After covering the first half of the brand new season of Daredevil on Netflix, I continue my review of the latest and darkest entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And if you thought that the first six episodes were gritty, shocking, and violent, then you’re about to be blown away with what happens in the final seven. It’s clear that Daredevil is a show that is willing to take some chances and go to some very dark places. For the most part, the back half of the season is a rousing success, although there are some minor stumbling blocks along the way to the show’s triumphant finale.
Be warned if you have not finished Season 1 of Daredevil, there will be plenty of spoilers
After the end of episode 6, it’s clear that the show is now ramping up into the inevitable confrontation between Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk, as well as anyone else who may seek to take down The Kingpin. However, there are some strangely slow pieces to the back half of this season, as the show takes its time getting to the final showdown. That’s not to say that there are glaring weaknesses here, but when some characters hem and haw about their decisions to take down Fisk, it grows frustrating over a longer span of multiple episodes.
While Daredevil is a strong mix of the superhero and crime genres, it’s clear that this is a Marvel Studios production. Of course Daredevil and Kingpin are going to have one final fight at the climax of this season. But because there are 13 episodes, we all know that it won’t happen until the end of the final entry. The time spent getting there can feel like the wheels are being spun just a bit too obviously, especially during the 11th and 12th episodes – “The Path of the Righteous” and “The Ones We Leave Behind.” Thankfully, the momentum of the season as a whole and the strength of each character propels the series through these duller moments.
Episode 7, “Stick,” gets back to some of the origins of Matt Murdock after an extended break from flashbacks. The blind man only known as Stick comes to Hell’s Kitchen and teams up with Matt, revealing their connection from the past. Shortly after the death of his father, Matt was trained by Stick to better harness his enhanced senses. Interestingly, the episode is far less connected to the overall narrative than the other episodes up to this point. While the goal of their mission does tie into Fisk’s criminal connections, this is more about the relationship between the two men. Most interestingly, hints given throughout the episode and Stick’s conversation with an unrevealed man (most likely Stone from the comics) drops unresolved ideas that will likely play into the next season of the show. While it may not push the story forward much, it deepens the mythology of the show, as longtime fans will likely know that this is leading to the debut of The Hand, a cult ninja organization, and other classic characters in the Daredevil mythos. Of note, Scott Glenn is a pitch perfect Stick. In other words, he’s a real asshole who’s right about most things.
The Ghost in the Glass
“The Ghost in the Glass” quickly makes it known that it will be a Fisk-centric episode, as not only does the character take center stage in the main narrative, but he’s give extensive flashbacks largely centered around his relationship with his father. There are strong parallels between this relationship and the one Matt had with his own father, even down to both men giving their sons a drink of alcohol with different intentions and results. Also inversely from Murdock, Fisk’s flashbacks here give greater meaning to the ideas and actions taken by the man earlier in the series, rather than showing his origins and then seeing their consequences play out afterward like in Murdock’s case. There’s some truly heartbreaking stuff here, as Fisk’s murder of his father is both saddening and terrifying. This is how he becomes the monster he is today, but still a fully formed person that is able to elicit some sympathy from the audience. While “The Ghost” is almost all about The Kingpin, there are a few other elements at play, specifically the first meeting between Urich and Daredevil, which fans will love. After all, their relationship has played a major part in many of the hero’s most defining stories. More on that later.
Speak of the Devil
Let’s get this out of the way. A crazy ninja fight opens “Speak of the Devil.” That’s awesome! This battle, the hallway fight from “Cut Man,” and the climactic fight in the finale are the action highlights of the show. But the episode as a whole is light on action and heavy on moving the chess pieces around the board as Matt, Foggy, Karen, and Ben try to deal with insane setbacks caused by Fisk’s moves. Most shockingly, the death of Elena Cardenas is the biggest gut punch. Yes, she may have been set up as a painful death in the series, but it was still shocking and rough. The episode circles heavily back to Murdock’s morality and faith, as he struggles with the idea of whether he should kill Fisk and what that might mean for him and Hell’s Kitchen as a whole. It’s great to see that really brought back into play here, as the issues explored are just as interesting, if not more, than the main narrative. Matt’s Catholicism and inner rage are the dueling halves of the character’s nature and having them be at the center of the character’s arc makes Daredevil a far stronger show. Also, Daredevil takes the worst beating of his life here, and he’s had some nasty beatings already in this series. It would be great to see him really lay some enemies out to show off his skills and since this is about his rough origins as a hero, it’s obvious that he’s slowly getting better at fighting.
Nelson v. Murdock
Moving on to “Nelson v. Murdock,” the show puts itself at risk of repeating an earlier scenario from the beginning of the season. Here, Matt is laid up with brutal injuries suffered from his fight in “Speak of the Devil,” leading to many different flashbacks, much like “Cut Man.” Thankfully, the backstory of Daredevil is really strong, so the familiarity of the setup is not too repetitive. It also helps add some more depth to Foggy and his relationship with Matt, putting the character into some turmoil that balances out his more comedic uses in the series thus far. Additionally, the character relationships at play are still more interesting than the central crime narrative, so these elements make “Nelson v. Murdock” actually one of the stronger episodes of the season’s second half. MAJOR EASTER EGG NOTICE – a flashback to Matt and Foggy’s college days has them mention a “Greek girl” that Matt was chasing after, which did not end up working out. This is clearly a reference to Elektra, one of the defining characters in the history of Daredevil and someone that showrunner Steven DeKnight has said he would like to bring in for Season 2.
