In one of the first scenes in DAREDEVIL season one, Matt Murdock tells a priest in a church confessional something his God-fearing grandmother used to say; “Be careful of the Murdock boys. They got the Devil in ‘em.” Normally, confessional scenes are used for exposition and a pretty aesthetic.

To an extent, that is what the show uses it for. The separation between man and the voice of God provides a nice and obvious dichotomy for the viewer. It would have been easy for DAREDEVIL to make the scene a throwaway look at Matt’s spirituality, but that’s not what happens. Instead, the show establishes two key themes. The first is that faith is an important part of Matt Murdock’s life. The second? Matt Murdock, at some level, believes he is damned.

Matt Murdock in a confessional
“Hey, it’s me again. Your friendly neighborhood vigilante.”

DAREDEVIL is a dark and gritty show. As the first installation of Marvel’s Netflix series endeavor, the intensity of the violence surprised viewers. Daredevil is a lawyer by day and a vigilante by night. Technically, he shouldn’t be beating anyone up in dark alleys at night. How is it possible for a man who upholds the law to violate it so frequently?

The most interesting aspect of the show is how deeply Matt’s Catholic values inform his vigilantism. Not many superheroes are religious, and of that many, few are overtly religious. The show sets Matt’s struggle to be a good Catholic against his desire to see justice done for the less fortunate. It’s a path that comes dangerously close to playing God. Is it possible for the two to coexist?

DAREDEVIL Essential Reading

Frank Miller’s DAREDEVIL: BORN AGAIN

While religion was always part of Matt Murdock’s character, it wasn’t until Frank Miller’s DAREDEVIL: BORN AGAIN that faith became explicit. Each title in the series heavily utilizes symbolism primarily from Roman Catholicism. The cover for issue one features Daredevil and Karen Page in front of a large glass stained church window. You can’t get more overt than that.

Daredevil in Born Again
Gotta love the blatant imagery.

What’s important to note here is that Miller’s story arc revived DAREDEVIL, figuratively and literally. The comic itself was on the verge of getting canceled, saved by the unexpected surge of popularity the storyline received. Within the story, Miller has the Kingpin methodically destroy every aspect of Matt Murdock’s life before trying to kill him. As a result, the Daredevil that makes it out alive is dark and battle worn. Miller took Matt Murdock in an entirely new direction, and that influence is evident in the DAREDEVIL Netflix series.

The Question of Killing

Most superheroes don’t kill. The reason for this is that most superheroes hold a similar personal code that forbids it — there’s a thin line between killing for good and killing for evil. The show demonstrates this through the similarity between Kingpin and Daredevil. Both men want to save Hell’s Kitchen, but Kingpin has no qualms about killing innocent people who get in his way. As far as Fisk is concerned, he is the hero of this story.

Matt Murdock, on the other hand, refuses to kill because his faith decrees he will spend an eternity in hell to atone for it. There are several moments when Matt Murdock considers killing villains. The most notable occurs just before the season one finale. Matt Murdock meets with a priest and says:

“I know my soul is damned if I take [Fisk’s] life, but if I stand idle, people will suffer and die.”

One of the Ten Commandments is “Thou shalt not kill,” but Matt is willing to sacrifice his own chance at heaven if it means keeping people safe. His struggle stems from whether it is his decision to make, or God’s.

In a similar vein, Matt’s belief that people deserve forgiveness and redemption hinders his relationship with Elektra. They break up initially because Elektra doesn’t care whether her enemies end up dead or not. She does what she wants. However, his inability to let Elektra go comes from his desire to see her redeemed and to be the one to help her find that redemption. DAREDEVIL season two ends with Matt promising Elektra that he will stay with and help her just before the Hand kills her. Because of this, Matt can’t accept the resurrected Elektra is truly the evil weapon Black Sky, going to near-fatal lengths to protect her.

Daredevil And Elektra: A Look At Their Relationship

Daredevil and the Punisher

Matt’s initial confrontation with the Punisher tests his faith again in season two. While Matt proves he is willing to kill if he can see no other viable solution, the main ideological difference between the two vigilantes is that Matt believes criminals can be saved. Embracing faith means accepting God loves and offers second chances to everyone — who is Matt to pass a judgment that could end someone’s life?

On the opposite side, the Punisher is not tied to any particular faith. Frank Castle kills frequently and enjoys it. However, he solely kills people he’s determined to have committed a crime. One transgression is enough to warrant death. The Punisher’s complicated and bloody morality highlights the essential difference between him and Daredevil, but more interestingly exposes their similarities. Frank Castle goes after the bad guys to atone for the guilt he feels in not being able to protect his deceased family — Matt Murdock does the same to atone for his own sins.

