in battle, thinks to himself: "My head swivels up at the voice, partly for appearances, partly reflex from when I could still see."

So far in the Netflix show, Daredevil has rarely found himself in situations where he awkwardly has to pretend to be able to see in the traditional fashion – his meetings with Melvin Potter are an interesting exception – but these situations do exist in the comic (see a couple of my favorites here, and here). Where Matt can really be his true self is around people who know about his senses, but these situations too do not suggest that he can see in the traditional sense. He does have his own unique way of interacting with the world that is unlike that of a (totally) blind person, but also unlike that of a sighted person. Even something as simple as communicating with the eyes, through eye contact and almost imperceptible glances, is a big part of how (sighted) people communicate. Matt conducts himself differently. Having to pretend to be more functionally blind than he is, is not Matt’s natural state of being, but neither is having to pretend to see things he cannot or conduct himself in ways identical to someone who can see. Perhaps Frank Miller put it best: “The hidden identity can be a relief, Bullseye. When I’m Murdock, I don’t have to use my amplified senses to pretend I’m not blind.” (From Daredevil #191, Roulette)

Matt goes to visit Chuckie, in Daredevil #191 by Frank Miller, quoted above

In many ways, Matt is more typical of a visually impaired person – in the broader sense of the world – than most people realize. Of all the people who find themselves in this category, the totally blind (or nearly so) are the minority. Most exist in a gray area and are perhaps best described as partially sighted. Someone with retinitis pigmentosa, who has lost most of his peripheral vision, might need a cane but can read a regular book with his sharp central vision. Someone with macular degeneration might have a fuzzy central blindspot and need screenreader software, but be able to get around quite easily without a cane, reach for objects with no trouble and not be pegged as blind by the casual observer, even when classified as legally blind. They can see some things, but not others. Kind of like a certain someone we know. To deny this is to sell him short.

With this longish preamble out of the way, let’s get to the many ways that the Netflix show actually proves my point. Overall, the show really does an excellent job of handling Matt Murdock’s strange blend of blindness and heightened senses. In fact, all things taken together, I can’t think of a single run of the comic – with the possible exception of the recent Waid/Samnee/Rivera/MartΓ­n run – that has been more successful in this regard. Which is why it’s ironic that these things aren’t talked about more accurately by the people who do everything right to make this work on screen.

“The List”

  1. Episode 1 (at 08:45) – The phone swipe

    Matt’s phone announces that he’s receiving an incoming call from Foggy. He responds by using gestures on his smart phone. Pretty much exactly as any other totally blind person would, and in this particular situation, his heightened senses completely fail to compensate in any way.

  2. Episode 1 (at 10:45) – The view

    “You can flip a coin with your partner for it,” says the real estate agent. “He can have the view,” Matt responds when he and Foggy are looking at offices for their firm. It makes sense that Matt would offer Foggy the room with the view, if he wants to hide his senses. It also makes sense because he legitimately can’t see the view or derive any esthetic pleasure from it. Does not being able to see the view detract from his crime fighting? Not in the least. But, enjoying the view of the Hudson river is clearly something Foggy can do that Matt can’t. Because he cannot visually detect any light. It’s that simple.

  3. Episode 1 (at 15:05) – The braille watch

    Matt and Foggy check the time while interrogating Karen, this in response to her asking how long they’ve been practicing law. Matt has a braille watch. Which makes perfect sense since he wouldn’t be able to see the face of a regular watch. Because he’s blind. Incidentally, the braille watch is perhaps the earliest adaptive device featured consistently in the Daredevil comic.

  4. Episode 1 (at 15:45) – The notepad

    Matt subtly indicates to Foggy to take down what Karen is saying on his notepad. Matt could write if he wanted to, as can many other blind people, though he would be subject to the same difficulties in that he can’t monitor what he’s writing while he’s doing it (in a way that is analogous to how a deaf person can’t hear his or her own speech). He could use a notetaker device for the blind. Either way, the act of taking handwritten notes would not be something he would approach much differently than any other blind person. As for reading them, he’s got a leg up, if we’re going by traditional canon.

  5. Episode 1 (at 19:45) – The dictaphone

    Matt's dictaphone, as seen in season one, episode one of Marvel's Daredevil

    Matt is double-checking the dictaphone on his table by running his hand over it, possibly to verify that the braille labels that are revealed on a later close-up are still there. I will absolutely go along with his playing up the blind guy bit here, but the case I’m making is that it’s completely logical that he would label buttons on various things, either by using braille labels or little plastic “bumpers”. If he had a TV, one such item would be the remote control (I challenge anyone with a semi-complicated remote to know what all the buttons are without looking at the often tiny numbers and symbols on or near them). Another such item would the microwave or oven in his house. It just makes sense. This information is simply less accessible to him than it is to someone who sees with visible light.

  6. Episode 1 (at 25:15) – The signs around town

    “I’ve seen their signs all over Hell’s Kitchen,” Foggy says when Karen tells them about Union Allied leading the reconstructions of the city. Included here simply because Matt wouldn’t have. Because he can’t see signs.

