Marvel’s Daredevil “Cut Man” Review (Episode 2) – A Violent Life

daredevil episode 2 01

DISCLAIMER: The purpose of these reviews is to take an in-depth look at each episode of Marvel’s Daredevil, to provide insight into the character’s comic book origins, and ultimately to celebrate — or dissect — this ambitious new series. This means the reviews WILL SPOIL THE SHOW.

But! They will NOT spoil the comics. If I recognize a story from the comics being adapted, I won’t tell you how that story ends. To me, that’s no different from book readers spoiling Game of Thrones plot twists. And we all know which hell THOSE people are going to.

(the special hell)

Marvel’s Daredevil Episode 2: “Cut Man”
 

Okay, children, let’s talk about violence.

Because that’s what the second episode of Daredevil is all about: the brutal things people do to each other, the reasons they do them, and the effects those things have, both physical and psychological, on the people they happen to.

It’s a theme that persists through each of the episode’s three plot-lines, beginning with Matt recovering from the consequences of extreme violence, and then using extreme violence save the day; continuing in flashbacks to Matt’s childhood relationship with his father, a struggling boxer whose one shining moment of victory is shattered by a bullet; interspersed with vignettes from Karen and Foggy’s impromptu night out on the town, a distraction to help Karen cope with her trauma from last episode.

Violence permeates the fabric of the show, but the show doesn’t seem intent on making a statement about, or casting judgement on, violence. You might think that means I’m reading too much into it, but I don’t think so. There are too many parallels, too many meditations on what virtue can be found, not in violence, but in how one deals with violence. How one exists in the presence of violence.

Like all the best fiction, it seeks to ask questions, not give answers. The only answer it really provides is that violence has consequences, and in that way I how it’s the second half of Drew Goddard’s missions statement for the show. Daredevil isn’t about lightly panting, beautiful, super people, or strategically battle-damaged costumes. It’s about collapsed lungs, popped stitches, and muscles shaking from exhaustion. And it’s about the people who suffer those things and do the right thing anyway.

I’m Doing it Because I Enjoy It
 

MARVEL'S DAREDEVIL

This episode almost plays like theater. It’s composed of small scenes in small settings, usually between two character, three at most. The dialogue is predominantly character-building, with plot exposition only coming in as an afterthought.

It feels like an experiment to see just how much mileage a show about a masked crime fighter can get out of relative peace and quiet. Or, I supposed it’s another part of the mission statement; Goddard saying, “Look… this is the show I want to make. It takes the characters and scenarios seriously, and is not afraid to slow things down and just live with them for a bit.”

Sure enough, it’s that quiet interaction that gets the most screentime; the “A” story. It opens with Matt unconscious in a dumpster after being nearly killed in an ambush (that’s two episodes in a row now that begin with the aftermath of a big event — now I want to go back and watch Goddard’s Buffy and Angel episodes to see if this is a thing with him). He’s discovered by Claire Temple — played with aplomb by the never-not-awesome Rosario Dawson — who takes this masked man into her home, sews up his wounds, and, in short order, helps him solve the kidnapping that set him on this course in the first place.

The dynamic built between them in a relatively short time adds another interesting dimension to Matt’s relationships. Claire is the only character so far who knows his secret — and though he keeps his non-vigilante identity hidden from her, we still get the vicarious thrill of a normal person learning about Matt’s abilities for the first time. She also challenges Matt in a way we haven’t seen Foggy or Karen do (understandably, since they’re still in the dark about his secret life). Claire gets to be the character who is knowledgeable, who argues with him, who balances his impulsiveness with reason — she keeps him honest.

She’s also willing play dirty when the stakes are high enough, telling Matt where to stab the Russian gangster in order to inflict the most pain to extract the location of the missing child from him. This makes her more than a typical “bystander helping the hero,” as she actually gets in there and makes choices. And it makes her different from the traditional “do no harm” healer we’ve seen in a million stories. Claire will do harm to the guilty if it means saving an innocent. In that way, she is her own sort of vigilante.

