New episodic recaps of Daredevil post every Monday and Thursday. Read the recap of the premiere here.
Daredevil’s “Cut Man” begins with Matt Murdock finding himself much the worse for wear, waking up bruised, bloodied, and beaten in an alleyway dumpster, only to be discovered by a frightened teenager. The teen brings Matt to the apartment of Claire (Rosario Dawson), a working nurse who is not that pleased with finding a masked, nearly dead man bleeding out on her apartment’s couch. Matt’s been busy, fighting Russian mobsters responsible for kidnapping a young boy from his beaten father, who are now on Daredevil’s tail. Claire, understandably, suggests that Matt be taken to a hospital and treated properly, only to be refused as Daredevil informs her that should he go to a hospital, “they” will kill every patient there in an attempt to get at him. The strained relationship between Matt and Claire is one of necessity for Murdock to start, and slowly becomes one for Claire as well as she realizes that the city may just be better off having someone leaping the rooftops with a mask as Spider-Man is nowhere to be found … yet, anyway.
The bond between Claire and Matt is inspired by the comics, as from those origins, Claire acted as the “Night Nurse,” a regular nurse who used her skills specifically to patch up any superhero who came across her door. Perhaps, moving forward, she’ll be able to expand her role and will be brought into the other Netflix Marvel series, as well as the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies potentially. Claire does an admirable job of heightening the tension in this already rocky scenario, as well as plays off Matt’s quips as he lays on her couch with a punctured lung and numerous wounds across his frame. Her meeting with Matt also brings her crashing into his dark world, especially when Murdock captures one of his pursuers and proceeds to tie him up and torture him on the roof of her building. Wearing a mask of her own, Claire tells Matt exactly where he needs to stab the mobster over his eye to inflict the most pain. It’s a particularly nasty scene that makes you step back and wonder if this is still even in the Marvel Universe (it is) due to its harshness, only to have Matt subsequently toss the guy off the roof! It’s amazing that Marvel was able to take such big risks with this show and explore this darker side of its universe with such abandon.
While the present is full of shattered bones and punctured lungs, we’re shown scenes from the past, as a young Matt attempts to excel in his studies while playing nursemaid himself to his father. Matt’s father, Jack Murdock, is a boxer well past his prime, who is asked by some less-than-reputable gentlemen to throw an upcoming match with Crusher Creel (soon to become Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Absorbing Man). Jack isn’t the best dad, returning from matches broken and beaten, insisting that Matt take a belt of scotch in order to have steady hands, as the young boy stitches cleans his father’s wounds. It makes for a nice symmetry between Jack in the past and Matt in the present, though, as Matt is subjugating people around him to a very similar situation his father placed him in as a boy, having others be left in the wake of his superheroic excursions.
The heartbreak of the past comes in when Jack, ready to throw the fight, sees the faith and hope that Matt holds for his father, and decides to win the fight himself. He calls a friend, has him bet all the money on his assured victory in order to leave a nest egg for Matt, manages to bask in the glory of his win through the chants of the crowd, and is subsequently shot and left for dead. It’s a tragic, but beautiful, series of events as Jack’s “suicide” is created in one final attempt to relive the past, but also establish a future for his son. The relationship between the two was handled perfectly this episode, with the two taking care of one another almost outside of a father/son bond, but as equals, struggling to make it in the world.
The side plot of the episode was the further bonding between Foggy and Karen, with the two hitting the town and getting rip-roaringly drunk along the way. While I thought this made for a nice scene to get us better acquainted with them, it did drag on for a bit too long, with them ending up banging Matt’s door, trying to get him to come out of his apartment even though he wasn’t there to begin with. The dynamic between Karen thinking the worst of people and Foggy laying out each person’s background in the bar was a nice touch. His steadfast optimism acts as a nice palate cleanser when nearly every other aspect of the show is dark and grimey. Karen’s also an interesting character as she’s far from perfect, and you get the feeling that there’s always been something a little off about her, even prior to the murder charge in the pilot.
Last, but certainly not least, we have to delve into the conclusion, and oh man, what a way to cap off an episode. In arguably the greatest fight scene ever made for television, Daredevil, with numerous wounds and a punctured lung, drags himself to a hallway, where the Russians are holding their captive, in an attempt to save the day. Props go to Philip J. Silvera, the show’s stunt coordinator, for putting together an amazing one-shot scene reminiscent of Oldboy’s legendary fight. Here, a half-dead Matt proceeds to pummel each Russian for several minutes. Each punch and kick thrown here is earned, as you can feel the exhaustion exuding off Daredevil with every time he raises his arms looking like he’s in fact lifting heavy weights from the floor to his opponent’s face. Once again, realism is the name of the game here, as Matt’s foes don’t simply fall down clean after one or two hits, he literally has to pummel them into the ground in order to get them to finally stop moving. You almost want to stand up and applaud when Murdock finally lays down the final blow and takes the frightened child away.
With “Cut Man”, we get another mind-blowing episode with a scene that people will be talking about for years to come. Daredevil is here, folks, and he’s here to stay.
Episode Rating: ★★★★★ Excellent
The Collider Offices of Nelson and Murdock
– Claire refers to Daredevil as “Mike” not wanting to know his real name. This is a nice Easter Egg for fans of the comic characters, as early in Matt’s career as a costumed superhero, in order to lead folks off the trail of his identity, Murdock would sometimes pretend to be his own twin brother named “Mike Murdock.”
– Josie’s bar is a mainstay in the comics, as numerous big events that happen in the Daredevil universe transpire there in the underbelly of Hell’s Kitchen.
– Rosco and Silke, the two men demanding that Jack throw his boxing match, are respectively “The Fixer” and one of Kingpin’s goons in the comics. The Fixer was the lynchpin in the creation of Daredevil, and not really a costumed super villain, but rather just gained the moniker for “fixing” fights.
– On the topic of Jack, I sort of wish he had been recast as someone a bit older and bulkier. While the actor they have cast certainly has the look of an old boxer, I was hoping for him to look more like an old warhorse, akin to Sin City’s Marv.
– Jack: “This is for you, you think I want your hands shaking like last time? This is my face we’re talking about.”
– Foggy: “The correct answer is ‘YES!’ and ‘You sound amazing!’”
– Claire: “Your outfit kind of sucks by the way.”
Matt: “It’s a work in progress.”
– Claire: “I’m really not looking for some guy to die on my couch.”
– Claire: “But you’re blind.”
Matt: “There are other ways to see.”
– Matt: “This is what unhappy looks like.”