In the end, this first season of Daredevil was an origin story. It’s a form that’s grown tired over the past decade or so as nearly every new superhero story has felt compelled to tell the viewer just how the characters we’re following became the heroes we know they will be. At times this can be an enjoyable experience, but so many of these stories hit the same beats over and over again, robbing the form of its power. That’s why it’s to Daredevil and the creative team’s credit that they managed to make something that has grown so tired feel so fresh and vibrant. This may be an origin story, but it’s one invested with real emotion and power; handled in such a way as to disguise the fact that it’s playing in the same sandbox as so many stories before it.
The entire season has dealt with issues of good and evil and how its players relate to those polar opposites, just how willing they are to play in the morally grey area between them and how dangerous it can be to do just that. Both Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk have claimed to be the hero, the person capable of doing the most good for the city that they love, and finally, in these last episodes, the characters are forced to make a choice; whether to be the savior or the villain.
It’s big, elemental material to play with and Daredevil plays it well, exploding into a grand series of sequences as the players make their final moves and Fisk’s empire begins to crumble. At first it’s just bits and pieces as Fisk is betrayed by Gao and Owlsley, who were only trying to push Fisk back onto his path towards domination, a path they felt was interrupted when Vanessa entered his life. Soon though, everything’s crashing down, Foggy talks Marci into slipping him information about Fisk’s holdings, Matt breaks down detective Hoffman and forces him to turn himself in, and then the FBI are everywhere, raiding Fisk’s holdings and associates, dismantling everything he’s built in a classic crime story montage. Scored with bombastic opera (the music is from the opera Turandot and is titled “Nessun Dorma”), it’s exactly the kind of huge finish that Fisk’s kingdom deserved and the sequence slams home the initial victory of the heroes.
It’s also the point where Fisk ultimately decides that he’s not the hero. He’s carted off, and during his prison transfer he indulges in a retelling of the biblical story about the Good Samaritan. Offering to the guards his revelation that while he once thought of himself as the Good Samaritan he now realizes that he is the “ill intent” so important to that story, the man who beat and robbed the traveler rather than the man who picked him up off the ground. Fisk’s decision is made, his identity fully assumed, and it’s this decision that finally allows Matt to face off against Fisk, at least once Matt has made a choice of his own.
Galvanized by those around him in these episodes Matt finally realizes that Stick’s admonition to remove himself from others is impossible. It might be safer for his friends if he wasn’t in their lives, but Matt admits that he can’t see a way forward without Karen and Foggy. They’re vital to him, vital to keeping him in check and stopping him from giving in to the darkness that lurks within him. It’s why he finally sheds the black outfit by season’s end and assumes the brighter costume, finally being dubbed Daredevil by the press and being absolved of the crimes that have been ascribed to him up to this point. Matt’s finally firmly on the side of the angels, he’s found his place, and in that he’s capable of putting Fisk’s villainy to rest.
In other words, the season acted as one big long tale about two men finding themselves, recognizing who they truly were at their cores. For one that meant descending into the darkness and for the other that meant rising out of it. It’s this contrast that has made this show so enjoyable, this intent and careful look at just what drives men to seek out violent solutions to their problems. The series never shied away from Matt’s more brutal impulses, and it was aided in this in its capacity for displaying violence. At times things might have gotten a bit too intense, but one of the most compelling aspects of the series was how it didn’t hide or ignore the fragility of its heroes, both physically and emotionally.
The punches landed, the wounds lasted (the show kept Matt severally physically wounded for the majority of its last four episodes), and the series showed exactly what it meant for these characters to engage in the fight they had chosen. Matt and his team may have come out the other side of the conflict victorious but the scars will last, Karen and Matt’s final scene together says as much. She still bears the weight of killing Wesley, Ben Urich is still dead, and Fisk’s actions have irrevocably harmed countless others, but the characters keep moving forward all the same. It’s a powerful conclusion that wraps the threads of the series together into a satisfying, compelling whole.
Daredevil shows the road that Matt Murdock travels as he transforms from a violent, potentially unhinged vigilante to a superhero. It’s a hard fought battle, and one that isn’t without consequences, but it’s a fight that was fascinating to watch. Daredevil isn’t the first show to tell the origin story of a superhero, and it’s not the first show to take the concept of superheroes seriously, but its investigation into both the heroes and the villains, the light and dark, and the forces that wage war for the soul of a city and the people who inhabit it. And yet, it still felt like a whole new version of this character and his story. Invigorated by fantastic writing, quality cinematography, and great actors this corner of the Marvel universe sprung to life in a way that was exciting and unexpected; it’s hard to ask for more from just about any piece of storytelling.