The Man Without Fear encounters The Man Without Sleep.
Yeah, just so it’s clear, Daredevil was posted on Netflix Friday morning (as in midnight morning): all 13 episodes of the first season. And I. Watched. Them. All.
Episode 1: Into The Ring
We begin the first episode in a VERY comic book way, but not a very comic book movie way. We have our origin with little Matt Murdock being found after an accident, and we learn how he loses his sight. This only takes a couple of minutes. Then we have grown-up Matt in a confession booth, talking about his father the boxer in a way that sets the groundwork for some character development. We also see some great closeups on Matt’s face as he’s describing his father’s character. Screencaps can’t do it justice, but it’s great acting.
I can almost picture how this scene could be paneled out in a comic book.
Matt really has nothing to confess. Actually, he says he won’t apologize for what he’s about to do. Which means he’s really just being a dick to a priest.
Cut to our proto-Daredevil dressed all in black stalking the docks. He’s about to save the day, but this isn’t your typical comic book shit. We see three women shoved into a cargo container; this is human trafficking. So it only takes the series about five minutes to set it apart not only from the other Marvel shows, but all of the MCU. This is old-fashioned street-level vigilante justice.
We see some damned impressive fighting skills from Matt, who uses his heightened sense of hearing to fight his way through the traffickers and even tell when a gun is being pointed at him.
After an AMAZING title scene (It’s just… sooooo good…) we’re introduced proper to Matt Murdock, blind defense attorney, and his partner Foggy Nelson just as they rent an office for their new firm.
Now it’s time to introduce the crime element. We’ve got our evil male secretary showing an old man that their people has someone watching over their daughter, and if he doesn’t want anything bad to happen to her, he has to do what they want.
This ties in to the main plot of the episode: a woman named Karen Page is framed for the murder of a coworker. Murdock and Nelson are on the case, primarily because Murdock can tell she’s innocent. After a failed assassination attempt (by the father from before; turns out he’s a security guard where Karen is being held), they manage to get Karen out of holding and get her to trust them into explaining her full story. Long story short, she came across a suspicious file in an e-mail, word got out, and now they’re trying to cover it up. But not by killing her. Why? Matt thinks it’s because she kept a copy of the file. Matt’s right.
Karen sneaks off to her apartment to get the important file, only to be ambushed by the assassin Rance. The Man in Black arrives to save the day, but he proves to only be slightly better than Rance and narrowly manages to subdue him after a hard-fought fight. He and the evidence are dropped off to a local newspaper, and the whole scheme is revealed. Karen decides to join the firm, we see Matt boxing, and all is well, right? Not quite.
In a shocking and interesting move, what could have been the closing scene of the episode (Matt punching a heavy bag at his dad’s old gym) is interspersed with the consequences of Matt’s victory: the old father from before is killed, Rance is killed and made to look like a suicide, drug running operations including money laundering continue without a hitch, and we’re introduced to our lead-in to the second episode, where a man is taken out of his car and beaten while his son is kidnapped. In just the couple of wordless minutes used in this closer, we see just the kind of rotten mess is rampant in Hell’s Kitchen, and this is what Matt Murdock, a blind man with no real super powers, is trying to fix.
God damn this show is brilliant.
That closing montage is a perfect way to establish the character of Hell’s Kitchen. It effectively does in 2 minutes what took Gotham 10 episodes to do, and even then I’m not entire convinced.
What I neglected to touch upon was the effects used. Everyone expects there to be a visual effect whenever Matt uses his heightened senses, but it only happens in very key scenes, and rather than immediately shift from normal to sense-vision, what we see sorta slowly blends into the effect. And that makes all the difference in changing what would have been a predictably cheesy but acceptable effect into something seamless that just… fits.
Also, it’s very matter-of-factly mentioned that this takes place after Avengers, and that in the face of national and global threats, street crime inhabits a blind spot that true superheroes just can’t be bothered to deal with.
Honestly, that’s just the first episode and I am far more impressed than I expected.
Episode 2: Cut Man
We start things out with Matt-in-Black bleeding out in a dumpster, doing his best Undertaker impression.
Matt gets taken into a local nurse’s apartment. He tries to escape, but he’s in no condition to do much else than tell her not to call the cops or the hospital.
