Saturday, May 23, 2015

Daredevil - Into the Ring

With Arrow, The Flash, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. all on hiatus after wrapping up their season finales I finally turn my attention to Netflix's Daredevil starring Charlie Cox as the blind lawyer of Hell's Kitchen who moonlights as a vigilante. "Into the Ring" introduces us to law partners Matt Murdock (Cox) and Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) on their first day as practicing attorneys. The pair's first client won't ever see the inside of a courtroom, but Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) will help further develop the street-level underbelly of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, exposing us to the corruption to small to be noticed by S.H.I.E.L.D. or the Avengers, and give us the third piece of the classic team of Nelson & Murdock.

I was a bit surprised how dark the first episode looks and feels. More gritty than any other super-hero show currently on television other than Arrow, the opening chapter of Netflix's Daredevil feels an awful lot like Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins (including having the hero's first public appearance take down a bunch of no-name gangsters on the docks). It's by far the darkest presentation of any character Marvel has attempted with the only humor of the show coming from Foggy's quips and other villains discussing the city's newest hero.

Staying true to the character's origins involving the accident which granted Matt Murdock his powers while stealing his sight, "Into the Ring" focuses more on Matt than his yet-to-be-named alter-ego clad in basic ninja wear. For an episode without an actual trial much of the time is spent with characters sitting around a table from each other, police, and their client who was framed for murder in an effort to hide massive embezzlement of Union Allied Construction which the opening episode all but guarantees will lead back to the city's new would-be Kingpin (Vincent D'Onofrio).

One of the things I like about 2003's much-derided Daredevil is how quickly it understands the dichotomy of the pleasure and pain of Matt Murdock's crusade. Cox is certainly driven here, and shows off and impressive amount of skill in fight sequences which are a little too quick-cut for my tastes at times, but the first episode doesn't show us the joy he takes in being a hero and using his unique abilities to help others (although there's plenty of time over the course of the season to develop this). Cox and Henson work well together, although Foggy's goofiness is pushed to the limit to help balance out the darker moments of the episode making him come off more like comic relief than a fully-developed character at times.

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