The Marvel Takeover - Day One: Daredevil Season 1 Recap

The Four Color Ark




It is finally happening good folks of the Merry Marvel Marching Society, we’ll have no talk about the Distinguished Competitor this week because we’re devoting five straight days to all things Marvel in honor of the impending release of The Defenders.  This Friday the Netflix Marvel shows will team up a man without fear, a woman of incredible strength, an unbreakable man and the immortal defender of K’un Lun.  Let’s make mine Marvel and waste no time diving right in with the first of the Marvel series: Daredevil.

Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) was just a smart kid trying to do the right thing when he pushed an old man out of the way of an oncoming truck, he wasn’t prepared for the toxic waste that was going to spill into his eyes and drive him blind.  He certainly wasn’t prepared for the way that losing his sight would vastly amp up his other senses; giving him a unique radar sense, an enhanced sense of smell, and an incredibly sensitive sense of touch.  Young Matt was dealt another major blow when his father – Boxer “Battlin’ Jack” Murdock – was murdered for refusing to throw a fight. After learning to control his new senses, young Matt Murdock grew up and became an attorney – pairing with his friend Franklin “Foggy” Nelson (Elden Henson) to open their own law firm in Hell’s Kitchen New York.  


The duo’s first client is Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) a young woman who has discovered a pension scam at the construction company for which she is an office assistant – her discovery has landed her framed for a crime and very much hunted by an assassin.  Nelson & Murdock Attorneys at Law swoop in and prevent her from prosecution, and Matt Murdock swoops in wearing a black outfit to fight off her would be assassin.  It turns out that Murdock has been using his abilities, and his cool ninja-like outfit, to fight crime for some time now.  He dispatches the men sent to kill Karen, and delivers her and information that will save her life to journalist Ben Urich –who sadly works for The New York Bulletin and not The Daily Bugle.  Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall) exposes the construction company scandal, and an exonerated Karen Page takes a job as the front desk assistant for Nelson and Murdock.  The only hitch is that the construction scandal scratched the surface of a much larger mafia scandal that could tear New York apart, and the architect of this grand scheme sends his assistant James Wesley (Toby Leonard Moore) to clean up the mess and dispose of the black clad vigilante who saved Ms. Karen Page’s life.

Wesley first contracts the Russian Mob to take care of the vigilante, and they attempt to do so by kidnapping a child to draw the vigilante out of hiding.  Murdock tracks the kidnappers down, makes a disastrous first attempt at rescuing the boy that leaves him bleeding to death in a dumpster until he is found by a nurse named Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) who takes him back to her place and stitches him up – cementing herself as the linking device that ties each of the Netflix shows together.  After healing Murdock takes a second go at rescuing the boy by storming the Russian stronghold in a tense and violent fight down a hallway that quickly becomes the centerpiece of the Season One.

It turns out that the Russians, the Yakuza, the Italian Mafia, and legitimate Wall Street interests have banded together under the leadership of a Kingpin of Crime to reshape the city after the events of The Avengers, and that Kingpin is named Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) who has gradually consolidated all of the criminal interests he could under one banner where the main gangs collaborate with each other.  This delicate house of cards has come almost to completion, and a loose cannon like a black clad vigilante could destroy everything – so Fisk declares all-out war on the man in black.

Karen Page, working independently of Nelson & Murdock, teams up with Ben Urich to discover the identity of the mysterious Kingpin while Matt Murdock tries to take down the gangs under Fisk’s control.  Things get progressively worse for Matt on his journey – all of his opponents have incredible armored clothing that he can barely penetrate, and worse the Yakuza is bolstered by an ancient ninja clan known as The Hand that Matt was trained to fight by his tough as nails sensei known as Stick (Scott Glenn) who reappears to let Matt know that the dangerous plan of the Hand that they have been trained to stop is in the process of happening in New York under the direction of the meticulous Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) and the dangerous Nobu (Peter Shinkoda) who seeks to bring a Hand weapon known as Black Sky into the city.  Together Stick and Matt capture the Black Sky, which it turns out is a young boy whom Stick murders.  Matt and Stick have it out in Matt’s apartment and Matt defeats his mentor who agrees to leave the city.   Karen and Ben discover the secret to Wilson Fisk is that Fisk murdered his own father to protect his mother and intend to use this against him, meanwhile Nobu demands Fisk make good on the promise of gifting him and The Hand a city block that has been evacuated of all tenants with the exception of Nelson & Murdock client Mrs. Cardenas.  Fisk has Cardenas murdered which enrages the vigilante now known as The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, Murdock goes first to face Nobu who is moving into the territory and is able to after a protracted battle defeat the leader of the Hand – but Matt is severely weakened and beaten which makes him no match for the beating he then receives at the hands of Wilson Fisk himself.  Matt manages to escape and make it to his apartment where he collapses in full view of Foggy Nelson who feels utterly betrayed to learn that Matt is not who he had always presented himself to be.  The rift between them grows as Foggy discovers more about the secrets Murdock has been keeping.

