Daredevil, the first of several planned Netflix shows from Marvel, premiered today and it does not disappoint. The entire first season is available for binge watchers, but this review covers just the first episode.
In the first episode, we get to meet three of the main characters – Matt Murdoch/Daredevil played by Charlie Cox, Foggy Nelson played by Elden Henson, and Karen Page played by Deborah Ann Woll. While all three of them did a great job in their roles, I felt like Henson did the best job, at least so far, of really capturing the personality and feel of his character and translating it to the screen.
Overall, the show does a really great job of getting the gritty and dark feel of Daredevil and Hell’s Kitchen right. The rating of TV-MA is more than appropriate as there is no lack of violence, blood, light cursing, and some barely nudity.
This is definitely not a Marvel show for the littler fans. It’s really nice to get a completely adult show from Marvel after all the more light-hearted, though still great, stuff we’ve seen from them. Don’t get me wrong though. There is still a good amount of that joking feel everyone expects from Marvel.
The episode starts right off with the origin story all fans are aware of–young Matt Murdock saves an old man from being run down and gets some toxic chemicals in the eye for his troubles. We get a great shot from his point of view, looking up at his father as the chemicals eat away at his vision.
Note: Some spoilers ahead!
The episode quickly fast-forwards to now, and we get Murdoch sitting in a confessional. He tells the priest about his father. How he never got knocked out. He always got back up when he got knocked down and was always on his feet even when he lost. He also explains to the priest that his grandmother used to say that the Murdoch boys “got the devil in them” and that sometimes, in the ring, his father would let it out. Murdoch then tells the priest he has come, “not seeking penance for what I’ve done. I’m asking forgiveness for what I’m about to do.”
As much as I loved Daredevil, this is one of the things that bothered me about the show. More than a few times, the writers are a little heavy-handed in explaining things or making sure we understand that Murdoch is blind–there are at least a dozen instances where it is pointed out to other characters or to the viewer that yes, he’s still blind. We get it! Many scenes end with obvious lead-ins to the very next scene. Don’t get me wrong, I still really enjoyed it and recommend any fan go watch it immediately!
One last thing before the synopsis and spoilers begin. The first episode failed to pass the Bechdel Test. It does a lot better than some other super hero TV shows *cough*The Flash*cough* by introducing a strong, smart female character in Karen Page who seems to be taking a lead role. But she doesn’t interact with any other named female characters, and I’m afraid she’s going to quickly become a love interest and source of damsel in distress for Daredevil.
Spoilers and synopsis to follow – You have been warned!
After the confessional, we cut to some thugs loading a handful of ladies into a shipping container. It’s not said, but the feeling I get is that they are being kidnapped and shipped off to be sex slaves. The lead thug tells the girls to scream all they want because nobody is around to hear them. Cue our first look at Murdoch as Daredevil–dressed all in black with a mask over his head and eyes.
Daredevil takes all the baddies out, mostly bare handed. At one point he does take a heavy cattle prod from one of them and uses it very reminiscent of his signature baton, including ricocheting it off of one of the shipping containers to take out one of the goons. We also get the first time we will see the effect of a slow motion, close-up shot of Daredevil listening to and hearing something most folks do not–in this case, the cocking of a gun and firing of a round which he is able to dodge.
The scene ends with Daredevil beating the leader of the group to the ground, then standing over him and “letting the devil out” just like he told the priest his father used to do.
The opening sequence and music start up. A crimson liquid pours into the darkness and lady justice takes shape. Landmarks and parts of the city follow, with the final thing taking shape from the crimson liquid, Daredevil in full costume.
Immediately following the opening, we get introduced to Foggy Nelson and his sense of humor. He thinks Murdoch has been up late with a hot paralegal and claims, “I gotta get the blind thing going. It’s so unfair.” Nelson is a really great counter to Murdoch and they balance each other very well. Nelson then meets up with a cop friend of his and bribes him to call if any interesting cases show up.
Murdoch and Nelson then go looking for office space. They discuss the “incident” that happened in New York where death and destruction rained down from the sky but don’t go in to details. I assume this is a nod to the Chitauri invasion from The Avengers. It’s made clear in the banter that Nelson wants to take any client they can get but Murdock is looking for “innocent soul to stumble into their arms.”
