First, let us be clear: there are no bad episodes of Daredevil. The show’s two seasons are uniformly fine, with fans and critics alike being divided about which season has been the best so far. Season one is rated higher on Rotten Tomatoes, but season two has more individual episodes rated higher by IMDb, so take from that what you will.
Season one was tight and structurally sound, with excellent writing and innovative camera work (the three-minute fight scene shot in one take towards the end of "Cut Man", for example).
There were others who felt that the action sequences in season two were more frequent and exciting, and that the second season had a few more stand out moments. But season two also wafted around on unsteady legs a bit more. The introduction of Elektra and the handling of The Hand weren’t as interesting as they could have been.
But the second season got a nice adrenaline injection from Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle—aka The Punisher—whose brute strength, tragic past, and peccadillos (he likes Earth, Wind, & Fire, and drinks coffee the way Ron Swanson eats bacon) made him beyond spin-off worthy.
With The Defenders finally arriving to Netflix, we thought it would be fun to give Matt Murdock and company another look. Here are Daredevil’s Best Episodes, Ranked.
26 “Kinbaku” (Season 2, Episode 5)
In this episode, we see flashbacks explaining how Matt met Elektra at a party, and learning about their past is relatively unexciting by Daredevil standards. Elektra tells Matt she wants him to help her with a legal matter without saying what it is, and later deposits a ton of money into Murdock’s law firm. Her arrival and their tangled past comes at a bad time for Matt, who has his first date with Karen in this episode.
Elektra’s backstory is largely why this episode is the lowest ranked. While Elektra’s character grew on us as the season progressed, she didn’t exactly add the same intense energy to the show that Frank Castle did. The conclusion of the episode finds Elektra and Matt locating the guy who killed Matt's father. Matt beats him, which seems to arouse Elektra, who encourages him to cross that line and kill the guy, which, of course, he doesn’t do. It’s predictable and uneventful, and even a little boring at times.
25 “Condemned” (Season 1, Episode 6)
When the policemen who have him cornered try to kill him instead of arresting him, Matt learns that there are few in law enforcement he can trust, as Fisk has half of the police force on his payroll. Fisk also frames the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen for the recent apartment bombings, successfully casting doubt in the public’s eyes about the masked vigilante running about the city.
Much of the episode is devoted to Matt trying to pry info about Fisk out of the remaining Russian brother Vladimir. The scene where he cauterizes the Russian’s wound with emergency flares stands out, but by and large, these sequences make the episode drag after awhile. Eventually, Fisk sends in a S.W.A.T. team to end them both, but not before he and Matt have a conversation via walkie talkies about how ultimately, they both want to make Hell’s Kitchen a better place. It's good to have commonalities.
24 “Guilty as Sin” (Season 2, Episode 8)
While fighting super silent trained ninjas, Elektra gets wounded. Stick saves her, and reveals Matt that Elektra is working for him. He also very casually tells his former trainee that the people they're up against are immortal. Thus, The Hand is officially introduced, and we learn that they are trying to activate something called the Black Sky, a weapon of some sort. (Frankly, even post-Defenders, that last bit is still pretty vague.)
We also learn that there is a fringe group called The Chaste, who have been fighting back against The Hand for years. It’s a lot of info at once, and it could use a bit more clarification.
Later, Matt asks Elektra to fight this war his way, with him, not Stick, but we see that Elektra and Matt cannot be together, because she is an unapologetic killer, and that’s simply not his way. If nothing else, the episode certainly ends on a high note, when two very formidable baddies meet for the first time, as Frank meets with Wilson Fisk in jail.
23 “Regrets Only” (Season 2, Episode 6)
This episode suffers from a little too much Elektra. After finding his former flame waiting for him in his apartment, Matt tries to get her to leave, but immediately agrees to work with her to take down the Yakuza, a branch of the Japanese mafia, instead. We learn that the Japanese gang they've been dealing with might not be the Yakuza, but that subplot isn’t as interesting as the other things that are going on.
