‘Daredevil’ came to NETFLIX yesterday, and with it came a lot of fan expectations, including the idea that the show would be darker, grittier and able to do more than ABC’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘ as it is not on network television. So far, the show does not disappoint in those aspects. It is darker (literally and figuratively, with the audience needing to adjust to the generally darkness of the sets and shots, though in many ways making us feel a bit like it’s hero Matt Murdock, who is blind, but can just make out the important details). It is grittier, blood, violence, gore, grime, ‘Daredevil’ has it in spades. And as far as story is concerned, the show is very aware that fans will be binge-watching, and it takes it time setting up our hero, his backstory, the world/ city he lives in (New York’s Hell’s Kitchen), and the characters around him.
As I too am binge watching this weekend, I have decided to recap episodes 1 -5, then 6 – 10, culminating with a recap of the final 3 episodes. As such, bear with me if there was a particular scene or moment that does not get mentioned, as there’s a lot to get through.
The hero/ alter-ego of ‘Daredevil’ is Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer who has just started his own practice with his long-time friend Foggy Nelson. Matt’s backstory is laid out in flashbacks over the course of the first few episodes, but it starts with a young Matt (11 or 12 years old I believe) pushing an old man out of the way before being hit by a truck, which causes Matt to be hit instead. The truck looked to be loaded with radio-active waste, which spilled onto Matt’s face, particularly his eyes. (similar to the origin in the comics). The accident leaves Matt blind, devastating him and his father, but both resilient characters quickly make the best of the situation. That resilience is demonstrated by Matt’s father (Jack)’s career, as he is a boxer who never gives up, who always picks himself back up after being knocked down. He and his son are alone in the world (no mention yet of what happened to the mom), and before the accident Jack often came home from fights and Matt would patch him up, having some skills with a medical kit, including using stitches (mind you, Matt is brilliant, as he is 12 and stitching up his father). After the accident, Jack worries about his son, despite Matt quickly learning braille and assuring his dad that he will be back to reading and studying just as hard as before. Jack is offered a huge fight against an opponent named Carl Creel (yes THAT Carl Creel, who a few years later would become the Absorbing Man and face the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.),and Jack is told to go down in the 5th round, with the gangsters offering him the deal putting a lot of money on the table. Jack takes the deal knowing he needs the money to help his handicapped son, but Matt, who’s super-hearing is active, overhears the conversation, and subtly urges his dad to do the right thing. Jack decides to bet heavily on himself, and tells the bookie to put his winnings into a secret account in Matt’s name, and then wins the fight, much to the delight of Matt who has the TV on at home and is listening to the match. After the bout, Jack Murdock is gunned down in the street (presumable by the gangsters he betrayed), and Matt runs out of the house at the sound of the gun shot, finding his dead father outside. A super-hero is born.
In the present of the show, in the aftermath of the New York alien attack, a company named Union Allied has been rebuilding much of New York, and making massive profits doing so, their rebuilding work including Murdock’s home of Hell’s Kitchen. In the first episode, a secretary for Union Allied, Karen Page, is accidentally sent a list of “pensions” showing exorbitant money being laundered through the company. She tries to discuss the situation with a friend who works in the legal department over drinks, but she soon awakens in her apartment covered in blood with the man, Daniel, dead beside her. The cops show up and arrest her, but luckily a new upstart Law Office, Nelson and Murdock, is hungry for cases, and they are tipped off that the woman might need help. At the end of the day, the shadowy criminal group behind Union Allied sends a man to kill Karen, but she is saved by the man in the black mask (future Daredevil), who takes the file she had and gives it to a reporter named Ben Urich at the New York Bulletin, who publishes the story and brings everything to light. The criminal organization has everyone involved quietly killed, except for Karen, who is no longer a threat, and for the lawyers she hired, Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson, who they think might be an asset in the future.
