Friday, June 12, 2015

Daredevil S01 E09: Speak of the Devil

After the end of the last episode, Daredevil and the Kingpin (both as yet unnamed thus, so let's call them as we've seen them - the Devil of Hell's Kitchen and seeming philanthropist Wilson Fisk) are officially at war, and the man in the shadows, the mystery head of the house of cards, has played his hand in the bright sunshine. Things are not looking good for Daredevil, even with his new alliance with Ben Urich. And I'm not just talking about that blow he takes in the opening seconds of episode nine.

The opening fight sequence is between Daredevil and a ninja in red, the latter a master of martial arts fighting skills and weapons. It's pretty intense, and our hero is on the losing end for most of this pre-credits scene. Could this be the first real appearance of so-far-only-speculated Hand? It could be, as this episode is written by show staff writers Christos Gage and Ruth Fletcher Gage. The former is also a Marvel Comics writer who has in the past impressed me with his knowledge and respect for the Silver Age, something rarely seen in today's deconstructionist event themed comics.

Speaking of the Silver Age, there's been a recent hubbub about artist Wally Wood getting credit on the show and a possible lawsuit brewing as well from the comics creator's estate, the fires fanned of course by the rabble-rousers at Bleeding Cool. I think a lot of this comes from the show credit of 'created by' being followed by the names Stan Lee and Bill Everett, and not Wally Wood.

While it's true that almost everything we associate with Daredevil - the red costume, the billy club, the chest symbol - all came from Wally Wood's early redesign of the character, of that there is no doubt, how far should we go with this? I'm on episode nine here and the only reference to the Wood work so far is in the credit sequence itself. In actuality, and I hate saying this, if anyone really deserves any extra credit for this series so far it might just be Frank Miller, stylistically and principally, from his Man Without Fear story.

I know I'm making a lot of folks mad here, especially writers, but all that comics work back in the day was work for hire. Lawsuits decades later are ludicrous. By the same token that Wally Wood gets credit for creating Daredevil, Bill Finger and Gardner Fox and Jerry Robinson should have their names above Bob Kane's for creating Batman - because they really created Batman, and I'd add Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams to that list as well. Those five men made Batman more than Kane ever did. As far as I'm concerned, Bob Kane knew his way around a lawyer's office better than he ever did a drawing board. Just my opinion, so you know where to send the hate mail.

The fact is this - comic books are a collaborative artform in a shared universe created via work for hire. Maybe the credit should read, and read accurately, 'created by Marvel Comics,' and be done with it. I'm not begrudging Wally Wood or his estate what is due, but this just gets in my crawl. Enough is enough.

After the credits sequence we once again find Matt in front of St. Agnes with Father Lantom. I doubt we will get a Runaways reference for Lantom, but the fanboy in me still hopes for some nod to Skye from "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." for St. Agnes. Either way, this time once again cribbing from Frank Miller, Matt is seeking some sort of therapy through confession. I was pleased that Lantom, unlike Karen and Ben later this episode, has figured out Matt's other identity. It's not that hard.

Merely a plot device in his first two appearances, here Lantom's Peter McRobbie (who had also worked with Charlie Cox on "Boardwalk Empire") has room to play and make an impression finally. Rather than confessional, they chat over coffee, and McRobbie, doing an almost Robert Duvall rift tells a tale of his belief in, and his encounter with, The Devil. Lantom's story is both morality play and warning to Matt. Do not mess with The Devil.

Meanwhile, Fisk revealing himself as a benefactor and savior before being exposed as a devil has hampered if not frozen Ben Urich's investigation. As I mentioned, it kinda lowers my respect for Urich that he can't stand so close to both Daredevil and Matt Murdock and not know they're the same person. So much for the dying art of investigative reporting.

There are some intriguing name drops this episode, most notably Senator Cherryh. In the comics this corrupt senator is close to the Kingpin and has run afoul of Spider-Man, Elektra, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Daredevil - most of the heroes in these Netflix series leading up to "The Defenders."

Speaking of the Defenders, when Matt brings the fight to Fisk by visiting Vanessa's art gallery, she makes mention of putting a Richmond on the guest list. "He won't come but he'll get pissy if he isn't invited." Could this be millionaire Kyle Richmond, longtime leader of the Defenders, also known as Nighthawk? The description unfortunately fits the temperamental and much-dissed hero.

