Daredevil S1E1: “Into the Ring” Review
Welcome to the wonderful world of Netflix-Marvel shows! I’m guessing that more than a few of you have seen the first season of Daredevil, but if you haven’t, maybe these reviews can help you decide if it’s worth your time (hint: it is). Be forewarned that I will not be holding back as far as spoilers are concerned. I won’t be using a star or number based system to “rate” episodes because I don’t necessarily like quantifying how much I like or dislike something. Hope this review helps you alleviate boredom or procrastinate for a few minutes. Chime in with your own Daredevil thoughts in the comments below!
As far as first episodes go, “Into the Ring” has a lot more to accomplish than most other episodes – not only does it have to introduce us to Daredevil as a show, but it sets the bar for the Netflix-Marvel collaboration and proves its place in the grander scheme of the MCU. “Into the Ring” succeeds in introducing viewers to multiple characters and inklings of plot points, withholding just enough details to ramp up the suspense and mystery as the episode progresses. This show begs for binge-watching, if you can withstand its intensity and brutal action scenes over long periods of time.
Character introductions happen very quickly in this episode, with several nice moments of show-don’t-tell writing. Our first view of vigilante Daredevil is of him taking on human traffickers, a clever move as it makes it easy for viewers to side with Daredevil, even if he is operating outside of the law. Matt Murdock, in contrast, comes off as methodical and cautious, listening carefully to those around him (including their heartbeats) before speaking. This episode clearly demonstrates the differences in Matt’s personas, giving viewers a well-rounded view of the character. Franklin “Foggy” Nelson is the other character who gets some specific, defining moments. He refuses to walk on eggshells over Matt’s blindness and has no problem smuggling cigars to an old woman, and his general irreverence establishes his laid-back personality. As the character list continues to grow throughout the series, we’ll see how they sustain more complex development.
The plot of the show gets set up at a quick pace in this first episode, as we get introduced to most of the major characters and overarching points, including the growing crime in Hell’s Kitchen as a response to “the incident” (remember those pesky aliens from 2012’s The Avengers?). Crime noir, mystery, and fistfights as visceral as any Mortal Kombat combo are present in this first episode — get off the ride now if you have a weak stomach, kids. Daredevil seems to have a bit of a Batman-complex going on, not going so far as to actually kill any of his opponents. His actions do result in deaths, though, which could be an interesting moral quandary for the show to explore later on.
Since the first episode of a show sets the tone for the entire series, I made sure to pay attention to details, looking for significant moments that may grow into themes or symbols throughout the series. Near the end, Matt says something that rings as obviously symbolic: he tells Paige to “leave the lights off.” Of course Matt doesn’t need lights, but this clearly ties into his position as a vigilante — perhaps he prefers working in the dark, enacting justice as he sees fit when the law isn’t satisfactory. I’m interested to see if/how this theme comes up in the rest of the series, and how it will affect Matt’s growth and character arc.
One thing that this episode made me think about does not pertain so much to Daredevil in particular, but in terms of this genre as a whole. Near the end of the episode, we see a gathering of people from places around the world — an American businessman, Russian brothers, a Japanese man, and an older Chinese woman. Before much happens in the scene, the tense mood and secretive setting communicate to the viewer that something shady is going on here. We see a group of people from multiple cultures, and we are very quickly able to assume that these are some of the bad guys (which, of course, they are). This leads me to ask, is it harmful to see a group of diverse people coming together depicted in a negative light? Now, I understand that the point of this scene is to show us that the crime and conspiracies of this show reach around the globe; I see that it’s necessary to the plot, and am not arguing that it doesn’t belong. I just have to wonder how many times we get to see depictions of diverse groups gathering together in positive ways.
Overall, “Into the Ring” is a good introduction for Daredevil as a series, establishing the show’s tone and action, setting up expectations for the rest of the season. The tension increases throughout the episode without resolution, making the “Next episode” button very tempting. I personally found it enjoyable, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the series develops.