Marvel’s Daredevil: Season 1 Episode 2 “Cut Man”
So to start with, we have a new player on the stage. It took me a while to recognize her, but I finally realized it was Clerks 2‘s Rosario Dawson. Dawson is a welcome seasoned player in a cast of unknowns. Her ability to inhabit this NYC “everygirl” character is amazing, and she’s a great foil to the grim Daredevil in this episode. The fact that a legitimate movie star actress could go unrecognized by a decently frequent moviegoer like myself for nearly her entire first scene is a real testament to her ability. And, like Deborah Ann Woll, Dawson has a sort of beauty in which she also looks like some girl you might pass in the hall in your apartment building. Although in the wrong light she can also look like she’s slowly turning into Michael Jackson.
Of course, once I realized it was Rosario Dawson, my ability to remember her character’s name went out the window. I’ll have to look it up on imdb.com real fast…ooh, that Mr. Holmes movie with Sir Ian McKellen looks really good. Oh wow, McKellen was in a Doctor Who episode? Aw, just his voice. Too bad. Man, imagine if he came back for a Peter Capaldi episode…as the Master. That would be the best.
Urgh, no! Darnit imdb.com, I have to concentrate. So Rosario Dawson plays Nurse Rosario Dawson who is alerted by a neighborhood kid that, hey, there’s a strange man all bloody lying in a dumpster. Instead of calling the police, she drags the unconscious Daredevil back to her apartment, which actually sounds kind of sinister when you type it out that way. But no worries, she’s just fixing up his wounds with the help of some uncomfortably juicy sound effects.
You know, I genuinely thought to myself, “This guy’s got to get to a hospital!” The show does a great job here of communicating his pain and helplessness, an effect I attribute to part excellent makeup, part Charlie Cox’s convincing groaning, and part Dawson’s great no-nonsense “You are fucked up” look.
The show switches gears at this point to return to young Matty Murdock’s child years, which are less innocent than most; he is spending the evening sewing up his dad’s face after a rough boxing match. I have so much to say about the relationship between Matty and Jack Murdock I could write another whole article on just that, but keeping it to twenty-five words or less: The relationship is so believable, so human, it instantly mobilized in me feelings for them both. Normally a superhero’s parents, like Bruce Wayne’s folks or Spider-Man’s (I know I’m over twenty-five words, shut up, this is important to me) paternal Uncle Ben, are just a springboard to the “real” story. But in Daredevil we’re living Matty’s memories of his dad along with him, and it shows us what a powerful influence the working-class boxer is on his life.
The flashbacks remind me of the CW’s Arrow and its quick cuts back to the island where Oliver Queen spent five years, and the way those scenes color what we’re seeing in present day.
It’s been a dark first nine minutes in “Cut Man” before we join up with Karen Page and Foggy Nelson back at Nelson & Murdock, and they come with some much-needed levity – although since every scene before this has been about people being hurt and the hurt being done to them to fix the hurt, the bar there was set pretty low.
Still, the chemistry between these two is fantastic, and I have to attribute that largely to the show’s incredible casting. Woll takes the age-old joke of overhearing an oblivious person belting out some embarrassing singing and makes it feel like a natural, human moment between friends (I cringe to think how that shtick would have played out on The Big Bang Theory). And Elden Henson continues to be awesome as the refusing-to-be-embarrassed Foggy. The two end up getting drunk and carousing around town in sequences which, without stepping outside of the show’s dingy setting, are by turns delightful and touching.
Promisingly, Daredevil takes the time here to explore Karen’s abiding fear of the city following her traumatic experiences in “Into The Ring.” I love that the show has chosen to make these experiences a part of Karen’s character, rather than simply having her brush it off once the whole messy adventure got her through the door at Nelson & Murdock. “I can’t get Danny’s blood out of the carpet,” she starts, the rest of the speech reflecting that stain motif. I braced myself for a boring and unhelpful speech from Foggy about being strong and saying he’ll be there for her, but the young lawyer eschews the big, empty concepts and reaches out for small and tangible things in the environment around them. “That’s Rob Donohue,” he says. “His wife Mira, she works at the dry cleaner around the corner from our office. That’s Clint Peterson. He…Okay, he is a criminal.”
It’s also nice that, as the characters get drunk and have a fun night out, the show never uses their BAC or Karen’s trauma and Foggy’s sympathy as a sloppy excuse to smoosh the two together romantically and artificially generate some interpersonal drama. It’s hinted we might see that later on, but once again, Daredevil shows considerable restraint on the romance side in favor of building real character relationships. Pro.
We return to Daredevil and Nurse Rosario Dawson where, after briefly reliving a young Matty’s moment of panic at waking up without his sight (a panic which is as heartbreaking here as it was last episode), they are discovered by a police detective on the take..or a mob guy with a fake badge, it’s not totally clear…who is searching for the man in black.
Here, the show takes the opportunity to prove it doesn’t necessarily turn on fight scenes; as the man rushes down the stairs, Daredevil knocks him senseless with an exquisitely well-timed drop of a fire extinguisher. This brutal and apparently impossible takedown may be one of the most Daredevil things I’ve ever seen in any medium.
Afterwards, the duo take the guy to the roof for some decidedly unsuperheroic torture. Now, I’m personally not a fan of torture and I think the evidence is in that, in the real world, it doesn’t work. However, most of the arguments on why don’t hold much water if you can hear if the torturee is lying. Plus, I love to death Daredevil’s dubious morality, which so sets him apart in a universe of blowhard self-righteous do-gooders. So I felt pretty comfortable watching Charlie Cox growl at this bastard and, at the medically-trained Dawson’s suggestion, take a knife and – HOLY GOD THAT WOULD HURT. Holy geez. Ugh.
So now we come to the final scene, and wow. This. Final. Scene. One long shot taking place over 5 1/2 minutes in a grimy hallway, setting up this kidnapped boy’s location and that of his captors, followed by the appearance of Daredevil, a solid beating, and a rescue. You’ve probably already heard a little about this scene, and that’s because it’s nuts. After watching Charlie Cox convincingly convalesce for the last 45 minutes, the half-hearted writhing of these stuntment is not especially believable. But the scene wins major points for the humanity of Daredevil, who takes every window of opportunity to lean against the wall and take a breather. It’s a desperate, messy, sweaty, dirty, thoroughly unsuperheroic fight scene.
And it’s wonderful. When Matt is carrying the kid out of his crappy prison, you can’t help but feel he’s really earned this victory.
It’s with this climax that Daredevil has made me a believer. The episode didn’t just take narrative risks, but cinematic ones. It’s a show that’s unafraid to experiment, to challenge superhero tradition and blaze its own trail. I love it. I’m officially a fan.