Matt and Foggy decide to represent Frank Castle, despite the fact that it could kill their careers, and Matt subsequently owns DA Reyes in a battle of legalese outside of Frank's hospital room before getting pulled away by Elektra’s driver. More tension builds when he embraces Karen before he leaves, and we see that Foggy may be more bothered by their relationship than he initially let on. The episode’s best moment comes in a scene with Karen and Frank, as Karen tells him about the things she saw while visiting his house. Jon Bernthal and Deborah Ann Woll have a touching, unforced chemistry we could watch all day.
22 “The Dark at the End of The Tunnel” (Season 2, Episode 12)
“The Dark at the End of The Tunnel” is one of the more uneven season two episodes, to be sure. Elektra finally gets a wee bit interesting, and much of her backstory is revealed. We learn that a young Elektra was a scary child during flashback scenes where we see her training via Stick, who took the little girl under his wing. Later, Nobu, from the land of the rushed plot developments, reveals that she’s the Black Sky—and that she’s predestined to fulfill that role.
This episode also features a quality scene between Matt and Foggy discussing the end of their law firm, each seeking a certain reassurance from the other, each not getting it. Another major moment: Karen goes to see Clancy Brown’s Colonel Schoonover, Frank’s character witness, who promptly abducts Karen at gunpoint. Frank saves her again, and decides to kill the colonel before stumbling into his hidden arsenal in the woods, setting the stage for more Punishing.
21 “The Ones We Leave Behind” (Season 1, Episode 12)
This episode is a showcase for both Deborah Ann Woll, who is haunted by the memory of killing Wesley, and for Vincent D'Onofrio, who adds yet another layer to Fisk in the scenes in which he grieves for Wesley. We get it. Wesley was awesome—losing him was hard for all of us.
We also learn that Gau and Leland tried to kill Vanessa together—unsuccessfully, of course, as she wakes and reaffirms her devotion to Wilson. The episode ends with one of the more powerful scenes in the first season. Ready to expose Fisk via those crazy internets, Ben Urich returns home, where Mr. Fisk is already waiting for him. "I'm not here to threaten you," Fisk tells Ben. "I'm here to kill you." Poor Ben never stood a chance, and before the episode is over, we’re left mightily scared for anyone left in the Kingpin’s wake.
20 “Dogs to a Gunfight” (Season 2, Episode 2)
“Dogs to a Gunfight” opens with Foggy finding an unconscious Matt handcuffed to a roof on an apartment building. Matt’s OK, of course, because the Punisher let him live, but he becomes disoriented later when he loses his hearing. He understandably freaks out, but the hearing loss was only temporary—sort of.
Grotto, the lone survivor of the Irish gang massacred by the Punisher, calls Frank Castle a one-man seal team 6, and he’s not far off. Non-comic fans soon learn when Frank enters a pawn shop that the Punisher might only be punishing bad guys, a la Dexter Morgan. When the pawn shop’s owner mentions peddling porn with underage girls, Frank closes the shop and ends him. Not short on action, the episode ends with Matt and the Punisher fighting after Frank takes another crack at killing Grotto. Matt’s hearing goes kaput again. and the Punisher gets the upper hand, killing Grotto. It’s a decent episode, but nothing much happens.
19 “Stick” (Season 1, Episode 7)
Scott Glenn’s grizzled blind ninja trainer, Stick, is the focus of this episode. We learn that it was Stick who taught Matt how to fight and how to utilize his über-senses. We also learn that these days, the aging warrior is looking for something—or someone—called Black Sky, and he enlists Matt’s help to find it. Turns out, Black Sky is a young boy whom Stick ends up killing off camera, (or so we're told), which naturally puts him at odds with our anti-killing hero.
The fact that Stick kills the boy off camera is a mercy, but it also felt a bit incongruous—if this boy was so evil and important, shouldn’t we have seen at least some part of his demise? The episode is solid, setting up a more mystical big bad, and Scott Glenn perfectly embodies Stick’s gruff, murderous cynic.
