Daredevil - 1.13 Daredevil

Writer: Steven S. DeKnight
Director: Steven S. DeKnight

It all comes down to one loose end.  Matt races across New York to find Detective Hoffman (Daryl Edwards) before Wilson Fisk does, while Karen wrestles with her most recent past and Foggy attempts to "turn" Marcy in order to bring down his old firm and protect his former flame.

Throughout the course of the season, Daredevil has foregone notions of traditional linear storytelling in favour of the freedom that comes from being able to flash forward and back through the main character’s arc.  Like Breaking Bad before it, and Better Call Saul (also on Netflix), Daredevil uses this freedom expertly but equally as impressive is the knowledge of the showrunners of when not to use it.  Eventually time must “catch-up”, the great leaps forward must shallow and stop, the importance resides in the now.  Over the last few episodes these jumps through temporal space have stopped and as the show ramps up towards the inevitable conclusion the time-hopping has not been wasted.  We not only have a fully fleshed out understanding of our central characters but there is a threat on the table that’s impossible to look away from.

We’ve drawn comparisons to 24 in the past and we’re doing it again.  The 24 season finales were always a work of art.  A masterful display of timing, tension and taut storytelling.  They even had the occasional false wrap-up; Daredevil’s false wrap-up draws parallels to the last few episodes of Day Five and DeKnight not only scripts it superbly but shoots it in such a way that places you inside the SWAT gear, on the bridge as the bottom drops out of the criminal justice system and the true snarling beast inside D’Onofrio’s Kingpin comes out.  For twelve episodes he has worked under the self-delusion that he is the saviour of the city.  The man to bring forth the new Golden Age for Hell’s Kitchen (and eventually all of New York), yet it is in 1.13 that it suddenly dawns on him who he actually is.  Again, there are some lovely nods to Catholicism; to Matt’s faith and the “old ways” that Wilson has such contempt for.

The clue, like many episodes prior, is in the title.  This is the Daredevil episode.  We’ve been teased and promised and now finally we get to lay eyes on the iconic red suit.  Gone is the red leather gimp mode of the 2003 movie (thankfully), gone also is the Double D chest logo –this is still a character in evolution.  He’s still working through his origin story so one shouldn’t worry too much yet; the loyalty shown to core material till now should buy the showrunners the time to introduce the DD in a way that’s natural to the modern realism of the show.  There’s a real practicality to the Melvin Potter made Daredevil suit.  It’s combat ready yet at the same time you can see it doesn’t limit Matt’s agility in it.  Because of this flexibility it has weak spots; areas on his person that are more vulnerable to knife, to gun, to both.  I like this.  He’s not Iron Man, he can still be hurt when he’s in hero mode.  I also really like his cowl.  The horns look great.  They’re incredibly naturalistic on-screen and work well not just as a themed aestethic but also a distraction.  How many villains will be looking at the horns and miss the right hook coming at them?  The facial distortions in the cowl’s mold give Matt a demonic snarl.  At first glance it looks a little like Batman but when you study it closer you can see the Gothic Architecture inspiration in it.  It’s a perfect reference.  Not only does Matt spend a lot of time perched on the upper ledges of buildings but Gargoyles on buildings are a symbol of protection.  Matt wearing an almost Gothic cowl creates a similar connotation for whatever building he is perched on.  He is the city’s protector.

The final fight sequence between the newly escaped Wilson Fisk and the newly attired Daredevil is excellent.  Fisk dominated Matt in 1.09 Speak of the Devil, no small thanks to Nobu for softening Murdock up, but in 1.13 Kingpin stands toe-to-toe with Matt… and he should.  He’s a powerhouse.  Issue #170 sees Fisk living in Japan and training with eight ninjas.  He decimates them empty-handed and without one of them being able to land a single blow on him.  Sure, our Wilson is a lot less concerned with technique but never the less he is an explosively powerful man.  His dominance of Matt in this scene allows the audience to see the defensive capabilities of the suit before we must lapse into genre expectation and pay off the journey with justice.  Though even in justice there are some beautiful ripples in the narrative pond that echo episodes prior.

