WARNING: Spoilers for the first season of Daredevil follow. Like, literally this entire essay is a spoiler. Read further at your own discretion.
The first season of Daredevil did a whole lot of things right. It cast right. It knew how to build up the reveal of Wilson Fisk. It knew how to build up to Daredevil and Fisk’s first in-person encounter and first fight. It knew that keeping both Foggy and Karen in the dark for too long about Matt’s late-night escapades would get old quickly, so the showrunners made the call to have Foggy find Matt in his apartment, clad in the proto-Daredevil outfit at the end of the season’s ninth episode. This was a good call, but the fallout from it simply wasn’t as great as it could have been, because the for all that the show did right, it didn’t do one critically important thing during the first half of the season: It never made Matt and Foggy seem like best friends.
This was one of my main issues during the first three or so episodes of the season, but I was willing to shrug it off as just growing pains from a young show. From the start, Matt and Foggy are almost always disagreeing. On one hand, this is fine, as conflict is the heart of any good story. The problem is we see them doing almost nothing but disagree, and it’s rarely in a respectful manor. So often in early episodes Matt bursts into the scene, walks all over Foggy, and acts mildly annoyed when Foggy asks him what the hell he’s doing. I regularly wondered in the opening episodes why Foggy agreed to open a firm with Matt in the first place. Then things sometimes get weird when Foggy tells Karen (quite often) how great a friend Matt is too him. In a way, it’s almost like “Anakin and Obi Wan in the Prequels Syndrome.” We never really feel this friendship; we have to be told about it. And because of that, when Matt and Foggy have their big falling out, it doesn’t resonate in the way that it should.
The big standoff episode, Nelson v. Murdock, tries to make up some of the ground that wasn’t laid in the early episode by using flashbacks to Matt and Foggy’s college days. It’s a shame, because these scenes are actually pretty good. Cox and Henson have good chemistry here, and it’s so refreshing to see them outright laughing and enjoying each other’s company. But watching these scenes, I couldn’t help but wonder where that friendship was earlier in the season.
It’s such a shame, because the writers actually had a decent opportunity to show us this friendship earlier in the season. If Matt had tagged along during some of Karen and Foggy’s nights out on the town, we could’ve gotten to not only see Matt play off Karen outside the office, but Matt play off Foggy when they aren’t working and instead are relaxing with a few drinks. There’s the obvious conflict in that at night Matt is off Daredevil-ing, but he can’t be the Man in the Mask every night. One of those times where he took a night off to let his wounds heal, he could’ve grabbed a pint with his co-workers. Instead it’s just Karen and Foggy, so the scenes become the backbone of a wishy washy “romance” that felt so half-assed (and so completely inconsequential) that I can’t even call it a will they/won’t they.
But those scenes weren’t even the only opportunity for us to understand the Matt/Foggy dynamic better. Another missed opportunity in the show was how we rarely saw Matt work with Foggy and Karen within the legal system. Most of the time when all three are in the office, Matt tells them what to do and then goes off to do his own thing. I’ve heard complaints about the pacing of the show, but this is an area where I think a slightly longer season, with a few more case of the week-esque episodes would have done wonders for building up the character dynamics.
Despite the fact that the show falters a bit when the office fallout becomes one of the main plot points down the stretch, Daredevil is absolutely worth watching. Hopefully in season two the epic sprawl of the show becomes slightly more condensed so that the relationship among the central trio can be better felt.