“It ain’t how you hit the man, it’s how you get up”
The second episode of Daredevil, ‘Cut Man,’ offers us something different from the first one. This was more character-focused than plot-focused, giving us more time with Murdock, Foggy and Karen. But by no means does this translate into a slow episode. On the contrary, our attention is equally divided between present Murdock, past Murdock and Karen and Foggy. Everything feels relevant. And the fight at the end of the episode needs to be seen to be believed.
We start out by following a trail of blood. At the end of the trail is Murdock, battered and bleeding, in a dumpster. A nurse, Claire, takes him to her apartment and tends to him. His wounds are severe; stab wounds, four broken ribs, a collapsing lung. As in the first episode, Murdock’s phases of unconsciousness take us (and him?) back to his childhood. While the scenes between Claire and Murdock keep the story ticking along, it’s the flashbacks that give a hefty emotional punch.
The first flashback sees Murdock’s father losing a boxing match but earning a lot of cash. The implication is that he lost it intentionally. Murdock tends to his wounds, just as Claire is tending to Murdock’s wounds in the present. Later on, the implication becomes reality as his father is asked to lose a bout. Of course, in a Bruce Willis-in-Pulp Fiction inspired turn, his father refuses to lose the bout at the last minute. His father acted immorally once; he couldn’t do it again.
“I want to believe in what you are doing”
Matt, on the other hand, turns full Jack Bauer in the episode. He drops a fire extinguisher on the head of a Russian gangster posing as a detective. He is part of the Russian gang kidnapping children, and Murdock is looking for a boy the gang took (who we saw taken in episode 1). Murdock begins to torture him to find out the location of the boy. His attempt to rescue the boy was what caused Murdock’s injuries at the beginning (it was a trap). Matt doesn’t hesitate during the short torture session. He stabs the guy above the eye (with directions from Nurse Claire) and threatens to throw him off the roof. After getting the information the he needs, Murdock hurls him off anyway, into the dumpster where the episode began.
Matt says to the gangster that he enjoys torture. And whilst this may not be true, he has no qualms about using immoral means for moral gains. Of course, he uses violence to promote justice in general, but we definitely saw his ‘dark’ side. In a flashback, we see that his father is murdered after winning the bout he was supposed to lose. The lack of a father figure occurs again and again in superhero origins. Doe ts the lack of a father figure cause the soon-to-be superheroes to maximise their masculine qualities? Do they fill the absence with an excess of male hero fantasies? Something to think on…
The highlight of the episode, without a doubt, is the final fight. In a long tracking sequence, the camera shows us where the boys is being kept, and the location of the gangsters. Staring down a grimy corridor (that would not look out of palce in Saw), we await our hero. He appears, injured and shuffling, but willing to fight on. I compared last episode’s fight scenes to those of The Raid. And this tracking sequence could have been ripped straight out of The Raid. The quiet before the storm, the build up to our hero arriving and taking on the gangster…and then the mayhem. There’s nothing polished about this fight scene. Murdock is barely standing up, but he fights on. And on. The gangsters don’t go down easily; they take a beating. Finally, Murdock defeats the enemies and gets the boy. Without a doubt, one of the greatest fight scenes in TV history.
And I haven’t started on the lighter side of things, between Foggy and Karen. Finding her working late in the office, Foggy takes Karen out in Hell’s Kitchen. They don’t bump into any trouble, it’s just two people who’ve known each other for a short period of time getting to know each other. It was a much-needed reprieve from the gritty, unrelenting nature of Murdock’s situation (both past and present).
VERDICT: 9/10. An easy 8/10 without the fight, but the fight scene elevates it into another stratosphere. Watch it! And we were also given time to understand our main characters without being bogged down with a complicated story.