  7. Episode 1 (at 29:30) – The billboard

    Matt talks about how he got the apartment cheap because he’s not bothered by the giant billboard outside. Which he wouldn’t be because he can’t see it (for the same reason that he usually leaves the lights off in his apartment). This is certainly a good thing in this situation (hey, cheap NYC apartment!), but logic dictates that this isn’t the only billboard in town which the vast majority of people can draw information from that he can’t.

  8. Episode 1 (at 30:20) – The styling of hair

    Karen asks if she can ask a personal question. Matt quickly responds with how he hasn’t always been blind. Karen realizes that that’s probably what everyone wants to know and Matt jokingly answers: “That, and how do you comb your hair?” This is, of course, a silly question to ask a blind person as we can assume that the vast majority have no problems combing their hair. It’s included here for the simple reason that while Matt obviously can comb his hair, he would be no better at it than anyone else who is blind since he can’t use mirrors. By extension, anything that falls into the category of personal grooming of the kind that sighted people would do by sight – aided by a mirror – are things that Matt would have to approach the same as any other person with little to no sight.

  9. Episode 1 (at 31:30) – The sky

    “It doesn’t change the fact that I’d give anything to see the sky one more time.” While I question the sincerity in what Matt is saying here (see my review of episode one), there’s no denying that he, in fact, used to be able to see the sky and no longer can. Because he’s blind. Are there other esthetic pleasures of a visual nature that he cannot appreciate that other people can and that he might miss, ever so occasionally? Of course. This doesn’t affect his ninja moves at all, but does point to there being a legitimate sensory deficit.

  10. Episode 1 (at 47:50) – The folding of bills

    Matt hands a folded bill over to the guy at Fogwell’s gym. This is something that regular blind people often do. There is no reason to assume that Matt wouldn’t do the same for reasons that have nothing to do with keeping up appearances. Even if we make allowances for the print reading of the comics, it would be more efficient for him to have a folding system when quickly trying to go through his wallet.

  11. Episode 2 (at 03:20) – The unresponsive pupils

    Claire checks Matt’s pupils for a reaction. They are unresponsive to light. As they should be.

  12. Episode 2 (at 04:10) – The missed light

    Matt gets up to leave and heads straight for Claire’s brightly lit kitchen instead. True, he’s very disoriented, but the sheepish look on his face pretty much confirms that this is not a mistake that a sighted person would have made quite as readily.

  13. Episode 2 (at 11:20) – The missing mask

    Claire is taking care of Matt who is on her couch, as seen in the second episode of Marvel's Daredevil

    Matt wakes on Claire’s couch, disoriented. His first question is: “Where am I?” Not “Who are you?”, that comes next. The order of the questions Matt asks, along with not readily realizing that he’s not wearing his mask (he actually tries to feel for it on his face) clearly indicate that he’s not taking in the scene in the same way and with the same priorities as he probably would if he were sighted. Yes, there’s a massive amount of disorientation involved here, but the subtle differences remain. I’m not suggesting that Matt is necessarily at a disadvantage compared to a sighted person in this scenario, only that his behavior overall is not what we would expect from a sighted person.

  14. Episode 2 (at 18:15) – The facial expression

    Matt to Claire: “You’re looking at me like I’m crazy, right?” Matt has never really been able to detect subtle – or even not-so-subte – facial expressions in the comic, and the same seems to be true here.

  15. Episode 2 (at 22:20) – The searching hand

    Matt finds a knife in Claire’s drawer. How quickly he finds it is certainly impressive for a blind guy, but he does actually briefly explore the drawer with his hand.

  16. Episode 2 (at 29:25) – The inaccessible phone

    Up on Claire’s roof, Matt is hoisting the fake Detective Foster up by a rope, asking Claire – who has the man’s phone – whether she found anything on it. The reason he has to ask? He legitimately can’t see what’s on it and has no way of operating it. Because he’s blind.

  17. Episode 2 (at 32:55) – The feeling of silk robes

    Young Matt runs his hands over his father’s new robe. While this is a young Matt who has yet to learn how to use his senses fully, it would make sense that this kind of exploration would have to happen by tactile means even as he grows up. As a general rule, I can see no reason why Matt would approach something like shopping for clothes or getting the sense of a fabric any differently from anyone else who has a pretty severe visual impairment.

  18. Episode 2 (at 39:40) – The trigeminal nerve

    Claire suggests that Matt try stabbing their captive Russian in his trigeminal nerve, and she shows Matt where it’s located by tracing its path on Matt’s face, near the eye. I’m sure Matt could have made sense out of her gesture even if she had shown him by pointing to her own face, but there’s not doubt in my mind that he would get a less detailed sense of it that way.

