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!
Matt and Karen attend Urich’s funeral, and both are annoyed at Foggy for not turning up. Fisk learns from Owlsley that he and Gao were trying to kill Vanessa and Owlsley explains that he’s taking half the money and cashing out. The Kingpin threatens to kill him when Owlsley explains he’s got an insurance policy: Detective Hoffman, the Kingpin’s crooked cop who’ll hand himself in if Owlsley doesn’t check in. The Kingpin decides to risk it and throws Owlsley down a lift shaft, then organises a citywide hunt for Hoffman. Foggy and Matt reconcile, and they discover that Hoffman is alive and set out to find him before Fisk. They succeed and Fisk is arrested, but he escapes custody because he owns many of the police and federal agents. Matt dons his new armoured costume and beats Fisk to a standstill before handing him in to one of the (honest) cops. Fisk goes to jail, Vanessa leaves the city without him, and Matt, Foggy and Karen celebrate their victory as the papers hail “Daredevil” for stopping Fisk.
Well, that was about as big an ending as we could’ve realistically hoped for. I wouldn’t say it was perfect, and certainly part of me thinks that the fall of the Kingpin was a little too easy given that the confession mostly came from one guy who was essentially acting under duress. My only major complaint is that it didn’t really bring together the legal and vigilante sides of Daredevil. I’d have liked to have seen a court case at the heart of this, rather than just a lot of vague research in an office. But it was emotionally satisfying, and that makes it good enough. Seeing Foggy forgive Matt and the friends reunite was what I really wanted out of this episode. Everything else was a bonus.
I do feel like Ben’s funeral happened surprisingly quickly, not just because it was attached to an obvious murder, but because the morgues must be positively backed up at the moment with all the killing that’s been going on. I mean, seriously. How many weeks must’ve passed between this episode and the last one?
I also wonder if the moment which brought Fisk down should’ve been related to his murder of Ben more than an attempt to frame Daredevil from about half a series ago. Killing Ben in his own apartment was an act of rage-filled hubris which is something the Kingpin’s allies constantly try to keep in check. With them targeted, it makes sense that he’d go off the rails, and maybe that’s what should’ve been his downfall. Not that he got outmanoeuvred by one of his rivals and Nelson & Murdock were able to jump on it – that they made him angry enough to drop his façade and make a mistake.
Still, those are all minor nitpicks in the story. A lot of this episode was great. The scene with the FBI moving in on Fisk’s accomplices under the operatic Nessun Dorma soundtrack was fantastic (Turk, especially. That’s way above his pay grade) and I loved Fisk’s fumbled attempt to propose to Vanessa as he was being arrested. The moment where he turns out to have even members of the FBI in his pocket was unexpected in a good way, and while I hate to see Owlsley go, his last scene was fantastic. I was genuinely hoping he’d get away with Fisk’s money.
Speaking of Vanessa, I’m glad she got away clean. It’s clear from that last moment that she’s not blaming Fisk for failing to make it to the helicopter. It’s almost chilling how quickly she went from being intrigued by Fisk’s evil, to encouraging it, to adopting it herself.
The only real misstep this series has made is unfortunately featured prominently in this episode. When Matt goes after Fisk, he does it in his new costume which he collects from Melvin Potter. And to be completely honest, it looks terrible. It looks some someone doing Nolan Batman Cosplay, and badly.
Fundamentally, Daredevil is a character whose strengths are his stealth, acrobatic flexibility and ninja-like reflexes. I can buy a Matt Murdock who’s new enough at this gig that he can’t escape every fight unscathed. But I can’t buy a Matt Murdock who responds to that by starting to wear a metal helmet out every night. I mean, I get it. They’re aiming for realism, and in reality if you were going to be a superhero this is what you’d wear. But then he fights the Kingpin and when he gets hit he’s got sparks flying off him like a Power Ranger.
I should point out I’m not just nitpicking because it’s not exactly like the comics. I think it’s so bad a costume that it actively robs the ending of this series of some of its gravitas. The Dread Pirate Roberts look was elegant in its simplicity. This new look is the opposite of that. Considering how good the MCU normally is with its costumes there’s no question that this is what they were aiming for, but I think it’s a misstep and hope they change it for season 2.
But in general, I’m happy with the conclusion. They clearly were hoping for another season because they left a few things dangling (like Karen’s murder of Wesley and all the stuff about her past) but it would’ve also worked as a self-contained one-off too. The end was definitely weaker than the beginning, but that’s only in relative terms – it was strong all the way through. If this is how good all of Marvel’s Netflix shows are going to be, we’re in for an exciting couple of years.
Oh, and there’s one last easter egg to note. Stilt-Man’s extending legs are visible in Potter’s workshop. Now there’s something for the series 2 wishlist.
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