Based on: Daredevil by Stan Lee and Bill Everett
Producer: Marvel Television
Created by: Drew Goddard
Showrunner: Steven S. DeKnight (Season 1); Drew Goddard (pre-Season 1)
Director: Phil Abraham
Writer: Drew Goddard
Starring: Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Toby Leonard Moore
Genre: Action, Crime Drama, Superhero
Rating: 15 years or more (Blu-ray)
Marvel’s Daredevil is an American television series created by Drew Goddard and produced by Marvel Television for Netflix. It is based on the Marvel superhero, Daredevil. The series started on April 10, 2015 and continues to the present (September 2018). Although Drew Goddard started as the showrunner, he handed the project over to Steven S. DeKnight for Season 1, followed by Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez for Season 2, and Erik Oleson for Season 3.
On September 10, 2018, Netflix released a Season 3 teaser for the series. Season 3 is set to release October 19, 2018. Season 1 and Season 2 are both also available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Violence/Scary Images: Fights/brawls occur throughout the season, including punching, kicking, stabbing, shooting, throwing a person out of a window, throwing a person down an elevator shaft, smashing a head with a bowling ball, smashing a head off with a car door, stabbing in the neck, slicing off of a hand, beating people (including a teenager) with a baseball bat, wife-beating, wrist breaking, lighting a man on fire, tazing with a stun gun, and cartoon violence on television; intense violence/gore, including suicide by shoving one’s own head through a pike, suicide bombing from a blind man, stabbing with a syringe, torture, strangling, shootings (including to the head); dead bodies, including blood, suicide hanging, rib bones pulled out, headless bodies, gunshot wounds, and one implied to be cut up with a saw; wounds from fights and torture, including cuts, bleeding, stitches, broken ribs, bruises, concussion, knock outs, bleeding head from fire extinguisher, implied self-blinding of eyes and cauterization of gunshot wound; intense images, including poisoning people (three die, one recovers), the antagonist seeing himself as a child covered in blood, mentor figure talking about killing a child, chemicals splashing in a kid’s face, people (including women and children) being kidnapped, and explosions occurring in the city.
Language/Crude Humor: Seven uses of religious profanity (Jesus, God, Christ); 45 mild obscenities (h***, c**p, d**n); 60 scatological terms; 32 anatomical terms; 16 derogatory terms/insults, including b****; mother F’in (euphemism for F-word) and shysters is used; various threats of murder; various jokes about sex.
Sexual Content: Female lead removes her shirt to change into a dry shirt (her bare back is shown, with a very quick glimpse of the side of her breast); three instances of implied sex, with characters sleeping in the others’ home; female lead in shower (blurred by shower door); human trafficking; few instances of female characters wearing low-cut blouses; several discussions about past lovers and having sex; second-hand account of father-daughter molestation; various kissing and flirting throughout the series.
Drug/Alcohol use: Lots of drinking throughout the series, including two instances of underage drinking encouraged by respective fathers; drug trafficking; drug addict in inebriated state; minor antagonist drugs female lead for kidnapping.
Spiritual Content: Catholicism.
Other Negative Themes: Vigilantism, prostitution, human trafficking, supposed sadism of protagonist, blackmailing, Matt being bought out, corrupt police
Positive Content: Influence of fathers; journalistic integrity; discussions on the nature of God, the Devil and morality; discussions on fear and murder.
Episode 1, Into the Ring, begins with a young Matt Murdock saving an elderly man from getting hit by a truck. In the process, hazardous chemicals splash into Matt’s eyes, blinding him. In the present, Matt attends a confessional with Father Lantom, and then stops a human trafficking job in a black mask.
Foggy Nelson is introduced, Matt’s best friend from college and partner in law practice. Karen Page is also introduced, who is being framed for the murder of her co-worker. Foggy and Nelson take up her case, and discover Karen’s employer, United Allied Construction, embezzled money.
A hitman attempts to kill Karen in her apartment due to her knowledge of the crime. But, Daredevil saves her. United Allied is exposed to the public and various connections to the embezzlement are killed by a mysterious criminal Kingpin. The episode ends with men kidnapping a son from his father. Matt, dressed up as the masked vigilante (Daredevil, without his proper name), hears the cries of the young boy.