  19. Episode 3 (at 12:30) – The big check

    Wesley slides a piece of paper over to Foggy, with an monetary offer printed on it. Later, after Wesley has left, Foggy says of Matt’s doubts that if he could see the number of zeroes on his offer he wouldn’t care. This situation is a minor one, but highlights the fact that Matt can’t casually glance at any kinds of documents strewn about on a table, or posted on a wall, the way a sighted person could. In fact, Matt’s lack of access to incidental and potentially useful visual information (in writing or presented as a graphic), is perhaps the most significant issue not addressed by his heightened senses. With the way the character works, in and out of the comics, he could miss an enormous amount of information available to other people, and never even know it. The reverse is, of course, also true. Matt detects things others don’t, but the two don’t automatically cancel or balance each other out.

  20. Episode 3 (at 14:40) – The sound of a watch

    Matt follows Wesley and listen as he walks to his car, from episode three of Marvel's Daredevil

    Matt follows Wesley by the sound of his watch, then stops at the curb and follows the latter’s moves. By listening to them. This is clearly a case of Matt putting his heightened senses to great use, but let’s not pretend that a sighted person couldn’t have visually tracked Wesley’s movements just as easily, and possibly even more so. This is a classic case of Matt’s senses just compensating, by means that are mostly non-visual in nature, but quite honestly do little more. Matt’s ability to sense the shapes of things in a way that resembles vision also has a limited range.

  21. Episode 3 (at 30:30) – The screenreader

    This scene shows the first real look at Matt’s computer set-up, which includes a braille display. It’s on Foggy to look up the right section of the penal law and read it to Matt, in this particular scene. As a general rule, this is clearly the area of Matt’s life where his heightened senses benefit him the least. As has been comic lore for at least some twenty-five years (I’m counting back to those weird couple of issues in the early nineties where Matt could read computer screens by touch), Matt cannot access screens. He would need to use the same kind of assistive technology as any other person with little to no useful vision. This is not pretense – not part of “the act.”

  22. Episode 4 (at 05:05) – The voice

    Matt to Claire: “Maybe I just like the sound of your voice.” This is probably meant to indicate that non-visual qualities are particularly important to him. As they would be.

  23. Episode 4 (at 05:30) – The burner phone

    Matt hands Claire a burner phone. He asks her to enter her number into it. Which makes sense. And, if this is just a regular phone with no special features on it, he might run into some problems doing it himself. Though dialing shouldn’t be a problem if there’s only one or a few phone book listings as the right sequence of key presses could be learned easily.

  24. Episode 4 (at 28:30) – The Veles taxi cab

    Matt asks Santino if he heard or saw anything that can help him locate Claire. Santino mentions that he saw them get into a cab, Veles Taxi. Incidentally, this specific nugget of information is one that Matt could never have come by on his own, save for someone mentioning it in passing.

  25. Episode 5 (at 00:50) – The breakfast

    Matt is cooking. Which is not at all strange. There is absolutely nothing that says that even completely blind people cannot be great cooks, and I’d like to think that Matt’s heightened sense of smell, in particular, might make him quite adept at it. This scene is included here for the simple reason that Matt’s approach to cooking would probably have more in common with that of a blind person than that of a sighted person. He would determine whether the food is properly cooked by smell or by how it responds to being poked with kitchen utensils. Also, some kitchen equipment, to the extent that he uses it, would probably be of the talking variety.

  26. Episode 5 (at 02:50) – The “world on fire”

    “I can’t see. Not like everyone else, but I can feel. Things like balance and direction, micro-changes in the air density, vibrations, blankets of temperature variations. Mix all that with what I hear, subtle smells… All the fragments form sort of an impressionistic painting.” I take issue with some of Matt is saying here, in particular the bits about balance and direction being quite so high on the list. These are things that clearly help with the acrobatics and the ninja fighting, as they have to do with body awareness, but these are not the kinds of impressions that are vital to the detection of objects in space. With a radarless interpretation of the senses, the hearing of echoes should account for the overwhelming majority of what feeds into Matt’s awareness of space. However, that’s a topic covered elsewhere. The reason I include this scene here, is that at least Matt is clearly stating that he can’t see like everyone else. Which should be obvious to everyone.

  27. Episode 5 (at 03:45) – The actual “world on fire”

    Matt’s world on fire, while a far from ideal way of picturing Matt’s senses, at least brings home the point that he does not “see” particularly well. Well enough to move about freely and make out decent-sized objects? Certainly. As he should. 20/20 color vision? Nope, not even close.

  28. Episode 5 (at 06:00) – The crooked tie

    Matt’s tie is adorably askew. Maybe if he could actually use a mirror, it wouldn’t be… πŸ˜‰

  29. Episode 5 (at 36:35) – The inaccessible phone, part two

    Claire helps Matt check what's in the phone he found on the crooked cop, as seen in Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix, episode five

    Matt found Detective Blake’s phone while he was roughing him up. Back in his apartment, Claire is going through it to look for clues. She finds a text message that gives the addresses to the locations which will be bombed later. Matt could not have gotten this information on his own. Clearly one of many situations where he doesn’t “operate better than a sighted person”.

