Welcome to Bae Watch Wednesday, where I tell you all about the fictional characters you ought to be crushing on. This week I want to talk about my favorite damaged vigilante: Matt Murdock, the Daredevil.
Who is Matt Murdock?
Matt Murdock is the main character of the Marvel Netflix show Daredevil. Matt was born and raised in Hell’s Kitchen, a particularly bad section of New York City. He is the son of Battlin’ Jack Murdock, a boxer. As a child, Matt was particularly close to his father. He was also raised in the Catholic faith, something that will have a profound effect on Matt.
When Matt was nine, he was in an accident. Matt saved the life of an old man, who was in danger of being hit by a truck. Unfortunately, Matt didn’t emerge unscathed. After the accident, Matt was blind. However, due to exposure to some strange chemicals, Matt developed stronger other sense to compensate. This did have the unfortunate side effect of being very overwhelming.
Matt worked to overcome his disability and do well in school. Jack didn’t want Matt to follow in his footsteps, so he encouraged Matt’s intellectual pursuits. Sadly, Jack got into a bad situation with the Irish mob. They wanted him to throw a match, but Jack wanted Matt to be proud of him. He bet a large amount of money on himself and won — but the mob had him killed for the infraction.
Without his father as a tether, Matt was lost. He moved to an orphanage, where he struggled to make sense of his dark new world. There, Matt met Stick, another blind man with strange abilities. Stick proceeded to teach Matt martial arts and how to control and manage his senses. Over time, Matt grew to see Stick as a father figure. Stick didn’t want this, so he left. Once again, Matt Murdock was all alone.
Nelson and Murdock
We next see Mat as a law student. New Yorker to the core, Matt attended Columbia Law School. He met his roommate and lifelong friend Franklin “Foggy” Nelson at Columbia. The two formed a close bond, and when they graduated started their own law firm — Nelson and Murdock. Life was going alright for Matt, despite his rocky beginnings.
However, Matt still struggled with his abilities. He overheard a young girl in trouble and set out to rescue her. This was when Matt realized that his special abilities made him better suited to stop crime. He began taking on the high level of crime in Hell’s Kitchen, and is nicknamed “The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.”
Matt bites off a bit more than he can chew when he starts taking on a large, organized syndicate that brings together a diverse group of people. At the same time, Nelson and Murdock, along with new associate Karen Page, try to use the law to take down ringleader Wilson Fisk. Matt’s two lives start to collide when he meets Claire Temple, a nurse who patches him up after a gruesome fight. Claire is the first person to see Matt’s face.
However, Claire isn’t the last. After a particularly gruesome battle, Foggy finds Matt. Foggy is aghast at realizing that his best friend is the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. He learns that Matt has been more or less lying since the day they met. Their close bond is shaken, but eventually, they regroup. Nelson and Murdock can’t be so easily swayed, and the two work together to dismantle Fisk’s criminal empire ultimately.
Of course, this is Hell’s Kitchen (and Marvel), so things don’t magically become easy peasy. Matt, now christened the Daredevil, finds himself a new batch of trouble. A new player has come to Hell’s Kitchen, a violent and murderous vigilante who is said to be a Daredevil copycat. Matt struggles with his legacy and his path of non-fatal violence. His Catholic upbringing only muddles things further.
On top of dealing with this situation, Matt is astonished to see that his crazy ex-girlfriend, Elektra Natchios, is back in town. Matt and Elektra met while Matt was still in law school, and their relationship almost derailed Matt’s life. Elektra encouraged Matt to ditch his studies and pushes him to be more violent. Matt leaves her and is not happy to see that she’s returned, and wants his help, no less.
We soon find out that Elektra works with Stick. They are both members of the Chaste, a secret society dedicated to defeating the Hand, a murderous ninja group who is now in Hell’s Kitchen. Matt is furious to know he was lied to and refuses to play by Stick’s lethal rules. Elektra wants to work with Matt, because she loves him, but cannot deny her violent nature.
In the end, Matt defeats Nobu, the leader of the Hand in Hell’s Kitchen, but it is not without cost. Elektra, who was considered a weapon by the Hand, is dead. Foggy has left Nelson and Murdock and wants nothing to do with Matt. Karen, who had begun dating Matt, is put off by his lying, evasive behavior. At the end of season 2 of Daredevil, Matt Murdock is once again all alone.
Defending His City
Matt returns in the epic Marvel Netflix team-up, The Defenders. The Defenders brings together the heroes of all four Marvel Netflix shows Matt Murdock, obviously, but also Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Danny Rand. The four must (reluctantly) work together to defeat the reemerging bigger, badder Hand.
This is a tough time for Matt. The time between the end of season 2 of Daredevil and the beginning of The Defenders has not been kind, and it shows. Matt is isolated and alone. He is working pro bono as a lawyer, but supposedly not fighting crime anymore. However, his relationship with Foggy is still on the rocks.