And so, of course, our next scene is where we meet Karen Page. She is covered in blood, kneeling beside a stabbing victim, proclaiming her innocence as the police charge in the room. The cop from earlier calls Nelson to tip him off to the case.
Nelson and Murdoch meet with Page. This is to be the very first case for them which makes her wary, but she has no money to pay anyone which makes her a less than ideal client in Nelson’s eyes. She explains that she and the victim were both employees of Union Allied Construction and that they went out for drinks. The next thing she knew she woke up in her apartment over his dead body. Murdoch can hear her heart beating and that she is telling the truth, so he agrees to take the case.
We cut to a park where a man-eating a sandwich is approached by a man in a suit. He reminds the man of a debt he owes. The man tries to brush it off but the suit shows him a video of his daughter and threatens her life. He claims that the debt is now owned by someone new in town (I immediately thought Fisk) and that they don’t want the money but they need a favor from someone in “his position.”
We find out that the guy from the park is actually a guard at the jail and he makes an attempt on Page’s life. She manages to fight back and get away from him. This leads to Murdoch and Nelson getting her out of jail. Murdoch knows she’s hiding something and asks her for all the details. She explains that she was sent a file meant for her boss that was supposedly the pensions, but was obviously some sort of money laundering or embezzlement. She has nowhere to go so, of course, she crashed with Murdoch.
Back in his apartment we get not one, but several reminders that he is still blind–he has no lights on because he doesn’t need them AND there is a giant digital billboard outside his living room window that doesn’t bother him because he can’t see it. So he offers her his bed and sleeps on the couch. This is also where we get a little bit of nudity when Page changes out of her wet shirt and into a dry one Murdoch gives her. Of course she does it right in front of him because, yes, he’s blind.
They sit on the couch and talk. He confesses that he’d give anything to see the sky one more time. He then asks if there is something she has that the killers might want. He thinks that is why they tried to frame her versus killing her. She says she does not, but he can hear her elevated heart beat and knows she’s lying, though he doesn’t admit to it.
We then get introduced to the crime bosses. They are meeting in a Union Allied Construction building. There is the Japanese guy, Nobu, the Chinese lady, Madame Gao, the two Russian guys, Vladimir and Anatoly, and the American guy, Owlsley–very diverse group even if a little stereotypical. The man in the suit shows up and says that the boss, he whose name shall not be spoken, can’t attend. He informs the Russians that they need to take care of the vigilante who made them short on their delivery of women and that he is handling the Union Allied issue.
As expected, Page “sneaks” out of Murdoch’s apartment and returns to her own. She grabs a thumb drive from a hiding place and is attacked by a guy with a knife. Murdoch shows up in his mask. He followed her, of course, and stops the killing. There is a very lengthy, well-choreographed fight between the two. This is obviously a tough fight for Murdoch. At one point they go through the window and Murdoch has a flashback of his father before getting up and finishing off the killer.
Murdoch pulls the thumb drive from the killer and Page tells him not to trust anybody and not take it to the police. He delivers the drive and the unconscious killer to the local newspaper and the scandal appears all over the next morning’s paper.
Page cooks Murdoch and Nelson a meal as repayment for their services. She tells them its her grandmother’s recipe that she was supposed to save and cook for her future husband. Please don’t make this mean she’s going to be a love interest! She thanks them again for saving her, and Murdoch tells her, “It’s easy when your client tells the truth.” To which she replies, “Yeah, but you listened.” Gag! Ok, yes, he has super hearing, I get it! She then offers to work for them for free to repay them and they agree to “hire” her.
The man in the suit is talking to the “Boss”, who is obviously Fisk if you recognize D’Onofrio’s voice. He tells the suit to leave Page alone since she doesn’t know anything that could further hurt them that wasn’t already in the paper. He does want to start a file on her “ambulance chaser” lawyers as they may prove useful in the future. We are then treated to a small montage of how the bad guys tied up all the loose ends and saved themselves and are doing just fine–the guard shot himself with his pistol, the killer hung himself in his cell, the Japanese boss is looking over plans for Hell’s Kitchen, the Chinese boss is overseeing her drug production (staffed by all blind people), and the American boss transferring all of the “pension” funds.
The final scene shows a man getting beat up, and his son kidnapped. Murdoch stands on a rooftop listening to the sounds of the city. He hears the boy cry out for help and pulls down his mask.