We get flashbacks to Matt’s father Jack, who we learn is probably a better fighter than his record implies. Although he prides himself on never being knocked out, he is persuaded to get knocked out in the fifth round against up-and-comer Crusher Creel. No relation to Spider-Man wrestler Crusher Hogan. But Matt overhears the deal and damn near shames his father into doing the “right” thing. What Jack ends up doing is betting everything he has into a knockout victory, with the winnings sent to a bank account in Matt’s name. He knows that not going down means he’ll get a bullet in his head… and that’s exactly what happens once he knocks Creel out.
Back in the present, we learn the nurse is named Claire, and since Matt isn’t willing to share any info, she calls him Mike. “Mike” reveals he’s been chasing after some Russian traffickers, hoping to free the kid from the end of the last episode. Turns out it was a trap to lure him. “Mike” tells Claire that someone’s stopping by door by door trying to find him, and Claire is in complete disbelief of his supposed super-senses. Eventually, the pursuer gets captured and taken to the roof, where “Mike” interrogates him before throwing him off the roof (but don’t worry; “he’ll live”).
Claire also tells her new friend that rumors of the masked man’s exploits have started to spread, and despite her suspicions, she’s on his side. But she definitely needs to move somewhere safe. Meanwhile, Mike goes off to rescue the kid like a badass.
Episode 3: Rabbit in a Snowstorm
We start the episode off with bowling. Some loser-looking guy shows up and wants to bowl with a bigshot. Naturally, he kicks the bigshot’s lackey’s asses and pulls a gun on him. Flashback to 36 hours earlier when he purchased the gun. He’s guaranteed the gun won’t jam. Flash forward to now. The gun jams. Yep. We dedicated a flashback just to set up a gun jamming joke. That is now probably the most comic book scene in the series so far. Since the gun’s out, he finishes the job with his fists. But the police surround the bowling alley within minutes, and he’s got nowhere to run.
Oh, and one more thing: he wants a lawyer.
The evil secretary from the first episode shows up at the firm and hires Matt and Foggy for the defense. Matt is skeptical for good reason (chief among them being the secretary wouldn’t even give his name), but after tailing him, he decides to turn around and take the case of the obviously guilty bowling murderer.
At this point it isn’t clear just what either side is getting out of this arrangement.
We turn to our B-side story revolving around Ben Urich, an aging (okay, aged) reporter who does his job well and has deep organized crime contacts. He gets the feeling there’s a new player in town that has everyone running scared, but his editor won’t let him run with it because real news doesn’t sell. And as someone who has a degree in journalism, I can tell you that’s doubly frustrating to watch because it’s true. Just look at how Fox News is still a thing. There’s also a sort of C-side involving Karen being paid off by her former employer to keep quiet, and in the end she goes to Ben about it, tying the two threads together.
Murdock and Foggy do their best to represent their client, but it seems the man who hired them in the first place blackmailed one of the jurors to fix the verdict against them. Even after Matt goes out and makes things right and delivers one of the most realistic closing statements ever filmed, another juror just gets blackmailed, tying the criminal up in the process longer. Matt finally goes “fuck it” and goes (as the Masked Man) straight to his client to interrogate him about who hired the lawyers and why he’s so okay with losing the trial. He eventually gives up the name “Wilson Fisk,” then decides dying is a better prospect than living if it got out he squealed. So he impales his own brain.
What really weirds me out is that a big deal was made about the lawyers not being good enough for the task, but it seems getting a guilty verdict was the plan all along. Maybe Mr. Secretary is just pretending to work with the old man and following Fisk’s plan, or maybe the plan was not to get a verdict right away but to put their assassin in limbo.
Anyway, we close out with our first shot of Wilson Fisk himself, potentially hitting on an artist because why not.
Current list of names I’ve used (including mentally) for the proto-Daredevil:
The Man Without Fear
Hm. I’m actually leaning towards Not Daredevil. But we all know that’s the wrong outfit:
Episode 4: In The Blood
We start out with a flashback in Siberia. We meet two prisoners named Vladimir and Anatoly. And with that, we have officially exhausted our generic Russian name list. The hatch a plan to escape. Thus ends the origin story of the human traffickers we know as “The Russians.”
Mr. Secretary does what he does by intimidating his business partners by talking about what “his employer” wants and how no one should say his employer’s name. Basically, Fisk is disappointed in the Russians and wants to take over. The Russians (primarily Vlad) say fuck that and focus on how they can get back at… *rolls dice* the Masked Man and figure they should get Semyon (the guy that was thrown off a roof) to speak up, even if his life is put at risk. Oh, and we learn Secretary’s name is Wesley. Heh. Wesley.