Overall Daredevil’s maiden season is nothing short of phenomenal.  The story was a carefully plotted, intelligent and a mature piece of crime fiction.  It was The Sopranos with a masked vigilante and each of the performers justified their selection over some of the bigger names that had been kicked about way-back-when the show was first given the green light.  There are a few issues though.  I’m not overly concerned that Season One failed to deliver Matt avenging his father’s death and bringing Sweeney “The Fixer” to justice.  Daredevil doesn’t appear to be a show that’s overly worried in stacking all the characterisation upfront so all we’re left with is exposition.  As a first season, and as part one of five in the delivery of The Defenders, it had a lot to do and no doubt we will get around to Sweeney when it is organic to the story.  There is minor issue with Matt’s lack of bullying.  Perhaps, having placed Wilson in the crosshairs of the bullies in order to tell the story behind Rabbit in a Snow Storm, DeKnight though it was a repetition the show could do without but there was something nice about Matt picking his own name.  With Batman, Spider-Man, even the Fantastic Four you always get the sense that it is the world around them that have christened them.  But having Matt Murdock take the name the local kids used to bully him with and turn it into his alias was a level of empowerment that was inspirational.  It was the single biggest fuck you (extend middle finger) to all of life’s bullies there was.  Having someone in the NY Bulletin newsroom come up with the name takes some of the spite out of him.

The killing of Ben Urich was, and still is, the biggest shock of the season.  DeKnight has torn up the rule book, pee’d on it, slipped it back into the drawer and said “he did it!” while pointing at you.  Not only does it send out a fierce message to the rest of Horn Head’s world that anyone could be next (especially when Bullseye arrives) but it also sets a pretty high bar for Aka Jessica Jones (up next on Netflix).  Prior to Vondie Curtis-Hall’s untimely exit, it was assumed he would have a sizeable part to play in her thirteen episode show… alas not.  The biggest issue, and indeed the weakest link, of the series was Claire Temple.  I was genuinely excited when I saw that Rosario Dawson would have a key part to play in Daredevil but unfortunately that never really panned out.  Yes, I know she’s most likely going to have a lot more to do in Luke Cage than she did here and she was probably used as a thread to connect the shows together so their combining for The Defenders appears a bit more seemless but there was very little for her to do and it was extremely noticeable.

As a Daredevil fan I’ve been eying this show for close to ten months and on the eve of April 10th I had to have a serious talk with myself about managing my expectations or face another disappointment, but I need not have worried.  Since his creation, Daredevil has been instrumental for some of the biggest comic trends yet has always been sat at the table by the toilets.  It was the threat of missing a publication deadline for Daredevil that caused Stan Lee to pull together a quick book and toss it out in his place; that book was The Avengers.  It was Daredevil’s origin story that was key to the biggest selling toy and comic book craze of the eighties-early nineties in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles yet it took him forty years to get his own movie and even then it was quickly tossed aside and criticised to an extent that he became commercially toxic for a decade outside of comic book stores.  Now finally we have a Horn Head we can watch with pride.  April 10th not only saw many hours of DD on my TV screen but my Twitter and Instagram accounts light up with OMGs surrounded the offices of Nelson & Murdock; some from DD fans I knew of, some from closet fans but many from the newly initiated.

For years now Marvel have ruled the cinema screen, racking up hit after hit while DC desperately tries to get its house in order.  Their first venture into television in recent years, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, was met with sniggers from just about everyone but the Marvel die-hards and it should be sniggered at… it’s dire.  Beyond dire.  This has allowed for DC fans to claim the Kingdom of Television for themselves but that’s simply not true.  Arrow, The Flash, Gotham, these are little more than variations of bad melodrama with masks and capes.  It’s popcorn television that doesn’t really need to be watched with both eyes as there isn’t really anything close to an intelligent story taking place.  In one swipe of his Billy Club, Daredevil has won the first real battle of the Marvel v. DC TV war and with Season Two set up perfectly for the arrival of The Hand, Bullseye and the evolution of The Gladiator, it’s difficult to see where DC is going to win one back.  Alongside Better Call Saul, Daredevil is the best new show of the year.  Enjoy Horn Heads!

Interesting fact!
Angie Bowie (ex-wife of David) once owned the rights to Daredevil and had got as far as conceptual costumes for a TV series.  Here's a pic of her as Black Widow and Ben Carruthers as Daredevil... and yes, that is spandex and face-paint!


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