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: Continue reading “Reevaluating early Daredevil”
Okay, gang! It’s time to start tackling these reviews again. Old friends of this site know the drill, for those who are new, the format I always follow is this: We start with a longish, and fairly detailed Recap. These are honestly more for posterity, or for people who need to refresh their memory before commenting on a particular scene. If you have this episode fresh in your memory, you can easily jump straight to the review portion of the post.
The review portion always consists of the sections My thoughts, Senses watch, Easter egg watch, Quotes, and Star player. Senses watch is where I analyze the use of Matt’s senses in each of the episodes. It’s me, how could I not? The others are pretty self-explanatory.
For season one, though not season two, I also had a segment called Accessible gadget watch, but since there’s virtually nothing to report on that front (except a single text message read aloud in one of the later episodes), I’m obviously scrapping that. Instead, I’m adding a new section I’m jokingly going to call Matt’s thoughts. Because Matt’s arc isn’t always easy to follow this season, and my own opinon on it changed pretty dramatically (for the better) between first and second viewings, I thought I’d take a swing at tracking what exactly is going on in that noggin’ of his as the show progresses.
Crystal clear? Let’s get going!
Matt is seen being thrown, very angel-like upward (downward?, to the side?) during the collapse of Midland Circle and is pulled out through a drainage pipe that takes him to the surface. The less we think about the details of this particular scene, the better. Either way, he is eventually discovered by a passing cab driver. Barely conscious, he asks for Father Lantom at Clinton Church.
Next, we find Matt is at the church, there is a distinct underwater effect at work and the agitated voices of of Father Lantom and Maggie are heard, distantly, in the background. When Maggie is told who he is, she interrupts her 911 call and agrees to treat him there.
Matt, still just semi-conscious remembers Elektra and his last moments with her. As he comes to, and Maggie is called for, he asks about Elektra, and where he is. In response, he is told that he is at St. Agnes and that he’s been there several weeks. Matt keeps pushing for information about Elektra. (I’ve decided to assume he’s been going in and out of consciousness, since there is no life support equipment and he cannot have gone without food and drink for weeks.)
Against the nuns’ orders, Matt tries to stand, while complaining about his right ear, and falls off the bed. He exclaims that “He can’t see” and echoes of young Matt shouting the same thing are heard before we cut to the intro.
We get back to the show, and Matt tries to assess the damage to his body when Father Lantom shows up to speak with him. Matt is noticeably distressed by the fact that he didn’t notice the priest coming in. Father Lantom explains why he brought Matt to this place and assures him the nuns can be trusted. He offers Matt communion, or a friendly ear, but Matt is still wondering about Elektra. Lantom obviously doesn’t know about her resurrection, but doesn’t object when Matt tries to explain. Matt is told that no one else was seen leaving the building, and he dismisses Lantom’s second offer of communion. Lantom reminds him that it truly is a miracle that he survived, but a distraught Matt indicates that he is not interested in one of their usual conversations about God.
Some indeterminate time later, Matt is approached by a couple of the children from the orphanage who are asking him questions. Matt acknowledges that he grew up there, same as them, when Maggie arrives and tells them to leave. Maggie is there to tend to his wounds, adding that she’ll do it “preferably without you flailing around like an idiot.” Maggie, in trying to make sense of what she knows about the new patient under her care, notes that she shouldn’t be surprised and that she remembers Matt’s anger. At the time, she clearly saw it as a natural response to his circumstances. This leads to a brief conversation about The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen and whether Matt really is blind. She gets a bit of sarcasm from Matt before he explains that the accident that blinded him sharpened his other senses. However, he is now deaf in his right ear and, as he puts it, “can’t even walk to the bathroom right now.” Maggie assures him that he’ll be back on his feet, whether he can do backflips or not, but also suggests that he needs to leave as soon as he’s able. When asked if there is anyone she can call, he responds that there is no one.
This provides a nice segue to one of those supposed “no ones,” as we cut to Karen on her way to Matt’s apartment, finishing up att call to the paper. She knocks before entering, in the vain hope that someone will be home, and picks up the latest of Matt’s bills to add to the growing piles on Matt’s coffee table. We now get a flashback to when Matt told her he was Daredevil, at the end of season two. Next, we cut back to present-day Karen who takes a look at the empty chest that used to hold Matt’s Daredevil suit, before we are being treated to another flashback to what happened after the reveal scene, a conversation between Matt and Karen that took place at his apartment:
We see Karen entering Matt’s apartment and walking past him over to the window. She asks if he can see her. Matt says “no, not see exactly.” He says it’s different, and that he thinks it’s better. Karen prods him for a better answer and he explains that he can sense things about her, mentioning that he knows where she went just before she came to see him – “their” Indian place – explaining all the details he can pick up on. Karen says she feels humiliated, and they both agree that she has every right to be angry.
For Karen, this is complicated by the fact that Daredevil has saved her life. She says she’s been playing it over and over, asking herself how she could be that mad at someone who’d saved her. Matt is very understanding and knows he broke her trust. He offers her a drink, and she nods commenting that, of course, he knew she nodded, as he goes to get it. She asks if the “cane thing” is just an act and Matt admits that it is, and apologizes. This sets off another round of questions from Karen about why he didn’t trust her, and whether he thought she would judge him, especially when she didn’t judge Frank. Matt comments that maybe she should be judging Frank, and that while he doesn’t know what motivates people, he knows when he’s being lied to.
Matt promises that he will never lie to her again and, when asked, directs Karen to the suit in his closet. He promises that it’s over and that he’s going to leave Daredevil behind. She draws a subtle comparison between his past behavior and that of an addict, and how Matt and Foggy nearly had her convinced that Matt had a drinking problem. Matt finally puts her hand on his heart once again assures her that he doesn’t need Daredevil to be a part of his life anymore. Karen wisely points out that Daredevil may not be the problem.
Back in the present, Karen is joined by Foggy. He is under the impression that they would be packing the place up when Karen admits she asked him there under false pretenses, and that what she really needs help with is talking to the landlord about getting an extension, as Matt is being evicted. Unbeknownst to Foggy, Karen has been paying Matt’s rent since his disappearance.
Foggy sits the two of them down on the couch and tries to talk some sense into Karen, asking her to look at the facts of what happened and come to terms with the fact that Matt is dead. Foggy admits he doesn’t want to accept it either, especially since he feels guilty for bringing Matt the suit. Karen comforts Foggy, and then admits that she’s being irrational but that she can just “feel” that he’s not dead. They agree to split the bills.
Back at the church, Matt is being pushed in a wheelchair by Father Lantom and Sister Maggie. They are moving him to new sleeping quarters underneath the chapel (currently on loan to the local mosque). Everything viewed from Matt’s perspective still looks blurry and sounds as if it’s happening under water. Father Lantom apologizes for the place smelling a bit musty, but Matt drily responds that he can’t smell anything anyway. Maggie notes that the space is also the laundry room and will be noisy at times. Matt sarcastically responds that he can always turn a deaf ear to it, which Maggie counters with a bit of snark of her own.
Matt once again dismisses Father Lantom’s offer to talk, but decides he wants to stay up a while. Maggie shows him where the bed and the call button are and comments on his attitude, jokingly noting that maybe he doesn’t actually have any friends. Matt talks about Stick’s motto, that caring for people would make him weak, for which Maggie once again has a flippant response you would never expect from a nun.
