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Daredevil season one revisited – part 1

As you may have heard, the season two trailer is scheduled to blow up the Internet tomorrow. Okay, so that might have been a slight exaggeration, but it’s definitely coming, as revealed by the official Daredevil twitter account. I will return tomorrow with some quick comments, and I’ve already made plans with Claire from The Defenders Podcast, to do a podcast episode dedicated to reviewing the trailer, just like we did last year. Look for that on Wednesday or Thursday!

Before we get to any of this, I thought I’d start my series of posts looking back at the first season. This was an idea that came to me when I rewatched all episodes over Christmas break and found myself thinking of things that hadn’t occurred to me the first, second (or fifth) time around, or things that just spoke to me more when I saw everything with relatively fresh eyes. These little looks back will not follow any particular pattern, and will probably range from banal observations to things that are worthy of an entire essay – though I can’t promise I’ll have time to write anything too lengthy. What these posts are not, however, are reviews. I already wrote detailed reviews, with full synopses, of every episode last year. If you’re just joining us, you can find them on the archive page (look for the posts from April and May of 2015).

Into the Ring

So, let’s start at the beginning. The first episode is one that I – on the whole – like more than it probably deserves. It gets us off to a good start, definitely, but it’s not one of the strongest. It’s got a lot of nice little moments in it though. There’s the opening scene, which cleverly sucks you in (and breaks your heart with young Matt’s haunting cries), and the second scene with Matt in confession that lets you know right from the start that Charlie Cox has what it takes to bring the title character to life.

Karen sees the light display outside Matt's apartment, as seen in the first episode of Marvel's Daredevil

Then there’s that clever scene detailing Karen’s first meeting with Matt and Foggy. It doesn’t just have a nice touch of humor, but a great dose of realism in just how dragged through the gutter Karen looks. When you’re used to female characters on television waking up in full make up, it’s definitely refreshing to see something different. There’s beauty too, of course, in that scene of Karen walking up to the window in Matt’s apartment and bathing in purple light. Or, for that matter, the fight scene in the rain which, while brutal, has fantastic sound effects.

On the flip side, there’s the scene with Matt and Foggy on the phone. I know people have been divided on Elden Henson’s Foggy, but I think he’s perfect for the role and really enjoyed his performance. Except for this one scene. And it actually took waiting several months to watch the show again for me to really catch it, maybe because parts of that particular scene was in the trailer and thus too closely associated with my excitement. In it, Henson appears to simply be reading his lines, and the editing is choppy. I suspect the soundtrack on Matt’s end of the conversation was actually altered in post-production (because remember how very English he sounded in an early promotional clip?) and this adds to the strange timing of it.

Matt fights Karen's attacker, as seen in the first episode of Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix

I also find myself being less than impressed with the first fight scene, where Matt is rescuing the women who are being sold as sex slaves. The acrobatics and fight skills are amazing throughout the show, and this scene is no exception – thank you Chris Brewster – but it lacks the finesse of most of the rest of the season. Take out the action choreography, and it feels like it could be a school production. Rob Morgan is fantastic as Turk, but this is simply not one of his better scenes.

However, what I really wanted to talk about when it comes to the first episode, is the implications of the early scene of Matt in confession. Why? Because with all that happens later in the season, including Foggy finding out about Matt and Matt trying to make sense of himself, it has something important to say about who Matt was before he put on the mask. Or at least who he thought he was.

You don’t have to look further than the comment section to my Nelson vs Murdock (episode nine) review to see that I’m not the only one who has a hard time with Matt’s years of deceit. For me, that’s not actually limited to the television show. At least here, they are relatively fresh out of law school and mere weeks into Matt’s vigilante activities when Foggy finds out about him, in the comics it happens over thirty years into the history of the comic, at which point we can assume that Matt has been Daredevil for many years.

Matt in confession, as seen at the beginning of episode one of Marvel's Daredevil.

Aside from the fact that Matt has been lying to his best friend, what we’re really left asking is: Who is Matt Murdock? How much of him is real? When watching the first episode again you really get the sense that Matt didn’t really plan on putting on a mask. He explicitly states, when speaking about his father, that “I didn’t understand what he was feeling, deep down inside. I didn’t understand it. Not then.”

