Daredevil Week continues with the arrival of Netflix’s Marvel’s too many apostrophes’ Daredevil this morning. David has shepherded us through Frank Miller’s classic run, two of DD’s most famous origin stories and the not-classic Daredevil movie. Now the billy club has been passed on to me.
Over the course of however long I can do this until life gets in the way, I’m going to binge the series. In between each episode, I’m going to read an issue of Frank Miller’s classic run on the comic book title that shaped the Man Without Fear into the character we know of today, starting with Daredevil #168.
I’m going to recap it live (at least for me), while watching it. I’m not entirely sure what will spill out of me. But here it goes.
It’s dark, sirens are going off, and blood is all over the streets. Just another night in Hell’s Kitchen, Daredevil already grooving to its gritty beats.
Except the blood belongs to Daredevil himself, fucked up in a trash can. And just like that, we’ve hit the moody credits.
The young guy who found him earlier, returns, with Rosario Dawson in tow. They take Matt to her apartment. It’s night, and she’s nursing him, with the clear intention that Rosario Dawson is playing Night Nurse. Except, we find out that her name is Claire Temple, an entirely different character from the comic books.
She removes his mask, and he’s not moving, until he gasps and comes back to life, refusing to go to the hospital. He claims that if she does, that the same people who did this to him, will kill anybody in his way to get to him. This paints the image of them just spraying a hospital full of bullets willy-nilly, when I feel like they’d probably just go to Matt’s hospital bed, kill him, and leave. But still, point made. Then…
Murdock falls back down and out, and into flashback zone, where Young Matt watches his Dad lose another fight on the telly. He goes to the kitchen, waiting for his injured and battered father to arrive.
Sidenote: I love that flashbacks are being utilized whenever Daredevil gets knocked out, or pummeled. In Daredevil #168, this is actually exactly the device used by Miller to retell DD’s origin and splice Elektra into the proceedings.
Jack returns beaten to shit, and Matt gets the first aid kit out (which has playing cards in it…which may be a Bullseye reference), a depressing routine in full swing. He’s used to stitching his Dad up. Jack even offers his (like 9 year old?) son a little scotch so his hand isn’t shaking this time around. And Matt takes a swig. Marvel, Disney’s marvel, has its name on a property that shows a well underage kid DRINKING SCOTCH. We’ve entered an all new sector of the Marvel Universe, and I love it.
Matt’s in trouble with Pops because he watched the match instead of doing his homework, but Jack’s the real one in trouble, because he has a wad of dough, clearly throwing the fight. We get some Murdock truths/family words which wouldn’t have felt out of place in Unbroken: “It’s not how you hit the mat, it’s how you get up.”
Back in the present, Foggy sings loudly (Foggy just is loud), believing himself to be alone in the office. But Karen’s there, and it’s hilarious. I love Elden Hensen, though he certainly has a different, less bumbly countenance than the Foggy comic book fans will be familiar with. Also, in this scene Foggy and Karen seem to have some serious sexual tension. Interesting. Foggy wonders why she isn’t off doing “poppers and flapper dancing.” He couldn’t be more out of touch, and it’s great. Realizing that they neither have lives and that Karen desperately doesn’t want to go back to her apartment, it’s off to bar hop!
Matt wakes back up again, and Claire calls him out wonderfully: “Your outfit kind of sucks by the way.” She didn’t have a dying man on her couch in mind for her night off. Told to rest, we’re back to the past, with Young Matt freaking out after the accident, still screaming “I can’t see,” and getting attacked by sound.
Quickly, we’re punched back to the present, where in addition to not being able to see, now Matt coughs, “I can’t breathe.” His lung is filled with air and has collapsed. She fixes him up, and then basically demands to know what’s up, because if he dies, she’s screwed.
As we saw at the end of the pilot, the Russians kidnapped a boy, and are running a human trafficking ring out of Hell’s Kitchen. They pulled the boy two days ago and Matt thought he was smart for finding him so fast…but that was the point. It was a trap, and they were waiting for him, and he walked right into it. Claire, of course, wonders how and why the hell a blind man is trying to dole out justice. “There are other ways to see,” Matt says, another motto for House Murdock. In response to his vigilantism, Claire points out: “No offense, but you don’t seem to be very good at it.” She’s the best kind of honest.
That’s when Matt’s senses kick in: someone’s coming. He smells cigarettes and cologne on the third floor, looking for him. This episode probably has a little bit too much back and forth between the present and the past, or at least, they weren’t subtle in transitioning, always with these Murdock truisms. Claire’s amazed he can even stand up, and Murdock admits, “I’m very good at taking a beating. I got that from my Dad.”
Back in the ring, Jack’s at the boxing club, sparring. Matt’s learning braille. That’s when two grimy suits come in, calling Jack over, they’ve got him a match with Carl Creel (the man who will be Absorbing Man and will show up on Agents of SHIELD 2×1). Jack’s psyched, but there’s obviously a catch: he has to throw the fight in the fifth round. But if he does, they’ll make a boatload of money. Jack passes, but they convince him, that if anything, the accident means he needs the money that much more.