Episode 2, Cut Man, starts sometime after the last episode ends. Daredevil ends up in a dumpster, presumably having been defeated by the Russians attempting to rescue the young boy. Claire Temple finds him and brings him back to her apartment to treat him.
In a flashback, we learn Matt’s dad Jack was a boxer. But, Jack is killed when he refuses to take the fall in a fight. Back in the present, Karen and Foggy go out for drinks in order to ease Karen’s fears about Hell’s Kitchen. As Daredevil recovers, one of the Russian thugs attempts to track the vigilante down. But, Daredevil manages to knock him out and eventually tortures him for information.
The episode ends with Daredevil ambushing the Russian gang hideout. He defeats nine thugs, despite being heavily injured. Daredevil is victorious and rescues the boy.
Episode 3, Rabbit in a Snowstorm, starts with a mobster playing a private bowling game. Hitman John Healy savagely beats him to death with a bowling ball. Healy surrenders to the police and requests a lawyer.
The next day, Father Lantom invites Matt to coffee, but Matt turns down the offer. The reporter Ben Urich is introduced. Several people tell Ben to drop investigating the crime world. But, Ben continues.
Back at Nelson & Murdock, the right-hand man of the Kingpin, Wesley, enters the office. He seeks their legal support for Healy. Despite Foggy’s qualms about Healy’s shady nature, Matt takes the case. Matt and Foggy have Karen investigate the Confederate Global, the company funding Nelson & Murdock to represent Healy. Elsewhere, Karen considers signing a document to keep quiet about United Allied.
After the open trial, there is a hung jury and Healy is released. After a confrontation with Daredevil, Healy reveals the name of the Kingpin, Wilson Fisk. Healy immediately kills himself, fearful of the wrath of Fisk. Eventually, Karen seeks out the help of Ben. Wilson Fisk is revealed at an art gallery, and meets the art curator, Vanessa.
Episode 4, In the Blood, starts with a flashback. Eight years ago, the Ranskahov brothers were jailed in a Russian prison. They discuss starting a new life with his brother in New York.
In the present, the Russians discuss the issue of Daredevil with Wesley. Fisk also asks Vanessa out to dinner and she accepts. The Russians kidnap Claire from her apartment, but Daredevil locates Claire in a taxi garage. He battles the Russians, and rescues Claire. Ben and Karen also team up to investigate the crime world. Fisk and Vanessa enjoy their date, until Anatoly Ranskahov interrupts it. This turns off Vanessa.
The episode ends with Wesley sitting in a car with Anatoly at night. Fisk yanks the Russian out of the car, and decapitates him with the car door for embarrassing him in front of Vanessa. Fisk orders the body to be sent to his brother, knowing it will start a gang war.
Episode 5, World on Fire, begins with Claire in Matt’s apartment. Matt explains his radar sense, and they discuss Fisk and the Russians. Elsewhere in town, Wesley visits Vladimir. Thugs bring in the body of Vladimir’s brother, Anatoly, but with a Daredevil mask planted by Fisk’s men. Vladimir declares war on the vigilante.
Fisk meets with Madame Gao, Owlsey, and Nobu to announce the elimination of the Ranskahov brothers. Foggy and Karen meet a new client, Elena Cardenas. Mrs. Cardenas claims her slumlord is attempting to illegally evict her. At the police station, Matt overhears crooked cops killing a Russian thug for mentioning the name of Fisk.
Fisk goes on another date with Vanessa, who grows to like him. Vladimir sees a connection with Fisk and his brother’s death. Then, various explosions occur across Hell’s Kitchen. Fisk orchestrated them, in order to rebuild the city. Daredevil recovers from the chaos and catches Vladimir. But, police surround them, forcing Daredevil to surrender with hands raised.
Episode 6, Condemned, starts where the previous episode ended. Daredevil defeats the corrupt policemen, despite being surrounded. At an abandoned warehouse, Vladimir accuses Daredevil of killing his brother, but Daredevil denies this. The vigilante then cauterizes a gunshot wound on Vladimir with a flare.
