It’s time, once again, for the Tournament of First Episodes to take the center stage. In one corner: a former rich kid who knew nothing of consequences until he was stranded on a deserted island with a bow and arrow. In the other corner: a newly minted lawyer blinded by radioactive chemicals as a kid who now uses his ambiguously defined powers to punch people over and over and over again. The first battle of the Superheroes Division pits the CW’s ‘Arrow’ against Netlix’s original program: ‘Daredevil’!
Rule one of being a successful superhero, you gotta have the looks to sweep the ladies off their feet (or make the guys go dumb as the blood drains from their cabezas if you’re a superheroine). And let me say in the most heterosexually secure way, ‘Arrow’s Stephen Amell definitely takes the prize here as the brooding playboy with abs of solid rock.
And as much as I love Deborah Ann Woll of ‘True Blood’ fame, I’ll be damned if Katie Cassidy doesn’t shoot flames of hotness onto the screen as Oliver Queen’s former love/best friend’s kinda-almost girlfriend: Laurel Lance.
(okay, so this picture isn’t actually from the show, but damn!)
The intro to the Laurel Lance character, however, is ultimately a tad lacking. The initial scene in which we meet her is almost entirely the same as the introduction to Katie Holms’ character in ‘Batman Begins’, which in turn ends up giving the entire episode a “how is this not Batman?” feel to it. Oliver Queen is silently a total badass, as witnessed to in a parkour heavy action scene, forced to lie to his friends and family in order to carry out his secret mission of ridding the city of crime and violence (through illegal ass-kickings off course!) Sound familiar?
The most intriguing aspect of the 2012 first episode of ‘Arrow’ titled “Pilot” is the bookending that comes with the opening scene, a visceral run through the forest that ends with a bearded and hardened Oliver Queen getting off the island, and the penultimate scene in which a much softer, close-to-dying Oliver arriving on the island for the first time. The propensity for flashbacks throughout the episode suggest that over the course of the season and the series, the time between those two events will be shown to us even as the current day story plays out amid the chaos of Starling City.
‘Daredevil’s first episode, “Into the Ring” similarly opens up on a brief glimpse of Matt Murdock as a child, his eyes burned by a chemical liquid. The origin that took so god damn long to tell in the Ben Affleck failure of 2003 is over and done with in two minutes, although, as a result, one weakness of the episode is that Daredevil’s powers go mostly undefined as we are left to try and figure out what exactly they are.
He gets blinded as a kid, which makes him really good at training in the gym? He also appears to be able to hear as well as Superman, listening intently to a person’s heartbeat as a way of telling whether they are lying or telling the truth. This is Daredevil’s “signature power”, one that he no doubt using in the courtroom (which is kinda cheating, honestly), and one that serves to drive the episode forward, first when he can tell Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) is being honest and then later when he can tell she is lying.
Vincent D’Onofrio plays the Kingpin on the show, but isn’t seen at all in this first episode. And while his impeccable performance throughout the season cannot be counted in terms of this First Episode Tournament, the way in which his character is set up, being referred to by the eerily creepy spokesman known as Wesley only as “my employer” of whom “we DON’T say his name,” ushers the villain into the series long before he ever sets foot on camera. His importance then, as an antagonist to the Man Without Fear, as the crime boss who instills that much fear and respect in hardened criminals, cannot be understated.
Overall, ‘Daredevil’ is a much richer text, if that makes sense. While ‘Arrow’ was made for, more or less, the same audience that ‘Twilight’ was, ‘Daredevil’ takes to heart the street level knuckle bruising type of hero Daredevil has always been in the comics.