In the present, Matt grabs a knife and prepares for a fight, but Claire pushes him aside and meets a man claiming to be Detective Foster. She explains she hasn’t seen the “Man in Black,” which makes me think of Johnny Cash, Will Smith and LOST before it makes me think of Daredevil. He walks off, but Matt knows he doesn’t believe her. That’s when we get a great moment: Matt drops a fire extinguisher down several flights of stairs precisely on the dude’s noggin.
Sidenote: In the comics, Claire Temple is the ex-wife of one Bill Foster, who becomes Goliath. She’s also a love interest for Luke Cage, who will be appearing in AKA Jessica Jones in 2016. That the criminal pretends to be a Detective Foster could simply be an Easter Egg, or something that comes to roost when the real Detective Foster comes knocking. Of course, in the comics, Bill Foster is a Doctor, not a cop.
While Matt’s beat to shit, Foggy and Karen are getting hammered, arriving at Josie’s, a favorite dive in Hell’s Kitchen. Karen clarifies that this is definitely not on a date, but they still flirt, and Foggy tells her to allow him to fool himself that she’s into him. It’s cute, they drink more, all to get away from the awful fact that Karen can’t get Danny’s blood out of the carpet.
She no longer sees a city. She sees dark corners. “I look around this room and all that I see are threats.” I don’t blame her, but this is where we see how much Foggy loves this neighborhood, and how much he knows it. He points out the regulars, the honest and the not-so-honest ones, clearly trying to help the community. It’s an expert way to showcase this characterization.
Meanwhile, Matt takes “Detective Foster” to the roof. Claire’s not having it, straight manning the shit out of him, and wondering how a blind vigilante can have so many abilities. Matt wonders why she helped him. Apparently, at the Metro General Hospital, she kept hearing about the “Man in Black,” that he’s been saving lives and doling out punishment to those who deserve it. The “word’s getting around.”
“I want to believe in what you’re doing,” she says, but Detective Foster is chained to the rooftop of a building, prepped for interrogation. Matt knows she’s scared, and that’s when we get closest to a “Man Without Fear” line: “You can’t give into the fear…[if you do] men like this win.”
Speaking of, Jack has a new robe for the fight, and it’s “really red,” blessed with the moniker Battlin’ Jack Murdock. Matt points out, “The good thing about red is you can’t tell how much you’re bleeding,” which is a super sad thing for a kid to point out to his Dad.
Realizing that, Jack changes his mind: he puts all his money on himself against Creel, and instructs his bookie to put the money into his son’s account. Then he calls a woman (Matt’s Mom?), leaving her a message, warning her that he’s going to need her. “Just once I wanna see Matty hear someone cheer his old man’s name.”
While Jack readies for an inexorable origin story death, Foggy and Karen are super drunk, providing the only brevity in the entire episode. They arrive at Matt’s place, banging on his door, trying to get him to hang out. No dice, so they walk side by side, giggling in the night.
Back on the roof, Claire Temple rocks a cheap/quickly put together but impressively creepy white outfit, and Daredevil interrogates “Detective Foster.” Claire gets into it, telling Matt a good place to stab him. Awesome.
Then DD starts beating him, claiming that he’s not only doing this to save the boy. “I’m doing this because I enjoy it.” After dangling him off a building, the thug finally reveals the kid’s location. Matt unceremoniously throws him off the roof into the same garbage bin Claire found Matt in to start the episode. “He’ll live,” he says, though he certainly didn’t seem too concerned if he didn’t. I do hope we can skirt the whole will he kill/won’t he kill hero thing that’s been done a million times.
Before DD heads to save the kid, he tells Claire to relocate, because they’ll come looking for her, and he gets her location, because he’s a Man Without Fear of rejection. Plus, he’ll need patching up, if he survives what’s coming.
“I don’t believe you enjoy this,” Temple says, as he walks away.
TO THE PAST! Matt watches/listens to the match at home, and his Daddy wins. Matt cheers. Jack quickly makes a run for it, but never leaves the locker room, closing his eyes and taking the bullet he knew was coming.
Matt waits in his customary spot in the kitchen, but his Dad never comes home. Matt makes his way to the ring, and finds his Dad in the alley. We’ve all seen this so many times before, but it doesn’t make it any less upsetting.
But DD takes out his pain on the Russians, as our episode ends with a really well shot, punch-a-thon, with Daredevil flitting from room to room, the camera only glimpsing the hallway. He can barely walk by the end, but he carries the boy out of there. This is also when I realize there’s definitely a little throaty Daredevil voice/mini Batman-thang going on.
And that’s the end. I would say that this episode doesn’t stand on its own as well as the first episode, but the pace feels right, and the mood and atmosphere is off the charts. This really is the dark corner of the Marvel Universe, and it’s great to finally get a chance to see it.