By now you’ve probably finished streaming Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix. If you haven’t then LOOK AWAY NOW!!!!!! With an entire Season released, there’s definitely a lot to talk about; but this article will simply – or not so simply – analyze some of the main themes of this first season as well as what the show is setting up for additional seasons and other shows. Enjoy!
The Juxtaposition of Murdock & Fisk – Childhoods, Goals & Bromances:
From the moment we saw the second Daredevil Trailer that there would be this juxtaposition between Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk. They’re both two men doing what they think will save their city. Which one is right, well that’s an obvious one in the end; but what isn’t so obvious is just how much these two are compared and contrasted. Besides their current goals to save the city, discover love and protect those they care about, it is also their pasts that are strikingly similar.
Both boys had fathers who were involved with dangerous people. Both got their first sip of alcohol from their fathers. Both lost their fathers at an early age. Though despite these similarities, the differences between them are KEY! For starters, Fisk killed his father while Murdock’s was killed; but whereas Fisk’s mother protected him, Murdock’s mother didn’t as we find him in an orphanage not long after. Though Matt’s father supported him as he grew up and didn’t want him to fight. Wilson’s on the other hand always put him down and instilled some very violent tendencies in him. This of course led to Matt growing up a very confident and introspective man, whilst Fisk became a man driven violently between affection and punishment.
Though it’s not just their goals and pasts that these two share; but also their ‘Bromances’ – that’s right, I said it. Matt doesn’t go anywhere without his trusted friend Foggy. It is these two friends that survived Columbia and went on to become the two best Avocadoes this city has ever seen. As for Fisk, he always had Wesley. Wesley was no simple ‘Yes Man’, but rather a true friend who looked out for Wilson every chance he could. He made Fisk see that he could get everything, so its no wonder he lost his grip on things soon after losing Wesley. Though despite one being a good influence (Foggy) and the other being a bad influence (Wesley), each man cared for their friend and helped shaped them into the man they could be. Wesley enabled and empowered, whilst Foggy wasn’t afraid to take Matt down a few pegs. In the end, this could also explain why Murdock realizes killing isn’t the answer since it almost cost him his friendship wit Foggy.
Symbolism & Theme – The Man You Want To Be:
In Episode 3, we are introduced to the painting called “Rabbit In A Snow Storm”, but it’s much more than just a simple piece of art. On one hand this symbolizes how our characters seem to get caught up and lost in something bigger than they. On the other, Fisk’s obsession with this photo soon brings out quite possibly the biggest theme of this entire show: What kind of man – or woman – do you want to be?
As we can assume from the last section, Murdock and Fisk are going to be the primary focal points of this idea. Fisk very openly wrestled with what kind of man he wanted to be throughout the season and we saw this by him staring at the painting, which reminded him of the chipped wall he would look at when his father beat his mother. Is he going to be the cold driven man who only cares about results or will he be the man clouded by love? In the end he comes to the realization that in the story of the Good Samaritan, he is neither of the characters; but rather the embodiment of pain and misfortune itself. Where he heads next is up to him as we leave off with Fisk once again staring at a chipped wall, pondering what kind of man he wants to be.
On the other side of this coin, we find Murdock struggling with who he is; but instead of having a wall to star at, Murdock finds himself in the confessional. Faith is an essential part in Matt Murdock’s tale and it is what drives him to constantly analyze what kind of man he wants to be. His father wanted him to be an intellect; yet being a fighter was in his blood. Even though he’s chosen his path he still struggles with the idea of murder. Is he the hero, the anti-hero or the villain? In the end, the city comes to accept him as the hero of Hells Kitchen known as Daredevil.
This struggle of identity of course extends beyond Murdock and Fisk. Foggy is constantly reevaluating his career choices, goals and relationship with Karen and Matt. Karen as well is constantly wrestling with her identity. Is she the innocent girl Foggy and Matt defended, is she the fighter or is she something more? Through her story we see this vein of darkness and secrecy, something that seems to enjoy the danger. Sure she has good intentions, but her methods always lead her and those close to her in the crosshairs of someone dangerous. Every character struggles with this idea of who they want to be, even down to Melvin Potters who goes from Kingpin henchmen to Daredevil ally.
Meaning Behind The Episode Titles:
As with most shows, the episode titles of Daredevil reveal the deeper focus and stylistic momentum of the episode. While some are strikingly apparent, others might be a little hard to understand fully. Here is the significance of each title with its respective episode.