The criminal organization is comprised of numerous gangs from around the city, led by a shadowy man named Wilson Fisk (whose name no one is allowed to speak), with the youngest members being 2 Russian brothers who set up shop in Hell’s Kitchen around 8 years ago after escaping from Russia. They have been tasked with dealing with the black masked vigilante, and they kidnap a child to get his attention. Murdock (I’m not going to call him Daredevil until the show does), tracks down the gang, but he gets attacked and almost killed during the investigation, ending up badly wounded in a dumpster. Luckily a woman named Claire (the excellent Rosario Dawson), who knows of the vigilante and appreciates the good he’s been doing for the city, finds him and takes him back to her apartment, where she uses her nursing skills to fix him up. Murdock is tracked by the Russian Mob though, and he has to work with Claire to take down the gangster searching her building, ending by interrogating the man for information on where the kid is being held. Murdock knocks the man off the roof into the dumpster below (the man is left in a coma) and goes off to save the child, but not before telling Claire to stay somewhere else until the Russian heat dies down, as they knew she was helping him. Murdock then launches a ferocious attack on the hide-out where the kid is being held, a beautiful almost all-done-in-one-take knock-down, drag out brawl between Murdock and what felt like at least a dozen gangsters, with Murdock taxing his body in almost-superhuman ways to subdue every gangster before he finally gets to the kid and carries him out of danger, walking over the downed bodies of the gangsters on the floor.
On the civilian side of things, after helping Karen Page, she decides to work at Nelson and Murdock’s as their secretary, kindling a growing romance between her and Foggy as they take on cases, including one given to them by a man the audience knows works for Wilson Fisk (who I’m hoping at some point will be called ‘The Kingpin’ as in the comics). The man gives the struggling firm a large sum of money, and asks them to defend one of their assassins, who recently took down a rival gang leader at a bowling alley, in brutal fashion. Both the assassin and the criminal group know that Foggy and Matt’s help is irrelevant, as they will buy the jury regardless, but they want to get Nelson and Murdock’s firm under their wing. Matt decides to take the case as he wants to learn more about the criminal organization that he’s sure is behind the offer, and Nelson begrudgingly goes along with it because they need the money. At the end of the day, Matt busts some skulls in his black hood trying to ensure the gangster bullying the jurors is stopped, and then makes a poignant speech as his closing argument about how they are not there to talk about the morality of the man in question, whether he is good or evil, but rather to discover where his guilt can be proven without a shadow of a doubt, as the law is not concerned with right or wrong, but merely facts. The assassin is acquitted, but is soon after visited by the black masked Murdock, who forces a name out of him, with Matt finally learning the name Wilson Fisk. The assassin is aware that by saying the name he signed his own death warrant so he impales himself through the eye with a sharp pipe, ending his own life, and teaching Matt that Wilson Fisk is not someone to be taken lightly.
Karen meanwhile, still shaken by the death of her friend Daniel and her treatment by Union Allied, is offered money by the restructured company in exchange for her silence, which outrages her. She seeks out Ben Urich to get him on board for the story, as the man was once a storied investigative journalist, but Ben has his own troubles. His wife is sick and has costly medical needs, and his paper is struggling to stay afloat, relying on fluff pieces to keep up readership, with his editor saying readers are not interested in hard-hitting pieces. Urich tells Karen to leave it alone, but she ignores him and continues investigating, eventually arriving at an auction for Union Allied office supplies, where Urich arrives and tells her to get out, that she is being too obvious. They meet at a diner later, and he tells her that he is actively investigating, much to her delight. He does tell her to take the settlement though, as legally she doesn’t have to talk anymore, as she’s already told Ben everything she knew.
The criminal gangs are aware that the black mask vigilante is continuing to muck up their operations, and are disappointed that the Russians have failed to take him down. The Russians visit the man Murdock left in a coma and force him to talk, using that information to piece together enough to find Claire, who they kidnap and torture for information on Murdock. Fortunately, at this point in time she does not know his name, only his face, and she is strong enough to resist the torture until Murdock arrives, beating the hell out of those holding her captive, and then taking her back to his home, where she will be safe. Meanwhile we get to know more about Wilson Fisk the man, as he is courting an art curator named Vanessa (who based on the Comics we know actually marries the man). He takes her out on a date, and he seems very mild mannered and somewhat insecure around the opposite sex, which contrasts with the terrifying persona “Wilson Fisk” has amongst the underworld of the show. His date is interrupted by one of the Russian brothers, who has comes to accept an earlier offer by Fisk to merge their organization, which ruins the date. Afterwards, Fisk meets with the Russian, accepting the merger, right before beating the man to death, ending by smashing his head in a car door, until the head is completely destroyed, pulverized into bits of bone, blood and brains. Fisk, it seems, is done with the Russians, both in their failure to take down the masked vigilante, and because this one ruined his date with Vanessa.