18 "Semper Fidelis" (Season 2, Episode 7)
In “Semper Fidelis,” several incidents occur that propel the main plots forward. Frank's trial begins, and Matt is late because he’s preoccupied with Elektra and the Yakuza, so Foggy has to make the opening statement. The growing divide between Foggy and Matt only gets bigger.
We also see here that Karen is one of the few people alive who actually get Frank Castle. Seeing his wife and kids gunned down isn’t something that happened to Frank Castle awhile ago, Karen tells Foggy. It’s STILL happening to him, right now, because he lives with it every day.
This episode also reveals Elektra’s instability, as she threatens a witness in Matt’s trial and gets his testimony thrown out. Later, Matt and Elektra find a huge hole in the ground at a Yakuza hideout, and the episode ends in medias res, with them standing over the gaping hole (a plot point that wouldn't be picked up until The Defenders). As Daredevil episodes go, this one was a bit ho-hum.
17 “New York’s Finest” (Season 2, Episode 3)
When he comes to, Daredevil finds himself chained up with the Punisher casually watching him, sipping coffee from a thermos. Much of this episode is centered around their conversation, and it’s an important one. Matt wonders why Frank has let him live after he interfered in his business twice now. Matt tells him he can stop all the killing and just walk away. “Could you do that?” The Punisher asks him in response. Frank tells Matt he thinks they are the same, except that when he hits people, they don't get back up. He’s not entirely wrong.
Frank also has found Grotto, who isn't as innocent as we initially thought. Frank tells Matt about Grotto’s murderous past, telling Daredevil he should shoot Grotto—which, of course, Matt refuses. Instead, Matt shoots the chains that bound him. The episode is a showcase for both Cox and Bernthal, who play off each other with believability and verve.
16 “.380” (Season 2, Episode 11)
Closing in on the end of season 2, Daredevil takes on a gang of ninjas who invade and attack the hospital. They throw Claire from the window and Matt manages to save her in a thrilling rescue, but the ninjas take the seemingly zombified patients and escape. Claire later quits her job, refusing to cover the scene up.
Karen tells Matt she thinks Frank didn’t shoot Reyes—that The Blacksmith initiated the hit with the intention of making Castle look guilty. Frank Castle also gives Karen some solid advice later: “You have everything. So, hold on to it. Use two hands and never let go,” he tells her before brutally ending the two men who came to kill him. Karen hears and/or sees all of this, thus being the only character who sees what the audience sees: that Frank Castle is a complicated man capable of acts of both pure heroism and atrocity. The episode ends with Elektra going off to kill Stick, with Matt vowing to stop her.
15 “World on Fire” (Season 1, Episode 5)
Matt and Claire get to know each other better when she recovers from her abduction at his apartment. He reveals his real name and identity to her, and they share a pretty amazing first kiss. Luke Cage isn't the only one she has chemistry with!
The parallels showcasing the methods utilized by Matt and Fisk to clean up Hell’s Kitchen are also highlighted in this episode. Fisk wants to rebuild the city and doesn’t care who he hurts doing it—he embraces the hurt as a necessary evil. Matt, of course, can’t see anyone hurt, anytime, ever—but he fails at preventing Fisk from causing death and destruction.
The scene in which Vanessa looks out at the devastated city after Fisk just bombed it to bits is the episode’s finest moment. Vanessa’s complete honesty and acceptance of Wilson and his candor with her provide what is arguably the series’ best and most genuine romantic relationship.
14 “The Path of the Righteous” (Season 1, Episode 11)
Fisk, preoccupied with a recovering Vanessa, tasks Wesley with finding the people who poisoned her. Part of what makes Daredevil so great is that it allows its villains to be real people, with complex relationships. We see in this episode that Wesley and Wilson are genuinely close friends, and that they care very deeply for one another. It’s almost refreshing to see moments of pure human emotion amongst villains.
Later, Wesley talks to Fisk's mom and learns that Karen and Ben Urich had paid her a visit. He kidnaps Karen, and the two share a killer scene in the aftermath. Literally. Wesley tries everything from offering her a job to threatening everyone she knows, but he underestimates our brave Ms. Page. He sets his gun out on the table between them, in the open, and when his phone rings, distracting him, Karen doesn’t hesitate. She snags the gun, and promptly shoots and kills him. The episode was huge and eventful, and when we see it was Fisk calling Wesley, it’s surprisingly devastating.