Ben Urich appears outside the warehouse with police, but Detective Blake mocks him. The policeman discovers the location of Daredevil and Vladimir. Daredevil discusses morality and Fisk with Vladimir. But, Vladimir attacks Daredevil, sending him through several floors. Daredevil regains consciousness and finally talks with Fisk over a radio. Fisk offers Daredevil a choice to kill Vladimir and escape, or be framed. Daredevil turns down the offer.
Then, a sniper shoots several people on the scene, including Detective Blake. The Fisk-bought media blame the sniper attacks and explosions on Daredevil. Daredevil and Vladimir manage to escape into the sewers. But, Vladimir decides to make one last stand against the SWAT Team. Before he is killed, Vladimir discloses Leland Owsley as the one in control of the finances of Fisk.
Episode 7, Stick, introduces Stick, the former mentor of Matt Murdock. Stick searches for the Black Sky and kills a Japanese man in the opening. Back in New York, Foggy derides Daredevil, while Karen defends him.
Daredevil meets with his mentor again, under much hostility. In a series of flashbacks throughout the episode, Stick breaks down the nature of Matt’s abilities and trains him how to fight. Back in the present, Stick criticizes Matt’s lifestyle. Stick wants to recruit Matt to help raid Nobu’s operation, who is in league with Fisk. Matt helps, until Stick tries to kill a child, the Black Sky.
In another flashback, Stick sees the young Matt developing fatherly affection for him and ends his mentorship of the boy. Back in the present, Stick still kills Black Sky after the raid. Matt then demands his mentor leave the city. Foggy meets Ben with Karen. The episode ends with Stick reporting to a mysterious man with scars.
Episode 8, Shadow in the Glass, starts with Wilson Fisk supposedly waking up from a nightmare. As he prepares for his morning alone, Fisk sees himself as a young boy, covered in blood. Karen and Foggy fill in Matt on their investigation. Karen also reveals she has been working with Ben Urich.
In a flashback, Fisk’s father Bill runs for City Council to gain bribe money. In the present, Detective Blake wakes up, and Fisk calls on Blake’s partner Hoffman to poison him. Hoffman succeeds. But before Blake dies, he gives key information to Daredevil.
A series of flashbacks shows the abusive nature of Fisk’s dad. In the present, Madame Gao and Owlsey both are disappointed with Fisk. This angers the Kingpin, so Wesley brings Vanessa to Fisk, and they talk. Fisk then tells Vanessa how his father physically abused his mother and Fisk killed his father with a hammer.
Daredevil meets Ben Urich, and they discuss exposing Fisk. Fisk again goes about his morning routine, but this time with Vanessa. The episode ends with Ben, Karen, Foggy, and Matt watching Fisk give a press conference.
Episode 9, Speak of the Devil, starts with Daredevil fighting a red ninja, but losing. Earlier, Matt discusses the existence of the Devil with Father Lantom. Ben, Foggy, and Karen discuss Fisk going public. Matt also meets Ben. They continue to investigate connections between all criminal parties.
Fisk buys out Mrs. Cardenas’ building; he offers tenants money to leave. Foggy and Karen convince Mrs. Cardenas to stand her ground. Matt then goes to visits Vanessa at the art gallery, and inadvertently meets Fisk.
Matt goes back to church, and talks about killing versus inaction with Father Lantom. Then, a phone call informs Nelson & Murdock that Mrs. Cardenas was murdered. Fisk makes a public statement concerning the death of Mrs. Cardenas. Daredevil beats up a drug addict for more information.
Daredevil arrives at a warehouse, only to find the murder of Mrs. Cardenas was a trap to lure him out. Daredevil defeats Nobu, but utterly loses against Fisk. Daredevil manages to flee to his apartment, but goes unconscious. Foggy then discovers the true identity of Daredevil.
Episode 10, Nelson vs. Murdock, starts with Matt waking up on his couch with Foggy in his apartment. Various flashbacks occur throughout the episode, from their initial meeting as college roommates to their agreeing to start a practice together. Back in the present, Foggy feels betrayed that Matt kept his superpowers a secret.
Fisk meets with Madame Goa in private, and Gao accuses Fisk of not being focused. Ben also attends to his ailing wife. Matt divulges more information to Foggy, including Stick and the extent of his abilities. Ben ends up giving Karen all of his research on Fisk to tend to his wife. But, Karen provokes Ben to look into a hospice.
