"Into the Ring" is the first episode of Marvel's Daredevil.
In the early 1990s, boxer "Battlin'" Jack Murdock races to the scene of an accident to find his nine-year-old son Matt amidst an overturned truck carrying chemical waste. Matt saved an old man from being hit by the truck by pushing him out of the way, but in the process his eyes were splashed with chemicals that blind him, and Jack is left to comfort his now-disabled son.
In 2014, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) visits the Hell's Kitchen church his father attended and takes confession. He tells the priest, Father Lantom, about his father's record as a "tough as oak" boxer, and how sometimes Jack would "let the devil out" on his opponents. Matt didn't understand what that meant at the time, but he does now. When Father Lantom asks what Matt has done that he wants to confess, Matt admits that he doesn't want forgiveness for what he's done, but rather what he's going to do.
That night, at the docks, a gang of human traffickers, lead by Turk Barrett, are loading captive young women into a shipping container. Matt intervenes in a black suit and mask that hides his identity, using heightened senses and advanced martial arts to dispatch the traffickers and free their captives.
The next morning, Matt meets up with Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson), his best friend, fellow lawyer and new business partner, to sign a lease on a small office for their law firm Nelson & Murdock, getting a good price due to the general damage and reconstruction going on in Hell's Kitchen after "the incident". Now they only need clients, but that's been difficult due to Matt's insistence they only defend the innocent; at this point, he'd settle for a single client.
That first client comes in the form of Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), a young woman found in her apartment by police, standing over a dead body and holding a bloody knife, and arrested despite her tearful pleas of innocence. Matt and Foggy are tipped off to the potential client by Sgt. Brett Mahoney (Royce Johnson), a police officer at the New York City Police Department's 15th Precinct and childhood friend of Foggy's (Foggy regularly bribes Brett with cigars for his mother Bess exchange for information), and the pair are able to convince Karen to hire the firm and be their first client. In tears, Karen explains that she and the victim, Daniel Fisher, work for a construction firm called Union Allied, and after meeting up for drinks the night before, she blacked out and woke up a moment before the police arrived. From her heartbeat, Matt can tell she's innocent.
A middle-aged corrections guard named Clyde Farnum is eating lunch in Abe Lebewohl Park when he's approached by James Wesley (Toby Leonard Moore). Wesley explains that his employer's organization has acquired the $30,000 debt that Farnum owes to Rigoletto, a mobster who has recently "retired"; and shows him a live tablet image of Clyde's daughter Tracy in a park with an assassin stationed not ten yards away from her, who they are going to give a kill order to if Clyde doesn't use his position to do a job.
Meanwhile, at Nelson & Murdock, Matt is beginning to think something's amiss: if the case against Karen is so open-and-shut, why haven't the police formally charged her or reported on the arrest in the papers? Foggy suspects Matt's reluctance is because Karen is just his type (a beautiful woman of "questionable character"), but he agrees to dig deeper into the matter.
In the middle of the night, Karen is attacked in her sleep by Farnum. He tries to stage a suicide using a bedsheet tied into a noose, but Karen fights back and manages to scream for help. The next morning, Matt and Foggy demand that Karen be released immediately, since she's not been charged and has grounds for a civil suit against the precinct. In private, Matt suspects the attempted murder was part of an attempt to cover up evidence that would exonerate Karen.
At the Nelson & Murdock office, Karen admits to knowing why someone would want to frame and kill her. The construction firm where she worked, Union Allied, has made millions off government contracts to rebuild much of Hell's Kitchen. Karen was accidentally emailed a "pension file" that was actually a ledger for what seems like criminal activity. Her boss laughed off her concerns, so Karen asked Daniel Fisher from the legal department, to advise her on what to do next. When they met up to discuss it, someone drugged their drinks and staged the murder. Blaming herself for Fisher's death, Karen tearfully insists on leaving, not wanting Matt or Foggy to suffer because of her, but the pair resolve to keep her safe, and Matt offers to let her stay at his apartment.
Matt's place is sparse and cheap, partially because of a bright and gaudy electronic billboard on the building across the street. After Karen changes into one of Matt's dress shirts, they talk about his blindness, and Matt admits that he misses his eyesight. Their talk turns to the Union Allied business, and Matt's theory that Karen was framed rather than killed outright because she has something the conspirators want, and the something is a copy of the pension file. Karen denies it, but Matt senses the lie.