Equipped with a walking cane for his limp, Matt starts exploring the space and finds his childhood braille Bible. This takes us into a conversation about religion, and Matt says that he has finally learned where he and God stand, and that he has now seen his true face. Matt tells the story from the Book of Job and ends with declaring Job a “pussy.” Matt says that he too believed he was God’s soldier. Sister Maggie gives him her crucifix which he flings to the end of the bed. Maggie insists that while Matt may hate God now, the feeling is not mutual. Matt says that it’s simply the case that he’s seen God’s true face now. He also says that he does have friends and people he cares about, but is choosing to let them believe that he is gone because he is. He knows his truth now, that in front of this God, he would rather die as the Devil than live as Matt Murdock.
We cut to Wilson Fisk cooking one of his trademark omelettes (are we ever going to get a recipe for that?) in a setting that turns out to be a flashback to better times. The setting cleverly changes from a luxurious kitchen to a prison with paper plates when we join Fisk in his current predicament. He yells at his prison mates to be quiet and pushes the omelette to the side as his attorneys enter. They let him know that his appeal is proceeding according to plan, but that his beloved Vanessa is facing criminal charges if she is located, or if she returns to the U.S. Fisk asks them to leave and takes a long hard look at the grey-white wall.
Back at the church, Matt at least tries to explore the space he’s in, snapping his fingers to hear the echoes and trying to look for the surrounding statues with his hands. He then gets overconfident and trips over a low bench. That’s when Maggie joins him and offers him hot toddy, and medicine. Matt complains that he can’t smell anything, that all he can taste is blood and ash. When Matt cracks wise about the pills and alcohol, Maggie calls him out. On finding out that Matt’s symptoms aren’t improving, she tells him to give it time. She then dishes out some hard truths about how he’s feeling sorry for himself when many of the kids in her care, who are worse off than him, are trying to make the most out of life, while he is “bravely” giving up despite his many gifts.
Matt, noticeably annoyed, accuses Maggie of having a simplistic worldview and tells her that she doesn’t know anything about him or his life. Maggie says she knows self-pity when she sees it and reminds him of his father, “famous around here,” who would go down many times, but always got back up. She leaves, and Matt lays down on his bed and listens to the sirens in the distance, looking infinitely sad.
What looks to be the following morning, Matt walks over to the sink and accidentally knocks down a neti pot from the shelf. This gives him the idea to rinse out his sinuses, which dislodges a whole shit show (pardon my French) of blood and mucus. When he touches the sink, and then the mirror, he notices that he can sense the vibrations trough hard surfaces. Running around the area, his sense of space is coming back. We see him getting back in shape through a sequence of scenes in which he is doing pushups, and practicing his boxing using laundry bags filled with detergent. When Maggie walks in on him, he frantically talks about all the subway trains he can detect, and correctly identifies the food she’s brought.
Sister Maggie and Father Lantom discuss an idea of hers, that he is not entirely comfortable with. We quickly learn that what she has in mind is a sparring match with another boxer. Maggie says it’s the only thing that’s getting him out of bed, and that he needs to know he’s still got it. Lantom arranges to have a sparring partner brought in and Matt refuses to wear protection, in order to hear and feel everything. His opponent is a little taken aback when he realizes he’ll be fighting a blind guy, but the two go at it with Matt holding his own until his hearing once again betrays him, after a blow to his bad ear, and takes away his spatial awareness. Matt goes down in defeat.
Sitting on his bed later, Maggie tries to cheer him up. This time when she puts her crucifix around his neck, he lets it stay on. At this point, Matt seems more sad than angry and acknowledges that Maggie has been very kind to him. The two joke about how others might think she’s gone soft. They talk about Matt’s stiches and how he used to stich up his dad. Before leaving, she asks him to come to mass with her but he asks for a raincheck.
After listening in to the music above for a while, Matt digs out some scraps of fabric from the laundry room and takes to the streets, climbing on top of the church to listen to what’s happening in his city. He doesn’t have to wait long to hear screams for help.
We cut to a scene of Matt interrupting a kidnapping. The victims get away but Matt stays and fights. And he does so longer than he needs to. In fact, when they fight is over and the perpetrators are ready to leave, he finds a metal pipe and throws it to them, striking a pose that invites them to keep hitting him, all while muttering “God forgive me.” When the police sirens draw close they walk away, leaving Matt still very much alive and waiting in vain for that final blow.
We now cut to two new characters, Ray Nadeem and his wife Seema who are in the kitchen for a family event. When Ray asks for more turkey, Seema tells him that none of their credit cards work anymore, and the atmosphere gets a bit tense before they are interrupted by their son Sami. Their conversation after that continues in Hindi, and we learn that their financial troubles are quite serious.
We next learn the cause of the celebration, which is that Ray’s sister-in-law is officially in remission after battling cancer. In his speech in front of his family members, Ray talks about how it hasn’t been easy for them, with their insurance being denied. Words passed between Ray and his brother lets us know that Ray has helped pay for his sister-in-law’s treatment.
A little later, Ray catches his son playing alone outside and finds out that Sami would have preferred to spend the evening at his friend’s house. A friend with a bowling alley in his basement. Ray then promises that their home will be party central in time for summer, when they put a pool in. This exchange is overheard by Seema who is very worried about their finances and suggests taking up extra work. Ray promises to fix everything.
The next morning we see him get his firearm ready and head to work at the FBI where he goes to see his boss Tammy Hatley about his performance review, so that he can get his much-delayed promotion. He learns that the reason it’s been put off has to do with his finances, as his debt situation puts him at risk for recruitment. Hatley says she’s sorry, but can’t do anything to help. Though while he’s there, he gets sent to carry out the bureau’s regular visit to Wilson Fisk, in prison.
At the prison, Fisk has something to say that, at first, sounds threatening. He asks Ray whether he’s got anyone in his life he’d do anything to protect. It turns out that Fisk is ready to make a deal in exchange for Vanessa’s safety, and that he would do anything to protect her.
I noticed that some of the early reviewers were pretty divided on this first episode. Some loved it, others found it slow. Personally, I really liked it. It may be a brave creative move to spend this much time on dialogue, in a show that usually features quite a bit of action, but I found these longer scenes absolutely necessary.
One thing I’ve occasionally missed in earlier seasons has been the room to just let characters breathe and have conversations with each other that feel a bit more like real life, while also conveying information about who they are. Luke Cage, for instance, occasionally got a bit too slow (especially in the first season), but it never seemed to worry about boring readers with what I thought were reasonable amounts of exposition, with characters just talking to each other for a few minutes.
So much has happened since season two of Daredevil, especially with the dramatic events of The Defenders, that everyone needs some catching up at this point.
It is wonderful that we’re being treated to full flashback scene to when Karen found out about Matt, and I also love the scene that she had with Foggy. After season two, it seemed like they would not be seeing much of each other either, but on display here is a warm and caring friendship. We see a new side to Foggy overall this season, one that is more in line with the character we recognize from the comics.
So, let’s talk about that Karen reveal scene. I know that so many fans had been wishing for that scene, and missed seeing it in The Defenders. Considering that Daredevil’s audience likely dwarfs that of The Defenders, saving such a crucial scene for this season made perfect sense. Is it good? It is. It is not everything I would have wanted, but I’m mostly satisfied with it. The “I can just sense stuff” example (more on that below) was a pretty good one, and they also did a good job of portraying Karen’s ambivalence at being lied to by a man that’s saved her life, not once, but twice.
What I don’t understand, and this applies just as much to the Foggy reveal scene in season one as well, is why he doesn’t take the opportunity to casually mention something he can’t do, or say something that makes “the act” seem more forgivable, and the situation more complex. You could, of course, argue that that would seem like he’s deflecting responsibility for his deceit, and I’d buy that.
However, I also genuinely feel that there are legitimate reasons for why going “full blind guy” is the only sustainable way of hiding heightened senses that would otherwise invite all kinds of unwanted attention. It’s not as if he could have gone through college and law school pretending he can see. (I also feel somewhat obligated to point out that while I agree completely that Matt obviously doesn’t need a cane for mobility reasons, there are other reasons for carrying a white cane that I’ll have to come back to next episode because it contains a scene that kind of illustrates this point.)
