Season One, Episodes One & Two — “Into the Ring”, “Cut Man”
By Jarrod Jones. If there was any doubt that Drew Goddard could eradicate all memory of Ben Affleck’s odious turn as the Man Without Fear, let the opening one-two punch of Daredevil purge it from existence. A few things have already become readily apparent, and this is one of them: In a mere two episodes, Daredevil has become more of a gripping crime procedural than Gotham could ever hope to be in an entire season. If the rest of Netflix’s Marvel output is as top-notch as these two episodes, there just might be no need to ever leave the house again.
WHAT WORKED: No matter how Marvel this show is going to get, any superhero growing pains are going to be compared to Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. That’s only inevitable. But Daredevil‘s opening salvo skips the origin story doldrums and cuts right into the meat of Matt Murdock’s life. His motivations are those of guilt (he is Catholic, after all), altruism (growing up blind in Hell’s Kitchen will do that), and rage (growing up blind in Hell’s Kitchen will do that). We have a terrific leading man in Charlie Cox.
Questions concerning how Marvel would handle a TV-MA series in its family-friendly universe were quickly abated once Murdock (Charlie Cox) started throwing down. The show’s fight choreography is shockingly violent, personal and brutal. It goes to places that Arrow never could.
Sequences that feature the fatherly guidance of “Battlin'” Jack Murdock (John Patrick Hayden) and his young boy, Matt (Skylar Gaertner), are filled with the necessary grit and palpable love that would come with a father raising his boy in a harsh, brutal world. If Daredevil is propelled by anything at all, if it has a beating heart, it’s found in these vital flashbacks.
WHAT DIDN’T: It’s only necessary that Daredevil needs to hit the ground running, but frequent allusions to The Avengers (I counted at least four in the first episode) have a rather defensive feel to them. While it’s cool that Daredevil is picking up shortly after the Chitauri invasion in Joss Whedon’s massive superhero flick, Daredevil will only succeed in setting itself apart in Marvel’s world of tights and flights by embracing bold and unexplored territory.
In keeping with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Daredevil‘s got a villain problem: The first episode’s villain summit atop an open construction site gave me plenty of opportunity to gaze deep into my navel. I respect the show’s decision to make us earn the presence of Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio), but it would do well to pump up his subordinates with some actual menace and personal gusto.
“Cut Man” features one glaring misfire, and that’s the bar-hopping sequence between Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll). While Matt is having one hell of a night trying not to lose every quart of blood inside him, Foggy attempts to ease Karen’s acclimation to her new life. But his reliably annoying “hey, buddy” demeanor makes one squirm in their seats while the show slows to a crawl.
Episode One – “I believe you, Ms. Page.” – Matt, the human lie detector, after a moment listening to Karen pour her heart out.
Episode Two – “Come on. Let’s get you home to your dad.” – Matt, after.
Episode Two – The incredibly well-choreographed, tight-angle hallway gauntlet between an exhausted (and wounded) Matt Murdock and an armada of Chechen thugs recalls the South Korean splatter-fest Oldboy… In every conceivable positive way. It goes on and on, and you wince at every hit.
Episode One – Matt Murdock. Charlie Cox, with his casual swagger, his guttural voice, and his sexual potency (my girlfriend: “I’ll be dreaming of Charlie’s lips tonight“), is every inch the Man Without Fear this Marvel Universe deserves. Boy, oh boy, put this guy in a Marvel team-up movie, toot-sweet.
Episode Two – ‘Battlin” Jack Murdock. John Patrick Hayden’s rough-n-tumble Jack Murdock gives Daredevil a dignity and sincerity not commonly found in superhero fare. Watching Jack do what it takes for Matt to have a future outside of Hell’s Kitchen is going to put a lump in your throat. Guaranteed.
– “Death and destruction raining from the sky.” Realtors make such intriguing small talk. Of course, this is a slightly pandering shout-out to the Chitauri invasion from The Avengers.
– New York Bulletin? Come on, Marvel. Get the rights to The Daily Bugle.
– Fogwell’s Gym might as well be Murdock’s home away from home: Some of his more important comic book sagas have revolved around the ol’ sports club in one way or another.
– Taking a cursory glance at Fogwell’s walls reveals an intriguing Easter Egg: Looks like “Battlin'” Jack Murdock battles Crusher Creel, aka The Absorbing Man at one point or another. *time elapses* And I think that’s the only time an Absorbing Man reference made me want to cry.
– The show’s Special Thanks to Brian Michael Bendis, Gene Colan, Klaus Janson, Alex Maleev, David Mazzucchelli, Roger McKenzie, Frank Miller, Joe Orlando, John Romita, Jr., and John Romita, Sr. was an awfully nice touch. (Anyone else notice a name that’s not on the list?)
– It looks like Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) is taking over for Linda Carter (no, not that one), otherwise known as Night Nurse. Claire Temple, it should be noted, is a former flame of one Luke Cage, so it looks like Daredevil is branching out to Netflix’s other Marvel endeavors sooner than we thought.