“Let the Devil out”… DAREDEVIL is a deliberately paced character piece, surprisingly focused on drama with an adult tone. That’s not to say there isn’t any action. The fights are kinetic, well-crafted pieces of choreography. MARVEL’s latest series is aimed at the adult audience combining Film Noir with hard boiled crime. NETFLIX is a great choice of distributor because of their success with intense dramas like HOUSE OF CARDS and BLOODLINE.
I fear the younger audience may be bored by the different approach of this comic book series. Character is King in DAREDEVIL. The first scene establishes MATT MURDOCK’s origin story. We are immeadietly thrown into action – the aftermath of a truck crash. Young Matty saved an old man from a certain death. The truck was transporting hazardous materials which splashed all over the little boy. He’s blinded. But we’ll soon learn this is no handicap. The accident had unexpected side effects, giving Murdock superpowers.
Cut to the present day and our first look at the grown Murdock (CHARLIE COX from THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING) is in a church’s confession booth. This is an excuse to briefly fill in some gaps. The director made a bold choice to have one uninteruppted close-up for this scene. The exposition here is handled as well as can be expected. I like how Murdock trails off talking about his dad and how he was a boxer “before…” I like how this plants a mystery early on. We also learn one essential thing about Matt’s father, he was “always on his feet when he lost.“
Cox is an unexpected choice to portray the titular hero. He’s relatively unknown which helps us envision him as the character without distractions of his previous roles. This was a wise decision from Marvel. Cox has the acting chops to deliver the drama and more emotional elements of the storyline. I’m so happy they aimed for talent rather than supermodel looks or something. The biggest surprise was how adept he seemed at the fighting. More on those impressive sequences later.
I like how precise the dialogue is. DREW GODDARD (CABIN IN THE WOODS, and Joss Whedon collaborator) wrote an economic screenplay here – quick, concise, precise. I like how we basically skip the origin story. Instead, Goddard uses carefully placed flashbacks and hints at the past with compelling dialogue – like when Matt tells the priest, “Be careful of the Murdock boys, they got the Devil in them.” The intrigue continues as we hear the son talk fondly about his father. It’s not mushy or emotional, instead the conversation is aimed on creating the myth of Jack Murdock. The legend goes that once Jack’s hit enough something snaps inside him – Berzerker Rage WOLVERINE-style.
The confession ends with Matt “asking forgiveness for what (he’s) about to do.” Nice set-up.
This line appropriately transitions to Murdock in his Daredevil training outfit – the black hood over his eyes and most of his face, perched on the rooftoop like a GOTHAM Gargoyle. And we get right into the action as Daredevil whips and whirls around fighting a group of baddies like a NINJA TURTLE in the shadows.
After the fight, the incredible credits begin. In this sequence images drip into realization like a velvet drape of crimson life. The first image formed is the Statue of Justice – blindfolded and blind. A great parallel to our hero. The opening titles continue as blood coats the city.
DAREDEVIL has a totally amazing credit sequence reminding me of a mix between the opening titles of Fincher’s GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO and TV’s HANNIBAL.
Enter FOGGY NELSON, as he and Matt search for an office to rent for the Law Practise in Hell’s Kitchen (a.k.a. The Devil’s Playground). They’re looking for their first client to represent.
Cue DEBORAH ANN WOLL’s character KAREN Page spattered with blood holding a knife over a dead man in her apartment. Murdock believes in defending the innocent, even if they can’t afford the bill – especially since he can use his powers to hear the heart-rate to tell if they’re lying, .
Now, we quickly and briefly have our main cast introduced and the story launches off. I think the show-runners did an impressive job quickly establishing the world and characters with enough intriguing elements for us to participate in the mystery. I really enjoyed how (DC’s) JEPH LOEB, STEVEN S. DeKNIGHT, and Drew Goddard accomplished the world-building tasks. If there is any weak link in this premiere episode it’s the lackluster bland character of Foggy. He just wasn’t enthralling enough in these brief moments.
KAREN is played by DEBORAH ANN WOLL (from TRUE BLOOD)
Before we find out more about Karen’s story we meet a villainous henchmen, whom I assume works for the big bad baddie KINGPIN. Again, Goddard quickly establishes how evil this guy is. He threatens another man with footage of his daughter on campus. He calls his daughter, revealing this is a live image, and our thug definitely means buisness.
Now that we’ve met one of the bad guys, we know Karen is in serious danger. This is when we learn she works in the financial department of ALLIED UNION CONSTRUCTION. She opened the wrong e-mail concerning a pension scam. The baddies want to silence her, but thankfully Matt Murdock is in her corner.
