Let me be honest: I was excited about Daredevil until I saw the trailers. The trailers make the show seem gritty and dark in a way we’ve become so used to recently, but they lack the real fun and verve of a Marvel movie. Yes, I hate to say it, but the trailers made Daredevil look like a DC movie. Dark both literally and metaphorically, oozing like tar throughout the whole show, guaranteed to be full of super-violent, faux-philosophical parables that mean a sickening amount of people dying to make the main character feel things.
The show is dark, certainly, but dark in a more film noir way, without needing to put on and point out its fedora. You’ve got dames with problems and constant cloudiness and calling in old favors, sure, but most of all, you have corrupt systems undergirding a city full of secrets. Problems never appear in a vacuum, the first of which is our character’s origin story: His father running in a panic, pushing past a crowd of people to kneel over his son. His son is, of course, Matt Murdock, who shrieks that his eyes are burning, and after a creepy crackling and a shrinking viewpoint, he wails that he can’t see.
Unlike one of the other, similar superhero shows about a man trying to clean up the dirty streets of his city — like Gotham and Arrow — Murdock isn’t targeted. Heck, you could say there was something fishy about how they were transporting those barrels, and maybe we’ll find out that was all planned from the beginning like the aforementioned other shows, but I doubt it. His accident is just one of many, not unique in and of itself.
And unlike Bruce Wayne and Oliver Queen, Matt Murdock has a religion and an interest in it. That said, this was the biggest misstep in the episode: Confessionals are great for getting a character to talk about his feelings and his regrets, but it feels forced in this case. I felt like I was back in high school speech and debate, watching a kid perform a monologue, and all I could think was, Why did you pick Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”?! You’re only 15!
He asks for forgiveness for what he’s about to do, which is fight off four guys who are trying to drag a bunch of women into a cell by the docks. That’s the other part of Daredevil: Human trafficking is a huge, systematic problem that actually exists. Unlike the machinations of Fish Mooney or people “who’ve failed the city” in Arrow, the problem is an ongoing reality, and it relies on corruption to thrive.
The next day, we see him in his real life: starting a law firm with his friend Foggy Nelson, who has bribed a cop to tell them about any interesting cases. A woman covered in blood is found next to a stabbed man. Her name is Karen Page, and Matt and Foggy walk in and announce themselves as her lawyers. She tells them what happened — that she got drinks with the now-dead guy — and Matt, who can apparently hear heartbeats, believes her based on her steady heart rate. Foggy accuses our blind superhero of being taken in by her “pretty face and questionable motives,” but Matt asks why they haven’t charged the woman yet, pointing out that there’s something weird going on.
He’s right, of course: A man in a too-neat suit coerced a prison guard to kill Karen, but when he tries to choke her, she blinds him. Matt and Foggy get her out, and she explains what really happened: She works with Union Allied Construction on the government contracts for New York’s West Side construction — specifically as the secretary for the chief accountant, which means reviewing pension claims. She found a document called “Pension Master,” which indicated a huge amount of money being smuggled as company pension through coded routing numbers. Believing it to be her boss’s own work, she met with Danny in the legal department, but as soon she started talking, “things got blurry.”
They tell her she can’t stay at her place that night, and Matt takes her to his home (which looks to me like a Los Angeles studio apartment, of course). She asks Matt a bunch of invasive questions about his blindness, and Matt takes them in stride, like most every person who is constantly questioned about his body and self is expected to. But then he goes on to ask her why, exactly, she isn’t dead yet. He asks if she kept the file, and he can tell through her heartbeat again — he can hear heartbeats, how is that even possible — that she’s lying this time when she says she doesn’t have it.
Meanwhile, a bunch of bad guys are meeting on a roof: Madame Gao, Nobu, Leland Owlsley, and the two Russian brothers Anatoly and Vladimir, all getting restless waiting for someone. This includes my favorite bit from the show:
Madame Gao: [Something in Mandarin.]
Leland: Anyone here speaks Chinese? NOBU?
Nobu and Madame Gao: [Side-eye him so hard the man should be in a coma.]
Vladimir: … The man is Japanese.
Leland: I know, I know, I just thought that — [Points to them! OH MY GOD, DIG THAT HOLE DEEPER, JERK.] Forget it.
If we’re talking systems, I guess Daredevil has to at least reference some systematic racism.
Wesley (of course his name is Wesley) shows up instead of his boss, asking about “the shipment,” meaning the living, breathing humans we saw Matt rescue earlier. The Russian brothers explain their men were blindsided (sorry) and Leland laughs it off, pointing out these vigilantes “help” their business.
Meanwhile, Karen gets up in the middle of the night to go back to her apartment, where she finds the USB she hid there earlier — and then gets attacked by the “professional” we saw earlier in the episode. Of course Matt saw her leave, so he follows her and fights the man off. They decide to leave the man on the steps of the New York Bulletin.
It’s no wonder she spends the rest of the episode staring at him slightly starry-eyed, and thanks him and Foggy by cooking them a meal. She also offers to work for them, which — yes! Gotta love a superhero team. The Hermione Rule of Friendship stands: If someone saves you from a troll/professional hit man, you know you can trust them forever. Foggy is clearly a Ron, anyway.
Meanwhile, Wesley is talking to his boss, who has designated Karen’s old boss the fall guy, had the professional hanged in his cell, killed the prison guard and left his daughter to find him, and had Leland transfer the accounts (using a ridiculously simple computer program, it seems).
The episode ends with a little boy getting kidnapped, oh my God. After watching this series, I feel like I’m going to want to keep any children I have in my womb forever. Luckily, Matt hears him cry out — but I am so ready for the next episode.
A few thoughts:
- The one line I enjoyed from Matt’s confessional monologue? His grandmother’s adage: “Beware the Murdock boys, they got the devil in them.”
- When Foggy talks about bribing a cop (whom he’s known since he was 4! And whose grandmother loves cigars!) over the phone and adds, “Kidding, NSA, if you’re listening!” Commenters: Do you also do this?
- Karen’s family recipe sounds a bit like Engagement Chicken, which you now know I know, but now you also know, so.