After taking much too long to catch up with life outside of Daredevil (wouldn’t we all love to immerse ourselves in Daredevil full time), it’s time for my review of the first episode of Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix. The format I’m going with for these is first a recap covering all the scenes in this issue – part of the reason for doing this is to jog everybody’s memory in case we want to discuss the finer details in the comment section – followed by the actual review portion. After that, there are some other points I wanted to bring up as well that will probably be standard features of every post. Sound good to you guys? Let’s get to it!
The very first scene of the season goes straight to the origin and young Matt Murdock’s fateful accident. We see it first from Jack Murdock’s perspective as he rushes toward the accident scene up ahead. Moments later, Matt’s world goes black, and the rest, as they say, is history. Next, we jump ahead to the present day and Matt talking to a priest, Father Lantom, about his father and makes ominous mentions about what he’s about to do. This takes us to Matt’s first scene in action, interrupting a shady transaction of kidnapped women for hard cash, where he ends up taking out – among others – classic Daredevil thug Turk Barret. This all ends with the intro being played for the first time.
Next, we get our first look at the Matt and Foggy dynamic when Foggy gets Matt out of the bed for their appointment with the real estate agent. On the way, Foggy checks in with a childhood “frenemy” who is also a cop, and bribes him. Matt does that thing Matt does around the real estate agent while Foggy rolls his eyes at the whole thing. Despite the place going for what Foggy considers to be “pre-incident” prices, the two decide to move in.
We make our first acquaintance with Karen Page in a shocking scene that sees her leaning over a dead body, covered in blood, with the murder weapon in her hand. Things do not look good for Karen. Fortunately, the bribe to the cop pays off, and while the two law partners are in the middle of unpacking, they get a head’s up on Karen’s situation, and go to see her in jail. This scene is bound to become a classic.
It’s at this point we get out first look at Wilson Fisk’s right hand man Wesley, though he’s not named at this point. Wesley has come to threaten a certain Mr. Farnum (see Easter eggs below) to coax him into doing killing Karen Page in her cell. Before that happens, though, we see Matt and Foggy discuss Karen’s case. After Karen skillfully overpowers her attacker and lives to tell about it, Matt and Foggy know something is fishy about the whole thing and secure Karen’s release. They bring her back to their office where Karen gives a statement. Although she doesn’t know who is trying to kill her, she does now why she’s been made a target.
To keep her safe, Matt arranges for her to sleep at his place where the two have a heart to heart. The only problem is that Karen is lying about the whereabouts of the file that got her in trouble to begin with and sneaks out in the middle of the night to retrieve a USB drive from her apartment. Matt follows and, in his “masked man” outfit, is able to catch the attacker sent for Karen. They go on to have a brutal, yet riveting, fight on the street below after they both fall through a window. Matt has a flashback to his childhood and finds the strength to keep fighting. The bad guy is subdued and dumped outside the office of New York Bulletin with the incriminating USB drive stuck to his chest.
Next, we make our first real acquaintance with the bad guys of this show. Wilson Fisk is still laying low, but Wesley shows up (late) to a meeting between an international cast of characters that includes two scarred Russians, a silent (but certainly deadly) Japanese gentleman, and an enigmatic Chinese woman. Oh, and Leland Owlsley, the guy with an eye for the financial bottom line. Meanwhile, Matt and Foggy are having a much better time with Karen who has cooked what looks like lasagne for her two knights in shining armor.
The episode ends with Matt going a round against a punching bag at Fogwell’s gym while we catch a glimpse of the horrible fates which befell Mr. Farnum and Karen’s attacker Mr. Rance. Madam Gao is seen running some kind of drug operation staffed by all blind people, while the Japanese are looking at plans of Hell’s Kitchen, and Turk is receiving a arms shipment. Finally, a young boy is kidnapped by the Russians, and we zoom up to Matt listening from a roof top in the distance.
First off, that first scene is like a bowling ball to the stomach. It’s hard for me to imagine what you’d make of this scene if you weren’t at all familiar with the character, but for those of us who know exactly where things are headed, it’s intense. Seeing Matt’s accident – which has already happened at this point – from Jack’s point of view brings a sense of urgency to it as he runs toward his son. When we get to Matt’s perspective, we see the chemicals gradually eat away at his vision as he desperately looks up at his father. This is grueling to watch, but it’s a heck of a way to make sure everyone is paying attention.