Karen and Ben arrive at the nursing home, and meet an old woman. The woman is Fisk’s mother; she hints at Fisk’s murder of his father. Elsewhere, Fisk holds a benefit, but guests start to drop from poison in the drinks. Vanessa is among them. Foggy leaves Matt, still angry at him. It is implied he is leaving Nelson & Murdock Law Office.
Episode 11, The Path of the Righteous, starts with Fisk carrying the poisoned Vanessa to a hospital. Fisk attempts to push his influence to see her being treated in the hospital room, to no avail. Karen meets Matt in his apartment. She tells him about meeting Fisk’s mother, which Matt says was dangerous. Back at the hospital, Fisk waits for an update on Vanessa’s condition. Wesley and Owlsey speculate who was behind the poison attack.
Claire appears again to treat Matt’s wounds and again suggests body armor. Karen and Ben discuss the meeting with Fisk’s mother and the printing of the story. Doctors tell Fisk Vanessa will be okay.
Matt goes to church, and talks with the Father Lantom about the plan of God. Matt suits up later that night and learns about Melvin Potter. Melvin makes body armor for Fisk, and Daredevil persuades Melvin to make a special suit for him. Wesley learns about Karen and Ben visiting Fisk’s mother. Wesley kidnaps Karen, but she manages to shoot him. Karen then flees, with Fisk still attempting to call Wesley.
Episode 12, The Ones We Leave Behind, starts with Karen distraught over killing Wesley, but keeping it secret. Foggy runs into Matt, but they do not speak to one another. Vanessa wakes up in the hospital; Fisk vows to make those who poisoned her suffer. A guard informs Fisk Wesley’s body has been found. Fisk bids a final farewell to Wesley, and checks his phone. The last person Wesley called was Fisk’s mother.
Foggy enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend to gain information on Fisk. Her firm represents Fisk. Ben’s editor shoots down the exposé on Fisk, and Ben accuses his editor of being paid off by Fisk. The editor then fires Ben. Daredevil disrupts Madame Gao’s drug trade, a fight ensues, and a fire breaks out in the warehouse. The blind workers escape the burning building. Owlsey then meets Madame Goa and they discuss poisoning Vanessa. Madame Gao then says she will return to her homeland.
Matt breaks down in front of Karen, confessing his need for others. Ben goes home, but finds Fisk waiting for him. Fisk then strangles the reporter to death with his bare hands.
EPISODE 13 (SEASON FINALE)
Episode 13, Daredevil, starts with the funeral of Ben Urich. Matt discusses his guilt over not stopping Fisk with Father Lantom. Karen fears Fisk will discover her visit to his mother, but Matt vows to protect her.
Fisk meets with Owlsey to discuss an irregularity in the accounts. Owlsey denies this at first, but eventually admits to poisoning Vanessa in order to refocus Fisk. Despite Owlsey’s use of Hoffman’s testimony as blackmail, Fisk kills Owlsey. Fisk then orders for Hoffman to be found and killed.
Foggy and Matt reconcile somewhat. Karen, Foggy, and Matt deduce the location of Hoffman based on an off-the-books property of Owlsey. Matt goes to find Hoffman immediately as the Daredevil. Fisk also receives word of Hoffman’s location and orders everyone there to be killed.
Fisk’s corrupt police kill Hoffman’s safe house guards. Before they can execute Hoffman, Daredevil rescues him. Daredevil gives Hoffman the chance to testify against Fisk and make things right. Daredevil tells Hoffman of one clean cop. Hoffman finally gives his testimony to the feds and Nelson & Murdock; various Fisk connections are then arrested.
Fisk is arrested at his apartment as he gives a ring to Vanessa. Nelson & Murdock celebrate the arrest and toast to the friends that were killed. In an armored van, Fisk muses about the Good Samaritan, and about how he is actually the man of ill-intent. Fisk breaks out, with the aid of his own armed men. Nelson & Murdock view the firefight on the news, and Matt suits up in his new Daredevil body armor.
