Monday, December 7, 2015

'Daredevil' Season 1 review: Episodes 10-13

"Marvel's Daredevil" on Netflix grabbed my interest in the first four episodes.

By episodes 9 through 11, I was hooked.

The concluding episodes of the 13-episode first season don't disappoint. In fact, the final shows bring home everything that is so good and helped the show gain momentum.

It's only coincidental I binge-watched "Daredevil" in three sessions. (OK, technically it was four; but how could I turn down family game night to watch the last 30-plus minutes of the finale?) 

Watching "Daredevil" this way gave me time to process what I saw (and time to review those same episodes!). (Mild spoiler alert!) Honestly when I ended my second binge-watching session with Foggy Nelson discovering Matt Murdock is Daredevil (at that point still called "the man in the mask"), I instinctively knew I picked the right time to stop before watching the remaining episodes. (End spoiler)

Episode 10 just sealed the deal with nailing Murdock's relationship with Nelson.

The writers give Foggy the absolute correct reaction to finding out his best friend has been lying to him by not being truthful about his vigilante activities. Actor Elden Henson brings the proper anger and frustration; Nelson is right to ask Murdock if anything between them over the years has been legitimate and real.

Actor Charlie Cox (Murdock) and Hensen truly make my heart break as Nelson blasts into Murdock. And during the flashback sequences, the actors absolutely sell their strong connection and how quickly they've developed a tight friendship.

What's beautiful about their friendship from the very beginning is that Nelson always treated Murdock as a guy — just a guy who happens to be blind. It's clear they care for each other and have each other's backs, just as best friends would.

During the flashback scene when Nelson and Murdock take a break from walking and sit on the steps on the college campus, Murdock obviously wants to tell his roommate about having enhanced senses, but thinks better of it.

When the pair have a chance to get their big break and become partners in a prestigious and powerful law firm, the friends stick to their philosophical guns to fight the good fight. Nelson obviously is disappointed, but Murdock's ability to persuade him resonates with the "us against the world" mindset the pair have in the series and comic books.

So in the present when Nelson is grilling the severely injured Murdock at his apartment, it's natural — and heart-wrenching — for Nelson to demand the truth from his friend and law partner. And bless Murdock, he does exactly that.

Murdock recognizes the reality of their estranged relationship, that things can't go back to the way they were, but now they must find a way to move forward.

Moving forward, Nelson and Murdock act and react just as one would expect them to do — bringing tension to their law firm and making Karen Page wonder exactly what's going on.

Major kudos go to the writing team and the cast for their spot-on handling of Murdock and Nelson's estranged situation. As a long-time Hornhead (the name for dedicated Daredevil fans), I knew they would work it out their difference, but great writing and equally exceptional performances from Cox and Co. truly put me through the emotional wringer. (If you care for the characters, how couldn't your heart break as Nelson awkwardly walks past Murdock without a word to each other during the one time they see each other at work after their confrontation?)

By the time Murdock, Nelson and Page once again are working together and are putting the finishing touches on bringing down Wilson Fisk, as Page says, "This is the way it should be."

Be warned of a few major spoilers from here on out. …

As I watched this last batch of episodes I was worried about Deborah Ann Woll's Page. Her confrontation with Wesley again epitomizes the great writing and performances in "Daredevil."

In some ways it's no surprise Page ends up shooting Wesley, but she really has no choice. Woll does a fine job afterward, being haunted by what she did.

For a while I expected her to tell Murdock or Nelson about her trauma just as much as I expected the law partners to reveal Murdock's secret identity, but that never happened. This is the proper decision and should be the source for more drama as the series continues.

As much as I will miss Fisk's quietly dangerous and menacing right-hand man, this is where Vincent D'Onofrio's Fisk truly emerges as the vengeance-driven Kingpin I'd wanted to see from the beginning of the series.

Yet, slowly developing Fisk into the mob boss Marvel Comics fans love to hate is the right choice. I can only hope budgets, egos and contract negotiations won't keep us from seeing more of D'Onofrio as Fisk in Season 2 and beyond. Sure, we all know the Punisher aka Frank Castle (played by Jon Bernthal) will be the big baddie next season, but the creative team should know fans get the best from Daredevil and Fisk when they are pursuing each other.

Beyond Wesley being killed off, I was even more stunned that Ben Urich got fired from the newspaper. (Why the creative team decided not to use THE DAILY BUGLE as his newspaper is beyond me; the only explanation could be a legal entanglement of the Marvel Studios/Sony Pictures' combined usage of Spider-Man. …)

Being a reporter is instrumental to who Urich is. As cops say, he "is the job." Unfortunately, as I tracked down some photos online to use them during my previous two review installments of "Daredevil," I accidentally read one (!) spoiler-line attached to a picture about Urich's funeral. That was information I didn't need — much less want — to have, but regardless knowing Fisk literally kills Urich with his own hands is fitting.

Vondie Curtis-Hall brought quiet grace to the role and imbued Urich with the right balance of determination and cynicism; he and his noble character will be missed.

As in the comics, just as Season 1 wound down, it didn't seem like Daredevil, much less the Nelson and Murdock law firm, would be able to bring Fisk to justice.

It wouldn't have surprised me if the story left Fisk on the lam. Thankfully, justice was served (for fans, the dirty police officers and Fisk). A tip of the billy club goes to the Powers That Be to deliver the Daredevil-Fisk fight we all wanted — what a fantastic way to end a killer first season! Grade: A

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