  30. Episode 6 (at 12:20) – The movies

    “It’s not as easy as it looks in the movies, you know.” “I don’t really go to the movies. I like records though.” I saw this scene referenced a couple of times in the push to get Netflix to add audio descriptions, because it hightlighted the irony of a show that the main protagonist, if he were a real person, would not be able to access fully. When it comes to visual entertainment, and visual arts in general, Matt is in the same boat as every other totally blind person. This tends to get handwaved away by some fans as inconsequential, and it certainly doesn’t affect Matt’s prowess as a crime fighter (much), but movies and television are not only a major source of information but are a big part of popular culture. It does surprise me that he doesn’t have a TV though. There’s the news, which he might legitimately be interested in, and many shows can be enjoyed by blind people even without audio description.

  31. Episode 7 (at 03:40) – The braille

    Matt is reading braille. Kind of like a blind person who can’t read print. Of course, in the comics, Matt can read print (though this ability has been somewhat downplayed over the years), but regardless of whether this is a real ability in the Netflix show or not – it appears to have been scrapped, for which I’m grateful (though Charlie Cox has mentioned that they did tape a scene for the first season, that was later cut, of him reading newsprint) – I could never find any good reason why Matt would actively choose to read anything but braille when given the option. Preferring print would be like saying “Oh, I’m fine reading six point faded type under poor lighting, in fact I prefer it to reading things comfortably!” In the Born Again story arc, by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, Matt actually talks about reading print as an occasional strain.

  32. Episode 7 (at 47:10) – The clean up

    Matt is cleaning up his floor after his fight with Stick, lightly brushing his fingers over the carpet in a way that looks remarkably like what we’d expect from someone with impaired vision. How about that? He then finds the ice cream wrapper bracelet that he made for Stick as a child. It’s his fingers, not his other senses, that recognize it. He knows it by touch.

  33. Episode 8 (at 04:40) – The talking alarm clock

    Matt's talking alarm clock, as seen in episode eight of Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix

    Matt wakes up to his talking alarm clock. Which makes sense since he can’t see digital displays. Not part of “the act.” (Interestingly, there was another alarm clock on his night stand at the beginning of the series. I guess someone figured that this made more sense.)

  34. Episode 8 (at 16:40) – The screenreader, part two

    Close-up of Matt's braille display, as seen in the eighth episode of Marvel's Daredevil

    Matt is reading something from his computer on a braille display. He’s also got an earpiece for the audio output. Part of his regular blind guy cover or actually useful thing because he really can’t see the screen? Well, both. No pretense involved. Matt would realistically have to “blind guy” his way through the vast majority of his office work, which anyone who has spent more than five seconds thinking about this knows, including everyone involved in this project.

  35. Episode 8 (at 49:50) – The Fisk speech

    Matt is listening to Wilson Fisk give his speech over his computer at home. Emphasis on listening.

  36. Episode 9 (at 19:30) – The newspaper

    Karen shoves the newspaper in Matt’s face, and Foggy says “You know he can’t see that.” As Foggy is about to learn, there’s a lot he didn’t know about Matt Murdock, but on this point, he is absolutely right. Matt is not pretending he can’t see what’s printed on the front page of the newspapers, because he really can’t see what’s on the front page of the newspaper.

  37. Episode 9 (at 22:10) – The art gallery

    Matt meets Vanessa at the art gallery. Where he really literally can’t see any of the paintings. When Vanessa says that “You don’t need sight to appreciate art,” Matt replies that “sight helps.” If we’re talking strictly about visual art, then he’s certainly right. And he would know.

  38. Episode 9 (at 21:00) – The painting

    Matt and Vanessa, admiring her favorite painting, as seen in Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix

    Vanessa shows Matt one of her “favorite pieces” and, in a rather humorous misstep, seems to have completely forgotten that her customer can’t see the painting in question. Matt asks her to describe it to him, which she does. There is a lot of pretense going on here: Matt pretends to be a customer, and he pretends to need to use a white cane. There is no doubt about this. He does not, however, have to pretend to not be able to see the painting.

  39. Episode 9 (at 27:05) – The caller ID

    Foggy calls, and Matt dismisses the call, though not before the talking caller ID has announced to both Matt and Father Lantom who the call is from. Clearly, Matt would have no other way of knowing who the caller is.

  40. Episode 9 (at 29:50) – The task better handled by the sighted staff

    Karen tells Matt about how she and Foggy identified the men who attacked her from the photos on their contractor’s licences. Incidentally something Matt would not be able to do. With his being blind and all that.

  41. Episode 9 (at 30:45) – The Nelson & Murdock sign

    Foggy gives Matt their new sign to “look at” and he runs his fingers over it. Despite the embossing and large features, it is unlikely that Matt can get any detailed sense of the sign using his other senses, so it makes sense to examine it by touch. Kind of like a blind guy.

  42. Episode 9 (at 35:25) – The muted TV

    Foggy draws everyone’s attention to Wilson Fisk on the muted television screen behind them. Matt asks Josie to turn up the volume, something he would not have known to do if it were not for the sighted people in his company.