A disparate group of organized criminals meet on the roof of a partially-constructed building: elderly financial expert Leland Owlsley (Bob Gunton), Russian mobsters Anatoly and Vladimir Ranskahov (Gideon Emery and Nikolai Nikoleff), Yakuza enforcer Nobu Yoshioka (Peter Shinkoda), and elderly Chinese drug manufacturer Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho). Wesley is the last to arrive as a representative of Wilson Fisk, though he refuses to allow Fisk's name to be spoken aloud. When Wesley asks why the Russians are short on their payments, they explain that a shipment was stopped by a masked vigilante in black. Owlsley is dismissive, but Wesley shows more interest in this vigilante and demands details. The Russians get defensive when the others seem dubious about the tale and when it's mentioned that Fisk will de displeased with them, and they fire back by asking about the situation with someone named "Prohaska", which they're just as displeased about. The scene ends with Wesley saying that his organization is handling Prohaska, but the Russians don't seem to have been placated.
In the middle of the night, Karen sneaks out to her apartment to retrieve a flash drive containing a copy of the pension file. Rancethe assassin following Farnum's daughteris waiting and attempts to kill Karen after taking the drive, but Matt has followed her in his vigilante outfit and fights Rance. Bolstered by memories of his father, Matt defeats the assassin and retrieves the flash drive with Karen looking on, though she doesn't recognize him. He promises to get the drive into the right hands, bypassing the cops, and telling "everyone" by delivering the assassin and the flash drive to the offices of the New York Bulletin.
A few days later, the Union Allied story is front page news in the Bulletin. Over the phone, Wesley assures Wilson Fisk (Vincent Donofrio) that the scandal won't be linked to their operation, since Owlsley has cleared out the dirty money and the key people with evidence, such as Clyde, Rance, and Karen's boss, have been or will be dealt with. Farnum is shot in his basement and his death staged as a suicide, Rance is hanged in his jail cell with a bedsheet, and Karen's boss is force fed a lethal dosage of pills. Fisk is curious about how Rance was subdued, but tells Wesley to leave Karen alone, since she doesn't know anything beyond what has already been exposed, and to keep an eye on Nelson & Murdock in case they'll be useful in the future.
Karen cooks Matt and Foggy a celebratory meal to celebrate her acquittal, and offers to work at Nelson & Murdock as their secretary. However, despite the firm's victory, the criminal enterprise is continuing unabated. That night, Matt waits on the rooftops of Hell's Kitchen in his vigilante suit and listens for trouble; hearing the sound of a child being abducted from his father by the Russians, Matt pulls on his mask and goes to work.
- Action Prologue: There is one of Matt rescuing some girls from being trafficked and it gives the viewers an idea of what type of show this series is going to be.
- Adult Fear: All over the place. From Matt's dad finding him lying in the street after getting hit with chemicals and being blinded, to Farnum being threatened with his daughter's life if he doesn't do what Wesley wants, ending with a father getting pulled out of his car and beaten while his son gets kidnapped.
- Anachronism Stew: In the opening shot of Jack racing to the scene of his son's accident, there's one car that clearly has a modern 2010 New York license plate◊note , in a scene that is supposed to take place in the 1990s. Such a car would actually have plates that look more like this◊, as accurately depicted on several of the other cars. Modern MTA buses from the 2000s and 2010s can also be seen in the background when Jack is running to the scene.
- Bail Equals Freedom:
- Averted with Karen. She thanks Matt and Foggy for getting her out of jail in light of Farnum's attempt, but they counter that just because she's been released doesn't mean the district attorney won't seek charges at a later date.
- Played with for Farnum. Fisk arranges for him to be bailed out, just so that he can then be killed off more discreetly.
- Battle in the Rain: The fight between Matt and Rance outside of Karen's apartment is this.
- Book-Ends: The episode begins and ends with a child in danger, and a helpless father.
- Chekhov's Gun: The whole scene with the criminals holding their secret meetings sets the grounds for a number of developments in future episodes.
- Despite the fact that they seemingly need translators, Nobu and Madame Gao react at several points to the exchanges Vladimir, Anatoly, Wesley and Owlsley are having in English. Both of them give Owlsley a look when Owlsley asks Nobu to translate for Gao, both turn to stare intently when Vladimir and Anatoly throw the Union Allied affair into Owlsley and Wesley's faces, and at one point Wesley translates a question Gao asks...a question that was in response to something that had only been discussed in English.
- Vladimir and Anatoly bring up the whole matter with Prohaska, a rival of their theirs who will come into play in later episodes.
- Some of the divisions and tensions among Fisk's allies is plain to see from their conference, especially between the Russians and Fisk's faction.
- Continuity Nod: Matt and Foggy's new office is one of the few places in Hell's Kitchen to have largely escaped damage during the alien invasion, which the locals are now just calling "the incident."
- Cop Killer: Clyde Farnum, a guard who owes money to Fisk, is threatened by James Wesley into attempting to hang Karen Page in her jail cell. When the attempt fails due to Karen clawing out one of his eyes, Fisk has Farnum bailed out, and then killed by a hitman who stages his death to look like a suicide.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Seemed to be in effect at the beginning at first, but subverted when Matt begins to take hits too.