Next, we get our first look at Charlie Cox as Matt in a scene that put all of my doubts to rest. The tears, the emotion in his voice, the whole bit. It works. And we also get a nice slice of backstory out of the way before cutting to the action and a human trafficking transaction that needs some timely interruption. I was surprised to see Turk, who in the comics is certainly not innocent but not quite as heartless as he is here, show absolutely no mercy for the women who are treated as nothing more than cattle. That sets the tone for this show right from the start. Fortunately, we get some levity right after the intro segment with a spot-on interaction between Matt and Foggy.
I can see why Elden Henson’s interpretation of Foggy has divided some fans. There are so many different takes on Foggy to choose from, depending on what chapter of comic book history you look at, and I’m sure everyone has a favorite. For me, he pretty much nails it. And, he also gets some alone time with Brett Mahoney, a police officer who serves as a way to get close to the more interesting cases. Foggy is, at heart, a really nice guy and that shows. But he’s also less of an idealist than Matt is, and I think this and other scenes in this episode do a fine job of showcasing the differences between them.
The scene that sees Karen’s first meeting with Matt and Foggy is bound to be a classic. The dialogue is witty without going over the top, and Deborah Ann Woll looks absolutely awful. And I mean that in the best way possible. Anyone who is sick of female characters in movies waking up with a perfectly made up face, is bound to love the look of her red and puffy eyes. Karen has had one insanely shitty day, and it shows. I know some have been critical of making a victim of the single prominent female character introduced thus far. While I can see their point, sort of, I think it’s important to remember that Karen was not targeted at random, but because she actually acted when she came across something that didn’t add up. Later, she successfully overcomes her attacker in jail, and then go back to her apartment knowing that she’s putting herself at risk. She is far from a classic damsel in distress.
The scene where Matt takes Karen back to her apartment is breathtaking. The huge billboard outside Matt’s window doesn’t just explain why he was able to get such a large apartment in New York (yes, it’s big even by “post-incident” Hell’s Kitchen standards), but it also makes the scene visually interesting. I find Matt and Karen’s little heart to heart interesting, yet a little puzzling. Matt actually admitting that there are things he misses being able to see is rare – though not unheard of – in the comics. Which makes me wonder about his sincerity, although the mention of seeing the sky may actually be a nod to the opening page of The Man Without Fear #1 that sees young Matt Murdock stare up at the night sky.
What about the villains? Well, Wilson Fisk is nowhere to be seen, but his right-hand man is all kinds of awesome. I had a feeling just from seeing the trailer that Toby Leonard Moore would put in a star performance as Wesley, and it’s evident right from the start that he is a force to be reckoned with. The rest of the baddies make a very diverse and international crew, and I like that this gives us a sense of a wider stage beyond Hell’s Kitchen. Leland Owlsley’s business focus is also quite amusing and his musings do a nice job of tying this story to everything else that’s been going on in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
All in all, a very strong opening that introduces us to most of the more prominent players. On a scale of one to ten, this is easily an 8.5.
There’s a clear connection between the sound effects and where objects land, which establishes how Matt can quickly find just what he needs. The scene with Karen provides the first heartbeat scene. Later he catches her lying. This is conveyed to the audience by using a sound effect that distorts the sound of her voice. In the knife fight scene, we hear the knife slicing through the air, and the (brilliant) clink of the chain against a metal staircase. The episode ends with a slice of classic Daredevil as Matt listens for trouble in his neighborhood. I will obviously return to the finer details of this in a later post.
(Accessible) gadget watch
Matt’s phone speaks Foggy’s name. Cool touch. Necessary, of course, but there’s too little of this stuff in the comics. Also, the recording equipment used to take Karen’s statement has braille labels on it.
Easter egg watch
There are many obvious nods to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, and they have been mentioned by others elsewhere. Personally, I cooed with delight to realize that Mr. Farnum is a definite nod to Frank Farnum, the manager of the building that housed Nelson & Murdock’s first offices back when the title was still in its teens. Frank Farnum was also the supervillain (or let’s just make it “villain”) the Masked Marauder whose weapon of choice was a blinding ray. Daredevil sure ran into his fair share of villains whose shtick was to blind people. Go figure.
Karen: “So how long have you been practicing law?”
Matt: “What time is it?”
Foggy: “It’s 12.22 am.”
Matt: “About seven hours.”
Wesley: “We don’t say his name”
Owlsley: “Heroes and their consequences are why we have our current opportunities.”
Matt’s intellect. Right from the very first episode, it’s clear that Matt relies as much on his intellect as on his enhanced abilities. I like this. A lot.