Wait, we actually like Fisk's errand boy? Who knew?
13 “Into the Ring” (pilot episode)
The pilot episode of Daredevil was fun and well-balanced, setting the tone for the show’s stellar, expertly choreographed fight sequences while also establishing the heroes and their future struggles. We learn that Matt has always been a hero, getting blinded as a 9-year-old when he saved a pedestrian from the path of a truck carrying barrels of hazardous chemicals.
We also learn that Matt is a devout Catholic, and his scenes in the confessional booth show us how conflicted he is about his calling. Matt, like his father the boxer, has a bit of the devil in him, and he wrestles with how far his vigilantism should go. His struggle to be a full-time lawyer by day and a protector of the city at night all while being a decent human and adhering to his no-kill policy is all set up here in the perfect kick off episode.
12 “Rabbit in a Snowstorm” (Season 1, Episode 3)
The episode begins with a man named Healy strolling into a bowling alley and beating another man to death with a bowling ball. He’s defended by Nelson & Murdock later; Matt takes the case because he thinks it’s a good way to learn more about Wesley, Fisk’s right hand, and by extension, Fisk himself. The jury ends up hung, and Healy gets off. Matt ends up donning the pre-Daredevil ninja duds (which we may or may not prefer to the actual DD costume) and questioning/fighting Healy, asking the bowling fan about his employer.
This was where we first heard the name out loud: Wilson Fisk, and we also get a glimpse at the series' big bad for the first time at episode’s end. Also of import, Karen is offered six months salary and a deal from Union Allied in order to stay mum about the criminal activities she witnessed. This cements her desire to expose corporate corruption, and sets the tone for her future investigative journalism work. Fisk also meets Vanessa in her art gallery in this episode, introducing what will be one of the season's most interesting relationships.
11 “In the Blood” (Season 1, Episode 4)
The episode stands out largely because it provides a fantastic intro to Wilson Fisk via his relationship with Vanessa. The two have their first date, a truly romantic dinner, and they clearly have a connection. When Fisk’s Russian associate Anatoly barges in and interrupts his date with Vanessa, a furious Fisk later ends his life with a car door. It’s a ghastly scene, but one that firmly establishes Fisk as complex and multi-layered villain. In a span of five minutes, he was gentle, sincere, romantic...and then out of his mind/murderous.
Also in this episode: Matt must rescue Claire, who was taken captive by the Russians, and Karen teams up with veteran journalist Ben Urich to look further into Wilson Fisk and Union Allied. “In the Blood” was excellent from start to finish, and Fisk’s gross pummeling of Anatoly was one of the most memorable moments of the entire series.
10 “Nelson v. Murdock” (Season 1, Episode 10)
This episode is largely devoted to the fallout from Foggy learning that Matt is Daredevil. Foggy spends the majority of the episode lashing out at Matt for his deception, very often sounding a lot like a jilted or wounded ex. "Was anything ever real with us?" Foggy asks him before comparing Matt and his need for revenge and vengeance to Fisk. This back and forth between Foggy and Matt was necessary, and it was a long time coming.
This episode also featured a great scene with Fisk and the always awesome Madame Gao, in which she tells him that she senses a conflict in him, and warns him about getting his priorities straight. Later, when guests start collapsing at a black tie gala, and one of them is Vanessa, we cannot help but wonder if Gao’s behind it. Karen also makes the fateful decision to take Ben Urich to Fisk's mom's nursing home. This was a loaded episode, but it truly delivered.
9 “Bang” (season 2, episode 1)
In this season two opener, Matt is conducting business as usual in Hell's Kitchen, telling Foggy that he's doing a lot of good as the masked vigilante. Nelson & Murdock is doing swell after nabbing Wilson Fisk, too—although getting paid for their legal services with bananas and rhubarb pie is relative on the success scale, we suppose.
