Daredevil episode 10 viewing notes: Nelson V. Murdock

The speed at which Daredevil has us emotionally invested in its characters is a lesson to other superhero TV shows...

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!

Episode Recap

After discovering Matt’s secret identity, Foggy angrily interrogates Matt about his abilities, morality and all the times Matt deceived him throughout their friendship. Matt tries to defend his actions while slowly recovering from his wounds. Meanwhile, Urich visits his ill wife and decides that he’s ready to quit the investigation. Karen takes him to a nursing home under false pretences where they meet Fisk’s unexpectedly-alive mother, who reveals that Fisk killed his father when he was 12. Earlier in the episode Fisk speaks with Gao, who warns him that Vanessa is a distraction. At the end of the episode he holds a fundraising party for his public philanthropy but Vanessa and several other guests collapse after drinking poisoned champagne.

Episode Notes

I love all the flashback stuff in this episode. Even if it does resort to putting a hilariously bad wig on characters to make them look younger. I don’t care what wig you put on Elden Henson, he’s almost 40, he can’t pass for early 20s! Still, I’m willing to suspend disbelief because I love the exploration of the Foggy/Matt friendship. Sometimes shows like this get so wrapped up in the drama between characters that you forget they’re ever supposed to be friends. The scenes of Matt & Foggy hanging out and having stupid conversations cement that relationship in just the right way for us to care that it’s unravelling.

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In the comics, Foggy finds out Murdock’s identity in a similar manner to this (finding him passed out while in costume) but under different circumstances – not least that Matt was drunk, not injured. It also doesn’t happen until Daredevil (1963) #347, some 30 years into the publication of the comics.

There’s also a throwaway reference during one of the flashbacks to Matt taking Spanish because of a Greek girl. This, as any comic fan will have guessed, is Elektra. In the comics Elektra and Matt befriended one another while at college, only to meet again on opposite sides of the Kingpin’s employ. She also trained under Stick, but her lust for vengeance over her murdered father was so strong that Stick prevented her from joining The Chaste, and she eventually ended up in the employ of The Hand. Matt & Elektra’s college years are covered in Frank Miller’s definitive Daredevil origin, The Man Without Fear, and Elektra first appeared in Daredevil (1963) #168.

I also really like how Foggy undercuts Matt’s cool exterior in only the way a good friend can. As well as hand-waving away the poetic “world on fire” explanation for his “sight” which enchanted Claire a few episodes back, he also points out that Matt’s origin is just the plot to Kung Fu.

Speaking of Claire, it’s really odd that she made an off-camera appearance to stitch up Matt’s wounds. I guess they just wanted to get the threat to Matt’s life out of the way so that they could focus on Foggy and Matt’s relationship, but given the way Claire and Matt left things last time we saw them together it feels like her returning to help him should’ve been a bigger moment for them both.

A flashback to Nelson & Murdock’s time interning at Zackman & Land contains a brief reference to Roxxon, who are famous in the Marvel Universe for being an unscrupulous oil company (though one which is not in any way related to Exxon in the real world). Roxxon references have turned up in all three Iron Man films and all three Marvel TV series so far, so that’s a pretty strong (and yet completely organic) tie to the MCU. In the comics, Roxxon first appeared in Captain America (1968) #180.

There are also a few other throwaway comics references: Randolph Cherryh, here a senator, was a corrupt politician who appeared (where else?) in Frank Miller’s Daredevil run, specifically Daredevil (1963) #177-180.  He ran for Mayor (and won) but the Kingpin made him concede by threatening Cherryh’s wife. Owlsley mentions “Van Lunt” as a guy who’s obsessed with Astrology. In the comics, Cornelius Van Lunt is the nut who formed the Zodiac Cartel of supervillains, taking on the identity of Taurus. He first appears in Avengers (1963) #72. Owlsley also mentions “Richmond” which might be Kyle Richmond (Nighthawk) who was exactly the kind of millionaire who’d have attended this sort of benefit before he became a superhero. He first appeared in Avengers (1963) #72 and later joined the Defenders. Is that foreshadowing for the series Netflix is working towards? Let’s just say I’d be surprised if it was.

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Anyway, nerdy bits aside this was probably my favourite episode yet. It’s hard not to feel bad for Foggy, but seeing him throw the Nelson & Murdock sign in the bin is borderline heartbreaking. Likewise, when Vanessa is poisoned, we feel the Kingpin’s pain because that relationship has already become so integral to the show. You have a respect a show that can get you to that place with its lead characters after just 10 episodes. Certain other Marvel shows were still treading water at this point in their run, but Daredevil is providing huge, emotionally-invested plot developments. There’s a lesson here.

Read James’ viewing notes on the previous episode, Speak Of The Devil, here.

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