With the whole series of Daredevil now available on Netflix, the race is on to reach the ending before someone spoils it for you. But that presents us with a problem. How do we approach reviews? It’s not much use speculating about the future of the series when it’s available at a moment’s notice, but watching the whole thing in one go for a single review is impractical for anyone with a day job and personal relationships to maintain – to say nothing of how difficult it is to critically appraise 12 hours of television if you don’t savour the instalments properly.
That’s why, instead of traditional reviews, we’re trying something new. An episode-by-episode unpicking of the show, looking at its techniques, characters and use of the source material. Call them annotations, call them show notes, call them whatever you like – but hopefully it’ll offer you a kind of Daredevil coverage you can’t get anywhere else. All we ask is that if you’ve seen future episodes that confirm, contradict or otherwise twist things we talk about in this piece, please don’t put spoilers anywhere in the comments!
Fresh from the surprise murder of Wesley, Karen chucks the weapon into the river and tries to get on with her life. Vanessa finally wakes up, just as it becomes clear that Wesley is dead. Foggy and Matt still aren’t talking, but Matt meets Ben Urich to try and get a lead on Fisk’s money, which leads him to Madame Gao’s heroin factory. Foggy asks Marci to look over their Kingpin files, and convinces her to leak them information. Karen convinces Urich to go public with the story they have, but his editor spikes it which leads Ben to accuse him of being in Fisk’s pocket. His editor then fires him, obviously. Matt returns to Gao’s heroin factory and gets into a fight which starts a fire. She escapes, leaving Murdock to save her blind workers on his own, then meets with Owlsley to tell them the gig is up and she’s going back home. Ben speaks to his wife who convinces him to follow his nose on the story. He’s about to type it up on an Internet blog when he realises Fisk is in his apartment. The two argue, and then Fisk STRANGLES him. Is anyone NOT going to die in this show!?
Man, poor Fisk. He might be a barely-restrained psychopath, but how can you not feel bad for him losing his only real friend? The sight of him pulling up a chair next to Wesley’s dead deceased corpse was quite genuinely sad. He’s having a real time of it lately. But nothing that strangling a journalist won’t cure, apparently. Something I really like about D’Onofrio’s performance is that whenever the Kingpin gets his fists out, he gets a big grin on his face. It’s like it’s only time he’s really enjoying himself! It’s good that Vanessa’s awake again, but it turns out his business associates are trying to kill her. It’s a far cry from the days when they were all hanging out together at the top of an unfinished building.
I’m not sure how I felt about the dream sequence of him turning up in Karen’s apartment. Normally they come across as cheap, but in this case it seems like maybe they were deliberately doing it to keep you confused when he actually does turn up in Ben’s apartment later? Or to lead you into thinking Karen was the one in danger?
Again, Urich is no stranger to the Kingpin’s ire. When he investigated the Kingpin in the comics, Fisk sent his top assassin after him and left him for dead. This version of that story goes a lot further than that. I have to admit, I’m disappointed that he’s not going to be around in the rest of the MCU Netflix series, because he’s the sort of Marvel supporting character who traditionally bounces around several different properties and adds texture to the universe.
At the same time, you can see why he had to die in order to balance the scales for the good team after Wesley’s death. They’ve both lost a high-profile ally at the hands of the other side. Still, maybe his nephew Phil can take over? Urich’s death felt pretty well-earned, though. Just as we saw the human cost when Wesley was killed, thanks to a focus on his and Fisk’s relationship immediately before, this episode gives us a tour of everyone who’ll be affected by Urich’s death before it happens. His boss, his wife, his friends. This is going to impact on a surprisingly huge number of people, given that you initially think of him as a supporting character.
One of the things that makes secret identities work in the comics is that you can’t hear characters voices. When you put them on screen, you can either go Christopher Reeves, Christian Bale, or do nothing at all. Daredevil leans towards Christian Bale, but that scene where Ben Urich is talking to Matt in-costume is a bit jarring. He’s got a good view of his face, he can hear his voice. He knows they share an agenda. That’s surely why he’s very pointedly referencing the idea that “no-one would look twice at a blind man” – so we get a hint that Urich might have figured it out. He did in the comics, after all – Daredevil (1963) #164 – but let’s be honest: the point is rendered moot by the end of the episode.
One thing to note about the general production is that by this point, the action sequences have never quite reached the highs of that inventive and emotive hallway battle. They’re more intense and more believable that most of what we see on TV, but they’re still mostly just fights. The parkour sequence in this episode brings one of Daredevil’s strengths to the fore – the acrobatics his heightened balance allows – but it’s not quite as breathtaking as it could’ve been, given how long they held off on showing it. I do love the scene where he literally chucks his cane aside before leaping up a building, though. Again, a classic Daredevil moment, perfectly translated.
Again, this is an episode light on nerdy bits, but: when Madame Gao checks out after her factory is destroyed, she tells Owlsley that her home is “considerably further” than China. Combine that with the symbol on her heroin packets – the logo of the Steel Serpent – and it’s pretty clear that she’s talking about K’un L’un, the mystical city where Iron Fist’s power comes from. Between this and The Hand, it’ll be interesting to see how much crossover we get between the Netflix series prior to Defenders, or whether the idea is that Defenders will pick up these threads. We should be able to figure out more once we get to see AKA Jessica Jones.
So there’s one episode to go. Dare I hope for a little courtroom action? It’s probably unlikely now. Similarly, I’m hoping the costume doesn’t look as bad as it does on the Netflix character poster. And how WILL they find a way to call him Daredevil without making it sound weird? Oh, and I guess we’ll see if they can stop arguing long enough to stop Fisk and stuff too. I have to say, part of me really wants him to get away… but we’ll know soon enough.
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