Karen and Matt’s romance is also pushed on us a bit here. We know something is coming when she helps Matt during a game of pool, and they get a little handsy.
But the highlight of “Bang,” of course, is it’s introduction of Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle (aka The Punisher), who kills an entire room full of Irish gangsters. Entering with a bang, indeed. The episode ends with an edge-of-your-seat moment in which Matt finds and confronts the Punisher—binge-worthy television at its finest.
8 “Speak of the Devil” (Season 1, Episode 9)
This episode was paced perfectly and was solid throughout, and a whole lot of cool stuff happened in it. Matt visits Vanessa's art gallery, and Fisk walks in shortly after. They have a tempered exchange—it's their first, but it won’t be their last of the episode.
Foggy scores funny points when he scolds Karen for holding a newspaper up to Matt’s face: "you know he can't see that." And Father Lantom lays some heavy philosophy on Matt during a confessional sesh: “Are you struggling with the fact that you don't want to kill this man, but have to? Or that you don't have to kill him, but want to?” Oof! Good question, Father!
This episode also features a fight between Nubu and Daredevil that stands as one of the most brutal in the series, with the badly injured hero barely surviving the encounter. The day was not yet won, however, and Fisk ends up beating the pulp out of Matt for the first time. There’s also a huge reveal at the very end, when Foggy finds a messed up masked Matt and lifts his ninja mask. Secret's out, folks.
7 “A Cold Day in Hell’s Kitchen” (Season 2, Episode 13)
The season two finale is fast-paced and very good despite its frustrating cliffhanger. Early in the episode, we learn that Foggy is going to work with Hogarth. We also learn that The Hand threatened good guy cop Brett, taking his mother hostage until they got all the info the police had on Daredevil—and on everyone Daredevil ever saved. Thus, all those helped by Matt, including Karen, are taken hostage by The Hand’s henchmen. Matt comes to the rescue, with an assist from Elektra, and the two manage to free the hostages.
Matt remains short-sighted in his devotion to Elektra, and the wafting of his emotions in relation to her is one of season two’s primary weaknesses. They agree to run away together and live life on the run before trying to take down Nobu. During the battle, Elektra gets fatally stabbed. The episode sets up season three nicely (or, The Defenders, anyway) with Matt revealing himself as Daredevil to Karen, and an exhumed Elektra being entombed by The Hand.
6 “Cut Man” (Season 1, Episode 2)
“Cut Man” is an excellent mix of action sequences and slower scenes that are heavy with dialogue and laden with big revelations. We learn more about Matt’s backstory when he is fished out of a dumpster by Rosario Dawson’s nurse Claire Temple, making her debut. As Claire stitches him up, we see flashbacks to Matt’s dad feeding his young son scotch so the boy’s nerves would calm enough to stitch his father's wounds. Daredevil does parallels like this so well; so often, as a character goes through something in the present, we see corresponding flashbacks or scenes that explain why this matters.
We also see flashbacks showing us how Matt ended up in the dumpster in the first place: he tried to find a kidnapped boy from the Russian mafia, and got his butt kicked and a collapsed lung instead. It’s a brooding and thoughtful episode that showcases Matt and Claire’s intense and unforced chemistry, and it features an incredible one-take fight scene for the ages.
5 The Man in The Box (Season 2, Episode 10)
Matt leads good cop Brett to the Yakuza den in which people are in cages and stuck with tubes that were either filling/draining them. These unfortunate folks end up in Claire's wing of the hospital to recover. Matt warns Claire, saying someone may coming after them, and he wasn’t wrong, as ninjas scale the hospital walls at the episode’s end while the hospital patients wait for them like partially human zombies.
But the episode’s most memorable moment occurres during a reunion between Murdock and Fisk. Matt goes to see Fisk in prison, and tells Fisk he knows he helped Castle escape. Matt then stupidly starts speaking about Vanessa, and tries to threaten Fisk, saying he’ll use legal loopholes to keep the Kingpin's lady love out of the country for good. Fisk responds by picking Matt up like a rag doll and slamming him repeatedly against the table. He also gives a foreboding promise: he vows to dismantle Foggy and Matt's lives when he gets out. We're...still waiting on that last bit.
