by: Anthony Zangrillo
If episode 1 of Daredevil was about showing how Matt Murdock gained his powers, episode 2 is about how Matt Murdock became a superhero. Let’s dive into “Cut Man.” Spoilers abound.
So, unlike “Into the Ring”, “Cut Man” is more of a bottle episode, primarily taking place in one location. The cold open shows a Matt Murdock, badly beaten and bleeding, lying in a dumpster when a kid discovers him and sets off the episode’s chain of events. If “Into The Ring” was more about the man behind the mask, then “Cut Man” places him back in the front. The audience sees how Daredevil punishes the criminal elements that have taken over Hell’s Kitchen in the wake of “The Avengers” Michael Bay-esque orgy of destruction and chaos. As a diegetic reason for how Hell’s Kitchen became so messed up, this works brilliantly because it sets up the idea that every action that takes place in the MCU has a consequence and I can only hope that this comes into play as the MCU expands its hold on TV & film. Anyway, this episode marks the introduction of the Night Nurse a.k.a. Claire Temple into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the comics, the Night Nurse serves as the underground doctor that all the street-level heroes go to when they are beaten to various degrees of pulp. She’s also one of the girlfriends of a Mr. Luke Cage, which leaves the window open for a potential cameo? I wouldn’t know, I’m only on episode 2 of Daredevil. Anyway, in this episode, Claire, played by Rosario Dawson, is the one who helps beaten-up Matt with his injuries, and serves as the audience’s stand-in. She’s the one questioning why Matt does what he does, and whether or not he’s doing any good. Because this episode acts more like a bottle episode, the plot is restricted to Claire’s apartment, with a final scene acting as a coda to the episode’s events. But holy hell, what an ending.
In my blog about the first episode, I talked about one of the cardinal sins of action movies being quick cuts. Why are quick cuts bad? For a long form explanation, I urge you to check out Matthias Stork’s video essay entitled “Chaos Cinema.” Here’s a link. In essence, what Stork is saying that action nowadays is choreographed such that it becomes incoherent and the audience loses focus on what the main characters are doing. It becomes a montage of limbs flying and people reacting, but the audience never sees the hit take place. In the process, you are taken out of the film and the fantasy is lost. That being said, there are movies out there that work completely against the modern process, favoring long takes and simplified fight scenes. The most obvious example is The Raid which uses lead actor Iko Uwais’s actual Pencak Silat skills to make fight scenes authentic. Getting back to Daredevil, the ending scene which features Daredevil effectively walking down a hallway and beating the hell out of some Russians is one of the best fight scenes captured on film to date. First off, the shot composition. By keeping the camera restrained onto the main hallway, Phil Abraham (this episode’s director) is able to keep the focus solely on Matt and not on the camera’s dynamic movements using the natural rectangle formed by the corridor. Secondly, the actual fighting. There’s a lot to be said about the way fights go down in Daredevil. You see Matt get visibly exhausted fighting the multitude of enemies. You see punches visibly connecting with their targets. You see Matt make use of the environment. It’s absolutely phenomenal and if this is what the MCU continues to do with its street-level heroes, especially Iron Fist, we are in for a treat.
Now onto the various allusions and Easter eggs this episode contained. One of the allusions I spotted while watching was that Matt recreates one of the ways Patrick Bateman kills someone in American Psycho almost exactly. No idea whether or not it was on purpose, but I thought it was a cool reference. Those of you who pay attention to the network TV side of the MCU may have spotted the fact that the person that “Battlin’ Jack” Murdock is fighting is none other than Carl Creel a.k.a. the Absorbing Man. This is almost certainly the same Carl Creel who makes an appearance in the first half of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s second season, so continuity woo! Plus, in the pilot, we see Madam Gao’s men branding their drugs with something that looks an awful lot like the Steel Serpent insignia from Iron Fist lore.
To wrap it all up, episode 2 is another fantastic notch in Daredevil’s belt. Still have no idea where the story-arc is going, or what it’s even about, but I’m fine with that so far. Still no appearance of Wilson Fisk, which is a bummer. None of the recurring antagonists show up either, so something’s bound to happen soon. It’s nice to see humorous B-plots going on, considering the impending darkness about to show up, but I’d love to see some more interaction between Foggy, Matt, and Karen. Onto Episode 3!