If this were a regular show, I’d probably say something like, “Are you listening, show producers? MORE CLAIRE TEMPLE!”

All of which probably raises the question…

Who is Claire Temple?
 

daredevil episode 2 02 Rosario Dawson

Daredevil‘s Claire is actually a combination of two characters from the comics: the original Claire Temple, a nurse (later doctor) and romantic interest for Luke Cage from the early ’70s (potential foreshadowing for the Luke Cage Netflix series?); and the Night Nurse, an enigmatic woman who patches up wounded heroes from her secret clinic in the heart of the city.

The MCU version, at least in her first appearance, seems mostly inspired by Claire from the comics, but I suspect her role will evolve over time. Night Nurse plays an integral supporting role in the latter half of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s modern classic run on Daredevil from the early ’00s, and even gets in on the action in Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s 2007 mini-series, Dr. Strange: The Oath (more potential foreshadowing: Night Nurse later becomes a love interest for Stephen “Call Me Doctor” Strange, whose cinematic debut we should be seeing next year).

Also, not for nothing, but Rosario Dawson LOOKS like Night Nurse.

Who knows? Maybe Claire will pop up in each of the new series, becoming the go-to medic for New York’s low-profile heroes… which would kind of make her the Phil Coulson of the Netflix shows. Making her mark on each of the heroes. Tying them all together as a team in the end…

🙁

We’re Murdocks, We Get Hit A Lot
 

daredevil episode 2 03

They did something really nice for Jack Murdock in this series. Something that makes his ultimate fate more than just tragic, more than just a catalyst for Matt.

Jack’s story in the comics has him hired by Roscoe “The Fixer” Sweeney to take a dive in a big boxing match, but he changes his mind in the ring when he realizes he doesn’t want his son to think of him as a loser. He wins the fight, against all odds… and dies for it.

The show follows this fairly closely, with some minor changes — instead of an over-the-hill veteran, Netflix Jack is still young and bright-eyed, but a little too dumb, or maybe just not as good a fighter as he’d like to be, to do more than eke out a living for him and Matt. When Sweeney approaches him about throwing the fight with Creel, it’s only the latest such deal they’ve made (which perhaps contributes to Jack’s rep for taking more beatings than he gives — did Jack sacrifice his career for the extra income needed to raise a son on his own?)

This time around, sure, there’s the issue of pride and wanting to be a good role model for his son… but there’s also something Sweeney says that sticks with him. To persuade a defiant Jack to just take the money and throw the fight, Sweeney brings up Matt, saying, “What else are you gonna leave him when you’re gone?”

The question lingers with Jack, and after some soul searching, he makes a decision. He calls a bookie, someone he apparently trusts, and tells them to bet it all on him in the coming match, and then, as soon as the fight is over, to go straight to the bank and deposit the winnings into an account in Matt’s name. Jack doesn’t just win the fight for pride or principal, he wins so that Matt’s future will be secure — and he does so knowing it will cost him his life.

What this means to the character is that, in the end, he is more than just a body in an alleyway for the hero to mourn over. Jack actively sacrificed himself for his son. In a sense, when Jack hears the crowd cheering for him, it’s not just because he won the fight against Creel, it’s because he won the fight against his own self-inflicted circumstances; his cycle of defeat. He beat Creel, he beat Sweeney, he beat the world, and he made sure it wouldn’t get its hands on his kid.

This is why the look on Jack’s face is so serene in the end. His victory isn’t just philosophical, it’s tangible, and that’s something he can rest easy knowing.

It goes back to the theme of the episode — Jack dies a hero, not because he inflicted violence on another person, but because of how he acquitted himself in the presence of violence.

I Drank the Eel
 

daredevil episode 2 04

The lighter heart of the episode comes from Karen and Foggy’s all-night bar crawl, which sparks a really enjoyable dynamic between the two. It’s nice to see Henson and Woll get some breathing room to live in their roles a bit. It makes them feel less scripted, more human.

I really like Foggy. I’ve always enjoyed Elden Henson in the things I’ve seen him in, and when I learned he’d been cast as Mr. Nelson, it felt 100% right. Not only does he look like the character from the comics, I could see in him the good-natured sense of humor that has always been Foggy’s defining characteristic.