The show gets really personal for Matt when it is revealed that the Hand has resurrected Elektra, but only in body. She has no memories of her previous life, including her time with Matt. All she knows is darkness and violence, and the Defenders must defeat her. Matt does not want to fight the woman he loves, but he has to stop the Hand before they destroy New York.
In the end, the toll life has taken on Matt is too much. He sacrifices himself to save both the city and his reluctant teammates. The Defenders ends with Matt seemingly dead. Foggy and Karen mourn their lost friend. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage realize the need to rekindle trust. Danny Rand takes over the duties of protecting the city.
At the very end, we find out that Matt is not actually dead, but not much else. There’s a lot of mystery, which will hopefully be cleared up in Daredevil season 3, coming soon!
Why is Matt Murdock Bae?
Look, I’ve always loved the character of Daredevil. I even shamelessly enjoy the Ben Affleck monstrosity. But Charlie Cox? Man, he was a good casting choice. He seamlessly inhabits the role of Matt Murdock — and he’s easy on the eyes too. He’s adorable and fearsome at the same time, an impressive feat. Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock is eye candy heaven, whether he’s in a nice suit or his Daredevil costume.
It’s more than just looks, however. Matt Murdock is bae because he’s such an interesting, complex hero. Listen, I love me some Captain America. But he just doesn’t have near the depth or darkness that Matt has. Part of that is the medium. Television allows for a lot deeper character exploration than a two-hour movie. But another part is just the nature of the character himself.
Matt is a hero, yes, but he’s not a superhero. If anything, Matt is a vigilante. There’s a vast difference between the two, something that the Netflix show tackles. What is the ethical situation with Matt? Where does he stand? Yes, he’s saving people and defeating evil. However, he’s also dark and violent. He’s a very troubled individual, and this bleeds over into his personal life as well.
There’s also the interesting fact of Matt’s value for the sanctity of life, his most superheroic quality. While Matt may not be a Captain America level superhero, he’s definitely against murder. This puts him in contrast with the Punisher, who sees killing criminals as preventing future crime. The dynamic between Matt and Frank Castle is amazing and allows the show to explore these deep ethical questions further.
The Catholicism comes into play as well. We see Matt having deep discussions with his priest, Father Lantom. Lantom is one of the few people who know Matt’s secret. Whenever Matt struggles with the things he’s done, he turns to the church to help him make sense of things. These scenes are some of the best in the show and demonstrate what a complicated man Matt Murdock is.
On a less serious note is how fun and awesome Matt is. This is both as Matt Murdock and as Daredevil. Like Matt, he’s a fun, snarky character. He has some great one-liners, and watching him in court is a lot of fun. Of course, Matt uses his abilities to get his way, such as knowing when a person is lying based on their heartbeat. It’s fun to watch a hero live a day-to-day life.
As Daredevil, though, Matt gets extra AF. Watching Daredevil fight is one of life’s greatest pleasures. This way he moves is enthralling, and watching him beat the ever-living crap out of people should not be that satisfying. Matt dominates every fight scene, and although he doesn’t walk away unscathed, his enemies straight up don’t walk away.
But for all his artistry, Mat is super extra when he fights. He’s blind, and he’s doing flips and gymnastics like it’s integral to his fighting technique (which, for the record, is mostly punching). Part of this is his training; he was trained by Stick, who is basically a ninja. But part of it, I swear, is just for funsies. Matt throws in extra moves and flourishes like he’s in the Olympics, and it adds a surreal note of hilarity to the fight scenes.
Daredevil is a dark, dark show. All the Marvel Netflix shows are darker than the other MCU offerings, and Daredevil is perhaps only out-darked by Jessica Jones. But watching Matt fight, you lose a little sight of that. Yes, this is a dark, brooding show about a sad, blind vigilante. Then Matt fights by back-flipping and scissor-kicking someone in the head, and you’re simultaneously aroused and highly amused.
What’s Not To Love?
I loved Matt Murdock when all I had to go on was Affleck. Getting Charlie Cox and the masterful Marvel Netflix show was a gift. This show is an excellent, deep, and thoughtful treatise on the ethics of heroes and the moral ramifications of fighting crime. Daredevil makes you think.
Matt Murdock is a great character because he both helps this thoughtfulness and rises above it. Yes, Daredevil is a dark show, but Matt isn’t only dark and brooding. Matt has moments of sarcasm and snark, love and happiness. Matt is a real, three-dimensional person who isn’t only defined by his crime fighting.
To be fair, Matt tries to be one-dimensional. He wants to be only Daredevil. He is tired of living a double life, lying to everyone around him, and seemingly wasting his time on “real life” when he could be stopping the bad guys. Matt even goes so far as to give up Nelson and Murdock and cut off his relationships. But, in the end, he is every bit as much Matt Murdock as he is the Daredevil.
And Matt Murdock is every bit as interesting as the Daredevil. He’s such a complex, broken character. He rises above. Matt cares about life and doing the right thing. He cares about people and his city. In the end, Matt gives everything to his city, even his life. How could you not love a man like that?