Here’s where we are after a half-dozen episodes:
Matt is suspected of being a mad bomber and a cop killer, which he isn’t. Obviously.
Foggy and Karen are still adorable together, although he clearly digs her a bit more than she does him. Uh oh.
Fisk and Wesley have pretty much annihilated the Russian mob, as well as the reputation of the masked vigilante … not to mention about a third of the city.
Ben Urich is intent on getting to the bottom of all this madness and spill the beans, old-school journalist-style. (With Karen’s help.)
Matt and Claire have some definite chemistry together, but we all know the rules: superheroes shouldn’t get too close to new people, because villains love to exploit all that mushy stuff for their own malevolent purposes.
The refined but plainly insane Wilson Fisk seems to have found a kindred spirit in Vanessa, a new flame who doesn’t seem all the perturbed by the man’s murderous ways.
Episode 7: Stick
We all knew the “origin story flashback” stuff was coming, but given how Matt’s early induction into the world of crime-kicking is encapsulated in this episode, it’s tough to find much to complain about. Rescued from the orphanage by a mysterious man called Stick (Scott Glenn, awesome), young Matt learns the basics of super-sensory perception and acrobatic ass-kickery, but the master/student relationship falls apart when young Matt proves to be a bit too sensitive for his own good.
Meanwhile, back in present times, Matt finally meets face-to-face with the super-villainous uber-accountant known as Leland, Karen and Ben formulate their next step in their plan to expose “Allied United,” and a new threat known only as “Black Sky” finds its way into the Hell’s Kitchen harbor. So while the bulk of the seventh episode is dedicated to the past and present relationship between Matt and his prickly grump of a mentor, there’s still a nice feeling of forward momentum in the main story.
Plus the episode ends with the introduction of a “mystery character,” and it’s always fun to see how that stuff turns out.
Oh, and apparently Foggy has no idea that his best pal and partner is the now-infamous vigilante. It makes sense that Karen wouldn’t put it together, but Foggy’s got to find out sooner or later. Right?
Episode 8: Shadows in the Glass
If Matt Murdock warrants an entire episode dedicated to his unpleasantly formative childhood, then so does Wilson Fisk, dammit! While a decent amount of Daredevil‘s eighth episode focuses on key plot threads involving corrupt cops, well-intentioned attorneys, frustrated crime lords, and veteran reporters on the hunt for one more great scoop, the best segments of this chapter are dedicated to young Wilson Fisk and his frustrated loser of a father.
The writing is particularly sharp in this episode; if you were hoping that Wilson Fisk would quickly transform into a full-bore, one-dimensional monster for our hero to pound upon, prepare to be disappointed. Villains are a hell of a lot more interesting when they’re written with generous portions of ambiguity, and by the end of “Shadows in the Glass,” Wilson Fisk becomes one of the most fascinatingly multi-dimensional bad guys in the Marvel cinematic universe. The fact that Fisk now has Vanessa by his side, and that he ends this episode with a brilliant piece of media manipulation, makes him even more interesting.
Throw in some great moments with Nobu, Madame Gao, and the quietly cool Ben Urich, and this just might be the best episode yet. Also, Vincent D’Onofrio should earn three Emmys for this episode alone.
Episode 9: Speak of the Devil
The unexpectedly excellent screenwriting continues with episode 9, and you need look no further than a pair of fantastic dialogue scenes between Matt and Father Lantom (Peter McRobbie). Or the quick but important exposition salvo that occurs early on between our favorite legal team and the very helpful Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall, who adds a great dash of grizzled nobility to the ensemble). Or the unexpected plot bombshell that occurs when the adorable old Mrs. Cardenas (Judith Delgado) is slain by a junkie who obviously works for Wilson Fisk. (It’s really smart to have Fisk do something really awful right after an episode that generates a bit of sympathy for the guy. Again: good writing.)
Before we get to the action stuff in episode nine (which is all pretty great), there’s also a fantastic scene in which Matt visits Vanessa’s art gallery under false pretenses — only to find himself face-to-face with Fisk himself. (Gasp!) Not only is it a particularly well-written moment, but I didn’t see it coming, and that’s always a cool feeling. In relation to the series as a whole, “Speak of the Devil” removes one more crime lord from the equation, it raises the stakes in Matt’s quest to remain noble in a vice-ridden realm, and (aha!) it lets Foggy in on our hero’s big secret. And that should certainly lead to some interesting complications.
Episode 10: Nelson v. Murdock
We’ve already had some helpful flashback stories dedicated to Matt and to Fisk, so it only makes sense that at least one episode would dip a toe into Foggy Nelson’s formative years — and now that he’s discovered the truth behind his best friend’s nocturnal activities, it feels like a good moment to go back in time and see how these two guys became such close pals. Especially because Foggy is supremely angry (maybe for the first time ever), which makes the “Matt & Foggy: The College Years” moments feel a bit more bittersweet.
Aside from the central Matt and Foggy stories (one thread set in the past and the other in the present), episode ten gives us a nice, tense scene between Fisk and Madame Gao (who seems justifiably concerned now that Nobu has joined Anatoly and Vladimir on the list of dead crime lords); a whole bunch of stuff involving Ben, his ailing wife, and some unexpected assistance from the ever-resourceful Karen, and a shocker of a finale in which Vanessa takes a big swig of poisoned champagne. (One expects Wilson Fisk to react to this turn of events rather unpleasantly.)
With only three episodes to go, Daredevil is doing a fine job of giving its key characters fun things to do, but I just have to request a little more of Claire’s presence before all is said and done. Aside from patch Matt up, share a few flirtations, suffer through a nasty beatdown, and make a few helpful phone calls, this lady hasn’t had all that much to do across ten episodes. Beyond that minor gripe, Daredevil sure seems to be building up a nice head of steam on its way to a big-time showdown between its presently disgraced hero and its currently untouchable villain.