(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: There’s a lot to tackle with this group of Daredevil episodes Liz, as we really start to get into not only what makes Matt and Wilson Fisk work. The thing that benefits the Netflix and the binge-watching format is that we get to see things evolve more slowly. In a typical network show, I don’t know if we’d get three episodes before introducing the big bad, but here it seems logical (and works well within the confines of the story) to have Fisk be a more illusive presence. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s talk about our favorite beautiful tropical fish – Rosario Dawson and her character Claire Temple – who dominates most of the second episode, “Cut Man.”
Liz: One of the revelations of the binge-watching format is that it allows for a much more effective slow-burn form of storytelling than we tend to see in a traditional network series. It’s really working here, with the delayed introduction of characters like Wilson and Claire – not only is the dramatic payoff stronger, but getting to spend most of an episode with Claire, as opposed to having her character introduction shoehorned into the last five minutes of the pilot, is a smart move.
Anyway, Rosario Dawson is, of course, perfect in this show, because she’s perfect in everything. She brings this grounded, effortless quality to Claire Temple that makes you go, “Oh, of course.” Like, of course this woman is fishing Matt Murdock out of a dumpster and tending to his wounds. Of course she’s gonna go stand behind him as he does his vigilante thing, consequences be damned. She’s an ER nurse who has seen it all, and has no patience for mobsters and sex traffickers. Is she the heroine Hell’s Kitchen really needs? Maybe. Possibly. Goodness gracious, I love her already.
William: I think what makes Claire work is that she understands what ‘Mike’ is trying to do, because she’s in a position to try and do good herself, which is why she’s so taken with him. But spending most of episode two (which plays like a bit of a bottle episode since we spend so much time in her apartment) with the two of them makes her abduction in episode four’s “In the Blood” all the more meaningful.
“Cut Man” continues drives home the fact that Daredevil isn’t going to be like our other Marvel series because 1) Matt needs to take better care of himself and 2) he’s much more brutal than pervious Marvel heroes. The rooftop interrogation sequence isn’t anywhere near the intensity we’ve seen elsewhere and that moment is topped by the bowling alley fight and the Fisk’s outburst in “In the Blood.” What I also enjoyed about “Cut Man” were the flashbacks to Matt’s childhood. I had a feeling that a lot these first couple of episodes were going to be very flashback heavy and that’s not the case at all. Plus, the weight and hurt that John Patrick Hayden brings to ‘Battlin’ Jack” really worked for me.
Liz: I’ve said it before, but these fight scenes are really incredible. As much as I like Marvel properties, the violence tends to err toward the fun, breezy side, making the stakes feel lower as a whole. But the whole “darker and edgier” thing is really working for Daredevil, simply in that we can feel the brutality – the brawls in “Cut Man” and “In the Blood” have real urgency, and they’re spectacularly choreographed and shot. (And it’s not all fancy stunt work, either. I think I actually applauded when Matt took out a goon with just a fire extinguisher and good old gravity).
William: The “Cut Man” brawl is getting a lot of attention for being showy (and rightfully so, it is an impressive feat – eat your heart out, Birdman!) but even in that moment it’s a really good distillation of what we’ve seen from Matt so far. He’s human, he takes a beating (“That’s the Catholicism”), but he keeps on going. Because the Murdocks always get back up.
Let’s talk about Wilson Fisk. We’re finally introduced to the MCU’s Voldemort at the end of “Rabbit in a Snowstorm” and he’s just a bald dude who loves art and is more socially awkward than I am. But by that point, the show has such a myth around him that the reveal feels really earned. I almost wish the promos had kept him as mysterious as the opening episodes of the show had. Furthermore, Vincent D’Onofrio is having a BLAST here and it really shows as we (and Vanesa, played by the stunning Aylet Zurer) learn more about how he works in “In the Blood.” How does the man who will be King(pin) come across to you, Liz?
Liz: Well, for starters, D’Onofrio is one of my all-time favorite character actors. Good guy, bad guy, doesn’t matter what the role is. But as Fisk, he’s creepy as hell. Sure, he’s just a big bald dude staring at a painting, but my God, D’Onofrio brings his A-game. “Beware the quiet ones” is always a fun tack to take when you’re introducing your villains, and this was more effective than any big jump-scare moment would have been.