Claire and Matt share a kiss at his apartment after discussing his blindness and how he sees the world, right before Matt goes into work and they get a case defending an elderly Guatemalan woman who’s landlord is trying to drive her and her neighbors out of their apartments. Nelson and Matt readily take up the case, going up against the law firm where they interned, with Foggy and Karen encountering an old girlfriend of Foggy’s who is representing the wealthy landlord. Foggy and Karen then visit their client at her home, where they see the squalid conditions being forced on the residents, and Foggy decides to jump in and fix what he can, with Karen helping.
Meanwhile Matt visits the police precinct to ask for help from their police contacts, seeing if they could get copies of any other reports filed against the landlord. While waiting, his super-hearing over hears an interrogation of a Russian gang member he had taken down the previous night, who wants to make a deal with the cops. He’ll tell them everything he knows about Wilson Fisk as part of the deal, but little does he know that one of the cops interrogating him is a Fisk man. The cop kills his partner and the gangster, and claims that the gangster killed his partner and had to be put down, which the rest of the police accept for some reason. Matt does not, and tracks down the crooked cop, beating him for information, and learning that the Russians were blaming him for the beheading of one of their leaders, with the man Vladimir having all his men hunt down his brother’s killer. Murdock takes the man’s cell-phone and heads home.
Fisk, meanwhile, has sent his delegate to the Russians, and having planted the information that the black mask killed Vladamir’s brother (by way of a black mask found on the body), Fisk pretends to move ahead with the plan to merge their organizations. Meanwhile, the rest of the crime bosses meet, and Fisk informs them of his plans to take down the Russians, telling them that he killed Vladmir’s brother. The rest of the gang is ok with the plan, as cutting out the Russians means they get more of the profit, but they are wary of Fisk making moves without consulting them. Matt and Claire review the cop’s phone, and Claire finds a text message with 4 addresses, one of which Matt recognizes as the place where they held the kidnapped kid. He figures these are the 4 hide-outs of the Russian mob, and heads out to take down Vladimir, potentially killing him. Claire tells him she cannot fall in love with someone who risks turning into that which he fights again, and Matt agrees with her, and says she shouldn’t love him.
Meanwhile, Vladamir learns that one of Fisk’s cars was recently in a shop with blood and brains being cleaned out of it, and he puts together that the black masked man works for Fisk. He offers 1 million dollars to whoever can find Fisk, and brings in all his men to load up with weapons and go to war with Fisk. Which is exactly what Fisk wanted. While out on a private date with Vanessa, who reveals she knows he’s a criminal and is ok with it, at a swanky restaurant with a nice view of Hell’s Kitchen, Fisk waits for his moment. Vladamir receives a tip-off of Fisk’s location, and he and his men are ready, all of them gathered and arming up in the russian mob hide-outs. Murdock arrives outside one of the hide-outs and begins to fight his way inside when an explosion rocks the building, killing all within. From Fisk’s date, he and Vanessa watch all 4 Russian hide-outs explode, with Fisk explaining to Vanessa that he is cleaning up the city by getting rid of dangerous criminal elements he cannot control. One of the hide-outs is near the apartments where Foggy and Karen had been helping ( the pair were ending the night on a kind of date, as their client had cooked them dinner) and the explosion smashes in all the windows of the apartment, leaving everyone with cuts and scrapes from broken glass. Murdock is knocked out by the explosion, awakening in time to hear Vladamir escaping, also having survived the blast. Matt follows and begins his beat down of the criminal, making it clear that part of his fury was for what they did to Claire, but at that moment the police arrive, and Matt has no escape route. Hands up, it appears he has been caught.
TO BE CONTINUED….