TV Review: Daredevil 1×01 “Into the Ring”

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(Editor’s note: For all of Netflix and Marvel’s Daredevil series, William will be joined by writer Liz Belsky as they review the show. We’ll be reviewing the episodes over the next couple of days, primarily in groups of two or three, except for the premiere and the finale which will be their own reviews).

William: Liz, Marvel’s Daredevil comes with a bevy of expectations. It’s the first on several planned series leading up to an Avengers-style crossover with other street level characters, it’s Marvel’s first real attempt at doing a story with decidedly darker material. And, for a lot of film and comic book fans, it has to be better than the Affleck film.

I think we’re covered on that last point.

Daredevil comes out swinging with a pilot that shows Marvel is ready to face all of these things head on and excel at them as only they can. But what did you think Liz? Are you as impressed with what Marvel has assembled?

Liz: Let me preface this by saying that I never watched the Affleck film. I am almost completely ignorant to the Daredevil mythos, and knew only the basics going in, which is that he’s blind and somehow in charge of protecting Hell’s Kitchen, which this show delightfully treats like it’s a real neighborhood instead of just a collection of gourmet cookie shops and bistros advertising after-theatre dinner specials. Like, please, Daredevil, save me from the vicious stares of the mean girls and boys loitering outside the Broadway Dance Center! That’s the real injustice here!

So, as someone coming at this from an admittedly #FakeGeekGirl point of view – holy crap, I loved this pilot. He’s blind! He’s Irish Catholic! He’s… a lawyer with a wacky best friend? I LOVE IT! LET’S DO THIS!

William: I know that the Hell’s Kitchen of NYC current is exactly how you just described it, but the creative team has brilliantly (and logically) used the Battle for New York as a seeding ground to return us to the grimey Hell’s Kitchen that’s dominated the comics for so long.

There’s some parts of Matt’s origin story that I imagine we’ll continue to see throughout the series, but the pilot covers a lot of good ground. Knowing the basics then, how do you feel the pilot stacks up? 

Liz: Structurally, it’s pretty sound. Most shows dilly-dally around giving you the hero’s tragic backstory, but thirty seconds in we have the Matt Murdock Origin: little kid, knocked on the pavement, soaked in chemicals and going cinematically blind; his dad’s some kind of prizefighter mixed up with the mob. In the present day, Matt’s a lawyer representing underdogs with his goofy partner (we know he’s goofy because his name is Foggy Nelson, which sounds like a mixed drink you’d order on the Staten Island Ferry); by night, he’s a masked vigilante cleaning up the streets on his own terms. Do I have that right?

William: Pretty much. Daredevil’s origin is fairly simple compared to some of the other Heroes, but more than most Marvel characters, NYC is just as much of a character to a good Daredevil story as Murdock is.

The plot is pretty straight forward as we see Matt and Foggy as first time lawyers who are just getting started, much like Daredevil himself. Getting to see that growth does take us back to the origin story that Marvel is rumored to be moving away from going into Phase 3, but it makes sense for this particular story. “Into the Ring” unfolds very much like a legal thriller, especially once Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen Page gets involved. 

Speaking of actors themselves, I really like Charlie Cox. I’d been pretty unfamiliar with his work, but the drive and fearlessness he’s bringing to Matt is just the way it’s been for so long in the comics. I also like we see Matt do pretty well against the thugs, but he’s definitely still learning and he’s still very much a human who doesn’t have a suit of armor or a super solider formula to make himself powerful. Woll is another standout, she was always my favorite part of True Blood and she’s getting some good material to work with here as well. 

What specific bits stood out to you? Is the character of Matt himself enough to keep you hooked? Or are you in for some other reason? 

Liz: So basically, what I’m getting from the pilot is that it’s about corruption as much as heroism. When buildings get smashed up, someone’s gotta rebuild ’em, and that’s where shady fixers like Bob Gunton’s Leland Owlsley – working at the behest of crime lords like Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk (heard but not seen) – come in. And somewhere in between Tony Stark and the mob are people like Matt Murdock (and Jessica Jones, and all the other street-level Marvel crime fighters we’re eventually going to meet through Netflix), who combat the grift and corruption on their own terms.

I’ll tell you what stood out to me: Charlie Cox wailing on that punching bag (shades of Steve Rogers, someone fetch my smelling salts), and all those fantastic fight scenes! They’re impeccably choreographed and satisfyingly gory. Deborah Ann Woll gives quality eye gouge. I’m also intrigued by Toby Leonard Moore as Wesley, or, as I’ve been calling him, “Evil Chris Hayes.” There’s a lot of very solid acting happening here.

William: Showrunner Steven S DeKnight cited The Wire as a big influence on the show and that’s very apparent here as it’s clear there’s going to be a big balance between both good and evil – if we can get that binary with things.

And the action! It’s all so brutal. I’m glad we’re getting to explore this side of the MCU because it’s so different from what has come before. 

“Into the Ring” works so well because it’s so bare bones and I mean that in the best possible way. The show is already humming along and is very confident in what it is. And I can’t wait to see what unfolds. 

Liz: Neither can I, bro. Nor can I wait for our introduction to Rosario Dawson, that beautiful tropical fish.

Quick Thoughts:

– Apparently this wing of the MCU shares a color and lighting palette with the folks at House of Cards. Did Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt suck up the entire Netflix lighting budget for the year? I don’t hate it, though. – LB

– The move to Netflix means that there’s a lot of blood and completely unnecessary sideboob. Television! – WG

– “We can’t trust anyone.” “Then we tell everyone.” – LB

– I’m liking the Avengers references scattered about for background color. Not forced at all. Cool stuff. – LB

– If I’m not mistaken, the battle isn’t even really specifically referenced! It’s all very natural. – WG

– I also love that there’s a legitimate reason for Matt being able to afford such a sick apartment. – LB

– The sign is pretty absurd, though. – WG

What did you think of the first episode of Marvel’s Daredevil? Sound off in our comments below!

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