I’m giving Sister Maggie “star player” status this episode (see below), and her addition to the cast is spectacular. I’ll be honest, I am one of those people who thinks that Matt’s Catholicism in all his live action ventures is overblown compared to how this subject matter is treated in the comics (anyone who has read a lot of Daredevil outside of the most famous runs will know that there is no mention of religion in the vast majority of the issues, and Born Again deals more with religious themes than Matt’s personal faith).
Having said that, I do think that the religious elements have been well-handled in this show thus far and have really added to the overall quality of the story. This trend continuous in the first episode of this season. Sister Maggie and Father Lantom both paint a very sympathetic picture of clergy that even this agnostic-by-default Swede can get behind. The conversations between Matt and his two caretakers are used to explore universal themes and finding one’s personal purpose, more than debating scripture. That works well here.
This first episode also does a good job of setting up newcomer Ray Nadeem and his family. It is always a challenge to introduce new characters into a universe of known players and make people care about them, but Ray’s predicament, as well as his basic humanity, is communicated effectively. As soon as I saw what he was up against, I suspected that he might be a Detective Manolis type character in this story. Since I’m not giving away spoilers for upcoming episodes, I’m not going to give any indication here of where his story takes him.
Fisk has relatively little to do in this first episode, except eating prison omelette, but the scenes he is in are eminently watchable. There is the controlled reaction to the news about Vanessa, and his terrifying encounter with Agent Nadeem where he offers them a deal. It’s really quite fascinating how threatening Fisk can be while simply having a conversation. He’s like a barely contained box of explosives next to a spark.
So, what about Matt? Well, I’m saving him for last, since there’s a lot to talk about in terms of what happens this episide. Some of what’s going on in his head, we’ll save for the section below. This first thing to say here is just was a gem of an actor we have in Charlie Cox. His scenes are always well-acted, and his physical range is just insane.
Many people talk about his fighting chops, and rightly so, but portaying Matt Murdock in any scene always requires constant attention to what his body is doing. How is his posture? What is his head doing? Where are his eyes looking? You get what I mean. For an excellent example of this, look no further than the boxing scene, and observe the change that happens when his bad ear blanks out on him again. He embodies this completely.
There’s also that emotional change that takes place as he oscillates between anger and resentment, on the one hand, and genuine despair on the other. It seems Cox was ready to take on the challenge of “make Matt look sadder than we’ve ever seen him before” and run with it.
So where is Matt’s head this episode? Well, I think the first thing to realize about Matt’s state of mind is that he has just survived what should have been certain death after having put all of his eggs in the same basket. At the end of season two, there was an abyss between him and everyone in his life that continued, despite attempts to make amends and a minimum of hard feelings, throughout The Defenders. For all intents and purposes, Matt had set up a separate life, and severed most of his ties to the life he associates with “Matt Murdock.”
When Elektra appeared again (*sigh*) and turned his head around once more, it was like driving over a cliff. And you don’t really make plans for surviving that dive, do you? And when you do, having cracked all the eggs in your proverbial basket, you’re bound to be confused. And, as far as “Matt Murdock” is concerned, if that life is only defined by those who knew him as such, and they all think he’s dead, it may make some kind of weird sense for Matt to think of that part of himself as dead. As in, civilian Matt Murdock only exists within the context of those relationships. Consequently, only “Daredevil” – this symbolic manifestation of Matt’s perceived purpose, stripped of all normal human attachments – remains.
This place is already a terrible place to be. When Matt realizes that he may no longer be able to do many of the things his heightened senses used to allow, it creates a perfect storm that completely fractures his sense of self and his role in the world. I will admit to being wary when the first teaser came out, with Matt saying that he’d rather die as the Devil than live as Matt Murdock. In this episode, there is a context for that statement, because it comes right after he talks about his new relationship with God, and he puts a distinct emphasis on the word “this”: “…in front of this God I’d rather die as the Devil than live as Matt Murdock.” It’s almost as if he’s sticking it to God. If this new and ugly-faced God has decided that the life he left behind is the only one that is compatible with a life without his sensory endowments, then “screw that.” Pretty much.
This anger gradually wanes and gives room to a profound sadness. This happens after Matt gets some of his senses back, and his hope is beginning to come back to him, but finds that he’s fragile. That a smack across the head from his sparring partner is enough to temporarily rob him of his ability to detect objects around him. It is at this point he actually turns suicidal. It is truly heartbreaking to watch. Though is there perhaps some part of him that can at least see it as a sign that his would-be killers are chased away at the last minute.
Generally though, we do have to look at Matt as someone who is, to some extent delusional. Not in the sense that he is psychotic, but that he is trapped in a kind twisted mindset that is not uncommon in someone who is suffering from a deep depression. There are legitimate reasons for his grief, but his despair takes him a few steps beyond that.
So, obviously a lot to comment on in this episode. First of all, the depiction of Matt’s sense of being under water and cut off from the things around him is done exceptionally well. If you listen to this episode in stereo, you can tell that the sound on his right side is gone. How brilliant is that?
And how brilliant is if of the writer (in this case, showrunner Erik Oleson himself) to destroy Matt’s “radar sense” by making him deaf in one ear? It’s fantastic. It’s one of the most insightful creative decisions regarding Matt’s senses of the entire show, going back to the very first season. As a nice side effect, it also cements the idea that the “radar” really is echolocation on steroids, which is by far my favorite interpretation of the radar sense. (And I’m saying this as someone who has written a ridiculous amount about Daredevil’s radar sense.)
Lose one ear, and the brain loses its ability to extract sound source information using the so-called interaural time difference, and the interaural level difference. These refer to the the slight difference between the time it takes for a sound, at either side of the midline, to reach each ear, as well as the difference in sound pressure (volume) at each ear. Given how crucial every single single spatial cue that can be extracted from sound would have to be, losing two such major cues would absolutely be enough to collapse Matt’s sense of where objects are and the space they occupy. Very, very nicely done.
I’m a little more perplexed by the scene where Matt regains his ability to sense the vibrations around him by touch. I’m thinking that he never lost that in the first place, but by getting that gunk out of his nasal cavity, he is able to help coax his hearing back “online” by pairing his restored hearing with vibrations he can feel. That’s the only way I can make sense of it, even though it’s a compelling scene overall.
What about what he tells Karen in the reveal scene? That he can smell the curry on her (on her clothes, not from something she’s eaten), and taste the Jameson on her lips. Yup, this all checks out. The smell of curry would manifest itself differently clinging to her clothes than if she had been eating it. I would argue that he’s smelling rather than tasting the whiskey though, but these senses tend to blend together anyway so it totally works. Nice example.
Easter egg watch
In terms of imagery, we obviously have the scene of Matt at the top of the church, arms wrapped around the cross which is very recognizable.
Another scene that many people may have missed that is also straight out of the comics (I’m expanding this category to including everything that counts as fan service from the comics) is at the beginning, when Matt wakes up and falls out of bed. This is very similar to a scene of him, also falling out of bed, from Daredevil #170, after he discovers he’s lost his radar sense.
Orphan: “Damn, what happened to you?” Matt: “Life.” (Mentioned here because Matt sounds so much like an emo 16-year-old, it’s actually quite funny)
Foggy: “What, so when you asked me to help you move boxes…” Karen: “Uh, yeah I lied. I mean, technically, it was more of, like, a ruse. Foggy: Gotcha. You rused. Karen: Hmm. Foggy: Journalism has changed you, Page.
Matt: “You know what I realized? Job was a pussy.”
