The following review/opinion piece contains major spoilers about the Netflix original series, Marvel’s Daredevil. Be warned, here and now, that I’ll be giving rundowns of the episode and commenting here and there about what I’ve watched and opinions on certain scenes or events. Read on if you’d like to share your own comments below, or come back another time after you’ve watched the show. Thanks for your time!
Daredevil is another step in Marvel’s plans to extend their Cinematic Universe. This is the darker side of Marvel, the grittier side that we don’t get to see much of on the big screen. It’s not all sunny days or jokes as this corner of New York, called Hell’s Kitchen, is overrun by drug cartels, human trafficking, gangs, mobs and … yes … a Kingpin of crime. The city has been in a state of reconstruction, the neighborhood rebuilding thanks to the destructive events of The Avenger’s movie, which saw Loki and his otherworldly army level nearly half the city (with a little defensive help from the heroes.) There is also supposedly deeply hidden references to Agents of SHIELD, the other Marvel mainstream television series. And that sets us up for a journey into the night, where a blind hero attempts to take back his neighborhood.
The first episode opens with Matt Murdock’s father pushing his way through a crowd to get to his son who has been in an accident. This is as “origin” as we get, story-wise to our hero in this particular episode. A man calls from the side that young Matthew saved him by pushing him out of the way, but there was damage done. Matt was exposed to some type of chemical, which is leaking out of barrels all over the street. Our young hero begins screaming that he can’t see. Helpless, his dad screams for him to close his eyes.
That’s all the intro we get out of the gate to what happened to Matt Murdock as a kid. We jump straight to the present, adult Matt relating a story of his father to a priest in confessional. He reminisce’s about his father in the ring, boxing, and how he’d have moments where he’d zone out, become a man without fear and just go to town on his opponent. “Let the devil out,” he says, explaining what it was like to watch his father unload on another in the ring. The priest says this would all be easier if he’d tell him what he’d done to seek forgiveness. Matt simply responds that he isn’t seeking redemption for what he has done, but rather for what he’s about to do.
Wether or not this is his first outing as Daredevil or not, we’re not really told. I assume, from the way he handles himself, that he’s done this a few times before. But we get to watch the man without fear in action as he takes on four thugs who are herding some captive women into a cargo container down by a river. He carries no weapons, but doesn’t seem opposed to picking up anything dropped by his opponents while fighting. The scenes are are night time and they honestly look gorgeous in HD, especially a rain sequence later on in the episode.
Sound is very important to Daredevil because, well, if you don’t know by now, he’s blind. And while they don’t make a big deal out of this fact, the enhanced hearing is eluded to in a few instances of importance to show how he reacts to certain moves that a normal blind man may be completely oblivious to. Dodging a knife from a silent approaching attacker, using a chain hanging from a stairwell simply by hearing it lightly tapping to his left. The “special effects,” if that’s what you want to call it, are handled very well. There is nothing overused or flashy and that really helps boost the reality of the show. After all, Daredevil has no special super powers, just enhanced hearing and sense due to his blindness at a young age. He defends himself using fighting styles learned from his father and other training methods, we assume, as we see he is allowed access to a gym after hours.
As for Matt Murdock and his partner, Foggy Nelson, they are up and coming lawyers looking for their first case. They want to defend the innocent, but they may use too strict a sense of innocent, which is limiting their clientele. Enter Karen Page, a young woman who suddenly wakes up kneeling over the dead body of a coworker, covered in blood and holding a knife. A contact and childhood friend of Foggy’s contacts him with the tip of her being a possible client, and Matt and Foggy race to her aid, offering their services as attorneys. This launches our main story for this episode as they try to figure out what really happened to Karen, why her coworker was murdered and why someone is trying to get to her in prison, and staking out her apartment.
The back-and-forth between Matt and Foggy is one of the many highlights of the introductory episode. They play off one another nicely and seem to be genuine in their friendship. Foggy takes jabs at Matt’s blindness, Matt overturns Foggy’s negativity about money and clients, leading him along to, hopefully, greener pastures for their virgin firm. Karen seems like she’s up to something more than being an innocent victim, and she actually is, but not in a bad way. She’s a justice seeker herself, hoping to blow the whistle on a huge embezzlement plan for the company she works for. The problem with that is that there are more powerful forces at work higher up the ranks. Just who those higher powers are, we aren’t privileged to meet just yet (psst, we all know it’s Fisk, aka, The Kingpin.)
Karen’s plot to uncover the embezzlement and Matt’s attempt to protect their client lead to the “big” fight scene of the episode with a trained assassin. This gentleman may be a big deal in the comic books, but to me, being aware of only the barebones of Daredevil’s history, he’s just someone that nearly kicks Daredevil’s butt. This is also the fight that demonstrates some of the enhanced senses Matt relies on.
In the end, the day is saved and Karen is – currently – safe. Having no money, however, she offers to work, free of charge, for Nelson & Murdock’s firm. The gentleman agree and our trio is formed for what we’re lead to believe is the rest of the season. As for the bad guys, we get a scene where Fisk’s voice is relaying instructions to his head man, telling him to start a file on Murdock and Nelson because they might just be of some use to them later.
The episode ends with a group of thugs attacking a car, beating the father/driver and kidnapping the young son in the backseat. From the rooftops, Matt/Daredevil hears the boys cries for help as he’s shoved into a van and driven off to who knows where.
Over all this was an incredibly strong introduction to this darker, grittier side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The minor references to the larger Universe (i.e. “the Incident” in New York that leveled most of the city, a comment about heroes and their actions keeping the bad guys in jobs, etc). I look forward to the rest of this season and possibly more to come, as well as possible cameos by other heroes in the future.