The Path of the Righteous
It’s during “The Path of the Righteous” where the show feels like it’s slowing down too much for how little of the season is left. With Matt continuing to recover from the beating he received in “Speak of the Devil,” Daredevil continues to slow the pace in preparation for the series’ endgame. While Matt has a final heart to heart with Claire and Fisk watches over the poisoned Vanessa, much of the narrative thrust of the episode is left up to Karen and Urich’s investigation into The Kingpin. But the problem still remains – how interesting can an investigation get when we know that it will all eventually come down to a big fight between hero and villain? What the episode does get right is continuing to subvert expectations with Karen. While she’s kidnapped by Fisk’s right hand man Wesley, she’s far from a damsel in distress. Her killing Wesley after he threatens her and her loved ones proves she’s not a victim and has a darker past that may eventually be explored. Contrary to subverting expectations, the reveal that Owlsley poisoned Vanessa is way too predictable.
The Ones We Leave Behind
If there’s one most notable element of “The Ones We Leave Behind,” it’s that the episode ends with a death that is not only shocking, but is sure to cause some longtime Daredevil fans to be flabbergasted. After going back and forth on what he should do concerning the dirt he’s got on Wilson Fisk, Ben Urich finally decides to spill the beans online, only to be confronted in his home by Fisk himself. So what happens? After a menacing back and forth, Fisk strangles Urich to death! It was the kind of scene where you keep thinking that someone is going to come in and save Urich, but it just kept going. And by the time the shot cuts to Urich’s feet kicking less and less, your jaw drops and the penultimate episode of the season ends on its darkest nadir. Not only is this shocking in the context of the series as a whole, but for comic fans as well. Urich is part of many defining Daredevil stories. So if the show ever decides to cover storylines like “Born Again” or “Expose,” it will have a major piece missing. I also can’t help but feel they have eliminated a character who could have tied the many street level Marvel series together in a great way. So the service of the current story and the potential for long-term results may weigh out differently depending on coming seasons.
After investing 13 episodes into the story of Daredevil, it’s a great thing to say that the series finishes strong in so many ways and leaves you desperately wanting more in the best way possible. With so many plot threads running for almost the entire series, the season finale had a lot to wrap up in as satisfying of a way as possible, and it did, while some dangling pieces were clearly meant to seed the other upcoming Netflix Marvel series. Not only did this cap off what felt like one giant cohesive film-like experience, but the themes that defined much of the series are infused into the events here. As Matt, Foggy, and Karen topple The Kingpin’s empire, it comes back to Fisk’s all-encompassing love for Vanessa. D’Onofrio did an amazing job with the character of Wilson Fisk – making him terrifying and broken while injecting so much life into him that his last second marriage proposal felt honest and emotional. That’s an incredibly tough balance. Not only that, but his speech about The Good Samaritan is incredibly compelling and frightening, culminating in his breakout. It’s one of the best moments of the entire season, not just his episode.
Of course, the finale is more about Murdock than Fisk, like the season as a whole. Starting with the somber and downright depressing funeral for Ben Urich at the start of the finale, Matt, Foggy, and Karen are finally reunited and set on finishing the crusade against Fisk. It’s great to see them set on taking The Kingpin down and they actually get things done in such a satisfying way using the law, augmented by Murdock’s vigilante actions to ensure that key witnesses survive. Having Fisk escape puts some of the menace back in the character after he’s arrested and it also makes Matt a necessary part of the fight against Fisk. And it all comes down to one final alleyway fight between Fisk and the newly crimson Daredevil, finally donning superhero garb. The show really puts on a fantastic fight here at the end, pitting their two distinct fighting styles against one another in a physical and emotional brawl. It’s really awesome to see Daredevil finally fighting like the comic book character, using his billy clubs to full effect and taking down Fisk in a straight up fight. It may not be the best fight in the season, but it’s satisfying in so many ways. By the end, Daredevil has wrapped up in triumphant fashion, with each character given proper due and audiences hungry for more in the world of Matt, Karen, Foggy, and the street level world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
From acting to direction to writing, Daredevilis not only one of the boldest moves yet made by Marvel Studios, it’s one of its best. While the series and its characters may live in the same world as The Avengers and their related movies, this really felt like its own fully formed world that can still coexist in the larger Cinematic Universe. There’s a balance struck between the thrilling heroics and gritty criminal elements that often results in some of the greatest Daredevil comics. It’s exciting to think of where this will head in future seasons and the announced Defenders miniseries.
Like all Marvel Studios films, there are also countless easter eggs peppered throughout the series. Everything from Melvin Potter’s workshop laying seeds for his transformation into Gladiator to the robotic legs of Stilt Man seen in the background tease exciting possibilities. While Daredevil didn’t really tease the other upcoming Netflix series, the character of Madame Gao may link up with the upcoming Iron Fist, as there are clues that she hails from the mystical city of Kun Lun and has connections with his iconic foe Steel Serpent. However, most easter eggs throughout the series aren’t thrown in the faces of audiences, unlike many of those placed in the feature films.
While the final comic book-based red costume may not be the greatest look in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it works with what was established in the series previously. But its clear that it wasn’t perfect, which is why it was kept in heavy shadow during the finale. Hopefully, this can be improved for future appearances, making it sleeker and redder. Also, they need to uncover the nose like the comic book look. It works for live action versions of Captain America and The Flash, uncovering the nose will make him look less like Batman and may reduce the clunkiness of the current look. Make the character a bit brighter, have him fight crime during the day, and lessen the torture scenes during Season 2 and we can get a fully formed Daredevil who feels like his own unique crimefighter and less like Nolan’s version of Batman from The Dark Knight Trilogy.
There are so many strengths to the first season of Daredevil, it’s clear that both fans and non-fans of superhero films and shows will be able to love this show wholeheartedly. Now it’s only a matter of waiting for the next season and the connected shows coming soon on Netflix.