Daredevil (Episodes 9-13)

Daredevil 13c

Perhaps my most telling reaction is that, weeks after finishing the first season, I don’t miss the show. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it while I watched it, but the appealing elements of the show never coalesced into addictive, irresistible entertainment. The scripts are far too rocky, veering unevenly from clever or heartfelt moments to dithering with poor pacing or cliched writing.

With any luck, the show will have a stronger writing team next season. The success of the debut series has fast-tracked a season two, and only 13 episodes into the Daredevil run, I’m interested in seeing more—and believe there’s a lot of unexplored potential here.

Daredevil (2015)

Created by Drew Goddard

Starring: Charlie Cox, Vincent D’Onofrio, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Rosario Dawson, Ayelet Zurer.

Review (Eps 9-13, collectively): 3.5 stars (of five)

Series rating: 3.5 stars

Episode 9: Speak of the Devil

Matt faces off against a red-clad ninja, confirming that the Japanese crime syndicate working with Fisk—the only ally Fisk fears—is, or employs, The Hand, the ninja clan that Frank Miller created in conjunction with Daredevil’s lost, corrupted true love, Elektra. This bodes well for season two.

Daredevil 9Additionally, Matt meets Fisk, face to face, for the first time in a tense scene that continues to ramp up the confrontation between these two. It’s notable again that Vanessa, who seems sometimes to give Wilson his spine, is in white. I wouldn’t go so far as to say she is the real kingpin here, but she’s clearly a driving force behind Fisk’s evolution.

Another highlight of the episode is Matt’s conversations with his priest. How cool that Matt actually has questions about the righteousness of his vigilante campaign. Would that Batman had just the occasional moment of self-doubt, y’know? And Matt couches this doubt in terms of his faith, as well, telling the priest, “I know my soul is damned if I take his life.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen an action hero think this way.

Finally, in what is clearly a turning point as we enter the season’s final act, Foggy discovers an injured Matt—the truth is out. Matt is at a crossroads in terms of how far to carry his crusade, Fisk is ascendant, and Matt is laid very, very low—physically, and in his relationship with his best friend. A great episode.

Episode 10: Nelson v. Murdock

Daredevil 10This episode doesn’t measure up to the previous. The script underscores that both Matt and Fisk are at a crossroads, pulled by mission and personal loves, but it doesn’t quite work. Foggy’s anger feels real but badly executed, as though the writers don’t know how to pace it to fill the alotted screen time. And over with Wilson Fisk, his crimelord cohort Madam Gao tells him he cannot be both savior and oppressor. “You must choose, and choose wisely.” That maybe makes sense, but then Gao says he’s pulled by love and mission, suggesting that Vanessa is weakening him, making him choose “savior” … which makes no sense, since like so many great villains, Fisk has seen himself as a savior since day one. Leland, Fisk’s accountant, also joins on the anti-Vanessa bandwagon for no comprehensible reason. Other than to set up the events of the fundraiser at the end of the episode. But the writers should’ve laid all this track in early episodes.

Also, suddenly giving Ben Urich a wife dying of an unnamed TV disease feels inorganic and distracting. As does the story’s long, laborious dance to get Karen and Ben to meet Fisk’s mom—whose dementia makes her a terrible witness—and Foggy keeps saying harsh words to Matt which, at most, get Matt to recap things about himself we already know.

Episode 11: The Path of the Righteous

Daredevil 11A story of loss. Matt has lost Foggy, and pushes away Karen. Foggy is sleeping with the tacky big-law shark—a loss of dignity or fall from grace—and Fisk is focused on the poisoned Vanessa. Claire returns at last! But it’s sad, with more emphasis on loss. Meanwhile, Karen and Ben do so much dancing around to say, “Our crap story smearing Fisk is a crap story.” Amid overly dramatic dialogue that goes nowhere. This show is really poorly story-edited at times.

The priest suggests that Matt’s divine calling might be to be a warning to us all to walk the path of the righteous. I suppose that’s a fine definition of Daredevil’s mission.

The whole Wesley scene feels badly written. “I’m not here to kill you, Miss Page. I’m here to offer you a job.” Wait—why doesn’t he kill her? This is dumb. But it ends with a bang.

Sometimes the show is just going through the motion on its tropes.

Episode 12: The Ones We Leave Behind

Daredevil 13Seeing Karen deal with the horror of killing Wesley has a great irony: She is currently on the outside of the Matt/Foggy crisis over Matt’s vigilante insanity, and she too is dealing with the horror of committing extreme violence. A deep angle that does not prevent lame banter with Foggy.

It’s a solid ep, lining up Wilson, Matt and Ben. We’re building toward climax, but it’s not in itself a very exciting process. We go through story motions as Karen won’t trust any of her friends and fellow conspirators regarding what happened with Wesley, even though she’s so scared, so endangered, so alone, so upset.

I like Foggy’s sneering booty call, Marcy, turning out to have a little of a soul. She’s not a cartoon, though she is an amoral careerist. That’s real. And I love Foggy’s passion. Partly the character shines in this episode’s circumstances, but I also feel that scripter Douglas Petrie writes Foggy as less a buffoon.

There’s also a great Daredevil moment as Matt chases a car by following the classical music on the stereo—a fresh twist on his powers and activities. It feels like we see some new stuntwork, parkour with a flourish rather than straight fighting. The ep does feel a little passionless, but it’s SO competent.

The factory of blind chinese drug manufactuerers is… weird, but so comicbook/pulp. Why are all their eyes scarred?

Episode 13: Daredevil

Daredevil 13bMany rivers to cross, the Jimmy Cliff song tells us as we open on the funeral of a supporting character whose death we wouldn’t have expected. (Though, if we’d thought about how this kind of show, and story, works, we’d have realized that someone has to die who matters, but isn’t a core character, to add drama. See: Quicksilver in Avengers 2.

This episode showcases a great visual styling that’s been present throughout the series. As Karen wrestles with her fears, the camera observes, shakily, from afar. Sometimes it’s in the next room, other times it gazes through a chain link fence. The camera is an outsider, an eavesdropper, which adds to a sense of paranoia.

We get another reference to Leland’s son. The Leland Owlsey of the comics is younger, and a supervillain called The Owl. Hm.

As the ep pursued a convoluted storyline involving a missing, corrupt cop,I found myself wondering how the season would end. We needed a resolution, but surely Matt wouldn’t actually beat Fisk. This has clearly been the Kingpin’s origin, too. Yet halfway through the episode, it seems that Team Daredevil has won. All the bad guys have been exposed and arrested, and the good guys are toasting victory. How to fill the remaining 23 minutes?

Oh, with intense violence. (Fisk’s strut across the bloodsoaked bridge is somehow his most criminal moment.) Stunningly, the show ends with a flat-out defeat of Fisk. I hadn’t seen that coming. And there’s a great closing note, calling back to the Fisk origin episode without spoonfeeding the reference: He stares at the concrete wall that is his way of defining who is is and will be. It’s a subtle, terrific way to end on a “badass will be back” note.

Closing note

Again, I can’t give the series more than a 3.5 for this batch of episodes, though certain eps, maybe 9 and 13, rise above that. Looking at the season overall, I’d say it shed about half of its weaknesses, in terms of performance and writing, but didn’t transcend them all. Here’s hoping for a great season 2.