Daredevil crashes Fisk’s truck and confronts the Kingpin head-on. Daredevil and Fisk have a final fight in an alleyway, and Daredevil defeats him. Fisk is finally brought into custody. The newspaper calls Daredevil by his name proper and Nelson & Murdock reunite. Fisk sits in prison staring at a concrete wall and Daredevil continues to watch over the streets of Hell’s Kitchen.
Many of my praises from the first episode remain true throughout the entire season. The writers know what story they want to tell and they tell it; nothing in characters, scenes, or dialogue is wasted. The cliffhanger ending of Episode 5 legitimately had me at the edge of my seat, making me ask myself, “How will Daredevil get out of this one?” The cinematography looks very picturesque, especially wide shots with characters and the city. The music fits, but it’s nothing I want to play as background music as I do chores. Be forewarned, this series is very brutal and there is a lot of swearing.
I feared the series would move too slowly towards the end of Episode 1; not so with Episode 2. Immediately, Daredevil is out of commission in a trash at the start. We end that episode with Daredevil fighting the Russian gang in the iconic hallway scene. The action paces really well after this for the rest of the season. Similarly, the fight scenes are a breath of fresh air compared to the super-powered fights of the MCU movies. It is a refreshing realism compared to seeing someone in an iron suit or wielding a magic hammer (well, as realistic as a man with superhuman senses can be).
I like how they don’t overemphasize how bad Hell’s Kitchen is. They simply show me. In contrast, Fox’s Gotham shoves the corruption down our throats with exposition, saying things like, “There is just something bad about Gotham that makes people go crazy.” I understand Gotham is a different setting in a different universe with different goals. But still, just show, don’t tell.
TWO MAJOR CRITICISMS
The Netflix series is near perfect. I only have a two major criticisms. First, there are several superhero clichés. They are noticeable, but not overwhelming. The foremost of these is the female lead (Karen Page in this instance) not knowing Matt Murdock is Daredevil. Like Lois Lane and Clark Kent, you would begin to wonder why Karen doesn’t question why Matt isn’t around during certain times. Also with Karen, there were a few parts where I found it hard to believe she was still alive. It almost was like it was a plot convenience protecting Karen from Fisk, not the Daredevil. Another cliché is Daredevil’s final boss fight with Fisk. It is emotional and climatic, but expected from a superhero series.
Second is how long it takes for Daredevil to fully become Daredevil. I know this season tells one big origin story. And I know withholding the completion of the superhero’s identity occurs in other series. But, this withholding normally doesn’t work for me; I know who the hero is. I don’t mind a slight delay. But, I don’t want to wait until the final episode to give Daredevil his classic red suit/armor and name proper. Even the Owl gets a kind of suit before Daredevil!
CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT AND CAST
Our protagonist gets good character development, especially with the help of Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson). He eventually learns to be more open about his relationships by the end of the season. Daredevil is not the perfect hero, nor is he Superman. He gets hurt, both physically and emotionally. It makes me wish we could somehow see him in the rest of the MCU movies.
Season 1 is an origin story for Daredevil. The creators tell this story in a nonlinear manner, but it isn’t pretentious. I thought they were going to drag out Matt’s father longer. Thankfully they didn’t, but you feel the father’s influence throughout the season. You do see other father/mentor figures as well for Matt, including Father Lantom and Stick. You get some good discussions on God, the Devil, and morality with Matt and the priest.
Stick is the classic superhero mentor, played by Scott Glen. He’s gruff and it works. He gives color to the background of the overarching origin of Daredevil. His later mentorship reminded me of the Ra’s al Ghul—Bruce Wayne relationship in The Dark Knight series. It surprised me to see Stick appear in the present; I thought he would have died and stayed in the past.
My critique of the main cast remains the same as in the first episode. Charlie Cox balances the vicious and intuitive natures of Matt Murdock and Daredevil. Deborah Ann Woll shows a wide range, from strong-willed to naïve. As a side note, I thought she would truly be the love interest for Daredevil in the first episode. But, the rest of this season subverted my expectations. Elden Henson plays a good contrast to Daredevil. Bob Gunton remains one of the funniest characters this season. I’m a little disappointed I won’t see him or Vondie Curtis-Hall as Ben Urich in future seasons. On that note, two characters stood out for me this season: Ben Urich and Wilson Fisk.