Matt: “I am what I do in the dark now. I bleed for no one but myself.”
Maggie: “What you said about rather dying as the Devil than living as Matt Murdock… I just want you to know that I think you’re a hero. Hiding down here, feeling sorry for yourself. I mean, just out back, there’s an orphanage full of kids who’ve lost everything and everyone. Some of them are disabled, much worse off than you ever were. And they’re still trying to make the most out of life, the little cowards.”
Maggie: Hands should be used for God’s work. Matt: Yeah? That’s why he made me this way? Maggie: No. That’s why he made boxing
Do I need to say it? It’s Sister Maggie, without at doubt. I love her character this season, and she is much more interesting than she ever was in the comics. In this episode in particular, she challenges Matt’s world view, cuts him no slack, and stays firmly grounded when Matt is all drama. Joanne Whalley is a perfect casting choice, and I love that her take on the character challenges the notion of how nuns are supposed to act and think. Bravo!
In this post, I will once again speculate on what we might see coming up in season three, based on available interviews and other tidbits of information. If this sounds a bit too spoilery for you, read no further!
Yesterday, we finally saw the Collider interview with Joanne Whalley that had been teased ever since all those set visit stories and interviews were published last week (I have yet to see an extensive interview with Whalley anywhere else). As with everything else we’ve seen over the last week, including the two trailers, you have to wonder about the amount of information they’re giving away, either explicitly or in the form of disparate details that anyone who so wishes can piece together into what are possibly major plot developments.
Before reading the Whalley interview, we had already been teased that Matt’s relationship with Sister Maggie might not be exactly what comics fans would expect. This could mean that they do not share the biological bond we know from the comics, where Maggie turns out to Matt’s mother. At the time, this was a clever retcon by Frank Miller from the Born Again storyline, pencilled by David Mazzucchelli, since Matt’s mother had been presumed dead up until that point. While little is known about Maggie’s own story, another pice of the puzzle was added quite recently, in a story by Mark Waid and Javier Rodríguez, which gave us a pretty satisfactory explanation for why Maggie felt compelled to leave her family.
In the interview linked above, we learn that Matt actually grew up in Maggie’s care since she runs the home (I refuse to use the outdated term orphanage…) where he grew up after Jack’s death. This means that Maggie is known to him, and that she, regardless of their biological relationship, has been a mother figure to him. Since the choice to have Jack die while Matt is still young raises all kinds of questions about what happened in Matt’s life between Stick’s abandonment and his meeting Foggy in law school, I find it comforting to know that he had people in his life that were some kind of steady presence.
We also learn all kinds of other things that I know many of us had been wondering about, such as the role (if any) Father Lantom would play in this coming season. It turns out that he’s instrumental in getting Matt to Sister Maggie (though who delivered Matt to Father Lantom remains unknown to the many of us who don’t belong to the lucky few who have seen the first few episodes. (Lest you forget, the review embargo lifts on Friday, so expect an additional onslaught of information, even though early reviewers are usually instructed to not give away too much.) What seems clear is that both Father Lantom and Sister Maggie will be important this season, beyond their ties to Matt.
One thing you have to wonder about going into season three is whether the glimpses into Matt’s history that were introduced in seasons one and two will be addressed in the story we’re about to see. One scene that stood out to me right off the bat was the one in the second episode of season one, when Jack is making arrangements for Matt in case he ends up dead after his final match. He calls a woman, presumably Matt’s mother, and leaves a message on her answering machine. The only thing is, the outgoing message on the machine doesn’t sound like what you’d expect from a nun living in a convent. If Matt’s mom is someone other than Maggie (and this has been planned since season one somehow), then what is the connection between her and the convent? And what exactly have they been planning?
There’s also a scene from the third episode of season two (see the teaser image) where Matt, knocked unconscious by Frank Castle, seems to remember being cared for by a nun that we all figured had to be Sister Maggie. What is interesting about the environment in which this seems to take place is that it looks a lot more like the images we’ve been teased from season three than the hospital Matt landed in after his accident. You might wonder why this matters, especially if you’ve discovered the character through the Netflix show, as opposed to the comics. In Born Again, it’s clear that Matt receives a visit from Sister Maggie while he’s still in the hospital. She also, somewhat mysteriously, seems to know what Matt is going through, and that he’s developed some kind of new gift.
Looking at the show, it is clear that the scene from season two takes place some time later, presumably after he came to live with her and the other nuns. You can always hope that the clues they leave over the course of a show like this line up in the end, but I’m always impressed when they actually do. Especially since something as basic as how much time has passed since Matt and Foggy finished law school is completely different between seasons one and two.
Well, I’m going to hand over all the speculating to you guys now. For those of you who are curious to learn even more about Matt and Maggie’s relationship on the show, a scene from season one featuring the two was among the clips shown to attendees at NYCC. You can read descriptions of it here (Bleeding Cool) and here (Comicbook.com).
This post contains references to teaser trailers and promos, as well as interviews with people associated with the show. Read at your own risk.
I have to admit that I’m really excited for season three. Probably more excited than I should be. In fact, I’m reminded of the days when much more of my time revolved around Daredevil: Thinking about the character, reading the comics, planning what to write about and then putting those thoughts into words for all of you to read.
At times like these, I’m also reminded of the downside to getting this passionately involved in anything. The risk of disappointment is obviously proportionately related to the level of emotional investment. I’m currently re-watching seasons one and two of Daredevil, and my feelings about the tail end of season two will always be mixed. It’s good stuff throughout, but watching Matt’s self-sabotage during the final half of the season can be rough.
Going into season three, I probably should be more terrified than I am. All the teasers are indicating that we’re going darker than dark. (And it’s not as if the first two seasons were all fun and games.) But that’s paradoxically part of the reason I feel a sense of calm. A “fight for Matt Murdock’s soul” is quite obviously not going to end with his soul being lost. Teasers tell you where things begin and hint at where the journey will lead you, not usually where it actually ends. Or else we’ll have thirteen episodes of going in circles, taking us right back to the beginning with no ground covered in terms of character growth. That’s clearly not what’s going to happen.
“Matt goes to pretty much the darkest place you can,” Oleson says. “When he realizes that he’s incapable of being Daredevil, he would rather just end it than go forward in his life without abilities. He’s decided to set aside his Matt Murdock persona and just be the Devil, to isolate the lighter part of himself.”
So, Matt will find his powers reduced. Incidentally, he’ll apparently still go out as Daredevil (which we have seen before in a story from the Miller run, I mention it in A history of the radar sense #5 – Frank Miller part 2). Then again, if you’re feeling suicidal, thoughts of your own safety might go out the window. If you’re Matt Murdock, the impulse to stay safe from harm was not strong to begin with.
What this all reminds me of is a an observation I’ve occasionally made about this character before: He’s got a very skewed sense of self-worth.
Without being overly dramatic, I’d say that I can personally relate to Matt’s tendency to base his self-esteem on his accomplishments (only). In theory, he knows that the concern he feels for other people (sure he’ll screw over Foggy professionally, but would lay down his life before allowing any real harm to come to any of his friends), should apply to himself as well. You could also argue on religious grounds that he should know that the sanctity of human life includes his own. But, at the end of the day, he looks at himself as a tool first. And a tool has no real value apart from its usefulness in doing work or solving problems.
That’s not to say that Matt doesn’t have a hedonistic side that thoroughly enjoys going out as Daredevil. The way I see it, there are two sides to this. First of all, being an adrenaline junkie is a basic part of his personality (something I coincidentally co-wrote a chapter about for the book Daredevil Psychology: The Devil You Know). Even if he never developed heightened senses from the accident, he would have found outlets for this distinct trait. Secondly, being Daredevil allows him a physical freedom his civilian life doesn’t, and that becomes a goal in and of itself. If he feels his capacity in this respect suddenly reduced, it is natural that this would be deeply traumatic, the way it would be for anyone.
