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Daredevil – In the Blood (Review)

To celebrate the launch of Marvel’s Daredevil and the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, we are reviewing all thirteen episodes of the first season of Marvel and Netflix’s Daredevil. Check back daily for the latest review.

There is something very functional and formulaic about stretch of the season running from Rabbit in a Snowstorm through to Condemned.

After a great opening set of episodes, it feels like the show stalls a little. It pulls back, taking the time run through some stock superhero origin plot elements before pressing ahead. This might just be a result of the thirteen-episodes-in-one-go format of the series, or it could be a result of the transition from original showrunner Drew Goddard to new showrunner Steven DeKnight. Whatever the reason, it feels like the first season slows down its plotting for Matt Murdock so that it can catch up on developing Wilson Fisk – a character who spent the first two episodes of the season as a phantom.

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As a result, it is rather unsurprising that Fisk’s plot should be the most interesting part of In the Blood. This is the audience’s first extended encounter with the new crime boss of Hell’s Kitchen, as we join him on an awkward first date right before we are reminded of just how violence he can be. As ever, Daredevil provides a nice sense of contrast with its characters, offering a striking juxtaposition between the well-meaning and innocent version of Wilson Fisk presented to Vanessa Marianna and the brutal and violent version of Wilson Fisk who decapitates Anatoly Ranskahov with a car door.

The problem, then, is the plotting as it relates to Matt Murdock. While the show is making up for lost time by developing Wilson Fisk, it seems like Matt is relegated to level-grinding against the Russian mob. These are villains so generic that it seems like everybody in Hell’s Kitchen just refers to them as “the Russians.” To be fair, the teaser to In the Blood does give us some sense of back story for Vladimir and Anatoly Ranskahov, but they feel rather transparently like a stalling tactic designed to eat up time before the show can get to the interesting stuff.

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The situation is not aided by the decision to play out the cliché “attack the hero by targeting a female acquaintance” plot as the centrepiece of Matt’s arc in the episode. In the Blood cleverly underscores the parallels between Wilson Fisk and Matt Murdock by juxtaposing their relationships with Vanessa and Claire respectively, but this structural cleverness is undercut by the decision to reduce Claire to emotional leverage. Victimising a female character to drive a male character to action is also a risky plotting decision, but particularly so when it feels like the show is just marking time.

In the Blood is a perfectly functional episode, albeit one that works much better when it focuses on its villain than when it focuses on its hero.

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