  43. Episode 9 (at 43:35) – The limited “view”

    Matt examines the building plans with his hand, from episode nine of Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix

    Matt enters the warehouse down at the docks and examines the large prints on the table next to him. He takes his glove off and runs his hand over the building plans. It is unclear how much information he’s getting from this, going by the comic book version of Matt’s powers, he should be able to feel the printed lines under his fingertips, provided the layer of ink is thick enough. However, a sighted person could take in the entire “scene” of what’s on the table in the fraction of a second. There has never been an incarnation of the character that can match or compensate for the effeciency that ordinary vision provides for cases like this.

  44. Episode 10 (at 07:35) – The caller ID, part two

    Karen calls while Matt and Foggy are having their big confrontation. Again, the talking caller ID lets us know it’s from her.

  45. Episode 10 (at 17:50) – The unseen footage

    Foggy mentions “that news footage of you, in the alley after bombings” and then adds – perhaps because he feels the need to elaborate – “the way you were flipping around…” Which is apt because while Matt obviously experienced the scene first hand, he can’t know anything about how he appears in the footage.

  46. Episode 11 (at 05:30) – The task better handled by the sighted staff, part two

    Karen talks about the misfiled piece of papers she found at the county clerk’s office. Incidentally, not the kind of investigation Matt could undertake unassisted with any kind of efficiency.

  47. Episode 11 (at 07:55) – The balloon

    Karen gives Matt a balloon. She tells him there’s a monkey on it. Which he really wouldn’t know if she didn’t tell him.

  48. Episode 11 (at 34:10) – The workshop

    Matt examines the materials in Melvin’s workshop. It’s all very hands on.

  49. Episode 12 (at 37:50) – The blind workers

    Matt inspects the blind workers, as seen in season one, episode 12 of Marvel's Daredevil

    Matt discovers the blind workers. His different way of taking things in is clearly on display in this scene, and here it takes him quite a bit longer to figure out that the workers are blind than it probably would for a sighted person. This is one of those situations where an inability to monitor subtle eye movements comes into play.

  50. Episode 13 (at 05:55) – The people known from their photos

    Karen talks about Ellison being at the funeral, hinting at his disposition. It is unclear whether Karen has ever met him before (probably not), but she could have recognized him from a picture, his byline in the paper, etc. Matt couldn’t have. Matt can, of course, recognize someone’s voice from a previously heard audio feed though.

  51. Episode 13 (at 20:00) – The screenreader, part three

    Matt, Foggy and Karen working in the conference room, as seen in episode thirteen of Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix

    More office work for Matt. In this scene, we even see him use the computer keyboard, searching for the right key with his fingers. As he would since he can’t see the symbols on them. Meanwhile, Foggy and Karen are searching through a bunch of printed documents that Matt presumably can’t read (though he could potentially scan them and have them transcribed with OCR software). Even though comic book Matt can read print (to varying degrees), the task of scanning entire pages and looking for irregularities is much better suited for vision.

  52. Episode 13 (at 39:50) – The costume

    Matt goes to pick up his new costume and gets an explanation from Melvin what the different colored pieces are for (I guess he’s going to have to find out about which are the better protected areas some other way), and then touches the garment to examine it.

  53. Episode 13 (at 49:55) – The newspaper, part two

    Karen reads about Daredevil in the newspaper. Which, by the way, Matt can’t see. Too bad, ’cause that is one cool first page!

  54. Episode 13 (at 50:35) – The Nelson & Murdock sign, part two

    For the second time this season, Matt feels the Nelson and Murdock sign. It’s impossible to know what is other senses might tell him about that sign (something sqaure and metallic with a surface irregularity where the letters are?), but his sense of touch is still his best bet for getting the detail that others can get visually.

Okay, that’s it. I’ve made my case. Please share this with anyone who needs to read it. At this point, I don’t care if I ruffle a few feathers.

Brief thoughts on Daredevil #6

So, I’m admittedly still in a bit of a Daredevil funk (see my previous post). Which is fine. I’ll get over it, and I’m just going to ride it out. With Daredevil #7 coming out tomorrow, I still wanted to put together my thoughts on this month’s issue. I’m not going to call this a review. Reviews should ideally be well thought out, and address all aspects of a comic. They shouldn’t be whatever this is.

First, let’s just get the bits you actually would find in a review out of the way. The art is beautiful, Matteo Buffagni (whom I totally had pegged as Ron Garney) draws a great Elektra, and the unusual color palette by Matt Milla is growing on me. There is also plenty to suggest that Charles Soule has a good grasp of Matt’s character. All in all, I’m pretty sure there’s actually a good story in there somewhere. Which is why it’s such a shame to see this run buckle under the weight of its own illogical continuity.

Matt spots Elektra in the court room, as seen in Daredevil #6 (vol 5), by Charles Soule and Matteo Buffagni

In many ways, I find the beginning of this story to be more compelling than the one we saw in the opening arc. However, the elephant in the room has grown to such proportions that it’s effectively blocking my view of anything but the elephant.