Added to this, though, is this idea that being Daredevil gives him a sense of purpose. I would think that this would be even more important to Matt in light of his nighttime habit also being something of a compulsion (see above). If, on top of a genuine concern for other people’s safety – that his heightened senses won’t let him ignore – he is also able to put his darker side to work for the higher good, what’s not to love about that?
A third thing to consider is that being Daredevil also makes his childhood accident, his point of origin as a superhero, meaningful. I remember that Mark Waid often spoke about this, and pointed out that being able to go out as Daredevil brings a sense of justice and purpose to something that was, in other ways, fundamentally unfair. In committing a good and heroic deed, a young boy loses his sight for life. It’s a textbook case of “no good deed goes unpunished.” If he also gets special abilities as a result, is that not God’s way of giving someone a higher purpose? If you’re Matt Murdock, you may very well interpret it this way.
If Matt believes his ability to be Daredevil has been taken away from him (and of course, we all know he’ll recover) it takes away all of the things I’ve mentioned above. And aside from the normal and very human grief someone would experience at a time of such crisis, it also shines a light on how little Matt thinks of his own worth without these things. Always ready to shield others from harm, and never judging them by their level of power (physical or otherwise), Matt is not nearly as good at showing himself that same level of kindness and respect.
Just looking at the Netflix show, it’s not difficult to understand where this might be coming from. The first person to come along, after the loss of his father at a very young age, is Stick. Despite the fact that Stick evidently develops deeper feelings for young Matt than he intended to, he still views Matt primarily as a tool, a “soldier” to fight alongside him in the coming war. And again, Matt is of use to him because of his heightened senses and physical prowess. If he were just some random unfortunate blind orphan, he never would have received a visit in the first place. Stick also stresses the importance of secrecy, as well as the need for Matt to isolate himself socially from people who might want to get close to him. No wonder Elektra’s brand of intimacy, authentic as it might be, is the one he is best equipped to wrap his brain around.
So, I guess what I’m getting at is that I’m actually looking forward to seeing Matt’s deeper issues dealt with. He needs to understand that his worth as a human being goes deeper than his gifts. Only then can he see them for what they are, as opposed to an obligation to do more, a debt to be repaid, a source of arrogance, or a reason to keep the people who can see through it all out of his life.
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. 😉
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.
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.
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?
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 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. 😉
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!
Well, I could have saved this little detail for my big post about the tail end of Daredevil, season two. But, fearing that it would swell out of proportion in that context, I’m turning this into its own post. Besides, this way it also doubles as a Daredevil science post, and you guys know I can’t stay away from those!
So, what am I talking about here? Well, at the very beginning of episode eight, when Matt and Elektra are still checking out that mysterious hole in the ground, they’re surrounded by a band of ninjas. The thing with these ninjas is that they manage to elude Matt’s senses, presumably by moving so very quietly that only their weapons can be heard. There’s one (big) problem with this: It suggests that Matt can only detect objects that are themselves sources of sound which completely undercuts everything else he can do on this show. If Matt can’t detect silent objects, nothing he is able to do makes any kind of sense.
To be fair to the show’s creators, this notion that ninjas can mask themselves, to a degree at least, has some basis in Frank Miller’s Daredevil run. Though in the scene below, from Daredevil #174, by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson, Matt is able to detect the ninjas, by their heartbeats and silhouettes, but they are able to do a pretty good job of sneaking up on him before he notices.
By the way, this kind of “radar as afterthought,” is interesting in itself because it highlights the differences between Matt and the average person when it comes to parsing and analyzing a scene. It’s not as if he’s walking into a lit room, it’s more like he’s hearing or smelling something first, which draws his attention to that spot, and then he picks up the shape. In working on my book (a constant work in progress…), I’ve taken to jokingly calling this phenomenon, quite common throughout most of the comic’s history, “conspicuously absent radar.”
You see plenty of hints in this direction in the Netflix show too, such as Matt failing to detect Elektra in his apartment until she brings out the weaponry, presumably because he’s not actively attending to her location, and is thus not actually “seeing her.” You might argue, and I would agree, that he should have at least picked up her scent though. (Heartbeats, on the other hand, seem to be something he actively has to choose to listen for, which actually kind of makes sense given how faint this sound would be compared to the ambient sound level in pretty much any room.) A similar thing happens in episode seven, when Karen comes over to Matt’s apartment to work on the Castle case, and Elektra hides out for at least a little while without being detected.
Getting back to my point though, when Matt does detect the shape of that someone – or something – whether right away, or after a bit of active exploration, his ability to do so must rest on an ability to detect silent objects. In the Netflix show, the 2003 Daredevil movie, Miller and Romita Jr.’s The Man Without Fear, and the Bendis/Maleev run, the explanation for how he does this boils down to his four remaining senses. In most other sources, the radar sense is described as separate from his other senses. For our purposes here, they’re pretty much analogous in that what Matt uses to “see” are echoes bouncing off of silent objects, whether we’re talking about sound echoes or an electromagnetic signal. So long as the bodies of these ninjas introduced in episode eight have solid form, they should have about the same ability to mask themselves to Matt Murdock as a lamp post would. Which is to say, none at all.
As any regular reader will know, I’m usually more prone to complain when I feel that Daredevil’s senses are taken too far, usually because something happens that I feel fails a basic “lock and key” test. If Matt’s senses, as described, are the key, this key should not be able to open metaphorical locks that are obviously a poor match for that particular key. It’s not usually the senses themselves that I find problematic or “too unrealistic” (because they would be, Daredevil is a comic book superhero), it’s the application of them to situations that seem contrived that’s the main issue. Any fan today (and I suspect even back in 1964) would find the scene from Daredevil #2, when our yellow-costumed hero manages to land a space ship in Central Park, guided by the absence of heartbeats, to be patently absurd. And for good reason. The explanation given for how Daredevil does any of the things he’s supposed to be doing is nonsensical. This spaceship scene is, of course, a very extreme case of what I’m talking about, but subtler versions of the same phenomenon are common, and tends to leave me, at least, with that same uncomfortable feeling you get from a glaring plot hole.
When we learn that Matt cannot detect ninjas because they are essentially too quiet, this opens up a sensory plot hole the size of that pit he and Elektra are exploring. It gets even worse in later episodes, when Matt learns alternative ways of detecting them through a different sound source (breath), but is still somehow able to detect – through one or several walls, mind you – what weapons (presumably silent objects) they’re carrying. This suggests that he can echolocate the presence of a silent object through at least one wall, but can’t do the same to find a human body right in front of him. What the h*** kind of “key” is this? Clearly, hearing the sounds actually generated by the bodies of his adversaries, and the sounds of their weapons gliding through the air is helpful to Matt, but this information can not be the only one available to him. If he can’t also use echoes, the entire underlying concept of how the character is supposed to work implodes.
From reading this post, you might think that this was a big issue for me in terms of my enjoyment of season two. It really wasn’t, although, as you can tell, I found it to be incredibly silly. I often suspect that in dealing with Daredevil, people assume that there’s no real way for his powers to make sense anyway, so there’s no point in trying. That, I find disappointing. Of course there is. For nearly every scene I’ve had issues with during the two seasons of Daredevil, I’m pretty sure you could easily make those issues disappear with relatively minor changes to Daredevil’s methodology in each of those scenes, and have things appear more consistent across episodes.
