TV Review: Marvel's Daredevil - Season 1 Episode 1 "Into The Ring"
EPISODE 1: "Into The Ring"
SYNOPSIS: Blinded as a young boy but imbued with extraordinary senses, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) fights against injustice by day as a lawyer, and by night as the Super Hero “Daredevil” in modern day Hell's Kitchen, New York City.
BREAKDOWN: (The following is a spoiler-free review of the first episode of Marvel's Daredevil. Beginning April 10th, we will post one review each day for every episode of the first season of the series).
Since the massive letdown of 20th Century Fox's use of Daredevil and the associated roster of Marvel talent, fans have been waiting to see a faithful adaptation of The Man Without Fear. When Marvel announced their partnership with Netflix included the recently reclaimed rights to Daredevil, fans rejoiced that that vision would become a reality. I am here to tell you that you can rest easy. Daredevil is exactly what you have been waiting for. Showrunner Steven S. DeKnight has done his homework and delivers a take on Daredevil that is dark, gritty, but still a good fit for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole.
What you need to know before getting into Daredevil is that this is not going to be a superhero movie but rather a cinematic comic book. Daredevil embraces the structure of an issue of a comic book. The origin of the titular hero is not spelled out via voice-over narration or showcased with an over-the-top transformation sequence. Instead, Matt Murdock is already a vigilante defending his city using skills honed in the absence of his sight. There is no radar vision like we saw in the film version of the character. Murdock instead feels like an actual human being who trained every aspect of his body in preparation to fight for his city and the people in it. The Daredevil, clad in a homemade outfit comprised of shirt, pants, and a bandana, is not the spandex-clad superhero from the comics. Well, not yet at least.
Everything about Daredevil feels ominous and intentionally set up. The opening credits, literally dripping with blood, tease the eventual version of the character we expect to see, but the first episode sets up an organic opening to an origin story that will span thirteen episodes. Yes, we see Murdock as a child and how he loses his sight. Yes, we learn about his father and how his failures as a fighter and a parent lead his son to his life's calling. But, none of the events of this episode feel forced or fake. The best aspect of Daredevil is how much it feels at home in the grime and underbelly of New York City in the wake of THE AVENGERS.
Oh yes, this show is clearly rooted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Where Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. deals with the aftermath of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, Daredevil is set in the post-Battle of New York period where criminals are finding new and unique ways to capitalize on the leftovers of Loki's attack on our world. But Daredevil is not name-dropping those marquee heroes as a way to push the connections between the big and small screen. What we get instead is a look at what a world full of humans with superhuman abilities is like when the villains come out to play.
With that in mind, Daredevil is not going to throw out characters like FOX's Gotham has done. We do see some characters familiar to readers of Marvel Comics make their debut. Matt Murdock's friend and partner Foggy Nelson gets a great deal of screen time here and he doesn't feel like forced comic relief like Jon Favreau did in the movie. Eldon Henson plays Foggy like a young and scrappy attorney working to open his first law firm. We also meet Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), who gets the focal point in the episode as both Murdock's first client and, potentially, more. Woll is solid and her introduction and the chemistry is already evident.
But, what makes Daredevil really stand out is that it doesn't try too hard. There are never moments where Matt Murdock feels more than human. While the fact that he is blind offers him a clear alibi for his actions, his enhanced sense of hearing and physical strength comes across more as the result of a lifetime of training which gives him a more relatable origin. There are a handful of moments in the first episode where these skills are used. Some are when trying to detect lies during a conversation while others are in the multiple fight sequences. And rest assured, there are a lot of fight sequences. Dimly lit and using the same hand-held style popular with directors like Paul Greengrass and Christopher Nolan, the fight scenes are not difficult to follow and are better than what you would typically see in a television series. They do feel a bit hampered by now having a hundred million dollar budget, but the producers still deliver one hell of a debut for their character.
I have not yet talked about the villains, namely The Kingpin, but that is with good reason. Daredevil's first episode is not trying to force characters too soon which gives the show a nice slow burn feel. The producers have repeatedly compared this series to shows like The Wire and after watching this premiere I can see why. Daredevil is violent and dark but also is poised to spend as much time with both sides of the law and both sides of the hero/villain dynamic. The first season is about the rise of Daredevil rather than a compressed origin but is also set to follow the rise of Wilson Fisk in the same way.
This first episode delivers exactly what it is supposed to. We meet the major players in Matt Murdock's world and get a hint at his life through brief flashbacks that illustrate how he becomes the man he is. But, this is not an instant hero story. What we have come to expect from a two hour Marvel film is spread out here over thirteen hours and for good reason. Daredevil is a complex character whose nuanced views of good and evil make him a lot like Batman. There is darkness here and it already feels like this show is taking us somewhere very different than any Marvel Cinematic Universe production has gone before. If there are any shortcomings to this first outing, it would be a couple moments of clunky dialogue and pacing, but these are easily forgiven by the promise of what lays ahead over the next dozen episodes. This is going to be one hell of a ride.
MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE REFERENCES: The Battle of New York, referred to as The Incident, is vital to the rise of both Daredevil and his eventual nemesis, The Kingpin.
NEXT ON DAREDEVIL: Episode 2 "Cut Man" - Review to debut April 10th
CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...