Monday, April 20, 2015

Daredevil Season 1, Episode 2, "Cut Man" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

Image Courtesy

The most fascinating part of Daredevil episode 2 is that it focuses so much on his humanity.  Everything that happens in “Cut Man” is as a result of Matt having made a terrible, careless, costly mistake.  He spends half the episode on Claire Temple’s couch bleeding out because he is so badly injured.  By the end of the episode, Matt is visibly exhausted, almost unable to complete his mission—or even stand up straight.  This is something we don’t get in a lot of superhero movies and TV shows:  A superhero whose human side is on full display.  Daredevil is clearly made better by its emphasis on Matt’s limitations.

The episode opens with trail of blood drops leading to a dumpster in an alley.  There’s a kid standing over the dumpster holding a bag of garbage, staring into the dumpster in shock.  The kid runs away just as we see that Matt’s the one in the dumpster.  It was his blood trail that we saw at the opening.  I love how unexpected the reveal is:  When I saw the blood trail I was fully expecting there to be a dead body in the dumpster, and that finding the killer would be the “case of the week” for this episode (like Karen was in the previous episode).  However, instead of a dead body, we find a mostly-dead hero.

Image Courtesy
The kid (later identified as “Santino”) brings Claire Temple to the dumpster, and she orders him to help her carry Matt back to her apartment, where she begins working on him.  She checks him all over his body for injuries and finds a number of cuts, including some deep ones, bleeding sluggishly.  When she finally pulls out her phone to call the hospital, Matt comes to and demands that she treat him at home instead of taking him to the hospital:  “They’ll kill everyone in the hospital to get to me.”  I find the introduction to Claire to be very interesting.  Knowing about her character from the comics (specifically the “Night Nurse” side), I was wondering whether she would already be a nurse who regularly helps superheroes/vigilantes, or whether Matt would be her first “client.”  From this episode it is clear that Claire is just a Good Samaritan who found a hero in a dumpster and couldn’t just leave him there.  Later in the episode she fills in a few more of the details:  she has seen the good that Matt has done firsthand:  a trio of men robbing tourists who were brought in to the hospital where she works.  A 19-year-old waitress who was assaulted and only survived because of Matt’s intervention.  She recognizes that Matt is a good man, even if she questions some of his methods.

While Matt is passed out on Claire’s couch, he has flashbacks.  The first is to a time when he patched Jack up after a bout—going so far as to stitch a cut on his face (that Matt is hardly phased by stitching his dad up is slightly off-putting, though it says something about how often he’s had to do this).  After Matt is finished, Jack shows him the wad of money he received for losing the fight.  Matt shrugs it off at the time, but the look on Jack’s faces makes it clear that he’s not too happy with having to take a dive.  The next flashback is of Matt waking up in the hospital after the accident.  He is panicked because he can’t see, but even more because his hearing is so powerful:  “Everything’s so loud.”  I’ve said it before and I will say it again:  I love how slowly they are filling in the pieces with Matt’s powers.  As of now we’ve only seen his vision loss and his enhanced hearing; it takes a while before we really see the rest of the story.

Image Courtesy
The third flashback fills in some of the details on the well-publicized Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Easter egg (Jack’s bout with Carl “Crusher” Creel, aka The Absorbing Man).  Jack’s agent had to work hard to get this bout for him—one about which Jack is really excited.  However, when they tell him that he needs to take a dive, his face falls, because he apparently wanted to fight Creel fairly (and not to dive).  Ultimately, Jack decided that fighting to win was the best thing he could do for Matt, and chose to defy his orders, knowing full well that it would probably end with his death.  Jack places a huge bet on himself to win with instructions that it should be deposited in Matt’s bank account after the match.  Then he goes to the fight, defeats Creel in brutal fashion, and (at least as far as we can tell chronologically) is killed that same night.  Matt finds his father shortly after he was shot.  It’s not until this part (one of the last scenes in the episode) that we realize the connection between this flashback sequence and the rest of the episode.  Matt was a little child who lost his father and was left alone.  Now as an adult he is trying to save the little boy who was kidnapped by the Russians at the end of the previous episode.  I really like how the flashbacks connect with the present-day events.  It feels very natural that Matt would be thinking about different parts of his childhood when current events bring them to mind.

