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!
The episode opens in Japan, with Stick fighting a man while asking after the Black Sky. He learns it’s heading to New York. Karen brushes off Foggy and meets Urich, who advises her to connect Union Allied with the people who smashed up the apartment blocks. In costume, Matt tries to apprehend Owlsley, but he’s distracted and tazed when Stick arrives. Owsley escapes. The episode begins to flash back, showing Stick meeting the newly-orphaned Matt and training him in the use of his new powers. In Matt’s apartment, Stick warns him that a dangerous weapon is coming to New York and convinces him to help him disable it, but Matt insists they don’t kill anyone. Meanwhile, Karen is immediately attacked by the people she’s looking for (convenient!) and Foggy intervenes after following her. She takes him to Urich, and they keep piecing together the puzzle. At the docks, Matt discovers that the weapon is a child. He stops Stick from killing him and defeats the remaining Yakuza, only to learn that Stick finished the job anyway. Back at Matt’s apartment he finds Stick and the two work out their issues the way superheroes do: fighting as a metaphor. Before he leaves, Stick gives him his weapons for the fight ahead and in a coda scene, tells one of his allies that he doesn’t know if Matt will be ready when “the door opens”.
I have to admit that of all the episodes in the series, this is the one I was looking forward to. I love Stick and the mythology he brings with him, and I was hoping the Netflix series would get into that in a way that the 2003 movie didn’t. I was not disappointed.
In all fairness to the movie, Stick and the baggage he brings with him are completely unnecessary additions to the character. They dilute the premise and confuse what is an otherwise straightforward idea. Lawyer-by-day, vigilante-by-night, and also a warrior in an eternal struggle between the ninja forces of good and evil. But I can’t help loving it all. The funny thing about Stick is that even though he’s a complete bastard to Matt throughout this episode, they actually toned down his character significantly. This TV show is the last place I’d have expected to see a cuddly version of Stick, but here we are.
Given Stick’s connection to Elektra (in the comics, he also trained her) I fully expect all of this to come up in a future season of Daredevil, so I’m not going to spoil it all in too much detail here. Essentially, he’s part of a good Ninja cult called The Chaste and they’re locked in a centuries-old battle with an evil Ninja cult called The Hand. Matt was identified as a recruit, but as in this episode, he was ultimately judged unsuitable for recruitment (as was Elektra).
Concurrent with that storyline, the Black Sky isn’t an existing Marvel character (and he’s dead now) but the semi-mystical nature of the boy implies that Nobu the Yakuza boss is connected to The Hand, which would explain why Stick wanted to intervene. I half-wonder whether the Hand are going to end up being the main villains of the Netflix miniseries. Certainly, they’re street-level enough to work in this world, but also threatening enough to require an organised effort. It might just be setup for a future Daredevil series, but it could be something more.
Anyway, if you want to find out more about Stick, he first appears in Daredevil (1963) #176. The guy he was talking to at the end of the episode is almost certainly Stone, who first appeared in Daredevil (1963) #187. Both of these guys appear in the 2005 Elektra movie, but don’t let that encourage you to watch it in any way.
Oh, one last point: Stick’s advice that Matt “cut it loose – all of it” (meaning his friends, family, job, etc.) is something Matt actually tries in the storyline Fall From Grace (beginning in Daredevil (1963) #319) in which he fakes his own death for an extended period.
You might have already noticed that the orphanage young Matt goes to is St. Agnes, which is where Skye (from Agents Of SHIELD) grew up. Probably not at the same time. Again, the series keeps dropping hints about Matt’s mother so it seems like they’re getting to a story there at some point, but you know the priest who was trying to talk to Matt? It’s very likely he has something to say on the subject. If you can’t wait for the TV series to get to it, go and read Daredevil (1963) #229 and then Daredevil (1998) #4.
I found Ben Urich’s line “in my experience, there are no heroes” to be unintentionally funny (at least, I think it was unintentional). Again, I appreciate that it’s tough to balance the verisimilitude of the setting with the continuity of shared universes and stuff, but mate. You literally live in a city where super-powered individuals saved the world from an invading alien army. NO heroes? How cynical can one man be? (This is the sort of thing I’m talking about when I was saying how it’d be better if Daredevil just didn’t mention characters like Thor and stuff. If the series had explicitly walled itself off from the Avengers, this line might’ve seemed a lot less dumb.)
Lastly, I just want to make the point: Skylar Gaertner, who plays young Matt is fantastic. Almost as perfect a translation of the character as Charlie Cox is for the adult Matt. It’s making the scenes of his origin work so much better than they might have!
Read James’ viewing notes for episode 6, Condemned, here.
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