Mike gets stitched up at Claire’s and promises she can move back once he’s sure the Russians aren’t after her. Unfortunately, The Russians get Semyon to speak, and now they’re on Claire’s trail. They don’t find her at her apartment, but they do find her friend Santino.
Meanwhile, Fisk is back at the art gallery trying to get into that chick’s pants. Okay.
Claire gets kidnapped, but not before calling Mike.
Karen attends an auction, hoping to uncover the people behind the whole business in the first episode. Ben shows up and tells her she’s being stupid about it, tells her how to scope things out, then disappears while she’s trying to talk back to him. Gentlemen… I think Ben Urich is Batman.
Fisk’s date is going… okay, I guess. Kinda creepy as fuck, but… successful? At least until Anatoly shows up, embarrassing Fisk and ruining his date. Now this is important, because up to now, all we’ve seen of Fisk is this strange, awkward, hulking manchild. One wonders what makes him such a big deal. Well, Anatoly learns firsthand what happens when you get him angry.
“Send what’s left of him to his brother.”
Lesson learned: you don’t cockblock the Kingpin.
Well, unless you’re Electro, I guess.
It would’ve been nice to see Kingpin the intimidating wall that he is right away, but this wasn’t a bad way to introduce just how intense the man can be. Again, it took Daredevil two episodes to do with Fisk what took Gotham 12 episodes to do with Falcone.
Oh, and Matt finally gave his real name to Claire. Guess I can cross Mike off the list.
Episode 5: World on Fire
We begin the episode with…
Claire asks Matt what he sees when he uses his supersenses. “A world on fire.”
Last episode, we were looking forward to a war between Fisk and the Russia….n… *ahem* Turns out, Fisk used Anatoly’s corpse as a tool to frame The Man in the Mask. So now, Vlad’s going all in on hunting him down, and Fisk is getting ready to pick up the pieces.
We’re introduced to the firm’s newest client, Mrs. Cardenas. She and her fellow tenants are being strongarmed into leaving their rat’s nest so a sleazy developer can tear down their building to build new condos. They take the case, and we have a great scene where Foggy figuratively kicks ass by not backing down against the firm he used to intern at (or the bitch of a lawyer he used to date). Meanwhile, Matt tries to get some paperwork at the station and super-overhears two corrupt cops killing a Russian mob guy they picked up because he said Fisk’s name. Yep, Fisk owns the police.
Fisk managed to get a second date with Vanessa. Good for him, I guess.
Meanwhile, Vlad learns that Fisk has been playing them. Turns out he didn’t cover up that whole “shitload of blood and brains in my SUV” thing as well as he thought. He puts up a $1 million bounty for anyone who can tell him where Fisk is. Oh gawd, please please PLEEEEEASE have Vlad screw up Fisk’s second date!
Foggy helps perform some repairs at Mrs. Cardenas’ place and gets rewarded with an impromptu date with Karen (too many details to explain). Meanwhile, Matt attacks Vlad while Vlad is preparing for war against Fisk. However, bombs explode in all of the Russian bases. Yep, everything was an elaborate setup by Fisk, including the leak about Fisk being responsible for Anatoly’s death. The resulting explosion also affects the building Foggy and Karen are in. Matt notices Vlad survived, so he goes in to beat the shit out of him, because… that’s all he can do. Just then, the cops show up.
Kingpin just Batman gambitting all over the place. Hell, he even wins over Vanessa. Turns out she’s into blowing evil people the fuck up.
Episode 6: Condemned
We continue right where the last episode left off. The Matt in Black gets cuffed, but just to get the cops off guard. Seems they’re all dirty cops under Fisk, and they were ordered to kill Vlad. Matt beats the shit out of everyone and runs off with Vlad. Meanwhile, the cops move in and shoot everyone still alive while Fisk thinks of how to corner Vlad.
We finally check back in with Ben, who’s got quite the network of leads going. He concludes that at the top of everything is one mysterious figure… a Kingpin if you will.
Vlad finally wakes up, and Matt wants answers. He also delivers the most awesome line so far.
I almost don’t even want to describe the rest of the episode because it’s just wham after wham after wham of shit hitting the fan. The key points are that Fisk contacts Matt via a police radio and tells him the public will turn on him once he uses media manipulation to paint The Man in the Mask as a vigilante bomber and cop killer. Matt and Vlad work together to escape into a sewer access tunnel, and Vlad stays behind to cover Matt’s escape, but not before telling him to search for Leland Owsley, the guy that handles Fisk’s money.
I freaking love this episode so much, and half of it is just the awesome expressions coming out of Vlad.