Image Courtesy
The primary plot for the episode revolves around the kidnapped boy from the previous episode.  From Matt’s explanation to Claire, at the end of the last episode he heard the boy’s cries for help and followed the van to an abandoned warehouse.  Matt entered to confront the four Russian thugs and rescue the boy.  However, it was a trap:  they kidnapped the boy knowing full well that Matt had a soft-spot for kids, and used the boy to lure him to the warehouse where they had a ton of goons waiting.  The boy wasn’t there, and Matt barely escaped with his life.  The Russians send a fake police officer to find him in Claire’s building, and Matt only just manages to prevent him from telling his boss about Matt’s location by dropping a fire extinguisher on his head.  Matt then takes him to the roof, strings him up, and starts torturing him for information, going so far as sticking a knife near his eye socket and dropping him off the roof.  Once he has the information he needs, Matt goes to confront the Russians and rescue the boy.  The scene of him taking on two rooms full of thugs and growing more and more tired as the fight wears on is very well executed.  We see Matt’s incredible acrobatic and martial arts skills—to say nothing of his heightened senses—on display right alongside his weakness and vulnerability.  Where Iron Man or Captain America would have taken the Russians down in a matter of moments and barely been out of breath when it was over, Matt takes much longer to finish them off, and nearly stumbles into the room where the kid is tied up.  Ultimately, Matt is a stronger hero and a better character for being shown to be so human and vulnerable.

The rooftop interrogation scene includes a very interesting exchange between Claire (dressed all in white with a white mask) and Matt.  After Matt tells the fake cop that he is doing this because he “enjoys it,” Claire confronts him and says she believes that he was lying.  She doesn’t think that he really enjoys torturing people.  He doesn’t give her a straight answer at the time, but this actually becomes a central theme later in the series:  Why does Matt do what he does?  Does he do it because it is necessary?  Or does he do it because he genuinely enjoys hurting (bad) people?  For Matt this isn’t an idle question; his very soul depends on the answer.

Image Courtesy
In contrast to the other plots in this episode, all of the scenes with Karen and Foggy seem a little out of place—although they are necessary to bring some levity to an otherwise-dark episode.  Everything else deals with either Matt’s recovery from his injuries or his efforts to find and rescue the kidnapped boy.  In contrast, Karen is in the office late and hears Foggy singing.  When she says that she does not want to go home for some reason, Foggy decides to take her bar-hopping.  They eventually make their way to Josie’s Bar (one of their haunts from the comics) and have several drinks.  Once they are far enough in, Karen finally opens up and tells Foggy why she can’t go home:  she can’t get over what happened to her (the events of the first episode).  She still can’t get the blood out of the carpet.  There’s still a dent in the wall from the assassin’s head.  “If that guy in the mask hadn’t been there” she almost certainly would be dead.  This is when we first see Karen’s hero-worship of Matt starting to manifest.  This is a very interesting aspect of the show:  throughout, Karen believes in Matt, regardless of what the newspapers and Fisk are saying about “the man in the mask.”  At this point in the series she feels a little one-dimensional; of course, at this point in the series most of the characters feel a little one-dimensional, all except for Matt.  Don’t worry; the show does take the time to flesh out all the characters eventually.  That’s one of the benefits of the TV medium, and I think it might be even more a benefit of Netflix in particular.

Overall, this is a very good Matt-centric episode.  It fills in a few more holes with Matt’s past.  It highlights just how human he is in comparison to the other heroes we’ve seen; I think there are only two other examples of MCU heroes who get injured and whose recovery we actually witness:  Skye on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. after giving herself micro-fractures along her arms and Tony Stark in Iron Man 2 when he’s dying from palladium poisoning.  That they take the time to explore Matt’s failings is one of my favorite aspects of this series.

I also really like how many scenes look like they are straight out of a comic book.  In this episode it is most obvious in the last scene when Matt is beating up on the Russians, with the yellow lighting of the hallway standing in contrast with the red lighting of the room with the boy.  That just screams “comic book” to me.

So what were your favorite parts of this episode?  Do you like seeing a more “human” hero, or would you prefer someone like Luke Cage that just can’t get hurt?

If you want to get an email whenever I publish a new article, go to the top of the page and enter your email address in the box labeled “Subscribe to Mostly MCU Reviews” and click “Submit.”

No comments:

Post a Comment