As for reviewers (I’ve seen a couple), who liked this revelation specifically because it shows Daredevil having an interesting weakness, I can definitely see where they’re coming from. I just think it’s preferable to showcase those “weaknesses” that actually make sense (and can be easily read between the lines), than come up with new ones that don’t. There are plenty of things Matt Murdock is effectively blind too, ninjas just shouldn’t be one of them. As the Swedish saying goes, you shouldn’t cross the bridge to fetch water. In other words, keep it simple. 😉
Unlike a lot of other comic book characters, Daredevil’s past is relatively uncluttered in terms of continuity. The inconsistencies between different takes on the character that do exist, mostly have to do with Matt Murdock’s early life; specifically the circumstances of his fateful accident, and the timing of the death of his father Jack Murdock. The origin has also been added to in various ways through mini-series such as Daredevil: Father and Daredevil: Battlin’ Jack Murdock.
And, my thoughts on the substance that blinded him? I will get to that too!
Matt’s age at the time of his accident
In the most recent live footage we’ve seen, a thirty second TV spot (see below), Matt says that he was blinded at the age of nine when Stick asks him about it. There’s no way of knowing, just from this clip, how much time is supposed to have elapsed between the accident and his first meeting with Stick, though it seems unlikely to me that he would give his age as “nine” if he were still nine at the time.
Either way, it appears that Matt’s accident is happening earlier the farther away we get from his first appearance back in 1964. In Daredevil #3 (vol 1), he says that he was fifteen when he went blind. In The Price (Daredevil #223, vol1, see yesterday’s post), he mentions that he was “barely into my teens” at the time.
In the mini-series Daredevil: The Man Without Fear, by Frank Miller, Matt looks quite a bit younger than that in the hands of artist John Romita Jr. If you look at the bonus material near the back of the second Frank Miller omnibus (which collects The Man Without Fear), there’s a rough draft from 1988 of the story – which went by Blind Justice at the time – and it actually gives Matt’s age as sixteen. You wouldn’t think it from reading the finished graphic novel, however, and I suspect that might have influenced the general perception that Matt was just a child at the time of the accident.
In the 2003 movie, actor Scott Terra was fourteen when he played young Matt Murdock, though he looks like he could be a year or two younger than that. And, in a volume 2 issue by Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev, a flashback of Jack’s murder – more on that below – shows Matt looking like he may be as young as eight. With the new Netflix show, it’s clear that the timescale has indeed shifted compared to Stan Lee’s original story.
Matt’s age at the time of Jack Murdock’s murder
People who haven’t read Silver Age Daredevil – or the Brubaker/Lark run, for that matter – may be forgiven for assuming that Jack Murdock died when Matt was very young. That’s what happened in the 2003 movie, and it’s clearly what happened in the Bendis/Maleev story I mentioned. It also appears to be what happened in The Man Without Fear, again mostly due to the art which makes Matt look very young for his age. A careful reading will reveal that only a year has passed between Jack’s murder and Matt’s first day of college.
The original version of events actually have Jack dying shortly before Matt graduates from law school (or finishes his undergraduate studies, Stan Lee appears to have forgotten that you need to go to law school to be a lawyer). I have always preferred this take on the origin. First of all, it has Jack’s death and Matt becoming Daredevil – and staring his legal career! – happening in rapid succession, which makes sense considering they’re all connected. In The Man Without Fear, Matt avenges Jack’s death before becoming Daredevil, wearing the black costume that has clearly served as the inspiration for the costume in the Daredevil show, though the revenge comes shortly after his father’s death.
It appears from the photo of the crime scene, above on the far right, that the Netflix show will go the route of having a Matt who was blinded at a very young age also lose his father at a young age, along the lines of what we saw in the 2003 movie and what can be inferred from the Bendis/Maleev run. There are a couple of problems with this approach: 1) What finally prompts Matt to become Daredevil many years later, and 2) who took care of him all those years when he was still a child? With over twelve hours of footage, I wonder if and how the show’s creators will address this gap?
Matt and Stick
One thing that my guest Claire and I joked about in a recent podcast was whether the “young Matt hypothesis” would leave poor Matt to be raised by his mentor Stick. Because there can be no doubt about it, Stick would be a truly awful parent. In the comics, he doled out the kind of tough love that probably should have prompted a call to child protective services, had anyone actually known about it.
Joking aside, the inclusion of Stick is a very smart move. When he was introduced in the comics, during Frank Miller’s first run on the book, he made the concept of blind youngster with heightened senses turning to life as a vigilante seem much less implausible. Stick is himself blind, from birth, and it makes sense that Matt would benefit from learning from someone like himself.
Matt’s training with Stick gets a fair amount of coverage in the Daredevil: The Man Without Fear series, and it’s clear from the footage we’ve seen so far that it has provided inspiration for the Netflix show. See the pages below, from the first issue of The Man Without Fear:
Radioactive goo – or something else?
I wanted to end with just a few words about the technical aspects of Matt’s accident. One difference that jumped out at me between the scene in the TV spot clip above and the corresponding one from the Daredevil movie is the perspective. In the 2003 movie, we almost seem to be looking at it from the “point of view” of the blinding agent, working its way into Matt’s body, seemingly adding its magic as it goes. In the Netflix take on it, you actually see it from Matt’s perspective, as his visual field narrows and his sight is destroyed. It’s actually quite dramatic, and really emphasizes how deeply traumatic the event would have been for young Matt.
What’s odd, though, is that the grown Matt shows no visible signs of the ordeal. I know that Charlie Cox mentioned in his podcast interview with EJ Scott that they didn’t want to do anything dramatic with the eyes since that would be a bit cliché. While I’d normally agree, I’d argue that Matt’s case is different from that of most blind people whose eyes often do look completely normal. After all, he lost his sight in an accident severe enough to blind him nearly instantly.
So, will the blinding agent actually be radioactive? We can’t know at this point, but I suspect they might change that part of it up a bit, or simply leave out the details of the chemical and physical nature of the substance. Matt doesn’t seem to be getting very much of it on him in the footage we’ve seen, so it’s clearly something very potent. Ionizing radiation from a radioactive compound is far from the only factor that can cause mutations in living organisms (there is a long list of chemical agents that damage DNA), so it’s certainly possible to go the mutation route – if that’s what they choose to do – and still stay clear of the radioactivity and its 60s connotations.
Okay, that’s it for now! I’ll see you back here tomorrow!
For my first proper countdown post – as we await the release of all thirteen episodes of Daredevil on April 10 – I wanted to take a look at some of my favorite stand-alone issues of Daredevil. Not all of these are perfectly self-contained, of course, but they stand well enough on their own that you don’t need to know much going in, and you get a full story with each issue. The issues I chose for this list also meet the criteria of being reasonably friendly to new readers and at least minimally relevant to the Netflix series.
That last bit would really only exclude stand-alone issues like Daredevil #92 (vol 2) which is told from the perspective of Milla Donovan and deals with her and Matt’s relationship. It wouldn’t make my list anyway, but since Milla isn’t going to be in the Netflix series, I wouldn’t even consider it.
Having said that, I should also mention that while technical quality is certainly an important consideration, I’ve put greater emphasis on whether these issues have important things to say about Daredevil and/or other characters or can serve as a good introduction to Matt Murdock and his world. Let’s get started! All issues are listed in chronological order, not by individual merit.
Exposé (Daredevil #164, vol 1)
This issue, written by Roger McKenzie, and penciled by a very young Frank Miller does require some background information going in, namely that Ben Urich is a journalist who, over several issues, has begun to piece together that Matt Murdock and Daredevil may be one and the same. Daredevil is in the hospital after a recent bout with the Hulk, but that’s not really relevant to what happens next, which is that Urich confronts Daredevil with his findings. After Daredevil fails to identify a photograph of his father, he confesses and begins to tell the journalist about his life.
