The first episode of Marvel’s new Netflix series, Daredevil, gives a quick recap of the character’s origin story and introduces a darker/grittier side of the MCU.
Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) was blinded at a young age. He pushed a man out of the way of a truck crash, but the chemicals the truck was carrying splashed his eyes, causing the blindness. Fast forward to his adult life. Matt is operating in a post-Avengers Hell’s Kitchen as a vigilante wearing a black mask. Despite his blindness, he can use his other senses to help him fight. Matt and his partner and friend Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) are also opening up their brand new law firm. The problem is that they have very little money and no clients. They get a tip on a young woman, Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), who is in need of their services. Karen was found in her apartment with a murdered man and the murder weapon in her hand. The police bring her in, but she insists that she is innocent. Matt believes that there’s something more to the case, and his theory is confirmed when a prison guard is blackmailed into trying to kill her in her cell.
Karen was a secretary for a company called Union Allied. She accidentally received an email showing some major irregularities through the company’s pension funds. Turns out that her boss, is part of a gang of bad guys who didn’t take too kindly to part of their enterprise coming to light. This group is led by a mysterious man who seems to prefer to have his right hand man, James Wesley (Toby Leonard Moore) do most of the leg work for him. Wesley is dealing with the Union Allied leak as well as the interruptions that this new mysterious vigilante has caused in their different criminal enterprises. He sends a professional assassin to take care of Karen but, this time, the masked vigilante is there to stop him. A brutal fight ensues, with the vigilante eventually getting the upper hand. He takes the assassin and the Union Allied information to the papers and the story goes public.
Fortunately, for Karen, this causes Wesley’s employer to back off of Karen because she doesn’t know anything that’s not already public. Even so, he decides to keep tabs on the new law firm of Nelson & Murdock for a possible future encounter. In gratitude for believing her, and because she doesn’t have a job, Karen offers to come on board an the law firm and help the young lawyers out. Later that night, as Matt heads to his father’s old boxing gym to train, we see a montage of all the different criminal enterprises that are going on in Hell’s Kitchen.
Even though it’s not on the same scale as the movies, it’s clear that this series is set in a world that was affected by the events of the movies. Several times the episode makes references to “the incident”, which refers to the Avenger’s giant fight in the middle of NYC. However, the effects really don’t account for much more than some vague references and some unimportant facets of the plot backstory. Ultimately, it’s probably a good thing that this is only tangentially related to the MCU movies because it makes the darker tone of the series easier to accept.
This is immediately a very dark pilot episode (at least it plays like a pilot). There were at least 3 dead bodies shown on screen. The action was very gritty, and bloody and damaging. None of these things are what we’ve come to expect from the MCU movies, but they work here. I feel like that’s going to be especially useful in a series with a hero that’s very vulnerable. Murdock is skilled, but the episode makes it clear that he’s not invulnerable by any means. He does manage to take out 4 guys on his own at the beginning of the episode, but he struggled to defeat the professional assassin in his later fight. That coupled with a villain who has already killed several people and been responsible for attacks on women and children, makes for great stakes in a show.
Even though, the show is noticeably darker, it does still retain some version of the trademark MCU humor. Early on, a lot of that is coming from Henson’s Foggy Nelson interacting with Murdock. That is kind of expected from a character like Foggy. What I didn’t expect is the drama provided by Deborah Ann Woll. In HBO’s True Blood, she showed a propensity for playing a damsel in distress that was still able to show some inner strength. It looks like that’s what she’s going to be called on to do here as Karen. Even though Karen was in a bad spot, she still tried to protect Foggy and Matt from getting involved. This is an admirable quality, but it could get annoying later on.
Overall, this is a great pilot for a series and a great start to a new series.