Sunday, June 28, 2015

Summer TV Rewind: Marvel's Daredevil 1.01: "Into the Ring"

“I’m not seeking penance for what I’ve done, Father. I’m asking forgiveness. For what I’m about to do.”
-Matt Murdock

There are two things (among others, of course) that we really enjoy here at MTVP. One is exploring new aspects of television and what it means, and the second is Marvel television shows. In “Marvel’s Daredevil,” we’ve got both. I find it fascinating how quickly broadcast and internet “television” are becoming more equal. Last summer, we covered Netflix’s excellent “Orange is the New Black,” and this summer we’re covering three international shows that can be viewed legally by Americans through internet portals Hulu and Netflix. So, since as I already mentioned, we really like Marvel TV shows around here, it made sense to cover yet another Netflix venture, “Daredevil.” Like the other Marvel TV shows produced thus far, this one also has a link to the Joss Whedon/Mutant Enemy family. The showrunner is Steven DeKnight, who wrote for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” and “Dollhouse” in the Mutant Enemy realm and also created and ran “Sparticus” for Starz.

“Daredevil” tells the story of Matt Murdock, defense attorney by day, vigilante by night. He also happens to be blind, thanks to an accident when he was a little kid. Toxic waste that spilled in the accident got into his eyes, and that was that. He lives and runs a law practice with his friend Foggy Nelson in Hell’s Kitchen, and it appears that, as the series progresses, he will have to fight off more than one criminal element in his neighborhood. Through an introductory scene where Matt goes to confession more for therapy than penance, we learn a little about his backstory. His father was a boxer, although a mediocre one. Presumably that’s where he gets some of his vigilante fighting skill from. Interestingly, he asks the priest not for his penance, but for forgiveness for what he is about to do (as you can see from the Quote of the Episode).

What Matt does, presumably, is start his vigilante career. We see some women who have been trafficked being let out of a cargo container. Their handlers, unsurprisingly, are treating them horribly, and any time they scream, it just gets worse (cattle prods are involved). Matt swoops down, and after a bit of the fight, eventually takes out all the handlers (although at least some are left alive, which will probably come back to haunt him later). He lets all the ladies go and gives them some advice on where to go for help. We also learn early in the episode that by day, Matt is a criminal defense lawyer. He and his friend Foggy Nelson have just set up their own practice, and they don’t have a lot of money. Foggy wants to take whatever case will get them paid, but Matt only wants to defend the truly innocent. I have a feeling this will be a frequent source of friction between the pair. Foggy “bribes” a police officer acquaintance of his with some cigars to give him a call if he comes across any interesting cases.

Foggy’s police officer friend does indeed come upon an interesting case. A man has been killed, and the woman, Karen Page, who was found with the body is the prime suspect. She however, insists she was innocent. She blacked out, and when she woke up, she saw her coworker/person with whom she has been on one date, on the floor and bloody. The police officer call foggy, and Matt and Foggy show up at the police precinct, claiming they are Karen’s lawyer. Karen is a bit apprehensive when the guys tell her they have only been practicing law for a matter of hours, and Foggy is a little uneasy when Karen says she doesn’t have much money to pay them, but eventually they all agree to work together. Karen and the deceased, David, both worked for Union Allied Construction, which had been getting a ton of business, including government contracts, since the big Battle of New York in the first Avengers film. Karen says she and David went for drinks, she blacked out, and like I said previously, when she woke up, David was bloody and dead. Matt believes her story, because thanks to the super senses he picked up after becoming blind, he can hear her heartbeat.

That night while in jail, a correctional officer tries to strangle Karen and make it look like she hung herself. Karen, however, puts up a hell of a fight and manages to get away. When they find out what happened, Matt and Foggy raise holy Hell and get Karen released from jail right away. Matt needs more answers from Karen about why she was first framed, then almost killed. Karen says she doesn’t know precisely who is behind all of this, but she may know the why. One of her duties in the accounting department at Union Allied involves preparing a report on the pension fund, and she started noticing some serious funny business with the fund. David worked in the legal department, and they were actually meeting to talk about what she found, with the date just as cover. Somehow someone found out, though, and thus began all of Karen’s troubles. Matt wants her to stay at his apartment for the night, because he doesn’t think she’s safe with what she knows.

At Matt’s apartment, Matt and Karen bond a bit, as Karen asks Matt about his blindness and Matt tries to ask Karen more about the case. He is trying to figure out why the original plan was to just discredit her and let her live. He asks Karen if she still has the pension file with the evidence in it, and he can tell that she’s lying when she says, “no.” In the middle of the night, Karen sneaks out of Matt’s apartment and tries to go back to her apartment, where the thumb drive with the pension file is hidden in the drop ceiling. Unfortunately, a Union Allied henchman is waiting for her, and he attacks. Matt arrives (in his black vigilante outfit) just in time and manages to save Karen. In the process of the fight, he is briefly knocked unconscious and has a vision of his father. Eventually Matt takes down the henchman, and he drops off the body and the pension file at a local newspaper. I’m pretty sure Karen hasn’t figured out that Matt is the person who saved her.

The likely villains of the season are also set up well in this episode. In a rooftop scene, we see a whole smorgasbord of organize crime. There’s Madame Gao of the Triad, Nobu of a Yakuza clan, and Vladamir and Anatoly from the Russian mob. There is also their rather sniveling accountant Owlsley. This whole motley crew is met by James Wesley, the lawyer for the person running this whole show. Wesley is not at all happy to hear about the incident. After the Union Allied scandal makes the papers, we see Wesley on the phone with his still unidentified boss. He says they’ve pinned the scandal on the head accountant, and he’s been killed in a way that makes it look like it was an overdose for good measure. They discuss killing Karen, and decide not to because everything she knew is already now public. They do however, think it might be smart to put her lawyers on the payroll. I’m doubting that will actually happen!

Karen cooks dinner for Matt and Foggy to express her thanks. Since she can’t pay them at the moment, she offers to work for them for free for a while and keep their office clean. They agree, and the practice of two now becomes three. Later, Matt goes to his father’s old gym at closing time to do some after-hours punching bag work. While Matt works out, we see the criminal element in New York have a bit of a resurgence. Madame Gao’s minions (who have blinded themselves) are making heroin packets in earnest. Nobu is planning to buy a block-size building in Hell’s Kitchen. Barrett, the guy who was running the trafficking operation, gets a new shipment of weapons to deal with any reoccurrence of the masked vigilante. Our friends the Russians, in a creepy stalker van, attack a man and kidnap his son. Matt, in his black vigilante outfit, surveys the city from a roof as superheroes tend to do, listening for trouble. He decides to help the kidnapped kid first.

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