Also, I just want to point out that a hilarious bit of potential backstory for Wilson Fisk is that he grew up with a lisp and the embarrassment of having to say his own name all the time would be what drove him to eventually become the Kingpin. I’m just saying. It would be funny.
However, by the time we hit “In the Blood,” we learn that Wilson the Volleyball-Head isn’t just a lonely art lover, he’s also a seriously scary dude who isn’t afraid to decapitate a guy with a car door. And now I’ve got a new favorite moment of gore on this show. Karen Page eye gouge, consider yourself replaced!
Speaking of Karen and Foggy, what’s up with that? They’re just kind of hanging around at this point. I assume they’ll come back into focus in later episodes, but at this point, the A-story with Matt and Claire is just so much more captivating that I’ve all but forgotten that their characters matter. That’s the risk you run with this format, I guess: when you don’t have to balance six or seven characters’ screentime in a single episode, it’s a lot easier to forget about the ones who aren’t blind superhero parkour champions or the most beautiful nurse in the world.
William: I think the ‘strong, silent’ type works here because we all know that D’Onofrio is such a presence that there’s no way he won’t get violent – it’s just a matter of time. But once he does it horrifying and we realize just how easily he’s made a name for himself. I hope we get to learn more about him, as DeKnight is making it clear that Fisk is clearly just as important to this show as Matt is.
As much as I love Woll, I was pretty bored with the pairing of Foggy and Karen. In the comics, Page was a love interest of Matt’s in the comics, before things went south (most Daredevil comic stories see very, very bad things happening to the women in Matt Murdock’s life) and I’m curious to see if that angle will be explored in later episodes. Having Foggy and Karen gives them something to do, but I’m not sure if that’s enough to make to make me care about them other than to just see what kind of shenanigans they get into. Although I appreciated Foggy’s tour of Hell’s Kitchen, as it makes it a bit easier to understand why he and Matt are so drawn to the city.
Liz: In any case, I’m definitely hooked on the main story here – this show knows how to do stakes. Having not read the comics, I have no idea where it’s gonna go next (I guess you could say I… went in blind), but I’m on board 100%. I’ll follow Matt Murdock into the dark. Literally. Because he fights in the dark. With parkour moves and fire extinguishers. God, this show is awesome.
– “Can I take the bottle?” – WG
– Young Matt touching his dead dad’s bloody face to identify him? Yeah, that’s gonna leave some scars. – LB
– Ben Urich is a long time Marvel favorite. In the comics, he’s reporter for the Daily Bugle who befriends Peter Parker and a number of NYC’s street level characters. He’s also white. Vondie Curtis-Hall, who plays Urich in the show, is not. I’m glad to see people are totally cool with an African-American actor playing what’s typically been a white character, but the pessimist in me says that there’s no outrage from typical horrible people because Urich is a minor character and therefore (to racists) it doesn’t matter. Regardless, Curtis-Hall is an Emmy-nominated actor who is doing really solid work here. Maybe now that Marvel has the rights to Spider-Man back, when he shows up in AKA Jessica Jones or Luke Cage or wherever, he’ll be working for the Bugle. – WG
– Urich says his paper’s struggling – maybe the Bugle will buy them out next season? – LB
– Episode 3 is easily the weakest episode so far, but I’m glad we got see actually see Matt and Foggy in action as lawyers. – WG
– As a Russian-American, I’m pretty tired of the “evil Russian mobster” tropes in media, but those brothers are some badass motherf’ers, I can’t even lie. – LB
– I love how casual Wesley steps out of the car as Fisk goes crazy on the Russian. – WG
– Seriously, though: CAR. DOOR. DECAPITATION. Somewhere out there, Quentin Tarantino is watching this show in sweatpants and taking notes. – LB
– Dawson’s laughter as Matt descends on the Russians? A++ work. – WG
– “Idiot parents don’t want to vaccinate.” Heh. – LB
What did you think of “Cut Man,” “Rabbit in a Snowstorm,” & “In the Blood”? Sound off in our comments below!