“Beware those Murdoch boys; they’ve got the devil in them.”
I was never very well acquainted with the Daredevil character. Any bits of information I’d gained had been through the internet over time. I never even saw Ben Affleck’s take on the character in the largely loathed film. Matt Murdoch is the rare character in comic book lore that is new to me, which made the viewing experience all the more exciting. In equal measures, I’d never heard of Kingpin before, despite being considered one of the best villains of all time. I love Marvel, particularly the cinematic universe they’ve built in the past eight years or so; and with the introduction of Daredevil for me as well as others, in varying degrees, we’re being given something new.
For starters, this isn’t Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (thank god) or Agent Carter (although the pulpy feel certainly is reminiscent). It doesn’t rely on the universe already built to derive their storylines from; and despite it being a show about Matt Murdoch’s Daredevil, he isn’t the sole, driving force of the show. This is a grim, dreary television drama that has a superhero at its focus. It takes itself seriously without having a self-imposed air of self-importance, and it’s dark without being boring or without forgetting its superhero roots. It’s a hell of a lot of fun, with less action then one would have initially guessed, but when there is action, it’s hard hitting and focused. There’s a fight sequence at the end of episode two that’s one of the finest I’ve ever seen, shot with decorum and stylistic intensity.
The episode begins with the set-up, like any good super-hero origin story, where we see a young Matthew Murdoch laying in the street as his father races towards him. He was in an accident after pushing an older man away from a car and takes the impact as well as being blinded by a chemical substance. It’s one of the few sequences in the first few episodes that showcase his loss of sight as a child, and I can’t help but think that’s a good thing. The actor is fine, but the adult Matthew is far more interesting than the child, even with a sinking suspicion that there’s tragedy looming close by. His dad was a boxer and from him learned the idea that you can get knocked down but you should never, ever get knocked out.
Rules to live by for vigilante Matt (Daredevil to us) ,who we first meet in a confessional booth, divulging half-truths about the actions he’s about to perform. It’s the perfect introduction for this character. Charlie Cox makes for a wonderfully assured superhero-in-training, and the fight sequences (more later) that he partakes in are magnificent.
I wish more could be said about the supporting characters which, at this point, aren’t nearly interesting enough to warrant as much time spent with them as we do. There’s Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll). The former is his longtime friend and partner, and the latter is their first client. After waking up with a bloodied knife and a dead man in front of her, she’s taken into police custody and their care. However, all is not as it seems when she’s nearly murdered in her cell by a man threatened by some ominous crime organization.
Woll isn’t bad and has her charms, but Henson needs some serious growing before I find him totally engaging, particularly when actors such as Cox and Rosario Dawson in later episodes are so effortlessly good.
Through some more digging they discover a sort of money laundering scam which lead Karen into her predicament. This is where the show’s abundance of style aids its slower storytelling beats. When we–via Matt–realize that Karen still has the incriminating files, the background sound doubles down and instead we hear what sounds like heartbeats that race harder and faster as Karen faces more questioning.
What makes up for some of the lesser acting moments are instances such as those heartbeats playing in the background. What they lack in mature acting, they more than make up for in a world that feels whole right from the get-go. Hells Kitchen in the series is an imposing and threatening pallet of danger. Matt wishes to pick it up and restore the city he once loved, and the directing and creative design allows for the grime to seep into the screen. Very little do we get a pop of color, instead doused in shadow for much of the first episode. When there is color, there’s an insipid yellow that fills in the corners of the frame or keeps the Daredevil mildly out of focus.
The writing comes close to being too on-the-nose at points, but when there are lines such as this delivered by crime bosses, it’s hard to complain:
“Heroes and their consequences are why we have our current opportunities.”
What a nice potential tie into the future Avengers films, hmm?
But the best part is the fight sequences.
Mixing the balletic choreography of Arrow with a Marvel budget and a springy lead that can believably both kick butt and be over powered, the end result is something you can’t tear your eyes from. The stunt choreographers smartly use agility as a weapon of choice for Murdoch, who isn’t going to be the strongest or biggest person in the room. Instead, like a boxer, he’s quick, and he can take a hit and pop back up. The fight at the end of the episode after he’s saved Karen is how the show needed to start out. He’s beaten and bloody on the ground and uses his senses and his particular brand of skill sets to get them out of there safe but, and this is important, it never looks like it’s easy.
Karen ends the episode deciding to work for Foggy and Matt, and our primary trio is formed. I can stake some interest in this as long as the following shot is always Matt donned in his mask and ready to fight with everything he has.
I’m not sure what to make of Matt completely yet, but he’s scrappy, a little mischievous, played wonderfully by Cox and isn’t like the typical, infallible superhero. He gets hurt, gets knocked down a lot, and what makes him so interesting is his determination in always standing back up.
Welcome to my reviews of Daredevil! I’ll be popping up everyone couple days or so with a new review, so beware spoilers if you’re not marathon happy like I am. Comment below to let me know what you thought of the episode!
“Let the devil out.”