Also, location location location. I keep forgetting about the law offices of Nelson and Murdock, across from Atlas Investments, a possible homage to Atlas Comics, the name Marvel went by in the 1950s, and the Agents of Atlas, the retconned name given to the heroes of that era. N&M's offices are also where Van Lunt Real Estate used to be. Cornelius Van Lunt was the criminal industrialist also known as Taurus, one of the twelve-member cartel called Zodiac - longtime enemies of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers.

Back at the art gallery, Charlie Cox shows his first weakness as an actor when putting up a front for Vanessa, but is it bad acting on the part of Cox or of Matt Murdock? An argument could be made for both. When Fisk shows up he is equally uncomfortable. It is almost as if they know each other already subconsciously. Of course they have already spoken as Daredevil and Kingpin in "Condemned", perhaps this meeting is just a formality. And D'Onoffrio's Fisk silently makes no doubt of how he feels about Matt. That final look as our hero leaves says volumes.

Throughout the episode, Foggy and Karen, who are doing most of the heavy lifting, continue to piece together the house of cards with Fisk at its peak. The murder of the tenement woman they had been helping - so soon after Matt's visit to Vanessa has raised many flags. Matt, who has been keeping a low profile as Daredevil, puts the suit back on for a night on the town to release some of his pent up rage on the criminal element.

On this rampage he corners a drug dealer and asks him where he got his product. This product has a symbol on it that we saw Madame Gao's servants packaging in her drug sweatshops earlier in the series. The symbol in the comics is that of the Steel Serpent, an enemy of Iron Fist. Much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe proper, everything here is connected. Daredevil's tracking of the drugs, and the tenement woman's killer, eventually leads to the ninja, coming full circle to the episode's opening in media res.

The ninja, in what could very well be paraphernalia and costuming of The Hand, is revealed to be Nobu. He knows of Stick, and has some more than human abilities himself like slowing his heartbeat and lowering his body temperature. The battle that follows is intense, bloody, and increasingly one-sided. Daredevil takes the upper hand by luck, barely surviving himself... only to walk into Fisk's trap.

When Fisk offers Daredevil his shot, free punch, in the beginning of a hand to hand combat, our hero is in no shape and is no match whatsoever. Fisk beats him senseless, pummeling his foe almost as he did his father as a boy. When Fisk walks away, telling Wesley to finish him, Daredevil escapes. You might think that's the cliffhanger, but it's not, as it's Foggy who finds Matt near dead, in costume... now things are getting interesting...


  1. Anonymous2:26 AM

    Nothing has been said about any money or law suit. Only that Wally "Kid Daredevil" Wood deserves to be remembered for his contributions which many agree saved Daredevil from cancelation.
    FRANK MILLER and about 15 other comic creators ARE credited in the Netflix series including Klaus Janson, Joe Orlando, and George Tuska but not the man Marvel once named "Kid Daredevil Himself," Wallace "Wally" Wood!
    HOWARD CHAYKIN said on April 29, 2015: “I can't imagine any moral circumstance in which Woody's contribution to Daredevil remains unacknowledged. The red costume, the first set of nemeses that became a big part Daredevil's rogue's gallery, the visual key to the character's radar sense, & so many other elements that are intrinsic to the character and franchise derived from his stint on the book. It in no way diminishes Bill Everett and his creation of the character to acknowledge Wallace Wood's participation in the development of the character we recognize today.”
    ROY THOMAS said on April 17, 2015: “Wally Wood's contributions to ‪#Daredevil‬, particularly the look of the character, were crucial to his early success. Even if he didn't technically ‘co-create’ Daredevil, I believe he deserves screen mention with Stan Lee & Bill Everett. Nobody has ever really been able to improve on the costume Wood designed 50 years ago!”

  2. I said possible lawsuit, I never said there was one. I also never said Wood didn't deserve credit. I will have to reexamine the credits of the show because the only creator credit I've seen says 'created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett.' The ones you mention must be at the end and in much smaller font. I'll look again.