- Death by Irony: The first attempt on Karen's life involves Farnum trying to make it look like she hanged herself with a noose made from the bedsheets in her cell. Following the second attempt on Karen's life, this is the fate given to Rance.
- Early Installment Weirdness: After Turk's numerous appearances as a comic relief Harmless Villain across the MCU Netflix shows, it's pretty weird to see him doing something as despicable as human trafficking in his first appearance.
- Eye Scream:
- Karen claws at Farnum's eyes when he tries to strangle her in her cell, hard enough to draw blood from his right eye. He's still wearing a bandage patch over it when Fisk sends men to kill him and make it look like a suicide.
- Not to mention Matt getting chemicals splashed in his eyes when he was younger.
- Madame Gao's workers are also chemically blinded.
- The MCU's first female nudity is granted courtesy of Karen. There's a brief glimpse of Sideboob from behind as she puts on the shirt Matt gives her, then when the camera perspective changes, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it but fully visible shot of her bared right breast before she pulls the lapels closed.
- The female audience gets Matt's Shirtless Scene.
- Fee Fi Faux Pas:
- The realtor manages to commit this three times with Matt in the span of 30 seconds. Luckily, both Matt and Foggy take it in good stride and humor, and proceed with the tour of the property without issue.
- When talking with Matt in his apartment, Karen nods in response to a question Matt asks...and then awkwardly laughs in embarrassment at her slip-up for forgetting that Matt is blind.
- A poster in the gym is for one of Matt's father's fights "Murdock vs. Creel". We'll see exactly what that means in the next episode.
- In the montage at the end of the episode, Nobu and his men are looking over the blueprints for what will become Midland Circle Financial.
- Heroic Second Wind: It took a flashback of Matt's father giving words of encouragement to get Matt back on his feet and finish the fight.
- Love at First Sight: Karen has an instantaneous crush on Matt. Her body language while serving Matt and Foggy her homemade lasagna is very telling, as she doesn't take her eyes off Matt unless replying to a remark from Foggy, and her chair is positioned much closer to Matt than it is to Foggy.
- Made of Iron: Averted. Matt's fight in the rain with Rance leaves him bloody and bruised all around. The final kick that wins the fight for him probably hurts him almost as much as it hurts Rance.
- Mouth of Sauron: Wesley acts in this function for Fisk at the meeting. Nobody is happy about this and the Russians in particular threaten to leave as soon as they find out Fisk isn't coming, cursing both Fisk and Wesley and stating that they "don't deal with lapdogs."
- Mythology Gag:
- Don Rigoletto is mentioned, and, according to Wesley, he has retired. In the comics, Rigoletto employed Wilson Fisk as his bodyguard, before Fisk killed him and took over his business. We learn from Ben Urich's informant in a later episode that Rigoletto got chopped into pieces.
- Karen asks Matt, as he's showing her into his apartment, "Do you have a shirt I can borrow? This one's a little wet and I'm a...Hellions fan." The Hellions were rivals of various teams of younger mutant heroes in the X-Men franchise, initially as actual villains and later on a team that was more of a school rival than actual enemies of the X-Men.
- Never Suicide: Fisk arranges the cover-up of the Union Allied matter by having Karen's boss force-fed a lethal number of pills, while Rance is hanged in his cell with a bedsheet and Farnum is shot through the mouth at his house and are both made to look like suicides.
- Sexy Shirt Switch: Karen puts on one of Matt's buttoned dress shirts because the T-shirt Foggy has loaned her got wet, and we get a moment of her topless as she pulls off the t-shirt.
- Scenery Censor: Matt's right shoulder is used to obscure Karen's breasts as she pulls off her T-shirt, and she is then shown topless from behind until she can get her replacement shirt buttoned up.
- Shout-Out: After defeating Rance outside Karen's apartment, Matt deposits him on the front steps of the Bulletin with the flashdrive still attached to him, very reminiscent of the scene from The Dark Knight where James Gordon finds an unconscious Lau outside the police station with a note reading "Please Deliver to Lt. Gordon" attached to him.
- Signature Move: While down at the docks, Matt does his familiar reflecting baton toss with one of the slave ring guard's stun stick. It's hard to say what's more impressive: that he could give Cap a run for his money, or that he did it without any vibranium.
- Toplessness from the Back: When Karen is changing shirts in front of Matt, the camera uses Matt's right shoulder to hide her breasts from in front, then shoots her from behind.
- Unkempt Beauty: Karen looks terrible when Matt and Foggy see her, but Foggy still describes her as a knock-out.
- The Voice: Fisk is only heard from a speakerphone in Wesley's car. It will be another two episodes before we finally see him in person.
- Those Two Guys: This episode establishes Matt and Foggy as this to everyone else.