It’s finally here. After months of waiting, the Netflix original series Daredevil graced our queues early Friday morning giving us a chance to dive into Hell’s Kitchen head first. If you were afraid that Disney and Netflix would be making this series kid-friendly you can pretty much throw that out the window with the first episode. Our first of many Daredevil reviews takes a look at this superb first step for Matt Murdock turning into the blind superhero.
You want kid friendly? How about blinding a kid with gasoline in the very first scene, because that’s exactly what Daredevil does to kick things off. The way the episode begins is especially satisfying (not that seeing a kid painfully blinded is satisfying) because it effectively tells us everything we need to know about why Matt is blind and how he got that way without a lot of sappy montages. I’m assuming there will be more flashbacks in the future to Daredevil as a child, which is fine, but this initial episode skips all that and gets right to what well care about – Murdock as an adult.
Seeing the cut to black and hearing “forgive me father as I have sinned,” is almost groan-worthy of cliche, but Daredevil does a decent enough job of turning the trope of a character in a confession booth on its head. In particular, I thought the entire time that Murdock was going to kill the priest for some strange reason, but in the end all he was doing was confession for the crimes he was about to commit. Again, similar to the opening child-age scene, this sets up what is forthcoming without needing to go into much detail. Murdock gets some of expository dialogue out of the way, and we know he is heading into an action sequence, which is all we need.
Netflix has promised that Daredevil will be very stunt-heavy and they more than delivered in the brief fight sequence found in “Into the Ring.” The entire bout between Daredevil and the thugs is shot incredibly well, with a lot of sequences being shot over a few seconds, as opposed to constant quick cuts. I also love the camera angel between the two shipping containers showing the city in the distance, and how it’s used before, during, and after the fight. The actual choreography of Daredevil is also excellent, with a lot of difficult-to-pull-off flips and kicks all blending in seamlessly.
In general, I really like the entire setup of Daredevil being built around the events of The Avengers. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes sure are good at destroying entire cities, but as it turns out, they aren’t that great at putting them back together. If you couldn’t already tell, half of Hell’s Kitchen was destroyed in the attack on New York City in The Avengers, and now mob bosses and other crime syndicates are left to rebuild the section of the city, and using it to their advantage to funnel money through and generate ill-gotten revenue from. It’s another big stepping stone to make the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe look larger as a whole, but Daredevil is carving out its place nicely already.
The brutality of these mob bosses is also shown right away, and given that series is on Netflix and not bound by standard TV ratings, it’s able to actually show the brutality instead of just assume it like similar shows on network television. The choking scene in the jail cell is particularly brutal, and the eventually method by which the guard dies is great.
Outside of his crime-fighting lifestyle, Daredevil is also an attorney. I’ve never actually read the Daredevil comics yet, so I can’t compare how accurate it is to the books, but having Murdock and Nelson’s law firm at such a low starting point is a great plot vehicle. They are essentially ambulance chasers, as Wesley accurately calls them at one point. Because of this, they are left to be free-flying and comedic, since they are just doing whatever it takes to get a client. Murdock having a such stringent black-and-white view of innocent versus guilty would be a little annoying in any other character, but the fact that he can use his enhanced senses to actually tell when someone is telling the truth offsets that by a little bit.
The way he actually uses the powers, and how the show portrays this, is satisfying. Hearing the heartbeat drum up when someone is lying or stay consistent when someone is telling the truth is going to come into play later and it makes scenes much more tense already. Another nice little touch is how, when Murdock is starting to use his powers to test someone, shots will often show the person in question being reflected in his glasses. It’s saying, in a way, that while he can’t actually see them, Murdock is “seeing” them for what they really are. Again, no overt in-your-face themes, but a subtle way to tell what is happening.
If there is one downside about this first episode that has me worried about the series going forward, it’s unfortunately Charlie Cox. Whether or not it’s just meant to Murdock’s personality, Cox’s flat line delivery and monotone speech is just a bore to listen to. Foggy Nelson being the complete opposite helps occasionally in this regard, but even then some of Cox’s lines just feel unnatural. There is a way to speak in a monotone and make it work, but so far that hasn’t been the case. It’s not annoying on Batman-growly-voice levels quite yet, but it could get annoying quickly, especially if we’re talking about marathoning several episodes in a row. Almost every other performance, especially Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page, is excellent.
Overall, this was a very fun and tense first episode of Daredevil to watch. I’m actually not watching ahead while writing these reviews, simply watching then reviewing, so I’m anxiously awaiting when I get to the next just to see what happens, which is a very good thing.
We’re reviewing all of Daredevil – one episode at a time! If you want to follow along, check out our hub page for a spoiler-free look at all past, present, and future reviews as well as our review schedule.