Two episodes in and Marvel’s Daredevil is already something that’s really exciting in terms of what it’s doing with the modern superhero story. This second episode illustrates that point particularly well by working closely to two very fairly standard features of the genre in its current state—an origin story and a dark, gritty aesthetic—and tweaking them just enough to make both service Matt Murdock’s story specifically.
The story picks back up what we can assume is a few hours after the last episode ended. Matt has gone after the Russians who kidnapped the boy from his father’s car and ends up in the dumpster outside Claire Temple’s apartment. Rosario Dawson, naturally, is a welcome addition to the cast, and her character’s arc in this episode is definitely a surprising one. Inside her apartment, Claire begins to treat Matt for his various cuts and broken bones, and he wakes up just long enough to stop her from calling 911.
Flashing back to Matt’s pre-accident childhood, we see the future hero take similar measures to patch up his father after another loss in the ring. It’s not apparent to the boy yet, but considering the beating Jack Murdock took in his latest fight, during which he drops his gloves, it sure seems like dear old dad is throwing these bouts for the money. There’s a good reversal when Matt informs his dad that he’ll need some stitches, and his father tells him to get the Scotch. Not for the bruised boxer, but for his son, to steady the boy’s hand during the suture. (That’s parenting, folks!) Some credit is due to the effects team during this scene. They certainly don’t pull their punches with the stitches, which are sufficiently gross and kind of awesome. As we’re cringing on Jack’s behalf, his son drops some classic Murdock wisdom on him. “It doesn’t matter how you fight,” Matt says. “It’s how you get up.” The boy’s right. Let’s move on.
At the office, Foggy and Karen are having a late night that makes for a surprisingly sweet C story line. After everything she had been through in the previous episode, Karen doesn’t exactly feel up to spending the night in her intruder-friendly apartment. I’m glad that the show is giving some real time to these characters’ emotions, even if it’s not directly related to Daredevil or the crime-fighting central story line. Karen’s fears feel very grounded and honest, considering what she’s been through. Luckily, Foggy has just the cure for such fears: binge drinking!
The atmosphere is unsurprisingly less light over at Claire’s, when Matt finally wakes up on the couch much more lucid than the last time. He realizes that his mask is off, leaving his face in full view of Claire, who comments that his costume kind of sucks. I mean, I kind of dig it, but Matt admits what we all know. It’s a work in progress. Even with his face revealed, Matt keeps his identity from Claire, so she decides to call him Mike, after a guy she used to date. (Cue geeks everywhere trying figure out who her ex might be.) Matt is, however, polite enough to thank her for everything, which is pretty good timing, considering that she fixes his collapsed lung in the next scene.
The moment is somewhat of a tipping point for Claire, who demands to know what’s going on. Though Matt won’t give up his name, he doesn’t have a problem telling her that he had gone after the kidnapped boy, only to fall into a trap set by the Russians. The boy wasn’t at the warehouse he had tracked the Russians to, but an ambush was waiting for him. Matt barely made it out, and he wasn’t able to hide his trail, since someone wearing a serious amount of cologne is downstairs, going door to door.
NEXT: A quick pause to talk about those flashbacks
One of the biggest problems with introducing a beloved comic book character into a different medium is the obligation to the origin story. (No one knows this better than Spider-Man, but with Daredevil creator Drew Goddard possibly rebooting him for Marvel Studios and Sony, hopefully he’ll get the same treatment as Matt. End digression.) For the most part, people know this aspect of a hero’s story, since the origin tends to be one of the character’s key identifying feature. So far Daredevil has taken a refreshing approach, albeit one that’s not radical by any means. The first episode spent only a few minutes showing Matt’s run-in with the chemical truck, and by the time we’re on the scene, it’s already happen. Boom. Origin story taken care of, at least for the most part. Sure, he still has to learn how to fight and use his enhanced senses, but the series is much happier using the exposition to color what’s going on in the narrative present—here, connecting Jack’s reenactment of Bruce Willis’ storyline from Pulp Fiction to Matt’s relentless drive—instead of jamming it all up front.
Speaking of jamming things where they don’t belong, let’s get back to Matt and Claire’s run-in with “Detective Foster.” When the cologne enthusiast finally makes his way to Claire’s apartment, she does her best to put him off the scent. Matt can tell that the stranger didn’t believe her, so he takes the most obvious course of action: playing American Psycho in the stairwell with a fire extinguisher. It rules.
The duo’s next stop is the roof, where there’s “less chance of someone in the building hearing him scream.” Matt strings up the faux detective onto a water tower, and Claire helps pass some time by asking questions. She wants to know how he could possibly be a super-sensing masked vigilante, one that’s brought both perpetrators and their would-be victims into her ER. “Slap on top of that, he can take an unbelievable amount of punishment without one damn complaint,” she says.
“The last part is Catholicism,” he tells her. The best explanation he can offer for the other stuff is that he doesn’t give into the fear, something that he learned from his dad, who, like Butch, wouldn’t go down in the fifth. The decision ultimately costs Jack Murdock his life, but it set up Matt financially and finally gave the boy an opportunity to hear people cheer for his old man.
It definitely seems like Matt’s advice for Claire has worked when Detective Foster wakes up. She’s sporting her own makeshift mask and giving Matt tips about where on the Russian’s face to stab him and cause the most pain. Turns out, she’s really hardcore. Not as hardcore as Matt, though, because he’s willing to send the fake detective tumbling into the dumpster below after he shares the boy’s location and taunts Matt with the enormity of the traffickers’ operation. Don’t worry. He’ll live.
On top of the origin story, the other aspect of modern superhero stories that Daredevil improves is the dark, gritty aesthetic that everyone tripped over themselves to replicate after Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. It’s unfortunate that so many filmmakers decided to interpret that look as “joyless,” rather than “realistic.” In just two episodes, Daredevil has proven that you can have levity and gravity. Imagine that! The second hour at times occupies both ends of the spectrum, as Foggy and Karen get wasted and Matt kicks the shit out of a bunch of guys in a five-minute continuous fight scene.
Now obviously, Matt’s assault on the human traffickers is the major talking point of the episode, and while it’s almost definitely not an honest-to-Thanos oner, it does the trick, because the point of a long take is to strip away the artifice of editing and present an event as reality, or something close to reality. And that creative decision carries over to the fight choreography, as Matt gets more and more exhausted, changing his fighting style, over the course of the five minutes. The grittiness of the scene isn’t meant to get fanboy blood pumping. It’s there to communicate that Matt Murdock, while gifted with enhanced senses, is still a real person. It’s incredibly humanizing and further strengthens the case for Daredevil already being one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most interesting heroes.
Also, if this is the kind of fight scene we’re getting from Daredevil, what the hell is Iron Fist going to be like?