Icons of Motivation: Daredevil (No Season 2 spoilers)


Author’s Note: Out of respect for those who have not had the chance to finish yet, this piece will not discuss any plot points or story from Daredevil Season 2.

“I’m not seeking penance for what I’ve done, Father. I’m asking for forgiveness… for what I’m about to do.”

The Daredevil hype train can’t be stopped. Season 1 received rave reviews, was watched by millions in just its first week, and was renewed for a second season just eleven days after its premiere. Season 2 accelerated the train with the additions of Elektra and the Punisher. Every acclaimed series needs a riveting protagonist, and Daredevil more than delivers. In between amazing fight scenes and strangely compelling legal procedure, the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen teaches us valuable lessons in motivation and perseverance.

daredevil injury
St. Matthew Murdock, Patron of injury fetishists.

Matthew Murdock, AKA Daredevil is, perhaps, the most vulnerable of the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He is certainly given a leg up in fights with his enhanced senses, but throughout the first season, it’s incredible how exposed and comparatively weak he seems compared to the rest of the cinematic heroes. He lacks a flying suit of armor, a godly hammer, a super-soldier serum, or years of super-spy training and fancy gadgets. Even his fellow Defenders Luke Cage and Jessica Jones (seemingly) elevate themselves above Daredevil with their superhuman strength and durability. It is perhaps because of this that the Netflix incarnation of the hero has become so revered among MCU fans: He is extremely vulnerable, but fights on to the last breath despite these limitations.

Other superhero productions give lip service to the dangers of vigilantism with the occasional scene of bruises and stitching wounds, but Daredevil dedicates an entire episode (Season 1, Episode 2, “Cut Man”) to a nearly fatal encounter with a gang of Russian human traffickers. Despite nearly bleeding to death in a rank New York City dumpster, he resumes the good fight as soon as he is able to stand. After some rest and a rooftop interrogation, he takes out the entire gang in the now legendary hallway fight. It isn’t the last time a plot point is made of his injuries either; we see him return to nurse/Nick-Fury-of-the-Netflix-Heroes Claire Temple several more times throughout the series for patching up.

Why does Murdock place himself into the path of bullets, knives, and katana? On the superficial surface, he holds that good ol’ stock motivation: the murder of a loved one. One step beyond that, Matt’s internal conflict is tied into his Catholicism: not only does he practice (brutal) benevolence towards the meek and victimized, he feels the danger he puts himself in to protect others is atonement for his own personal sins. He balances brutal vigilante justice with upholding rule of law as a defense lawyer, sometimes defending the very criminals whose skulls he cracked the night before. The Netflix series adds one more subtle touch to his reasoning for his superheroics: Living in a terrible neighborhood with enhanced hearing, he constantly hears the screams of victims. Instead of trying to turn it off though, he chooses to take action instead.

daredevil superman batman
It’s probably easier to make a list of superheroes that don’t have dead or missing parents.

Matt, of course, learns from his many failures. He constantly trains and practices to improve his fighting technique, as well as seeking out new equipment, his armored bodysuit, to make himself a more effective (i.e., not stabbed and bleeding to death) crimefighter. Only so much can be accomplished through blunt force trauma, and Matt recognizes this. He uses his skills as a lawyer along with his teammates at Nelson and Murdock to investigate links between criminal organizations, to know where exactly to apply the aforementioned blunt force trauma. Like Batman, he’s more than a martial arts-wielding badass, but also a skilled detective and legal genius. He needed all of these skills to overcome Wilson Fisk’s smashing-heads-in-car-doors plot to control New York.

There is a reason Matt Murdock is proclaimed by many to be the most compelling of the Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes. Savings lives and overcoming powerful villains is simply more compelling when the hero faces much steeper risk of injury and death, and his internal conflict to continue that risk is bloody icing on a bruised cake. Season 2 has been astounding for me so far, and I can’t wait to write about it. Go watch Season 2, re-watch Season 1. Learn from Matt, and find the devil in you.

TLDR: The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen teaches us to accept our vulnerabilities but press forward to do what’s right, and at the same time to smartly work around and with those vulnerabilities.

Hey, let’s enjoy that hallway fight one more time.

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