Foggy, as written, has typically been a hard shell to crack. There’s a sort of dopeyness about him in the early comics; a golly-gosh naivete that would probably feel strange coming from someone who’s supposed to be a good lawyer. Lawyers are sharp, lawyers have confidence… you could maybe get away with the original Foggy template in a cartoony environment, but the more realistic the stories in both comics and movies have gotten, the harder it is to take that sort of character seriously.

As a result, in the last, let’s say 15 years, Foggy Nelson has gone through an evolution. Brian Bendis played him straight during his comics run, showing more of Foggy the Good Lawyer, and even exploring his angry side. The 2003 movie has Jon “In Five Years I’ll Direct Iron Man” Favreau playing… basically, Jon Favreau. He’s funny, and he works well with Affleck as Matt, but his humor has a little too much bite. Instead of good-natured, he comes off as kind of a sleazy jerk — though a very entertaining one.

In Elden Henson, they seem to have found a balance between good-natured and shrewd lawyer. Henson’s approach to the material has sort of a Jack Black energy; he’s not afraid to overstate things in a way that’s just insincere enough to be funny, but not so much that you can’t see to the honest heart at its core. He has a puppy’s energy, a child’s optimism, and a New Yorker’s cynicism… which feels just right for Foggy.

Now, Henson’s performance, as I mentioned in my last review, is charming, if rough around the edges. I call the edges rough because there are moments when the script requires Foggy to speak sincerely, and Henson doesn’t always match the tone to his performance. It can make a simple expression of solidarity or reassurance feel flat and false. It’s hard to peg why this happens… maybe Henson just doesn’t know how to express certain kinds of sincerity. Whatever the reason, it happens infrequently enough that I still thoroughly enjoy his scenes. I wouldn’t trade Henson’s Foggy for anything in the world.

Costume Watch
 

It’s been said that DD’s crime-fighting uniform will evolve as the series goes forward, eventually ending with him in the iconic red suit. Here, we see the beginnings of that evolution.

Prepping for what he already knows will be a serious fight when he goes to save the kid, Matt cuts the rope in half that he used to bind the Russian for his interrogation, and proceeds to wind it around his fists the way a boxer would tape them before a fight. More than just a protective measure, the end result looks like it would also hurt a hell of a lot to get hit by. You might call this Matt’s first step towards a kind of protective padding.

Easter Egg Hunt:
 

– “I’ll call you Mike.” This line from Claire is likely a reference to one of the sillier subplots in the early DD comics, wherein Matt poses as his fake twin brother, Mike, in order to keep Foggy and Karen from learning that he’s Daredevil.

COMICS!!

– Josie’s Bar! Not an easter egg, but another wonderful addition from the world of Daredevil. Josie’s is usually the place Daredevil goes when he needs to squeeze information out of the local lowlifes (Turk hangs out there quite a bit). Making it a bar where the Nelson & Murdock gang hang out, I have a feeling we won’t get to see DD busting heads in there in future episodes, but I do hold out hope for some broken glass.

(There’s… a whole bit about Josie’s barroom windows in the comics. I won’t go into it here, in case they choose to run with it on the show… but it’s one of my favorite bits from the comics.)

– Who’s Jack leaving that last message for? It’s a mystery! This is actually foreshadowing for a plot development we may not see for a very long time. I’ll be VERY surprised (and maybe a little disappointed) if it comes to fruition this season. This is long-game stuff.

I think that about covers my thoughts for this fine episode of Marvel’s Daredevil. Come back next week for my look at Episode 3, “Rabbit in a Snowsto–”

“Wait, you’re ending the article without talking about the hallway fight??”

Yyyep. Everyone is talking about the hallway fight. There’s nothing new to say there. It’s amazing, one of the best fights put on film, rival’s True Detective‘s one-shot, etc., etc… It’s all true! Long live the hallway fight! But other than that, I got nothing.

“Hehe… that hallway fight was amazing.”

It really, really was.