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 resists arrest by the police, who are quickly revealed to be in Fisk’s pocket. They try to kill Vladimir, but the shooting only wounds him. Matt manages to escape, taking Vladimir with him in the hope that he can get more information about Fisk, and the two hide out in a condemned building. Meanwhile, Ben Urich realises that the explosions are in mob territory and turns up at the scene looking for information. With Claire’s phoned-in help Matt stabilises Vladimir and convinces him that he didn’t kill his brother, but fails to make much headway until Fisk talks to Murdock over the radio and confirms that he was the one who sold out the Russians. Fisk gets his network to tip off the media about the ongoing siege, then orders the murder of several cops in front of them. The police move into the building but Matt escapes underground with Vladimir’s help. Unfortunately, Vladimir can’t hold out any longer. He gives up Leland Owlsley’s name and then stays behind to meet his death on his feet while Matt escapes. Afterwards, we see that Fisk has used footage of Matt fighting cops to frame him for the murder and bombings.
Well, I didn’t think he’d go quietly, and it’s safe to say this was about as noisy an escape as Matt could’ve made. Although most of the episode had Matt trapped inside a building, there were lots of great moments to be found. Especially the bit where Matt and Fisk finally get to talk. Absolutely brilliant stuff. Though I also enjoyed Fisk’s disappointment that he had let Madame Gao down by failing to wrap the situation up neatly. It seemed like a genuine, relatable reaction to what’s kind of an abstract situation for most of us (I imagine).
I also liked that we got to see Claire doing her thing without Matt for the first time. It helps round out her character. The chance meeting of Claire, Foggy and Karen might seem overly-coincidental, but I quite liked it. Daredevil works best when Hell’s Kitchen seems like a fairly closed community, and moments like help keep it small as well as illustrate how many lives Matt’s work touches.
A lot of this episode relied on the police being in Fisk’s pocket, and while it’s possibly a bit of a stretch this early in his career, it’s not that unusual in the context of the character. Positioning the police as corrupt is probably the smartest way of making it clear that Matt’s the only guy who can stop Fisk, but it does raise the issue of how he expects to bring him to justice when there’s a firewall of Fisk’s payrolled murderers between the civilians and the judiciary. Valdimir tells Matt he’ll have to kill Fisk to stop him, and at this point it seems like he’s correct. Short of bussing in Tony Stark, who is there that’s powerful (or brave) enough to take Fisk in even if Matt gift-wraps him?
Of course, the thing about the Kingpin in the comics is that even if you get him in jail, he’s powerful enough to get himself out. That’s sort of the core antagonism between him and Daredevil. Like Batman with the Joker, the character’s philosophies keep their conflict going. It’s a superhero catch-22 designed to keep the story engine running, but that doesn’t lend itself well to closed narratives, so adaptations have to take a different route. I’m interested to see how this series handles it.
I don’t know if this is an easter egg or a surprise appearance coming up, so take all of this with several grains of salt, but the sniper who executes several police officers to frame Matt? There’s a very strong chance that’s Bullseye, Daredevil’s arch-nemesis who you’ll probably remember was played by Colin Farrell in the 2003 film. The thing is, Bullseye hasn’t been announced for this series and he’s a big enough character that they’re not likely to keep his presence under wraps, so I don’t think he’s going to show up properly.
However, there’s one thing that tips it from “probably” Bullseye into “almost certainly” Bullseye, and that the presence of a playing card in his rifle bag, as you can see in our heavily enhanced screenshot (above). Bullseye likes showing people how deadly he is by using unlikely objects as weapons (paperclips, toothpicks, his own teeth…) but playing cards are one of his signatures. This may be expanded upon in future episodes, but my gut feeling is that the reason we don’t see the sniper’s face is so that they’ve got the continuity wiggle room to say it was him once he’s cast in a possible future series. If you want to read up, Bullseye first appeared in Daredevil (1963) #131, by Marv Wolfman and John Romita Sr. And he shows up in the Marvel Universe a lot, but especially in Frank Miller’s run.
The only thing about this episode that really doesn’t work for me is the idea that the Kingpin has framed someone who has no public identity. The costume which could have anyone underneath, and besides which it’s non-essential to Matt’s operation. Maybe it’ll provide the impetus for Matt to get himself a proper outfit and a more obviously superheroic identity that’s harder to tarnish, but at this point it’s not hard for the Hell’s Kitchen vigilante to just disappear. Most people probably don’t even know he exists!
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