Murdock convinces Karen to stay at his apartment for her own safety. I loved the atmosphere of this setting – the pounding rain and the purple & pink neon lighting. While this series is adult in content it doesn’t verge into R-rated territory. Woll is sexy here with leaving enough to the imagination – Film Noir style. When she disrobes it adds just enough steam to foreshadow a possible blooming relationship.
Karen gets interogated by Murdock, as he listens to her heart-beat for deceit. I like how when he uses this power the edges of the frames blur. Murdock combines these skills with the power of deduction, like SHERLOCK HOLMES. He wants to get to the bottom of this – to defend the innocent. And wipe the streets clear of crime.
Cue the baddies… We meet what seems like 4 seperate crime families debating what to do about this masked vigilante. They conspire together with Allied Union Construction to control the city and profit off of expansion. They earn more when they break the law. The earlier fight scene had Daredevil fighting thugs from the Russian gang – a quarter of the crime enterprise.
Back to Karen… She sneaks out of Murdock`s apartment to retrieve a hidden USB with the pension scam files in her own apartment. A baddie awaits and roughs her up, stealing those files. But have no fear… Matty comes in to save the day with a furious flury of fists. In the scuffle, they crash through a window down to the street. Daredevil rises from the slick pavement, dripping with rain, in a cool camera shot.
Flashback time… Matt`s father warns him to do well in school and learn as much as he can. Jack never studied, and now he regrets it. He`s trying to teach his son to do right. He says to his son, “Look where it got me.”
What a great moment. He can’t look, so Jack directs his boy’s hands to battered and bruised face. Father gives son another valuable lesson: learning to see without sight.
Back to the Future… Blood drips from Matty’s battered and bruised face. Time slows down, accenuating every drop of blood and rain. Daredevil rises to attack with his Berzerker Rage – like father, like son.
This was a nice parallel to what Murdock said to the priest earlier. The show emphasizes these mirror moments, so keep your senses tuned.
This fight was more energetic than the opening fight. It was still in the shadows, but had a bit more lighting. I love how the energy flows from slow-mo and back to normal mid-fight. I like the wide shots mixed with the tight shots and the rhthym it creates. The sounds are also exaggerated, making it all pop together nicely with the images.
The fights aren’t overdone here like the movie version of DAREDEVIL from several years ago. Thankfully, there is no echo vision mode when our hero fights.
With the baddie down for the count, Murdock retrieves the stolen USB.
Karen witnesses these events. She pleads with Daredevil, “You can’t tell the police. You can’t tell anyone.” He grinds his teeth and retorts, “Then we tell everyone.”
Cut to the baddie: signed, sealed, and delivered on the front stoop of the police – bundled up with the USB in an envelope attached to his chest. Looks like Daredevil borrowed a page from the friendly neighbourhood SPIDER-MAN there.
News of the scam hits the front page. The Crime Syndicate reacts. We see Kingpin’s minion on a car phone, and we hear the big bad bald one’s voice. Thankfully, we never see Kingpin on screen once during the episode. This series is about the set-up. I’m thinking we’ll hear a bit more about this villain before his reveal. I hope they build a legend like KEYSER SOZE around him before we actually meet him. I think by hyping up the character he seems more dangerous – near mythic. This same technique was put to great effect in the recent JOHN WICK.
Again, it mirrors what we’ve heard about Jack Murdock, Matt’s boxing legend father. I love these parallels layered throughout.
Karen makes Murdock a meal the next day. The dramatic irony here is she has no idea Matt saved her last night as Daredevil. She mentions something about how her mom said this is the same dish she would make for her future husband. Once more, we have some foreshadowing regarding their relationship(?).
Karen thanks Murdock for believing in her even before the truth was front page news. He says, “All you did was tell the truth.” She beautifully replies, “But you listened.” I love it. It kind of winks at us, ironically referring to his powers of hearing – but also hints at his empathy. This “listen” also suggests what happens next.
To end the episode, we get an awesome training montage straight out of the 80s action flick, as Murdock attacks a punching bag in his father’s old gym. There’s even a decades old poster still hanging for his dad’s fight against Creel in the background to help visually tell the story.
This montage is cross-cut with a montage of the baddies disposing bodies and removing all ties to the leaked pension scam. We also see the Crime Families lay out blueprints, perhaps preparing a new scam or takeover.
The sequence ends with Daredevil on the rooftop, mask up – listening. He hears the cries of a child being kidnapped by criminal traffickers. He lowers the mask, ready to answer the call of the innocent and helpless.
Thus ends Episode 1, with a call to action, intriguing us to return for the next episode.
Stay tuned for my nerdy and passionate review of DAREDEVIL Episode 2 coming soon.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.