Marvel's already complicated cinematic universe just got a little bigger with the release the first of Netflix's exclusive series earlier in the year - and, it is due to receive another significant addition when the second of Netflix's original Marvel shows, Jessica Jones, is released later this month.
Daredevil, for the uninitiated, tells the tale of Matt Murdock - blind defence attorney by day, and violent vigilante by night. Daredevil is 'The Man Without Fear' - who relies on unnaturally heightened senses, which effectively allow him to 'see' in his own way despite his disability, and an impressive array of combat skills to fight crime in Hell's Kitchen.
There is a definite 'Daredevil Begins' sort of vibe to this first episode. Our hero, Matt Murdock, is already clearly well on his way to becoming Daredevil - but he is also, just as clearly, still a fair way off actually reaching that point. He doesn't, yet, wear the iconic red suit, for one thing - leaving us with what is, essentially, a fairly standard black-clad vigilante figure. Despite not yet being the 'Man Without Fear', though, Matt is clearly still able to handle himself - able to take on Russian goons in some very well-staged fight sequences. What makes the brief action sequences we get in this first episode so interesting for me, though, is actually how much of a struggle all of this is for our hero. He may be highly skilled, but that doesn't mean he can outclass his opponents the way another hero might - he has to work for his victory, even against fairly generic goons.
The bulk of this episode concerns Karen (Deborah Ann Woll), a young woman who was framed for murder after discovering some shady dealings going on within the company she worked for. Enter Matt and his partner Foggy Nelson (Charlie Cox and Elden Henson, respectively), who offer to take on her case.despite the fact that she is incapable of actually paying. So, the task becomes, first of all, to prove her innocence - but, also, to protect her from the retribution of violent criminals.
Mixed in with all of this, we also have flashbacks showing us something of Matt Murdock's childhood - showing us the accident where he lost is sight, and introducing us his father Jack (John Patrick Hayden), a semi-professional boxer known for his ability to take a beating.
If this introductory episode has any real weakness, then it is only the weakness usually associated with first episodes. By simple necessity, there is time spent establishing characters, and the way that they relate to each other - and, this is, lets be honest, something that doesn't always make for compelling viewing. Charlie Cox is great in the role of Matt Murdock - able to capture both the character's easy charm, and the righteous fury that drives him out onto the streets at night. Elden Henson firmly establishes Foggy as well-meaning and genuinely likable - even if he is a bit more concerned about money and success than his partner. The two actors are quickly able to establish the friendship between their respective characters, to such an extent that it becomes easy to understand why they would choose to work together. Karen, in this first episode, is little more than the designated 'victim' - but, it's also clear by the end that she will be sticking around, so she is sure to have more time to develop.
On thing that I find particularly interesting is how coy they are being about the mysterious figure behind everything that is currently happening in Hell's Kitchen (which includes, of course, the embezzlement taking place in Karen's former workplace). Sure, we all know who it is going to turn out to be, but taking the time to build the Kingpin up before the big reveal definitely feels like the right decision.