Episode 7: Stick
We start things off with… well screw it. It’s Stick. He’s blind, and he gets people running shitless because he’s badass like that.
Stick is in Japan after something called the Black Sky. It’s being shipped to New York, where Matt hunts down Leland and gets his ass tazed.
To be fair… Leland specifically said he was getting his stun gun a few eps ago.
We learn that Stick is the blind man that trained Matt and tried to teach him about the world being a shitty place. He also needs his help in taking down Nobu (head of the Yakuza in Hell’s Kitchen and one of Fisk’s associates) and the Black Sky, which he explains is a weapon so frightening it can’t be allowed to exist. Then it turns out this is the Black Sky:
Uh… wow. What is this kid? Is he an Inhuman? …er, that’s all I got, really.
Matt is understandably pissed that Stick tried to recruit him into killing a kid. Stick does what he does best and pisses Matt further by explaining that not only was the kid a legitimate weapon, but after Matt saved the kid’s life, Stick made sure to follow the kid and finish the job. Later, we see Stick reporting that the Black Sky has been dealt with to a mysterious person we know jack shit about.
I have to say, the casting of Stick was phenomenal. He was the best possible Stick you could hope for. Plus, pretty much everything he said while training Matt was awesome.
Episode 8: Shadows in the Glass
Matt finally joins the team in Karen’s investigation, and that’s about it for him for the most part. This episode is all about Fisk.
In the present, Fisk is starting to lose control of his organization, and he dwells more and more on his past. Long story short, his father was an asshole.
One day, Wilson had enough of his father abusing his mother. So he whacked him in the back of the head with a hammer. Wilson’s mother tries her best to console him… and then says “Get the saw.”
And the “OH FUUUUUUUCK!” moments don’t even end there! Matt speaks with Ben to drag Wilson Fisk’s name out there into the light, but Fisk is one step ahead of their plan and brings himself into the public with the support of Vanessa, who seems to have become a driving force to turn Fisk into the true Kingpin.
Episode 9: Speak of the Devil
Nobu is displeased with Fisk not keeping up his promises, so Fisk promises he’ll make some risks to get what Nobu wants if Nobu can provide an assassin of the same caliber as The Masked Man. Nobu says he can.
The firm can’t find any leads at all to pin down Fisk, but Matt thinks there might be a lead in Vanessa. He visits the art gallery hoping to find anything he can use against Fisk but not only does he not gain anything useful, he also has an unexpected encounter with Fisk himself.
Matt pays a visit to the priest at his church, and they have a great discussion exploring the dilemma of comic book heroes with no-kill codes. He sums up Matt’s problem quite succinctly: “The question you have to ask yourself is are you struggling with the fact that you don’t want to kill this man but have to? Or that you don’t have to kill him but want to?”
Also, the firm learns Mrs. Cardenas and the other tenants were offered twice their previous amount to move out by Fisk. Mrs. Cardenas wants to stay and fight for her home. Doesn’t work out well for her.
This kinda makes up Matt’s mind, and he goes on a rampage trying to find out anything he can on Fisk to make him pay. This leads him to an abandoned warehouse where Nobu is waiting. Nobu beats the shit out of him until he somehow accidentally lights himself on fire. Fisk shows up after the fight revealing it was his plan to draw the Masked Man out by using his emotions against him, and that Nobu losing was also acceptable; in a perfect world they would have killed each other. Matt loses it but can’t beat Fisk in his current state, so he escapes via self defenestration and makes it back to his apartment, where Foggy finds him and uncovers his identity.
Episode 10: Nelson v. Murdock
Let’s get the Fisk stuff out of the way. Madame Gao (leader of the Triads in Hell’s Kitchen and Fisk’s heroin distributer) warns Fisk that he needs to get a firm grasp on his identity if he wants to thrive. Both Gao and Owlsley wonder just how much time they have left with Fisk considering what happened to the Russians and Nobu. And later that night, someone poisons the champagne at a party held by Fisk, taking a lot of people down including Vanessa.
Also, Ben gives up on the investigation so he can take a better position and pay to support his wife (prepare your trousers for another heartbreaking Alzheimer’s scene). He turns his evidence over to Karen, who takes him over to where Fisk’s wife
Now on to the meat of this episode. “Nelson v. Murdock” is the perfect title for it because much of it outside of flashbacks is just Foggy arguing with Matt about Matt’s vigilanteism. Their entire friendship is put into question, and every time Matt tries to defend his actions, Foggy shoots his arguments down. It’s like the world’s most heartbreaking cross examination. In the end, Matt is unable to convince Foggy that he’s trustworthy, and Foggy calls it quits.