Whatever is allowing Matt to have his identity back and get back to practicing law is apparently so major that it’s made a cheater out of everyone Matt has ever dated. Let’s not even get into the nitty gritty of how the version of Matt that Elektra knew revealed his abilities to her almost as soon as they met. This Matt predates Daredevil. There is no version of this that doesn’t leave Elektra with a massive headache of messed-up memories that make no sense. Personally, I can’t think of any way to do a memory wipe this major that is actually worth the cost of what it’s doing to this book right now.

Matt is thinking about how Elektra remembers him, as seen in Daredevil #6 (vol 5), by Charles Soule and Matteo Buffagni

I’ll keep reading this title, and hopefully things will either start to make sense or find a new balance that will pay off in ways that let us look beyond whatever has happened in Matt’s world. For the moment, I would have much rather seen a complete reboot of this book. The desire to protect and preserve some kind of continuity at all cost is exactly what creates the kind of situation where all we have left is something that looks like a Daredevil book on the surface, but has lost its heart. Matt is now a man without a history, and without any meaningful and real relationships. I’m finding it really hard to care about what happens next.

Did you catch the Daredevil season 2 references to the 2003 movie?

I have a few days off for Easter which is when I intend to start tackling the individual episode reviews. First though, let’s do something quick and fun. While the word “fun” (other than as a synonym for entertaining) may not be the first word that comes to mind when you think about Daredevil’s second season, it does have at least some humor in it.

There’s also a subtle running joke in the form of references to the 2003 Daredevil movie. Here’s a list of the seven moment that stood out to me, in chronological order. Some of these are subtle, but I don’t for a second think that they are accidental. Did anything else stand out to you guys? Put it in the comments!

“Watch it, asshole!”

In one of the very first scenes of the season, Matt and Foggy are walking down the street when Foggy bumps into a woman who yells at him to “Watch it, asshole!” This scene is eerily – and, if you ask me, not coincidentally – similar to a scene in the Daredevil movie. In that version of events, we see Foggy (Jon Favreau) guide Matt (Ben Affleck) across the street when they are yelled at by a driver who is forced to step on his brakes to avoid hitting them. The line used is the same, but it the original version, Foggy has a snappy comeback.

Matt and Foggy are told to "Watch it, asshole!" by a woman Foggy bumps into, as seen in the first episode of season two of Daredevil on Netflix

Nelson & Murdock being paid in fruit and pie

Also in episode one, we learn that it’s apparently a common practice for clients to pay their legal fees with goods rather than standard currency. This is not something I can remember ever seeing in the comics, but it was definitely featured in the 2003 movie. Now, we’re talking bananas and baked goods.

Nelson & Murdock are being paid in fruit and baked goods, as seen in the first episode of season two of Daredevil on Netflix

Matt and his wardrobe

This one, from the beginning of episode four, is very subtle. Including a scene of Matt picking out his clothes in the morning is not that strange, but there is something about how this scene is shot, and the simple mechanics of it, that instantly reminded me of a very similar scene of Ben Affleck’s Matt doing the same thing. I may be reading too much into this one, but I do suspect this scene is yet another nod to the 2003 movie.

Matt picks out a shirt to wear, as seen in the fourth episode of season two of Daredevil on Netflix

Love scene in the rain

Matt and Karen have a scene together in the rain, at the end of episode four, that is similar enough to the one with Matt and Elektra in the Daredevil movie that I half-expected him to “see” Karen by the sound of the rain drops. Our “new” Matt doesn’t, but the show’s creators do play with the imagery of the drops falling on Karen’s skin. There is no way the similarities are a coincidence.

Matt and Karen stand together in the rain, as seen in the fourth episode of season two of Daredevil on Netflix

The ballroom scene

In the flashback to Matt and Elektra’s first meeting, there is a scene detailing Matt walking across a busy room to find her at a party that is very similar to the scene in the Daredevil movie where Ben Affleck’s Matt finds Elektra, then played by Jennifer Garner, at a formal event. While it doesn’t use the same blue radar effect as the original, the sounds and other effects are very similar, as is the camera position and general sequence of events. Coincidence? No way.

Matt finds Elektra, as seen in the fifth episode of season two of Daredevil on Netflix

The “playground scene”

Remember the infamous playground scene from the Daredevil movie? Of course you do. Matt and Elektra sparring in the ring at Fogwell’s has none of the corny elements of the original – and makes a lot more sense – but they are play fighting, and it’s also in this scene that Matt reveals his abilities to Elektra. Look at it as the playground scene done right. πŸ˜‰

Matt and Elektra sparring, as seen in the fifth episode of season two of Daredevil on Netflix

Fight Club

“Maybe you are an alcoholic, maybe you’re in a fight club, maybe you are sleeping with a whole harem of women. I don’t care. I’m done.”

I remember reading somewhere that Jon Favreau improvised the bit about Matt being in a “fight club,” when they shot the coffee shop scene we know so well from the 2003 movie. I’ll go out on a limb here (not really), and say that when Karen mentions Matt being in a fight club, in reference to the very same movie, it was carefully planned and scripted. The line above is from this scene, from episode eight.