- “Into The Ring” is of course origin stories and sets up the theme of Matt being a boxer who gets knocked down and gets back up through the series.
- “Cutman” is a boxing term for someone who treats your injuries during a fight. As such, this episode introduces us to Claire.
- “Rabbit In A Snow Storm” introduces the painting as well as the themes it stands for (caught up in something bigger/what man you want to be) – as I discussed above
- “In The Blood” not only dealt with the Ranskahov brothers, but also dealt with the idea of not being able to run from something because it’s in your blood (ie: Fisk returns to Hells Kitchen, Urich takes the case and Matt fights)
- “World On Fire” deals with how Matt sees the world ‘as a world on fire’ and then ends with Fisk literally setting most of Hells Kitchen of fire
- “Condemned” shows how Fisk distorts the media and police reception in order to make Daredevil a wanted man
- “Stick” introduces Matt’s mentor named “Stick” as well as arms Daredevil with a primitive version of his trademark beat stick weapons
- “Shadows In The Glass” reveals Fisk’s insecurities and how he is haunted by shadows of his former self
- “Speak Of The Devil” not only deals with personal demons, but also weights heavily on the old saying “Speak of the devil and he shall appear” (ie: Fisk appears at the art gallery when Matt asks about him, Fisk appears on TV while they’re talking about him at the bar, etc)
- “Nelson vs Murdock” is not only a reverse of the Nelson & Murdock Law Office (because they’re now fighting) but also frames it along the lines of how actual court hearings are named (Person A vs Person B)
- “The Path Of The Righteous” plays upon the idea of becoming the devil so that others fear you enough to be good people. Additionally, it deals with the continuing costs of walking this path (ie: Claire leaves Matt, Fisk looses Wesley and almost Vanessa)
- “The Ones We Leave Behind” deals heavily with those lost as well as whom they’ve left behind. Continuing from the previous episode (ie: Vanessa saved, Wesley lost), we see how one is almost lost at the start of the episode only to have another truly lost at episode’s end (ie: Karen dreams Fisk is about to kill her in her apartment, Fisk actually kills Urich in his apartment)
- “Daredevil” Matt is no longer the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen and earns the title of Daredevil in both the media as well as resembling his comic appearance (red horned costume with balanced beat sticks)
Season 2 Set Ups – Elektra, The Hand, Karen’s Dark Path & Bullseye:
Beyond the awesomeness that was this season, there was so much Daredevil also did to hint at where they’ll go for Season 2. For starters, there was a reference to a Greek girl Matt used to date in college. This was most likely a reference to the Daredevil’s romantic ninja interest, Elektra. From her history with Matt and training under Matt’s teacher Stick to her consuming hatred for the world after her father’s assassination, there is so much to explore with Elektra. Though no story of Elektra is complete without the villainous organization known as ‘The Hand’.
The Hand is an ancient group of ninjas whom Stick and the rest of his organization ‘the Chaste’ constantly fight against. The Hand was of course introduced this season through the character of Nobu. With Nobu’s extensive martial arts training, ability to slow his heart and drop his body temperature, we can already see that they are a force to be reckoned with. Though another defining factor of them is their worship of demons and immortals. This is hinted at slightly with the character “Black Skies” – but I’ll get to that more later – as well as when it’s said that Nobu’s dead body will be prepared for “what’s to come” – a possible reference to the Hand’s practice of the occult and being able to bring members back to life.
Meanwhile, another major plotline was introduced this season much closer to home – the mysterious past and future of Karen Page. The show seems to have taken some liberties and split up Karen’s comic past into her past – and future – on the show. You see in the comics, Karen Page tries her hand at acting but ultimately fails and starts staring making pornographic films in Mexico. It’s possible that this has already happened a bit in the show since they made nods of her ‘past’, excellent Spanish and how she has shot someone before. The next part is where things get really bad – and could hint at what’s to come.
Remember after Urich’s death when Karen tells Foggy that she’s thinking of giving up drinking and moving onto the harder stuff. Well in the comics Karen eventually becomes addicted to Heroine and sells out Daredevil’s secret identity for just one hit. This information is sold to – who else – the Kingpin, who uses this to make Matt’s life a living hell. Again, this is really dark stuff and could definitely make you start to hate Karen, but it fits in with what Matt says at the end of the series about Karen seeming different. Do I think this will happen in Season 2? Probably not, but this all happening in Season 3 along with Fisk’s release from Prison would make PERFECT sense.