Easily one of the most effective emotional episodes of any TV series I’ve seen.
Episode 11: The Path of the Righteous
Vanessa gets rushed into the ER. We still don’t know who’s responsible. Obvious money is on Owlsley, who tries to put the blame on Nobu’s men. Wesley thinks Gao might be involved. It’s still up in the air at this point. At least Vanessa makes it through.
Matt continues to struggle over what he should be doing. Also, Claire tells him he needs to use some kind of body armor if he wants to live. He agrees. Next time Matt suits up, he asks about where Fisk gets the body armor that lined his suit. He tracks down the armor-maker and learn that Fisk threatened to kill someone close to him if he doesn’t do what he asks.
Meanwhile, Fisk’s mother calls and tells Wesley about her visitors.
Karen talks to both Matt and Foggy and tells them to get their shit together. Then she gets kidnapped by Wesley, who takes an uncharacteristically hands-on approach. Fortunately, he hasn’t told Fisk about the call from his mother. Wesley offers Karen a deal: convince Ben not to follow through with the Fisk investigation, or suffer as Ben, Matt, Foggy, and Karen’s family are killed. Karen has a counterproposal.
Karen manages to take Wesley’s gun and doesn’t fall for his bullshit about it not being loaded. If I were keeping track of the amount of times I yelled “OH SHIT” while watching this series, the counter would have broken right here.
Episode 12: The Ones We Leave Behind
Karen tries to deal with the fact that she killed a man. Fisk’s men locate Wesley’s body. Shit’s about to go down.
Matt follows a lead on Madame Gao’s heroin operation, but neither he nor Ben know of her by name. But Ben does know about the blind carriers that work for her and where they might be found. Matt parkours the fuck over some rooftops to track one of them.
Karen’s desperate and pushes Ben to print something ASAP. Against his better judgment, Ben agrees to show something to his editor. The editor refuses to run with it, and after Ben accuses him of being paid off by Fisk, he gets fired.
Matt causes havoc over at Madame Gao’s. He tries interrogating her about Fisk, but she knocks him the fuck away and runs away. Honestly, I was expecting something like this from her but still. Dayum.
We learn Gao and Leland have been working together. It was their plan to kill Vanessa to make Fisk focused. Things seem to be pulling apart, and Gao leaves for her homeland, which she says is “considerably farther” than China.
Ben decides to make a blog to expose everything he knows about Fisk. Fisk shows up in his house and reveals he does have someone at the Bulletin on his payroll, and that person told him Ben talked to Fisk’s mother. That’s unforgivable. So Fisk strangles Ben with his bare hands.
The feels are real.
Final episode: Daredevil
We start out with Ben’s funeral. Karen and Matt, Ben’s wife, and even his editor are there, all while Many Rivers to Cross plays in the background. The feels are still real.
Fisk confronts Owlsley with the numbers he had Wesley look into before he died. He thinks Owlsley had Wesley killed, but that’s not the case. Owlsley does however admit to working with Gao in trying to have Vanessa killed. Then he says he’ll leave Fisk free because he has Detective Hoffman and everything he knows about Fisk in his back pocket; if Owlsley doesn’t check in with him, Hoffman reveals everything. Fisk counters with his own proposal: drop Owlsley down an elevator shaft, then sweep Hell’s Kitchen for Hoffman.
Foggy and Matt make amends so they can bring down Fisk. Matt overhears that Fisk wants Hoffman found, so the firm gets back together to pore over documents Foggy’s ex sent him to see if they can find out where Owlsley has Hoffman so they can get to him before Fisk does.
Matt does rescue Hoffman, he turns over everything he knows, and Fisk’s empire crumbles apart in a very satisfying montage.
Matt, Foggy and Karen toast to a job well done. But this episode is only half done.
All of Fisk’s contacts and accomplices get taken down, and he gets transported in an FBI wagon… but HOLY FUCK. HE HAS PEOPLE ON THE FBI ON HIS PAYROLL.
Fisk may be exposed for the rat that he is, but he still remains very dangerous. And it’s time for Matt to step up his game.
The Daredevil corners Fisk and the two duke it out in a surprisingly even fight. Because, remember, the Kingpin is bad fucking ass.
Fisk is subdued and now awaits trial for his crimes, and Nelson & Murdock is back to business.
And that was Daredevil. 13 hours of fucking awesome.