Karen makes a reference to the movie Fight Club, as seen in the eighth episode of season two of Daredevil on Netflix

Let me know if I missed anything!

First thoughts on Daredevil season 2

Even though this is only a preliminary review, with individual episode reviews forthcoming, please note that the post below contains full spoilers for season 2.

I guess I should say that the title of this post is a bit of a misnomer. These are not my first thoughts, or even my second. In fact, since finishing up the second season Friday evening, I’ve done very little except think about and try to process the events of this season. I even rewatched the whole thing – and talked to some fellow fans – to get a new perspective on the different events that we all saw unfold. I’ve also done quite a bit of writing, most of which has now gone into a first draft that I’m not going to use here, because my feelings changed enough between the first and second viewing to render much of it obsolete.

I guess somewhere down the line I’m going to have to write a post about how loving this character as much as I do has often turned out to be something of an emotional ordeal. The same turned out to be true here because watching season two of Daredevil nearly broke my heart in the end. It was also one of the most spectacular twelve hours of television I’ve ever sat through. So did I love it? Yes, I did. Do I wholeheartedly agree with every creative decision made? No, I didn’t, and I think that is where I need to start.

Towards the very end of the season, before Matt and Elektra go out to face the waiting ninjas, Matt starts painting a scenario where he and Elektra run away together, stressing how he only feels free when he’s with her, that she is the only one who truly understands him, and that he’s not truly alive if he can’t do what they do. Meanwhile, I was sitting in front of the screen feeling my heart drop.

Matt's final conversation with Elektra, as seen in episode 13 of Daredevil season 2

There are two main reasons for why I reacted like I did, and as strongly as I did. The first thing that comes to mind is that it is a big step for our main character to actively choose Elektra the way he does. I can understand that he’s come to love her (again), and with his pretty obvious messiah complex, I can also see a strong need for him to save her from herself. More importantly, I get that her not only accepting his need to be Daredevil, but actively fueling it, must stand out like an irresistible beacon. However, even though she’s made huge strides over the course of the season, and as much as they have in common, there is still much that sets them apart. They are very different people who are united by a common passion – for each other and “extreme sports” – but Elektra has yet to show with any conviction and consistency that her path is one that Matt can walk with her without violating other parts of him. Elektra appeals to his “id,” and wanting to be with her is at least in part about simple escapism.

It is also very hypocritical of Matt to react so negatively when Karen brings up her sympathy for the Punisher earlier in the season, and then want to run away with a woman who has most likely left an even longer trail of bodies in her wake during her “career,” and whose decision to give up killing – and that’s if she has even reached that decision – is about an hour old.

My second reason for disagreeing with how this unfolded has to do with Matt’s view of his “non-Daredevil” self. It has always been very important to me that both halves of Matt’s life are treated as equally important, intertwined in a yin and yang relationship. In fact, this is another thing that should set him apart from Elektra who shows little more than disdain for Matt’s legal career. I think it’s very easy to look at Matt’s public life as only a faΓ§ade, one that places physical restrictions on him that he would find limiting. And it is very reasonable that he would feel that way. Ironically, having to exaggerate his blindness is in and of itself an unavoidable manifestation of his disability so long as he chooses not to publicly reveal his heightened senses. Trying to pass himself off as fully sighted works spectacularly well in costume, but would be impossible in many common everyday situations, should he attempt to navigate them on his own.

Matt examining a braille subway map, as seen in episode 12 of Daredevil season 2

Even aside from this, Matt Murdock the lawyer is much more than just a persona. If anything, the two sides of Matt’s life are merely extreme metaphors for the different sides we show of ourselves to different people and in different situations. Matt hides important parts of his personality to people who don’t know about Daredevil, but there are other sides of himself that can and should be freely expressed. To suggest otherwise is to suggest that disability, by definition, must dominate and overshadow all other facets of a person’s unique personality.

After watching the season a second time, my feelings about this scene have been tempered considerably. Do I still wish it would have played out differently? Yes, absolutely. Matt could have expressed himself differently, and could have still conveyed strong feelings for Elektra that would have made the impact of her genuinely moving death scene just as great. What a second viewing provided, however, was a reminder of the context behind this scene. I was also reminded, mostly through the words of other characters, that having Matt voice these opinions does not necessarily make them gospel in the minds of this season’s creators. There was a scene with Claire in episode 10, set on the roof of the hospital before the ninjas attack, where she challenges his view of himself in ways that very closely echo my own. She reminds him that the way he separates himself from ordinary people distances him from the very same community he’s trying to protect. I couldn’t have put it better myself, and it’s another very strong argument for the importance of Matt Murdock being an active part of his community, outside of the Daredevil costume.

This is also the scene where we realize just how distraught and confused he is about everything going on in his life. He has given up on the law, come to the tragic but understandable decision that having friends isn’t worth it. Later, when he finds himself in that final scene with Elektra, every other part of his life has pretty much collapsed. He has brought much of it on himself, but both Foggy and Karen have also made active decisions to distance themselves from him. He is essentially out of a job, and none of the people he loves – besides Elektra – seem to need him around. It is understandable that Matt would come to the conclusion that his old life doesn’t matter anymore.

