“I can’t see, I can’t see”
All episodes of Daredevil Season 1 are now available on Netflix…and after watching the first episode I am chomping at the bit for more! But I will restrain myself, and try to watch it infrequently, to make it last longer. If the first episode is anything to go by, I will be in for a treat for the rest of the season. What I witnessed is probably the best opening episode of any Comic Book TV show ever (scrap that; any TV show ever!).
How Matt Murdock received superpowers isn’t a well-known story, but the first episode tells us in less than two minutes. As young Matt Murdock’s vision starts to fade, the scene cuts to adult Matt Murdock in confession. We learn more about Matt’s dad (the first person we see in Daredevil) through Murdock’s confessions. He’s a boxer who usually takes punches to wear the opponent out (the Rocky Balboa school of boxing), but you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry (the Hulk school of smashing). There is a devil in the Murdock boys (hint hint)…and, oh yeah, Murdock doesn’t want penance, but forgiveness for what’s he about to do…which is fight crime! All in all, a great way to start off the episode.
Instead of dwelling on Murdock growing up with his abilities, learning to use them, training to become a vigilante, the childhood/confessions scenes show us (not tell!) everything we need to know. We are going to get straight ‘Into The Ring’ with Matt Murdock. And the episode only improves from there. We are definitely in Hell’s Kitchen, but it doesn’t look like a part of the Marvel Universe we know and love. The tone is almost half Marvel half DC; gritty and grey mixed with great comedy moments and glossing over horrors with sarcasm and humour (Foggy Nelson’s quips about Murdock using his blindness to seduce women come to mind!). After the confession scene, we are thrown into battle with a not-quite Daredevil-but-almost-there Murdock as he attacks some bad guys hoarding women into ship containers. The fight scene is brutal bloody, and shows Murdock’s power of super-hearing without shouting at us. It also shows us that Murdock is still learning the ropes. That’s just a taster of the violence we should expect. A later fight scene between Murdock and a trained assassin could have been ripped straight from The Raid!
“Heroes and their consequences are why we have these current opportunities”
And I haven’t even started on the story itself. It involves a simple administrator, Karen Page, who wakes up with a knife in her hand and a dead body on her floor. Murdock and his associate, Foggy Nelson, take on her case. They get dragged into the conspiracy that goes deeper than they can imagine. The twists and turns don’t rely on conveniences in the plot like the average Gotham or Agents of SHIELD. Everything flows and happens for a reason. The plot keeps going and going, without stopping for unnecessary flashbacks or inconsequential banter.
Unlike Agents of SHIELD, it doesn’t rely on referencing the wider Marvel world as a substitute for story-telling. There is a scene where various gangsters/evil doers are discussing plans for Hell’s Kitchen. One particular evil doer (The Owl? But you may recognise him from 24-Ethan Kanin) talks about how the aftermath of The Battle of New York (The Avengers, if you didn’t know!) gave them limitless opportunity to build. Not unlike how Agents of SHIELD explored the aftermath of the twist in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (and became decent viewing!), Daredevil explores who benefitted from all that destruction after The Avengers saved the world. The answer: immoral and corrupt people! They swooped in on the ruins and made (and are going to make) huge profits…and they are tightly wound up in the conspiracy that Murdock and Nelson are only just beginning to unravel…
I cannot fault this opening episode. It gave us everything we wanted from an opening episode, without once losing track of the story it was trying to tell. Just compare it to, for example, Gotham. The first episode of Gotham threw so much at the screen that nothing stuck. So many plot threads, so little time. In Daredevil, everything comes together in the end (in a riveting sequence of scenes set to a thumping 80s synth rhythm and Murdock punching the heck out of a training bag!). Not one minute is wasted in the episode. From start to finish, I could not stop watching. The tone, the direction, the acting, the story…just wonderful!
VERDICT: 9/10. The strongest opening episode for a TV series I’ve seen for a while. Think The Wire mixed with The Raid and Batman Begins…