Daredevil’s strongest choice is that it mostly skips the origin. Daredevil is still in his early days, but he has a defined mission, skills and purpose. The flashback structure doles out bits and pieces of his history, but we don’t spend the first few episodes watching how a young lawyer decides to become a vigilante. Though stringing out the origin can be a little tedious, it lets us get Matt’s backstory without waiting for the Daredevil TV show to actually be about Daredevil.
This ethos permeates the whole show. Cut Man tells the story of how, in a moment of total desperation, Matt meets Claire Temple, the MCU’s version of Night Nurse. But rather than waste a lot of time on the ambush that injures Murdock so badly, they immediately cut to their meeting. Cut Man is essentially a bottle episode, with most of its runtime spent in Claire’s apartment, and the show is stronger as a result. The Claire/Matt relationship is definitely the most intriguing of the series so far. Matt is at his most desperate when he’s found by her and is forced to trust her, no matter how hard he tries to distance himself. Dawson takes a pretty surface-level character and imbues her with a lot of depth and gravitas.
But the torture scene is pretty misguided. It’s hard to root for Matt and Claire when they stab a chained man’s eye before dropping him off the roof. It’s strange that Matt would grab a kitchen knife when faced with one man at Claire’s apartment, but brings nothing but his fists into a hallway full of goons. The whole scene feels like it was cut from a different script, like they rewrote it after Drew Goddard finished this episode. I’m really hoping that this is a one-off, and that Daredevil is not the MCU hero that tortures his enemies and flings them to what could be their deaths. If nothing else, I do like that Claire picks up on Matt’s lie; he abhors the violence that he participates in.
The B-plot are flashbacks to Matt’s relationship with his father, Jack Murdock. John Patrick Hayden is one of the standouts of the cast, bringing a lot of earnestness and heart to Battlin’ Jack Murdock. But it’s a little hard to invest in his character, knowing that the flashback cast is stuck playing in its own little corner of the ring while we invest in the adult characters. Skylar Gaertner is a little precocious as Young Matt; it’s hard to believe that he was raised in the same neighborhood as his dad, or even that he grows up to become Charlie Cox. When he says, “We’re Murdocks: we get hit a lot, but we always get up.” I have a hard time believing that Matt was the sort of kid who got into fights at school, even before he was blinded.
The flashback structure seems a little arbitrary. Unlike Lost, where the flashbacks informed a character’s arc in the current episode, Matt’s history with his dad seems to mostly be a plot dump. I don’t see a lot of immediate relevance to Matt’s storyline in this episode; Matt never really gave up his mission in this episode. He was never really “knocked down” after the ambush, just against the ropes. The most explicit tie is Matt sobbing over his father while the kidnapped child cries out for his, but that feels incidental to Matt’s arc in this episode.
The C-Plot is a lot of fun, and uniformly excellent: Foggy and Karen do a bar crawl through Hell’s Kitchen, trying to avoid heading home for the night. It showcases the chemistry between Deborah Ann Woll and Elden Hansen, which they share in abundance. My hesitance about Hansen in the first episode is completely dissuaded: he’s charming and heartfelt here, giving Foggy a lot of warmth and depth. I hope every episode opens with Foggy belting Gilbert and Sullivan to the heavens.
This subplot is a great way of showing that though Foggy and Karen are broken in their own ways, they’re looking to grow beyond this. Matt’s “we always get up” flashback actually feels more relevant to Karen’s story than Matt’s. Although this episode does ruin Josie’s Bar: in the comics, Josie’s is a seedy bar full of criminals that Daredevil visits when he needs information. It wouldn’t exactly be the safest place for Karen and Foggy to grab some eel liquor.
The finale is excellent, obviously homaging Oldboy. While the stuntwork can be a bit obvious, it’s still a beautiful, violent dance. It continues the first episode’s examination of violence in the MCU: each punch, kick, and blow leaves Matt wounded, devastated, and gasping for breath. It’s a refreshing change from the uniform armies of mindless thugs that characterize most of Marvel’s films. My favorite henchmen are the one who are beat down and get back up, ready for more.
And Daredevil has smart adversaries: the child kidnapped at the end of the last episode was specifically there to goad Daredevil into a trap. In a world full of superheroes, it’s nice that criminals aren’t just taking a masked vigilante for granted. Knowing that Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk is still coming makes it even more indelible: if these low-level thugs know exactly how to get to Daredevil, how much more dangerous is the Kingpin of Crime?
4 bluefins out of 5. You haven’t lived until you’ve argued with a 90-year old Okinawa survivor about sturgeon meat.
In boxing, a cut man is someone who treats a boxer during a match, addressing nosebleeds, swelling, and yes, cuts.
The Russian who knocks on Claire’s door identifies himself as Detective Foster. In the comics, Claire is the wife of longtime superhero Bill Foster, AKA Goliath.
In a more obvious reference: Jack Murdock fights Crusher Creel, who played the Absorbing Man on Agents of SHIELD earlier this season. It’s a great little reference.
So Claire’s life is basically ruined now, right? If they know where she lives, they can find out where she works. I guess we’ll see next episode, since Matt made it through the night and he’ll need to be patched up.
Biggest asshole of the episode: the guy who delivers the little kid’s supper, only to take his apple. He’s a growing boy, dammit!
This is the last episode from Drew Goddard: from here on out, Daredevil is Steven DeKnight’s show.