THE WHISTLEBLOWER AND THE KINGPIN
As someone who loves journalism and writing, this character stood out to me the most. Ben Urich is what most journalists strive to be: Passionate, relentless, and devoted to the truth. Vondie Curtis-Hall captures this drive with a seriousness that trumps the Joe Pantoliano depiction in the 2003 film.
Ben Urich in the Netflix Daredevil series represents what a lot of modern writers are going through. The end of print media disillusions us, and we are adjusting to the place of words on the Internet, which is popular and ever changing. Ben is part of the old guard; he places legitimacy on print that (he perceives) an online blog lacks. Ben thankfully has Karen help with this adjustment, although it is too little, too late. He is a critical character in Season 1 and in the comics. I was shocked when they killed him off at the end of the season. I understand why they did this; his death probably has the most impact in the series. But, it still feels like a missed opportunity.
Wilson Fisk is the other stand out. It amuses me how a Netflix villain with no superpowers is more intimidating than most of the MCU movie villains. When they first introduced him, I hoped they would show his background like Matt Murdock. By Episode 8, the creators did not disappoint.
My favorite aspect of the character is the dialogue, a testament to the writers and the delivery of Vincent D’Onofrio. It is over-the-top and expressive, like a classic Bond villain. Unlike the comics, this Fisk does not convey overconfidence or a composed persona. But, he is still engaging to watch, especially in his fits of rage and brutality. In addition, I really appreciated the friendship between Fisk and Wesley. It humanized Fisk, almost like there was honor among thieves.
Fear is a major theme of Daredevil Season 1. He’s “The Man without Fear,” so it’s only fitting. Fear is a motivating (or stalling) factor for many characters. For example, Karen’s introduction involves her fear of the killers of her co-worker coming for her. Then, she fears Fisk towards the end of her character arc. Ironically, Ben puts himself in dangerous situations like Karen. But his motivating factor is truth, not fear.
Daredevil confronts many fearful situations, starting with his blindness as a kid and the loss of his father. But, he overcomes them. And in his overcoming, he can ease the fears of others. In contrast, fear absolutely controls Fisk. He even admits this to Vanessa. One could argue Fisk restricting his minions from using his name is out of fear of others.
Ultimately, our fear of the Lord must override any fear of man, even unto death. In the Christian context, this means standing up for Jesus or a scriptural truth in spite of fear. Matthew 10:28 (NKJV) says “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Christians in other countries understand this, as they face persecution and even martyrdom.
Knowing God is with us is a major key to overcoming fear. As the Lord said in Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear, for I am with you.” Jesus also promised to be with us to the end of the world (Mathew 28:20). If we truly believe God Himself is with us, what reason do we have to fear anything?
THE SINS (AND FAITH) OF THE FATHER
My father did not only influence my love of Daredevil; his example provided a starting point for my Christian walk. I was only a teenager when he rededicated his life to Christ. But, the change I saw in his life was a major factor in my coming to know Jesus as my Savior.
The influence of the father on the son runs throughout Season 1. Both Daredevil and Fisk are products of their imperfect father, with different outcomes. Both have fathers involved in the criminal world. But, Matt’s father finally takes a stand at the cost of his life. Both give their sons life lessons. But, Matt’s lesson is one of endurance (get back up); Fisk’s lesson is one of being a bully (keep others down).
Fisk lives in fear, a byproduct of an unloving father. There is a connection, as 1 John 4:18 says “There is no fear in love.” In addition, Ephesians 6:4 says, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Needless to say, Fisk’s father provoked him to a lifetime of wrath. In contrast, the love of Matt’s father fosters a stability and fearlessness, even after his death.
The role of the Christian father is to teach his children of the God he knows. Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” This is not to mean the human father is perfect, but he is perfectly devoted to Jesus. On that note, I think it helps if the father speaks openly to his children of any generational flaws. Ultimately, we must choose to either repeat the sins of our fathers, or walk out the faith of our fathers.
The Bottom Line
Netflix’s Daredevil is an authentic take on the vigilante and territory of Hell’s Kitchen. It isn’t a word-for-word adaptation, but truly captures the gritty tone. This is based on a comic book, so there is a little absurdity. But who cares? You will be entertained. Just mind the violence factor before watching with kids.