Murdock recovers, but is urged by Claire Temple to better protect himself – which he does by tracking down the guy who has been supplying the Kingpin’s men with such great body armor a man named Melvin Potter.  Matt rescues someone dear to Melvin and in exchange he commissions an armored suit that he can use when protecting Hell’s Kitchen.  Melvin gets to work, and Murdock goes off to begin taking down Madame Gao’s heroin trade.  Karen Page gets into a dangerous meeting with Fisk’s right hand man Wesley and only manages to escape by killing him.  Ben Urich’s editor kills Ben’s story about Fisk, and then fires Urich after Ben accuses him of being on the take from Fisk – but the actual mole at the Bulletin informs Fisk of the details of Urich’s story and Fisk has him murdered.

Foggy and Matt reconcile their differences and start building a legal case against Fisk which they turn over to the Feds, which in turn gets Fisk arrested – but he manages to escape custody and is hunted by a now fully armored in red Matt Murdock.  The two fight and ultimately Murdock prevails, Fisk is taken back into custody and the city at large now has a new hero officially named: Daredevil.


My first exposure to the character of Daredevil was the Rex Smith portrayal in the made for TV movie: The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, and the character fascinated me from that moment forward. Thanks to incredible runs on the comics from the likes of Kevin Smith and David Mack I delved deeply in the late nineties and began building a back issue catalog that spanned the Frank Miller tenure on the character.  It would be fair to say that if there were a single Marvel character who stands toe to toe with the other company’s pantheon in my fandom it would be a difficult choice for me between Daredevil and Captain America.  Having seen the source material treated less than charitably in the early 2000’s Ben Affleck film, I was itching at the opportunity to see a more serious take on Matt Murdock and his role in the Marvel Universe – but I was admittedly unsure of Charlie Cox.  Thankfully I was quickly put at ease because Charlie Cox is Matt Murdock pulled directly from the pages of the classic Miller/Romita Jr. mini-series Daredevil: The Man Without Fear.  Just as true to Murdock as Cox is, Elden Henson is an almost note perfect version of Foggy Nelson – though Henson’s version is a little more put together than his rumpled comics counterpart.  Deborah Ann Woll takes a more than affable shot at portraying the complicated and at times much maligned Karen Page.  All of that said, the real meat of Season One comes in the performances of Vondie Curtis-Hall as a true street level Ben Urich going after the story of a lifetime and Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk consolidating his power.  From the moment these two actors hit the screen, you’re glued to everything they do – and in the form of Fisk…. Yipes the things he does.

Much is said of the action in Season One, particularly the oft praised Hallway fight in Episode 2, but the thing that makes this series work is not just the bare-knuckled violence.  Season One of Daredevil ratchets the tension repeatedly on what is ultimately a fairly simple narrative to turn the fight between Daredevil and the gangs of New York into a meat grinder pulling the character of Matt Murdock apart again and again before only occasionally putting him back together.  The constant back and forth between doing what he must, feeling compelled to do more and then absolving his catholic guilt over what he has done is at its core the most quintessential version of the character.  The inevitable showdown between D’Onofrio’s Kingpin and Cox’s Daredevil is an amazing cataclysm of two freight trains steaming toward each other and then crashing gloriously before our eyes.  

The character of Claire Temple, who will appear again and again as the Marvel series’ unfold quickly becomes a fan favorite, as does the devious and mysterious Madame Gao.  The usage of Stilt Man as the designer of Daredevil’s costume is a lovely nod to comic’s continuity.

Season One of Daredevil kicks things off in such fantastic style and creates a formula that the other Netflix Marvel series will attempt to emulate.  Overall, nothing has yet topped it – not even Daredevil Season Two which will introduce us to The Punisher.

TOMORROW: Jessica Jones and The Purple Man

WEDNESDAY: Daredevil Vs. Frank Castle

THURSDAY: Luke Cage is a Hero for Hire

FRIDAY: The Immature Iron Fist

BEYOND FRIDAY: The inaugural episode of The Four Color Ark Podcast, we will kick things off with a discussion about the entirety of the Netflix Marvel Canon - including THE DEFENDERS.