Matt kept up with his training after Stick left, and Foggy later calls him out on that, and he’s clearly been carrying around a lot of emotional baggage, and rage, that he can no longer contain. But there was still a flick that needed to be switched, and until it did, I don’t think that Matt himself believed that it was inevitable that it would. It’s one thing that he hides his heightened senses, which is understandable for a lot of reasons, but was Matt’s personality a façade as well all those years? I don’t necessarily think so, at least not a conscious one. Matt was who he desperately wanted to be, until the “devil inside” reared its head and demanded to be let out.

I’m also left wondering when exactly this scene really takes place. The first few times I watched it, I simply took it at face value that this scene takes place right before Matt goes out and rescues the girls, but it could just as easily have been before he went out and beat somebody up for the very first time, the way it tells it to Foggy in episode nine. Now, I do think this scene is probably set on the same day as Matt’s first meeting with Turk, and that I’m reading too much into it, but I also think it makes it more interesting to imagine that it precedes his very first fight. And if it helps make better sense of the character, then why not think about it that way?

I think I’ll end here. Any additional thoughts on this episode you’d like to share? If you want to talk about anything else related to the show, that’s fine too!

Christine Hanefalk

Christine Hanefalk

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Christine is a die-hard Daredevil fan who launched The Other Murdock Papers in 2007 to share her passion for Matt Murdock and his friends with other fans.

3 comments

  1. I still really like the scene with Matt and Karen in his apartment where she asks him about his blindness. It’s interesting that she’d ask him straight out pretty early in their relationship rather than just wondering or asking Foggy. (Plus it helps move the story.) One small complaint I’ve had since the first watching though, I think it’s weird that she changed her shirt in front of him. You’d think she’d turn her back to him at least. Even though she knows mentally that he’s blind, wouldn’t a force of habit or modesty mean she’d feel weird about changing in front of someone she just met? Or was she testing him?

    This was one of my favorite episodes so it is fun to chat about it again. We started rewatching them again within the last week or so too in preparation of the new season.

  2. This and episode two are probably the best of the season for me. They just set up everything so perfectly. I do agree that the first fight scene is very weak compared to almost all the others of the season. Its sad that the blandest, and I hate to say but also laziest fight scenes opened and closed the season. As you say, there was no finesse.

    I like your thoughts on the confession, but it still makes more sense to me as happening right before the dock fight which we assume is his first “official” night out. The night he took out the child molester, i took that as he was just targeting that specific man to save the little girl that the law couldn’t. He had intended for it to be just a one and done moment, but it felt so good dispensing “justice”, so he decided to pursue his “mission” after a lot of soul searching in the process which of course leads to Lantom.

  3. @Tate:

    “I like your thoughts on the confession, but it still makes more sense to me as happening right before the dock fight which we assume is his first “official” night out. The night he took out the child molester, i took that as he was just targeting that specific man to save the little girl that the law couldn’t. He had intended for it to be just a one and done moment, but it felt so good dispensing “justice”, so he decided to pursue his “mission” after a lot of soul searching in the process which of course leads to Lantom.”

    Ooh, I like this. Like that night was the first he actually put on the costume and decided “I’m doing this.” Yup, that works.

    @Elizabeth:

    “I still really like the scene with Matt and Karen in his apartment where she asks him about his blindness. It’s interesting that she’d ask him straight out pretty early in their relationship rather than just wondering or asking Foggy.”

    I have very mixed feelings about this scene. From Karen’s perspective it’s a good scene. It’s a little cringe-worthy (and obviously intended to be) in that she’s even asking that right off the bat, especially since Matt is acting like he gets that question all the time. But it’s a very “Karen” way to act; she’s very to the point. As for Matt’s answer, I do like that he specifically jokes about how people also ask him how he combs his hair. On the one hand, it’s something any blind person can do (which makes it a silly and ignorant question), and on the other it’s actually one of those times when Matt doesn’t have to lie when he says: “Honestly, you just hope for the best.” He can scale the side of a building, but he really can’t use mirrors or visually check his appearance.

    As for the part when he talks about wishing he could see the sky one more time, he’s probably equal parts genuine and manipulative. He uses a personal story to get Karen to open up, that’s pretty obvious. But I’m not so sure he would give anything to see the sky one more time – and if he did, that he would actually tell anyone he barely knows about it. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think it’s consistent with the character that there are moments when he wishes he could see (in the traditional sense of the word), but would he want the kind of sympathy he’s trying to elicit here? I don’t know, and I find the scene hard to read.

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