Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Collision Of Two Unstoppable Forces In "Daredevil!"

The Good: Good acting, Decent plot development
The Bad: Characters move the plot, but do not develop
The Basics: Daredevil peaks with "Daredevil" when Matt Murdock comes into his own . . . with a lot of help from his friends!

For season finales, it is almost pointless - at least in serialized television - to post a spoiler alert. After all, if the season finale is the climax to a sequence of events, it must by its nature include elements of how the principles got into place. With the first season finale of Daredevil, aptly entitled "Daredevil," the big plot moments of "The Ones We Leave Behind" (reviewed here!) frame the conflict and actions of the episode. Consider that a spoiler warning.

By "Daredevil," it is hard to figure how Daredevil has any real surprises left in it. The season has been building to the actual establishment of the traditional, costumed Daredevil and the rise to power of Wilson Fisk as the eventual, obvious, Kingpin. So, if "Daredevil" gets to either of those points, it is not much of a shock. It's hard for fans of the comic book to be wowed and surprised the way they were when Wesley was killed in "The Path Of The Righteous" (reviewed here!) or Fisk murdering Ben Urich in "The Ones We Leave Behind."

Opening with Ben Urich's funeral, Karen Page expresses her feelings of guilt to Ben's widow and to Matt Murdock. Fisk, for his part, has retreated to his penthouse to take care of Vanessa. He comes out at night to meet with Owlsley, who has been skimming from Fisk. Fisk is able to do his building, thanks to Owlsley clearing the way with Senator Cherryh, and Owlsley plays his endgame by coming clean when cornered by Fisk. With Gao having retreated, Owlsley is Fisk's last obstacle and, despite Owlsley's threats, Fisk clears that obstacle.

Foggy Nelson tracks down Murdock and confesses to him that Marci has been copying legal records on Fisk to use against the businessman. Murdock, Nelson and Page begin hunting for the missing Detective Hoffman, trying to get to him before Fisk does. Page figures out the way Owlsley was squirreling away funds and Murdock goes out to find Hoffman in his masked alter-ego. Murdock compels Hoffman to confess and turn himself in, which leads to the F.B.I. cleaning out the 15th Precinct, the New York Tribune and the law offices of Landman & Zach. Fisk, however, is prepared for his arrest and he uses his last moments to propose to Vanessa. While celebrations break out at Nelson & Murdock, Fisk orchestrates his own rescue and forces Daredevil to come into the field to stop him.

"Daredevil" is the culmination of all the rising action of the first season and Steven S. DeKnight writes and directs an episode that is dark and character-centered. As much as the plot necessitates certain actions, Matt Murdock, Karen Page, Leland Owlsley, Foggy Nelson, and even Detective Hoffman change the direction of the show. "Daredevil" takes the characters who have been pushed to their limit and empowers them to turn themselves around. Karen Page has been tenacious, but it is Foggy and Marci who actually manage to do the legwork that turns the tables on Fisk.

While the characters move the plot forward, they do not actually develop in "Daredevil." "Daredevil" has the characters simply embodying all they have in the prior episodes. In fact, only Owlsley alters his personality . . . and his stepping up to Fisk does not end well for him! The protagonists simply push the right people the way they had been the rest of the season (albeit pushing the wrong people for the prior several episodes) and the antagonist simply becomes articulate about who he is.

The season finale to Daredevil includes the obvious revelation of Matt Murdock in his proper Daredevil costume (the entire season has been building to it), but it is arguably the episode that most relies upon Matt Murdock's heightened senses to achieve the plot resolution the arc demands. More than the prior episodes, Matt Murdock seems to utilize his superhuman hearing and "radar" sense. In "Daredevil," he hears phone conversations at incredible distances that push well beyond what he has exhibited the ability to do in prior episodes.

The performances in "Daredevil" are good, but none of the actors are actually given heavy lifting to do. Charlie Cox and Vincent D'Onofrio participate in some excellent fight sequences, but neither they nor the rest of the cast have big emotional scenes which require them to exhibit much at all of their range.

"Daredevil" clears the way for a dramatically different second season of Daredevil. With three of the biggest recurring characters in the franchise being buried by the end of the episode, Daredevil will need an infusion of new characters for its second season. While a lot happens and the episode is fine for getting the show where it needs to, but it does so without any real flair or wow factor. That makes for a ho-hum feeling at the climax of the first season of Daredevil.

For other season finales, be sure to check out my reviews of:
"The Beginning Of The End" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"In The Hands Of The Prophets" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
"Valediction" - Agent Carter
"Radioactive" - True Blood

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Daredevil - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season of the Man Without Fear here!


For other television episode and movie reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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