This issue marks the beginning of the close relationship between Matt and Ben, and is important to the continued stories of both characters. Ben Urich gradually uncovering Daredevil’s true identity was an important plot element in the 2003 Daredevil movie, and we can likely expect elements of the same in the coming Netflix series where Ben Urich – played by Vondie Curtis-Hall – is a central character. If you want to know how it all began, and get a bonus recap of Daredevil’s origin, this is a good place to start. I’ve also written extensively about this issue and the ones leading up to it in the post “Meet Ben Urich” from 2008.
Daredevil #191, written and penciled by Frank Miller (with inks by Terry Austin) may be my very favorite single issue of Daredevil. It is the perfect stand-alone story in that, while it certainly helps to know who Daredevil and his nemesis Bullseye are, it’s not crucial to appreciating the story. The artwork, with generous amount of negative space, interesting panel layouts and elegant simplicity, is the perfect match for a story that does a perfect job of nailing down, defining and explaining Matt Murdock.
This issue showcases his fears and weaknesses through the torment he suffers, not just in the wake of Elektra’s death, but in the way he feels complicit in the shooting of a young boy by being, not just a hero, but a role model for violence. I have nothing negative to say about this issue, it’s as close to perfection as they come, and it’s truly innovative in its approach. See also my previous post on this very issue.
Another great one-shot is writer Alan Brennert’s sole contribution to the Daredevil archives, with art provided by Klaus Janson. It’s just a nice little slice-of-life story focusing on Ben Urich (more so than Exposé above, which is really more about Daredevil’s own story), but also featuring plenty of insight into Daredevil, as well as the Kingpin who also makes an appearance. You also get a great sense of Daredevil’s world and the corruption that runs rampant in it. The story revolves around good people doing good, good people doing bad, and the many shades of gray in between. It also reminds us never to presume to know what anyone else is going through, and doing the best with what we have. It is a tale which is both tragic and optimistic, and surprisingly moving.
Where can I find it? This issue hasn’t never been collected and isn’t available through Marvel’s online channels so look for it in back issue bins.
The Price (Daredevil #223, vol 1)
On the surface, The Price, by Denny O’Neil and David Mazzucchelli, may appear a little campy. The Beyonder appears in Matt and Foggy’s office and asks them to argue his case, a case that is pretty much based on the alien visitor’s wish to own the entire world. It’s certainly a little out there. As is what happens to Daredevil during the course of the issue when the powerful Beyonder restores his sight.
The outlandish aspects of the story aside, this issue is surprisingly moving. It’s really the first time that Matt has had his sight back and actually been able to enjoy it for any length of time. The experience is also pretty heartbreaking for out main character who has to deal with some delayed grief when he realizes exactly what it is he’s been missing all these years. In the end though, he decides that he cares about his principles even more than this new gift. It’s pretty powerful stuff and says a lot about the character. I’ve written about this issue before as well.
Where can I find it? This issue hasn’t never been collected and isn’t available through Marvel’s online channels so look for it in back issue bins.
34 Hours (Daredevil #304, vol 1)
On the title page, 34 Hours is introduced as “A story about New York.” This sums up the issue well, and also explains why I love it so much. I like this issue almost as much as Roulette, as they both do a fantastic job of stripping away the fuss and focusing on what makes Daredevil such a great character. Aside from that, the two issues really don’t have much in common though. Where Roulette is tragic, 34 Hours is brimming with optimism. The latter issue, by D.G. Chichester and Ron Garney, is also much more traditional in its format.
Where can I find it? Sadly, this issue hasn’t been collected either and also isn’t available through Marvel’s online channels so look for it in back issue bins.
Other issues that meet the above criteria, and can be found in collected editions and digitally through Marvel, are the following:
Daredevil #1, vol 1
The very first issue of Daredevil, by Stan Lee and Bill Everett, is actually pretty good. It does a good job of introducing this brand new character, uses quite sophisticated storytelling techniques, and obviously managed to capture enough interest to make up for the very inconsistent quality of the first couple of years of the title.
Guts (Daredevil #185, vol 1)
This is a clever Frank Miller issue (inks by Klaus Janson), that focuses almost entirely on Foggy Nelson, as he sets about doing his own crime fighting. While I like this issue, it has to be said that most modern readers have gotten used to seeing Foggy as a more serious character compared to how he appears here, but it’s still a good read. For another, more recent take on Foggy, see The Secret Life of Foggy Nelson (Daredevil #88, vol 2), by Ed Brubaker and David Aja
Return of the King: Prologue (Daredevil #116, vol 2)
Also by Ed Brubaker and David Aja, this issue is all about the Kingpin, and his new life in Spain where he finds love again after the death of his wife Vanessa. It all comes to a tragic end, of course, but the story really highlights the complex nature of the Kingpin, something which appears to be a big part of the Netflix series.
Daredevil #7, vol 3
This stand-alone Christmas issue by Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera is another favorite of mine. Waid and Rivera skillfully take Matt out of his element as he goes on a school trip with a class of blind school children and they’re stranded in the woods after a bad bus accident. I like the idea of Matt doing volunteer work. It goes well with a character who’s always cared about his community, regardless of what costume he’s wearing.
Well, that’s it! What did you guys think of my choices and what are some other issues you’d like to add to the list? Let the rest of us know in the comment section!
So I’m betting no one missed the first teaser trailer of the upcoming Daredevil live action show which was released today! Well, not counting yesterday’s teaser trailer for the teaser trailer. (The marketing people sure know how to build suspense.) If you, by some chance, haven’t seen it yet, take a look below and then let’s talk!
My first overall impression is a very positive one. There’s a general sense of high quality and attention to detail. Beautiful photography, cool angles and a very heavy emphasis on the sound, which is obviously key for this character.
I also like that they’re going for a grounded feel in the action sequences. There’s some parkour-ish stuff going on, and the last scene in particular is an indication that Matt obviously bleeds when he’s injured. The creators wanted gritty, and that’s clearly what we’re getting.
Speaking of gritty, I know that there’s been some concern from regular visitors to this site that this show might end up being a bit too dark. That is certainly an issue, judging both from this trailer and what’s been said by people in the know. However, I think a key element to remember here is that they cast Charlie Cox for a reason, and I have to think that part of that reason is his obvious charm. Both the Miller and Bendis runs – which we know have served as inspiration for the show – are definitely dark (Bendis generally more so than Miller), but they’re not just that. And it’s remembering that Matt Murdock is so much more than a one-note character that should help make things interesting. If I were looking to portray Daredevil as a character who never cracks a smile, Cox certainly isn’t the actor I would have chosen.
There are only short glimpses of Foggy and Karen here, but I have to say that I’m interested to see what they’re going to do with Karen as a character. She has been described by actress Deborah Ann Wool and others as “trouble” and I definitely get the feeling that this incarnation of the character will have more in common with the the former junkie porn star of the 80s than the young, innocent girl we knew from the 60s. I’m not suggesting she’ll have a secret night job, but possibly a checkered past.
The trailer is framed by a scene of Matt going to confession. This is not a surprising element to see in a Daredevil show, even though I’ve mentioned before that I think Matt’s religious fervor is often exaggerated outside of the actual comic where, aside from Kevin Smith’s Guardian Devil, there is no real indication that he’s actually a regular churchgoer. Religious? Yes. Devout? No. However, religious themes can often be very interesting, so I’m well prepared to live with it. What I really do like about the confession scene is Matt’s voice. You can detect the emotional turmoil going on, but Charlie Cox also makes him sound intelligent and rational, capable of restraint. The voice really works for me.