Matt and Claire having a conversation, as seen in episode 10 of Daredevil season 2

And this actually gets to the heart of what makes this show so brilliant overall. There is not a saint in sight. All of these characters are incredibly human, with their own flaws. The break-up of Nelson and Murdock is just as much Foggy’s decision as it is Matt’s. I would even say that Matt is the one of the two who ends up feeling the most rejected. At the same time, Foggy is not being unreasonable. Anyone who is rooting for Matt would love to see Foggy be more accepting of Matt’s vigilante lifestyle. At the same time, Foggys’ decision to walk away is, objectively speaking, a perfectly legitimate one. He loves Matt like a brother, but decides that the Daredevil train is simply too crazy a ride to be on. While being Daredevil is certainly more benign than having a substance abuse problem – and the total positive “externalities” of this activity hopefully outweigh the negative – it is still understandable that someone who is negatively affected by all this would assume a “tough love” position. Matt, on his end, makes the situation worse by not being as forthcoming with Foggy as he could have been, and generally being an all around idiot when it comes to actually putting words to his emotions. He is far too stoic and proud to let Foggy know how much he really cares about him. They drive each other away, and it is difficult to watch.

Karen and Matt have a different kind of dynamic that also revolves around two people willfully misunderstanding each other. Karen says some pretty brutal things to Matt. He, on the other hand, is emotionally distant and driven by misguided attempts to protect her in ways she doesn’t want to be protected. One of Matt’s big blind spots – no pun intended – is that he thinks the people who worry about him should either get wise to all the good he is trying to accomplish, or at least mind their own business, while completely failing to see that Karen, in this case, has a drive that is actually quite similar to his own. Her compulsion to find the truth at all cost is not really that different from his compulsion to physically rid the city of crime. They are both putting themselves at great risk, but it is not as if Karen is any more unaware of these risks than Matt is. It is not unreasonable to value the lives of your loved ones more than you value your own. Part of Matt’s personal tragedy is that he can’t get it in his head that he would be on the receiving end of such protective instincts.

Matt, Foggy and Karen at the D.A.'s office, as seen in episode 10 of Daredevil season 2

I will have plenty of reason to come back to the themes raised throughout his season many times in upcoming posts – it is truly a gold mine in that sense – but for this first post, I would be remiss not to mention the two big new players this season before hopping off to bed. I’ve mentioned Elektra already, but should add that while there are aspects of her relationship with Matt that becomes difficult for me to accept given the nature of her character, Elodie Yung puts in an absolutely stellar performance in the first truly interesting version of Elektra I’ve ever come across. Her stage presence is fantastic, and she’s impossible to take your eyes off. I also really liked the updates to her backstory, and she even manages to humanize Stick (even as he’s trying to kill her!).

However, I find Frank’s story to be even more interesting. I can’t speak for Punisher fans, since I’m not really all that familiar with the character outside of when he’s appeared in Daredevil, but I absolutely love this show’s take on him. He is much more human than I had expected him to be, and much more in touch with his emotions, which kind of makes me wonder whether this is the character his more loyal fans know and recognize. On the other hand, actor Jon Bernthal has stated that this is essentially the Punisher’s origin story which makes it plausible that he’s not completely gone off the deep end just yet. You see him committing himself to the Punisher in a new way at the end, where he has obviously decided to keep going even after avenging the death of his wife and children, and I actually thought it was very fitting that Frank is the one that shows up at the end to take out the remaining ninjas.

Frank Castle, as seen in episode 4 of Daredevil season 2

Initially, Frank’s story is closely intertwined with Daredevil’s story, and the first five episodes are by far my favorite because of it. Frank’s story continues throughout the season though, but quite soon after it becomes a court story in the middle of the season, Matt gradually checks out mentally, if not physically, leaving Frank in the hands of Karen and Foggy. Karen’s complicated relationship with Frank is fascinating, particularly as it’s so obviously a thinly veiled attempt to find redemption for her own crimes. I do think it’s fitting though that she is finally able to see him for the monster he has become in the end, as this show comes shockingly close to actually condoning the Punisher’s brand of vigilante justice, by not asking even tougher questions.

It was also a very positive surprise to see Wilson Fisk back this season, and his subplot is told perfectly. We even get a scene with him and Matt that is one of the best of the season and sows all the seeds needed for an upcoming story that borrows elements from Born Again. I would be absolutely shocked if we don’t get a third season out of this. Whether that will happen before or after the Defenders mini-series remains to be seen, but while the first season could have worked well on its own, this season is practically begging for a next chapter. Hopefully, it will spell redemption for Matt Murdock and give him the chance to learn that life outside of the costume has value too.

As much of an emotional roller coaster as this weekend has been for me, I can’t help but think of Stick’s words to Matt when they are standing by Elektra’s grave. “Was it worth it? Loving her?” I could ask myself the same thing about Matt Murdock. And yes, even when his adventures leave my head spinning and my heart in painful little pieces, he is so totally worth it.