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!
In a bowling alley, a man (Healy) attempts to join a private game after hours. When he’s rejected, he threatens the player with a gun, which jams, before beating him to death following a brief altercation. He then hides the gun and surrenders to the police. The following day, Wesley comes to Nelson & Murdock to put them on retainer in return for defending one of his company’s clients: Healy. They reluctantly take the case and realise quickly that the Healy’s a contract killer, but hope defending him will lead them to his mysterious employer. Although Healy gets off, Matt beats Fisk’s name out of him, at which point he commits suicide rather than let the Kingpin make an example of him and his family. Meanwhile, Karen is offered money to sign an NDA about her experiences with Union-Allied, and reporter Ben Urich debuts digging into the same story.
Played here by Vondie Curtis-Hall, Ben Urich is an investigative reporter with a long history in the comics. He normally works at the Daily Bugle, but for rights reasons that’s not the case here. To be fair it probably works a little better for Urich to be working for a smaller paper that can tackle the kind of stories he’s going for while remaining under the radar. The New York Bulletin is a genuine Marvel newspaper, though it’s surprising that they didn’t go for the Bugle’s famous rival, the Daily Globe.
Urich himself first appeared in Daredevil (1963) #158, and also appeared in the 2003 movie played by Joe Pantoliano. In the comics, Urich is a pretty big character. He was one of the few people who knew both Spider-Man and Daredevil’s secret identities (though he sat on the stories to protect them) and he got the Norman Osborn jailed after proving that he was the Goblin and exposing him for murder.
There are a couple of nice MCU nods on the wall of Urich’s office. You can see one framed front page referencing “the Battle of New York” (which how the MCU refers to what we call “the third act of Avengers“) and one saying “Harlem Terror” with a blurry picture of the Hulk referencing, of course, The Incredible Hulk.
Urich’s conversation with an ex-mob boss is a great scene in its own right, but it also references what I talked about from episode one: the Kingpin has made a play for Rigoletto’s territory and he’s using that to build his own empire. The old guard are more than happy to let him have it, given the lack of ethics in modern organised crime. This establishes that he’s still quite early in his career, and maybe not even “The Kingpin” yet, even if he’s already quite rich and powerful. Actually, the prospect of seeing that rise excites me. We’ve seen Daredevil’s origin a lot, but it’s rare we get to see Fisk’s in any material way.
Away from Urich, this episode gets Nelson & Murdock back into the courtroom, which is great to see. Personally, I think Daredevil (the comic) is at its best when it combines courtroom drama with Matt’s in-costume antics, and I especially like it when you get to see Foggy being a badass lawyer in his own right instead of the sidekick. Having Murdock use his enhanced senses to detect tampering with the jury the fix it outside the confines of the law was a classic Daredevil moment.
This episode also gives us our first glimpse of Fisk himself. Vincent D’Onofrio is instantly great. Knowing that the woman he’s discussing the painting with is called Vanessa, I have a strong feeling I know where it’s going, but this is one of those plot points where I’ll reveal the comics stuff at the appropriate hour rather than risk spoiling it in advance.
Finally, this episode really ramps up the violence. The eye-gouging torture from episode 2 was mostly implied and therefore not very upsetting, and other than that it’s been quite bloodless. Episode 3 does not take that route. As well as seeing an arm shattered with the bone exposed, we get the full gory sight of Healy headbutting a metal spike rather than let the Kingpin come for him.
I’ll be honest, I think it’s probably a bit much. Not enough to put me off, but enough to make me wonder whether it’s just in there for shock value. They’ve already hammered home that Matt can’t take a beating like Captain America, and we know this is a world where people don’t necessary stay down the first time you land a good punch on them. Is the extra step of such graphic violence achieving anything? Or is it just appealing to the sort of people who can’t understand why Batman doesn’t just kill the Joker? I’m interested in hearing opinions on this specifically.
But other than that, another great episode. At this point Daredevil has definitely surpassed Agent Carter as my favourite part of the MCU’s TV division, although it’s not like competition was particularly strong from anything else. I know there’s a segment of Agents Of SHIELD fandom that thinks the show would be much better if it could be more violent, but in truth, I think that’s barking up the wrong tree. If you cut the heavy violence out of Daredevil it’d still be considerably better than AOS.
Read James’ viewing notes for episode 2, Cut Man, here.
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