Daredevil S01:E02 - Cut Man
April 10, 2015 (Netflix)
Murdock makes a near fatal error while trying to save a kidnapped boy, and finds an unlikely ally when he needs saving himself.
If there’s anything wrong with Daredevil‘s second episode, “Cut Man,” it’s that the show is going to have a hard time topping itself with the remaining 11 episodes. Childhood flashbacks, a drunk Foggy Nelson, and one of the best fighting sequences ever to leave its bloody mark on television – our second Daredevil review has a lot to cover.
While Daredevil‘s first episode was a standard intro episode to a new superhero series (albeit a really good one), “Cut Man” takes several steps to further distance the man without fear from The Avengers. Both in general story tone and the actions of Matt Murdock himself, Daredevil is doing everything it can to remind you that this isn’t another glossy Avengers tale. This a gritty, bloody, street-level superhero doing what he can to protect his little slice of the world. For as much saving the world as Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the other Avengers do, you’ll never find any of them sitting atop a roof waiting to hear someone scream for help like Daredevil does. In a way, this series is turning out more like Batman than a typical Marvel story, and that is perfectly fine.
In order to expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe in more ways, this type of series is needed. The universe that our heroes find themselves in can’t all be the big over-the-top battle scenes of the Avengers movies, or the high-stakes world of Agents of SHIELD. Daredevil is filling in a much-needed gap of seeing what life is like after Earth’s mightiest heroes wreck shop saving the world and who has to clean it up.
“Cut Man” is an episode almost entirely about Murdock’s will to protect Hell’s Kitchen. Not a second of screen time is dedicated to Matt Murdock the lawyer, instead it’s all about Murdock as Daredevil both in past and present. As far as the flashbacks of the episode go, they are a little frequent for my taste. A lot of what is told during the flashbacks is repeating what Murdock has already said in expository sessions in the first episode, and even in parts of this one. We know his dad was a boxer, we know how much he looked up to his dad, and we know how much his death affected his younger self. That said though, the actual death of his father is an absolute heart-wrenching scene and does tie-in in nicely to the current-day parts of the episode, but I’m left wondering if the rest of the flashbacks were really necessary. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather see more of present-day Matt Murdock and his newfound associate Claire Temple.
The chemistry between these two characters (thanks to Charlie Cox and Rosario Dawson giving great performances) is a dynamic that works exceptionally well. Just the fact that Temple is a doctor and wouldn’t be one to accept Murdock’s gifts without questions gives the show an easy vehicle to explain some of Daredevil’s powers. Almost all of his enhanced abilities – hearing, smell, pain mitigation – are put to the test and explained in ways that fit with the story. We as an audience get to truly experience the bizarre nature of his powers along with Temple because she’s just as lost as any normal human would be.
Even Charlie Cox’s individual performance – one that I wasn’t impressed with in the first episode – works when he is Daredevil. As the attorney Matt Murdock by day, Cox can be a bore to listen to, but when he dons the mask and becomes Daredevil it just somehow works. The rough edge of his voice seemed to be a bit reduced as well, either from the pain or a conscious decision by the show, but either way it worked much better this time around.
The other big goings on in “Cut Man” is the drunken night between Foggy and Karen. While some of what they do is enjoyable enough (“We’re buying a bluefin, Murdock!”), their whole story in this episode seems like a formality more than a fun side-story to the main bits about Murdock. Maybe it’s just because the sections with Murdock and Temple are so good that it overshadows everything else, but seeing the (maybe?) budding romance between Foggy and Karen just isn’t all that compelling, and it doesn’t add much to the story overall.
Now that we have all those pesky character development things out of the way, lets talk about the thing that will stand out as one of the most memorable moments of the series – the hallway fight. An obvious homage to a similar iconic scene in The Raid, it’s a mostly one-take fight between Murdock and several thugs on his way to save a boy that he’s been after this entire episode. There are a couple moments that were likely used as cuts so it’s not truly one continuous shot, such as zooming into the wall and when the hallway is left empty while fights are happening in rooms off-screen, but it doesn’t stop the entire sequence from feeling absolutely brutal and tiring – in a good way. It also sounds like they cut down on the cartoon-y punching noises from the first episode, which is a welcome change. They weren’t too bad to begin with anyway, but any less “thwaps” that a show can have is a bonus in my book.
I also really like how the scene does have those sections where fights go into rooms you can’t see. In a way, it puts the audience in a state similar to what Daredevil is going through. All we can do is listen and estimate what is going on, since we can’t actually view the fight happening in real time. With a slew of extended fight sequences and difficult-to-pull-off fight moves, this is one scene that is going to be remembered for a long time to come.