Another interesting detail I want to point out is that they’re clearly making sure that people are aware that Daredevil operates a little differently than other people, heroes and civilians alike. Even though Matt Murdock is not your average blind guy, his actions and movements are guided by a different set of stimuli and I think that comes across pretty well on the screen. Oh, and massive bonus points for the white cane actually touching the ground. (I’m looking at you, Affleck!) 😉
So, what did you guys think? Sound off in the comment section!
First of all, thank you so much to everyone who commented (or contacted me through other means) to offer support in response to my latest post. It means the world to me, and just proves that the TOMP community is made up of some of the best people – and comic book fans – in the world!
And, thanks for all the post ideas. I’m making a list of all of them and hope to get to them over the next few weeks and months, interspersed with ideas of my own, and the usual reviews and comments on whatever comes up. First on my list is to begin to tackle Daniel’s idea to look at Matt’s happier times, and that whole side of his personality. It feels like the perfect topic to lighten anyone’s mood, and it also makes for an interesting contrast with the darker side of the character.
Mark Waid has strongly indicated that Matt Murdock has underlying issues with depression, which made his take on Sister Maggie’s battles with post partum depression even more meaningful (aside from her story being compelling in its own right, depression is often at least partially hereditary). Of course, Matt’s long list of actual trials and tribulations, along with his mental health battles – which go back decades – don’t negate the fact that he has had happier times and that he’s got a real optimistic streak to motivate him. To quote myself from an earlier post:
“What I recognize in a character like Matt Murdock is that ability to joke, smile and laugh – and do so genuinely, not as a front (or in Matt’s case, perhaps not only as a front) – while at the same time navigating the inevitable slumps and rough patches that you know may be waiting around the corner. It is possible to be both an incurable optimist, to have your “center” propel you forward and give you meaning even while occasionally dealing with feelings that seem to threaten to stop you in your tracks. Real people are complex, and it’s a great thing to see creators of fiction let that complexity shine through their characters as well.”
It’s interesting to note that whatever is bothering Matt Murdock at any one time, and that may be nothing at all, the answer always seems to be Daredevil. When he’s feeling low and defeated, his life as Daredevil seems to act both as a coping mechanism and a compulsion based on a (somewhat exaggerated) sense of duty. When he’s happy, that too spills over into his life as a vigilante. He clearly enjoys the physical aspects of throwing himself off high buildings and the obvious sense of accomplishment that comes from having trained his body to endure almost any situation.
During the first few years of the title, being Daredevil clearly offered him a way to escape the persona of Matt Murdock, the uptight and timid blind lawyer. I’ve talked about the conflicted feelings around his identity in How Daredevil became Matt Murdock. This is interesting because it shows that even the relative carefree days of the Silver Age were not devoid of underlying conflicts. Matt may have thoroughly enjoyed playing the part of Mike Murdock, his made-up identical twin brother, and Mike may have even been a more genuine take on the underlying character. But pretending to be someone else, even as a way to manage a secret identity, is hardly the sign of great mental health. Even early in Daredevil history, there were clear signs of self-loathing and resentment.
As the topic of Matt’s personality and changing moods is a pretty big, I will only be able to scratch the surface with this post, and will be doing so by going back to the very beginning of the title’s history. At the end of this post, you’ll find links to previous posts that deal with Matt’s emotional life (aside from the one’s I’ve linked to above). Altogether, that should make for a good foundation for exploring this topic further in the coming months.
The frustrated optimist
As origins go, I quite like the one we see in Daredevil #1. You would expect no less from someone who loves the character, but considering how weak the writing was on some of the early issues of Daredevil (Daredevil #2 anyone?), the relative quality of the very first issue stands out. The pacing is good, it covers a lot of ground and it cleverly establishes Daredevil’s raison d’être.
One interesting conflict that is apparent right from first glimpses into Matt’s early fictional life is the one between his desire for self-realization and the demands and expectations placed on him by those around him. In his early adult life, the same conflict is evident in terms of how he feels about being Daredevil, as opposed to being Matt Murdock (again, see my previous post). But this struggle pre-dates Daredevil, and even Matt’s accident. As a young boy, the source of frustration was not the need to conform to society’s expectations of a blind man, and a lawyer, but rather the strict rules laid down by his father. While young Matt is presented as a genuinely good student, one who probably would have excelled in academia even under less rigid circumstances, his strong desire to express himself physically, and play sports with the other kids, shows us another side of him aching to get out.
Even before he was Daredevil, Matt responded to frustration the same way we’ve seen him do time and time again: By finding ways around it. Instead of accepting the limitations placed on him by his father, he works out in secret. As he builds his physical strength, he finds a new mental strength as well. Allowing himself this way to escape gives him great joy. His secret life as a would-be Daredevil in training fills the very same purpose here as his life as the de facto Daredevil does later in the series. When he finally dons the costume, that too is in response to the frustration he feels over the fact that no one has been tried for his father’s murder. Becoming Daredevil means doing “something” as opposed to doing nothing. I think Mark Waid really nails it in the interview I linked to above:
“I think you see very clearly in Daredevil that depression is inertia. What fuels depression is that sense of helplessness, that sense of not knowing what to do next, that image of sitting on a gargoyle in the rain on the rooftop, frozen by inaction. To me, Daredevil come to grips with that and is actively pushing past. I wrote a scene where he feels that paralysis that comes with depression and he pushes through it. He makes an active decision to move forward. Any movement is better than no movement at all.”
To Matt, the Daredevil identity becomes a vehicle for action, and a way to directly address the inertia which looms whenever disaster strikes. As Matt, he is subject to the whims of others to some extent. He’s burdened by his father’s expectations, the taunts from the others at school (who misunderstand his reasons for keeping to himself and consequently mislabel him), and later by the prejudices of society. While the latter is not often touched on explicitly, it’s obvious that Matt – at least in the early days – had resigned himself to being regarded as weak. As Daredevil, he instead becomes the “actor,” his way of transforming himself from a chess piece into a player. It is perhaps no coincidence that the storylines which have brought Daredevil his greatest defeats, and been the most demoralizing, are not the ones in which he is challenged physically, but the ones in which that agency is taken away from him by the manipulation and scheming of his enemies.
The way this all feeds into and strengthens the need for the secret identity is something that Mark Waid later picks up on. The secret identity, and secrecy in general, can be viewed as coping mechanism, as summarized in Daredevil #22 (vol 3), when Matt explains: “Even when I was first blinded, I never told anyone about my radar or my hyper senses. Not even my dad. I enjoyed having a big secret. When people make you feel like you’re weak and helpless, it’s empowering to know something they don’t. And, boy, did I need empowering.”
The Daredevil identity was borne out of frustration, but is fueled by an incredible amount of optimism, sometimes bordering on over-confidence. The way Matt decides to go after his father’s killers in the very first issue clearly demonstrates his willingness to throw caution to the wind, in the hopes that his hours of training and heightened senses will be enough to carry him. He’s not certain that they will, however, and at least once he catches himself wondering whether he’s bitten off more than he can chew. This, in turn, is a behavior that will continue repeating itself over the coming decades. Matt often gets in over his head, does foolish things, and is prone to recklessness. We see him as fearless, but perhaps optimistic to the point of delusional is a better word for it.
One thing is for sure, Matt Murdock needs Daredevil. He needs the physical joy of it, the power it gives him, as well as the adrenalin rush. Being Daredevil is one of the best ways Matt knows to express himself when he’s happy, and it is often the only way for him to exist at all when he’s down (see much of the Brubaker/Lark run at the end of Daredevil vol 2). When you look at the entirety of the character’s life, it’s easy to see why.
As mentioned, I will have plenty of opportunities to return to this topic, looking at Matt’s remarkable ability to bounce back, and what exactly – besides being Daredevil – brings him the most joy. In the mean time, here are some recommended posts that deal, in one way or another, with Matt’s psyche: