Writer: Drew Goddard
Director: Phil Abraham
The borough of New York known as Hell’s Kitchen was given something of a makeover during the City restoration period under Mayor Giuliani. Claimed as Clinton, or Midtown West to some of those living around the parameter but to others it will always be Hell’s Kitchen. New York, as a whole, is in the middle of a mass rebuilding having seen the skies open and hordes of alien invaders (led by Loki) level a vast amount of the city-scape.
It is this post-Avengers New York City that we are introduced to. Leland Owlsley (Bob Gunton) alongside a multi-national conglomerate of shady individuals have been making millions, upon millions from the rebuilding process which has seen a man, whose name we do not say, rise to the position of Kingpin of New York; but things are changing. The exposure The Avengers have gotten through the Worldwide media has also created an atmosphere for change. Enter a man without fear; blind attorney Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) by day, heroic daredevil by night.
Joe Carnahan (Narc) had plans for a period Daredevil series while the rights were still with Fox. A 1970’s Horn Head would allow for Hell’s Kitchen to be the dangerous, broody city that it once was. The destruction of New York has cracked the gilded façade of Clinton allowing for the dark, noir landscape of Hell’s Kitchen of old to seep through and poison all that opposes it.
The central narrative of Daredevil 1.01 deals with Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) a secretary at Union Construction who has happened upon a scheme to defraud the city of millions. Having woke in her apartment next to a murdered colleague she is quickly arrested; though uncharged. But why? Enter the newly formed legal services of Nelson & Murdock, Attorneys at Law. Goddard’s script is incredibly intelligent. Where Christopher Nolan had cited The Dark Knight as Heat but with superheroes, Daredevil plays like one of John Grisham’s better narratives crossed with Death Wish. There is a level of intrigue, and mystery that is unparalleled in modern TV drama.
Karen Page, as a character, is one that is problematic for many readers of Daredevil comics. During the 60’s-70’s her role was extremely stunted. Central point of a love-triangle between Matt, Foggy and herself. Between the pages she spent a lot of her time trying to convince Matt to visit doctors who could restore his sight –in order for them to be together. A rather superficial characterization that not only undermines her as a character but also Matt and Foggy for liking her. Goddard’s Karen is a “central point” again, though now no longer exclusively as “love interest”. Having been accidentally sent the incriminating document, she is put in a situation that is not of her making. Like many Marvel protagonists before her it is a case of wrong place, wrong time but after coming close to being murdered in her cell, Karen demonstrates a tenacity that was sorely missing in her comic origin. In retaining Nelson & Murdock as her legal representation she bonds them to the core mystery, and in turn Union Construction (who’s bosses are deeply involved in all of the criminality in the city). She also tethers Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall), the man previously responsible for bringing down the Italian Mob, to the core storyline that will run through the season.
Deborah Ann Woll’s portrayal is a well-considered, deeply intelligent one. Her bravery in the face of truly terrifying adversaries is commendable but even more so when you see her quiet, traumatic moments at Matt’s apartment. Woll who cut her teeth (pun only slightly intended) in True Blood is an excellent actress. She’s proven to be able to show strength in vulnerability and in Daredevil, her character is one of intrigue. Not quite a femme fatale (as we know and trust her through previous encounters in comic form), but definitely a complex character. One whose world is thrown into turmoil when her friend is murdered, her career is destroyed, and her life is threatened. Karen’s strong moral core is to Matt, what her looks is to Foggy. It makes her incredibly attractive. Even when she lies to Murdock (which he knows is happening) it is born out of two things. 1. Whether she can trust her new friends and 2. Her desire to not endanger anyone else. It’s a remarkable sacrifice, sacrifice will become a key theme for the entire season. It is this rendering of Karen that doesn't just align her closer to the "model" of women that typically occupy Matt's life but elevates her above the rest, as both Elektra and Black Widow though strong have ambiguous relationships to morality. Perhaps as the season progresses, and the series progresses Matt's idealism (mirrored by Karen) will become tainted and in being so, will be reflected by the individuals surrounding him.
Marvel incarnations throughout the years have been criticised for their tonal lightness. Where DC has the “dark and gritty” mise-en-shot, Marvel’s work has been very candy-coloured and family accessible. This is not the case with Daredevil. It plays like Fight Club meets The Naked Street and is as hard-boiled a noir as anything you’ll ever wise to see. Truly amazing.