Though in closing, there is one final future plotline hinted at here; and it’s one that ties into both Elektra and Karen – the villainous Bullseye. As I pointed out in the Easter Egg article, that faceless sniper on the roof had a playing card on his gear, which just so happens to be Bullseyes signature calling-card. So who is Bullseye? Well besides being an expert marksman, he is also the man who kills both Elektra and Karen Page. If there was one person Daredevil hates more than Kingpin, it’s Bullseye.
Who Is Madame Gao – Iron Fist Set Up:
Though before we start thinking about Daredevil Season 2 and 3, we have to first look at the rest of – dare I say – Marvel’s Netflix Phase 1. Was there anything in Daredevil that set up for AKA Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron First or the massive team up special The Defenders? The answer is of course yes, but not the ones you would think. AKA Jessica Jones is the next Netflix show to premier later this year, but Daredevil didn’t really lead into it. Due to Jessica’s nature as a private eye, I’m sure AKA Jessica Jones will tie back into Daredevil while also setting up Luke Cage – since Jessica and Luke are a couple. So what did Daredevil set up for? The answer is one of the most mysterious of shows via the most mysterious of characters – Madame Gao.
From the first episode we knew there was something more to this character; but as the series went on we saw just how much more there was to her. From cryptic sayings to being able to take down Daredevil with one palm strike, she is much more than she lets on; but what? Well as I began to explain in my Easter Eggs article, Madame Gao’s heroine bears the symbol and name of an Iron Fist villain known as Steel Serpent. So is Madame Gao just a hint of things to come or does she actually play a role in them herself?
Well during various conversations with Owlsley and other characters, Madame Gao gives us some hints as to her true purpose and realm. She speaks ALL languages, is concerned with things “beyond the distraction of [this] world” and comes from a land a “considerable distance farther” than China. Since she already has one Iron Fist connection, it’s safe to assume she’s from one of the heavenly cities, such as K’un-L’un. A old woman from a heavenly city, who is powerful and has ties to Steel Serpent, sounds a lot like Crane Mother to me.
Crane Mother is the ruler of K’un-Zi, one of the Legendary Cities of Heaven, and had a particular hatred for Iron Fist. Yes, that’s right ‘Heaven’. With Doctor Strange coming to the big screen, the MCU is going to start entering the mystical and spiritual realms and Iron Fist is the perfect pairing for that. With Madame Gao as Crane Mother, then this sets up the Iron Fist series to explore her hatred for the original Iron Fist and how his powers came to be passed onto the young Daniel Rand. I’m sure the story will be revamped a bit for Netflix, but considering all Daredevil has set up and how the original story even has tie-ins to Hydra, I am VERY excited for Iron Fist now!
What Is Black Skies? – Bringing Together The Defenders:
It’s far too soon to tell WHAT will bring all these Netflix heroes together for The Defenders; but you can be sure the groundwork will begin to be laid just like it was in Marvel’s Phase 1. Madame Gao has already shown herself to be a formidable and connecting force so it’s entirely possible her hatred for Iron Fist will bring her back to New York and the Defenders will unite to stop her. Then again, there could be another ‘hinted threat’ for the Defenders to take on.
During the episode “Stick” we learned of a mysterious weapon referred to as “Black Skies”. We learn relatively nothing about this being. All we can infer is that it’s a very dangerous weapon, it’s not entirely human – despite its appearance – and there’s more than one. At the very least, this boy is an Inhuman; but the way Nobu says that they’ll have to just get another seems like it could be something more. All Inhumans aren’t the same, so they can’t all be ‘Black Skies’, unless Black Skies was something much more than an Inhuman.
To my knowledge, there’s no one in the comics known as “Black Skies”; but there is a evil immortal dragon known as Chaintang (aka Black Dragon). This would merge the Iron Fist history along with The Hand’s affinity for worshipping demons/immortals. Sometimes the dragon would take a human vessel, which could explain why the child was restrained since this form would make him vulnerable while he housed the monstrous spirit. This sets up a great cross point for the Netflix characters and would give them something worthy of teaming up for. Either way, there is much more to this character and it won’t be the last we’ve seen of him… it.
For more on Daredevil, please check out my full Easter Eggs article for Season 1 and stay tuned for the rest of the Netflix series to come and more!
Update: For how the appearance of The Punisher will effect Daredevil – as well as possible backstories – please check out my Article all about What The Punisher Means For Season 2 Daredevil Article!