In late 2013, Marvel announced they were partnering with streaming giant Netflix to develop a number of shows based on their ‘street level heroes’, stating that they would be a grittier take than anything else seen so far in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). Nearly a year and a half later the first series Marvel’s Daredevil has finally been released, and boy did they deliver on that promise. “Into The Ring” is a near perfect hour of television, and though as a first episode it has a lot of groundwork in terms of character and plot to get through, it paves the way for what is sure to be an astounding and unique take on the superhero genre.
The episode hits the ground running by placing us smack bang in the middle of the accident that blinds the young Matt Murdock (Skylar Gaertner), as the camera follows his father Jack (John Patrick Hayden) through the wreckage. The relationship between Matt and his dad, an ageing boxer nicknamed ‘Battlin’ Jack’ is a major part of Daredevil lore, and this scene shows that in this adaptation that will be no different. We then flash forward to an adult Matt (played impeccably by Charlie Cox) as he asks his local priest for penance for his future crimes as Daredevil. Again, Murdock’s catholic faith is a major part of the character’s identity, so it is a smart move for episode writer and executive producer Drew Goddard to establish this early on.
The primary setting for both the Daredevil comics and this show is Hell’s Kitchen, an area of Manhattan that is historically been one rife with crime, a fact which is very much integral to the comic series. These days it has been hugely transformed by gentrification, and many fans questioned how this would be handled in the show due to its modern day setting. The Marvel Gods have delivered a strong solution, outlining that the ‘Battle of New York’ featured in The Avengers film (or ‘the incident’ as it is referred to in this episode) gave criminals an opportunity to move in and make their mark in a city left in tatters, with police corruption, drugs and human trafficking now the order of the day. It is an interesting move by the creators of the show to directly address the effects that the actions of superheroes like Iron Man and Co have had on the average joe on the street, and I am intrigued to see how this explored further in this series and other MCU entries.
This corrupt city-state is the driving force of the episode’s plot, as Matt and his best friend and legal partner Franklin “Foggy” Nelson (Elden Hensen) find their first client in the form of whistleblower and murder suspect Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll). Karen has been framed after discovering discrepancies in a pension fund of her employers Union Allied Construction, a company with strong ties to the mysterious Hell’s Kitchen criminal underworld. Much of the episode is taken up with Matt and Foggy’s efforts to clear Karen’s name, which is paralleled with Matt (as Daredevil) going after a Russian gang involved in human trafficking.
Aside from a small meeting between a number of gang leaders, little more is revealed about the criminal enterprise in this episode. Although it is clear Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) is the kingpin, he is merely heard but not seen here. Instead we are introduced to his mysterious right hand man Wesley (Toby Leonard Moore) and other key players such as Leland Owlsley (Bob Gunton).
As I stated earlier, “Into The Ring” serves as a great opener for the series by dishing out just the right level of plot to get people hooked without giving too much away. Goddard gives enough exposition to fill in the gaps for Daredevil newbies, whilst also delivering a number of Easter eggs that are sure to keep long-time fans of the man without fear more than happy. If this episode is anything to go by, Marvel’s Daredevil could quickly become the crown jewel of the MCU.
– The opening credits are amazing, right up there with the likes of Game of Thrones and Mad Men. I’d probably just be satisfied watching them on repeat let alone how great the rest of the episode was
– “Every time someone punches one of these guys through a building, our margins go up three percent”. The Hell’s Kitchen crime families are clearly a big fan of the benefits brought to them by superheroes
– I was stoked they didn’t go down the road of cheesy CGI effects to explain Daredevil’s powers. Little things like Matt listening for Karen’s heartbeat to tell whether she was lying or not were far better for the tone of this show, and I’m sure newbies will quickly connect the dots
REVIEW SCORE: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Marvel’s Daredevil is available to stream all 13 episodes of Season One via Netflix Australia