4 “Shadows in the Glass” (Season 1, Episode 8)
Much is gleaned about the Kingpin Wilson Fisk’s backstory in this episode. We're treated to Fisk's daily routine, and we see that he can make a mean omelette. We also see that when he looks into the mirror, he sees a little boy with blood splattered all over his face. Nothing out of the ordinary there.
Domenick Lombardozzi (Herc from The Wire) plays Fisk’s father, who was both inept at providing for his family and too ill tempered to be worthy of their love. Flashbacks reveal that Fisk’s dad was wildly abusive—he forced a young Wilson to repeatedly kick the school bully while he was already down, and he frequently beat his wife, making Wilson watch the abuse. That is until the day came when the boy grew tired of watching. A traumatized young Wilson kills his father with a hammer, and we see how The Kingpin was born. It was difficult to watch, but it was definitely a season one highlight.
3 “Daredevil” (Season 1, Episode 13)
The season one finale opens with a somber tone, at Ben's funeral, which Matt blames himself for. Speaking of Fisk and killing... Fisk confronts Leland about the poisoning at the benefit. Leland admits it, like a fool, but we see that Fisk wasn't blind—he already knew that both Gau and Leland were working against him. Sensing doom, Leland tases Fisk, who barely flinches before throwing Leland down an old elevator shaft.
Fisk then sends a band of cops to kill the men guarding detective Hoffman—a gentleman who has all the dirt on Fisk that a DA could ever ask for. He fails thanks to Daredevil's timely intervention, and Matt and Foggy take Hoffman on as their client. He admits to taking money from Fisk and names cops, lawyers, judges, and at least one senator in Fisk's pocket—and they all get busted in a cool montage.
Fisk then hands Vanessa a huge diamond before he gets hauled off by FBI agents—whom he breaks free from during an awesome extraction effort—only to get captured by a finally suited up Matt at episode’s end. “Daredevil” was an excellent season finale, and non-stop entertainment to be sure.
2 “Seven Minutes in Heaven” (Season 2, Episode 9)
Another showcase for Bernthal is also the first time we see Wilson Fisk in jail. Fisk, in an attempt to take over the prison, tells Frank that there's a fellow locked up there who had a hand in killing the Castle clan. This fellow is also the prison’s current resident baddie. Frank kills him, but not before learning that a man called The Blacksmith was responsible for the sea of bullets that killed his family.
This episode is loaded, as it features Karen beginning to work in Ben's old office, and Matt finding Nobu alive and well, but the real highlight here belongs to Bernthal once again. Fisk decides to try to have Castle killed, and the result is incredible carnage, and one of Daredevil’s most jaw-dropping moments. Castle takes out a room full of huge, hardened criminals let loose by the Kingpin. “How could one man be capable of such...violence?” Fisk asks as he observes the carnage created by Castle. We’re not sure—but it was insane to watch.
1 “Penny and Dime” (Season 2, Episode 4)
“Penny and Dime” is Daredevil at its finest, featuring stellar fight scenes coupled with weighty emotional moments. Karen has a file on the Punisher, and she goes to his house, where she sees old photos, children’s toys, and other artifacts that humanize the supposed monster that is Frank Castle.
Speaking of Castle, he and his dog have been abducted by surviving members of the Irish gang. They beat and torture him, and go all John Wick when they threaten his dog. Matt finds them just as Frank frees himself, and he and Matt have a fight sequence together, teaming up in exhilarating fashion.
Matt turns Frank over to the cops, and Frank, who is willing to go, has a brilliant scene in which he tells Matt about the first time he saw his daughter when he got back from his tour overseas. Jon Bernthal has never been better. The episode ends with Matt and Karen kissing in the rain. Riding high, Matt goes inside to find Elektra waiting for him, capping off an episode that's exhilarating from start to finish.
Did we get the best episodes ranked correctly? What's your favorite (and least favorite) Daredevil outing? Let us know in the comments!
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