Going into the first season of Daredevil several months ago, the character I had the least expectations from was easily Claire Temple. The NYCC reveal that Rosario Dawson was going to be playing an iteration of the Night Nurse was admittedly underwhelming. Transfixed on the possibility that a big star like her could be playing Elektra or even Jessica Jones (that was the speculation at the time), fans were justifiably baffled at a character as tertiary as Night Nurse. After all, the Night Nurse was just a mere side player in the gritty superhero stories of New York and nothing more.
However, within the 10 minutes she was first on screen with Charlie Cox, Dawson quickly proved everyone wrong. In a serialized comic book show densely filled with incredible performances from practically everyone, Dawson’s Claire Temple stands out as one of the most moving. I wrote a similar piece on Claire Temple months before the show premiered discussing her potential Nick Fury/Coulson-esque role in the Defenders but upon seeing her performance and character development, it became clear that there was more to her than being the Nick Fury connective tissue. She’s the heart and soul of the future team.
As with any procedural show, Daredevil has its fair share of characters fitting the crime procedural tropes of old. Practically all billed characters on the series are involved one way or another in the uphill battle for Hell’s Kitchen. Even Karen Page – whose comic counterpart is innocuous as they come – is written as an empowered crusader of truth who never hesitates to get involved in matters far beyond her control. In fact, the only billed character outside of the Wilson Fisk debacle is Claire Temple. She is a bystander caught in the line of fire; a victim very much like Elena Cardenas. It is through these circumstances that make Claire Temple the quintessential every-man, even more so than Phil Coulson during his stint with the Avengers.
By happenstance, she crosses paths with the Man in the Mask. When the Russians kidnap the child at the end of Episode 1, Matt Murdock pursues them only to end up in a dumpster beside Claire’s building. Murdock’s body is then found by Santino, an unsuspecting kid taking out the trash. Santino calls for Claire in a state of panic and upon seeing the body of the unconscious masked man, she hesitates to take action knowing the consequences of such a decision. Despite this, she goes with her gut and pulls him out of the dumpster. It’s a moment in time that forever ties Claire’s fate to Daredevil.
After detaining one of the Russians, Claire has second thoughts in harming him further. She continues to show reluctance, saying “This is way past what I signed up for,” one of the many indications of her internal conflict and a recurring theme for the character. Being one of the people witnessing the firsthand suffering of the people of Hell’s Kitchen, Claire believes in the goodness of the masked man’s actions, or at least wants to. She constantly has to draw the line for herself. She knows her limits as an ordinary citizen, fears for her life yet refuses to sit idly by; an idea that embodies Hell’s Kitchen in it’s core.
The words of Daredevil resonate with her: “I know you’re afraid. You can’t give in to the fear. If you do men like this win,” as she in turn shares the same sentiment with him following the aftermath of her abduction by the Russians. In one of my favorite scenes of them together, a doubtful Matt questions his consequences of his actions as Claire urges him to continue his fight: “Because I am (scared). More than I’ve ever been in my life and I am not alone. But you can do something about it for all of us.” It’s a brilliant moment of character that not only deepens the relationship of these two characters but also firmly establishes where Claire stands in all of the city’s chaos despite almost getting beaten to death (and despite her leaving Matt for the very things she urged him to do an episode later). Her presence in Daredevil ends on a quiet note. Undeterred by her own moral inconsistencies, out of the goodness of her heart she gives Matt one last push before bidding her goodbye.
Claire’s journey is far from over and continues as of this writing.
Confirmed to appear in Jessica Jones, which will hit Netflix tomorrow, and Luke Cage, one of the most exciting things to look forward to is how Claire will unite them all. At it’s core, the Defenders is a team whose foundation is built (or will be built) on the pretense that Hell’s Kitchen is in need of serious saving. Dark times are to come in the Kitchen and at the middle of all of it, stands Claire Temple representing her people. She is Hell’s Kitchen personified. She stands strong, symbolizing the very ideal that Matt Murdock and – hopefully – the Defenders fight for.