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!
When Daredevil is found beaten and left for dead in a dumpster, he’s taken to Claire Temple, a nurse living in a nearby apartment block who helps patch him up. He barely survived an encounter with the Russian mob after they kidnapped a child as part of a sting on the vigilante who’s been giving them so much trouble. After capturing one of the gangsters as he searches the apartment building, Murdock tortures him for information. Despite being injured, Daredevil manages to take out the entire Russian gang and rescue the boy. Through the episode, we see further flashbacks to Murdock’s childhood, including the moment where his father was killed for refusing to take a dive in a boxing match, leaving his sizeable winnings to his boy. And meanwhile, Foggy and Karen hit the town together as he tries to help her get over the trauma of being targeted for death.
You’ll know when people get to this episode on Twitter/Facebook/etc, because they’ll all start talking about how great that corridor fight scene was. Stephen DeKnight, the showrunner for Daredevil, was previously a producer on the Spartacus series for Starz, which had some of the best fights on TV, so it’s not that much of a stretch to imagine that he’s the one who brought this to the screen.
It’s great because it’s as much acting as fighting. You can feel the exhaustion and weight in every punch Matt throws, while the choreography is so perfect that it looks like improvisation. I’m confident in calling it the best fight scene that the MCU has ever done, and that includes everything in the cinematic outings. It’s a world away from the balletic, meaningless fight scenes we normally see, and the fact that it’s all done in one shot means there are no directorial tricks to keep it flowing and no chance of getting confused about what you’re seeing. Genuinely astonishing work.
Now, as for the rest of the episode, even that had some interesting techniques in. Daredevil seems to be making the most of its Netflix format by putting stuff on TV that wouldn’t otherwise make it up there. The initial scene between Matt and Claire lasts for ages with the pair just talking, allowing them to develop a strong yet organic rapport, while the flashback components are long and presented out of chronological order.
You can imagine someone getting worried that it’s too complicated or slow for TV, but on Netflix they’re allowing the creative decisions to take precedence over perceived audience needs. And why not? It’s not as if you have to try and hold someone’s attention after they’ve changed channels. If you’re watching Daredevil on Netflix, you already had to choose to do it, so you’re less likely to go and look for something else.
This episode had one new character: Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple. In the comics, Claire Temple is a nurse (later a Doctor) and the ex-wife of Bill Foster, aka the size-changing hero, Goliath. But in this series it seems she’s also been mashed-up with the character of Night Nurse (First appearance: 1961’s Linda Carter, Student Nurse #1) who was initially introduced in romance comics but reappeared 30 years after her last appearance in Daredevil (1998) #58, running a secret clinic where superheroes could go get themselves patched up. If you’re wondering why they changed the character’s name, it’s probably because Night Nurse’s original name was, er, Linda Carter, but it’s notable that Claire was briefly a romantic interest of Luke Cage. Given that he’s coming up in his own Netflix series, there might be something in that.
Speaking of name-changes, it’s probably just a throwaway joke rather than the start of any serious, but because Daredevil won’t tell Claire his name while she’s fixing him up, she takes to calling him “Mike” after an old boyfriend. “Mike Murdock” is an alias sometimes used by Daredevil in his guise as his own twin brother (who isn’t blind!) and who originally appeared in Daredevil (1963) #25.
One of the mobsters who threatens Matt’s father during the flashback is called “Silke”. I’m fairly sure that means he’s named for, maybe even related to Sammy Silke Jr. In the comics, Silke Jr. is a mobster who was a contemporary of the Kingpin’s son. Famously, he’s the guy who goes to the FBI and sells out Daredevil’s secret identity during Brian Bendis’ run. You can see his first appearance (and the start of that story) in Daredevil (1998) #26, which is collected in the graphic novel Underboss. (It’s really good.)
Sweeney, meanwhile, is Roscoe Sweeney, aka The Fixer. As in the TV series, he’s the guy who signed up Matt’s father to throw his fight, then had him killed when he didn’t co-operate. I don’t know if he’ll turn up in this series again, but historically he doesn’t escape justice, let’s put it that way. It’s interesting that we didn’t actually see Jack Murdock’s fight against Crusher Creel. That leaves it open to still be the same guy from Agents Of SHIELD, at least for now. Though if that was the intention, it would’ve been nice to see the (younger) MCU version of him in the ring.
The dive bar Foggy and Karen end up in is Josie’s, which has been turning up in Daredevil (and other Marvel books) for decades. It first appeared in Daredevil (1963) #160 and famously has only one rule: take the violence outside.
This is sort of out there but the doctor-patching-up-a-superhero parts of this episode reminded me of an old X-Men comic, in which one of the team’s new recruits, a doctor named Cecilia Reyes, spends a day working in the hospital and gets visited by Matt Murdock. Uncanny X-Men (1963) #351, if you feel like checking it out.
And finally, just in case (like me) you didn’t know what the title of the episode meant already, a Cut Man is apparently the person who treats boxer’s wounds in-between rounds. Makes sense.
Read James’ viewing notes for episode 1, Into The Ring, here.
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