Matt Murdock: A Martyr 

In season one, Claire works on patching up Matt and remarks that he seems to be able to handle a lot of pain with no complaint. Matt quips in response, “That’s the Catholicism.” It’s a joke at the moment, but seriously reflects Matt’s view of the pain he endures from crime fighting. Matt has enhanced senses but no healing factor. His poor excuses for his obvious bruising and soreness draw concern from Karen and Foggy before they find out about his alter-ego, and put a strain on their relationships with him after.

It’s clear throughout the show that while Matt cares a lot for his soul, he’s willing to sacrifice his physical body constantly. There are few instances where Matt isn’t sporting a bruise or bloody knuckles. In season one, Matt frequently reopens a stab wound on his side. The placement of the wound references a similar once Jesus received during the crucifixion. And then again in season two, Claire makes a reference to the actual crucifixion of Jesus, telling Matt to take off his “hair shirt” and “start thinking about climbing down off that cross of yours and spending some time with us normal people for a change.”

Daredevil chained up
Crucifixion? Crucifixion.

The DEFENDERS again turns Matt into a martyr — by literally killing him. He dies because he doesn’t believe his life is enough to give up on Elektra. Though the final scenes of the show reveal Matt is not dead, it’s clear he’s waking up in a convent. Frank Miller’s influence is heaviest here; BORN AGAIN finds Matt Murdock waking up in a convent after his home is blown up and discovering that his MIA mother is a nun. This suggests that DAREDEVIL season three will lean even more into Catholic imagery and symbolism.

DAREDEVIL: Will We See BORN AGAIN in Season 3?

Lattes with Father Lantom

The conversations between Matt and Father Lantom expose the tension between Daredevil and faith. The opening scene of season one illustrates this perfectly — when Father Lantom cuts in Matt’s speech and asks if he has anything specific to confess, Matt replies, “I’m not asking penance for what I’ve done, Father. I’m asking forgiveness for what I’m about to do.” It might honestly be one of the most foreboding ways I’ve ever seen a character introduced.

Matt has two specific conversations with Father Lantom that frame his struggle to decide to kill Wilson Fisk. They both occur in the ninth episode of DAREDEVIL season one, over lattes with Father Lantom and then later in an empty church with a spotlighted Jesus watching over them.

matt murdock and father lantom
Two friends casually discussing a hypothetical murder.

Matt asks Father Lantom in the first conversation if he believes the Devil is a real person capable of walking the Earth. Father Lantom’s answer is long but surprising. Initially, he was skeptical about the Devil. But after doing missionary work in Rwanda during the genocides, he saw atrocities committed by men who couldn’t have been anyone but the Devil. This conversation convinces Matt that if a Devil is walking in Hell’s Kitchen, it must be Wilson Fisk. But is killing him the answer?

The Path to Righteousness

The second conversation finds Matt deeply conflicted after meeting Fisk in person with his girlfriend, Vanessa. Matt wanted to know more about Fisk, but only found someone who would mourn the man if he died. Father Lantom, obviously, urges Matt not to kill. Evil is not so black and white that the Devil might not be loved; Lucifer was an angel once, too. The complexities inherent in good and evil are best left to God’s discernment. Father Lantom’s best quote is this piece of advice:

“There is a wide gulf between inaction and murder, Matthew. Another man’s evil does not make you good. Men have used the atrocities of their enemies to justify their own throughout history. So the question you have to ask yourself is, 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?”

However, Matt is not so sure that evil hasn’t already poisoned him. His presence at church and in conversation with Father Lantom suggest he is on the side of good, but doubt remains. After all, Murdock boys got the Devil in ‘em.

Embracing the Devil

Throughout the majority of DAREDEVIL season one, Matt doesn’t wear his iconic costume. Instead, he dons an all-black outside with a black mask pulled over his face. The decision to don the red costume is for practical and symbolic reasons.

In episode 11 of season one, Matt has his last lengthy conversation with Father Lantom. Nobu and Fisk nearly killed him their last fight. Father Lantom isn’t an idiot; he knows who Matt is and what he does. Accordingly, he asks if Matt was successful in killing the man they’ve talked about. Matt says no, and admits he used think his powers were God’s will. However, he no longer believes this, because he knows that if he hadn’t been stopped, he would have killed Fisk. For Matt, the mere fact that he attempted to take a life is evidence of the Devil’s presence in his life, not God’s. Matt asks Father Lantom, “Why did He put the Devil in me? Clawing to get out?”

Father Lantom’s response is thought-provoking. He posited the idea that God created Lucifer and allowed him to fall because nothing gets people to church (and therefore, redemption) faster than thinking the Devil is on their heels.

The final episode of DAREDEVIL season one debuts the iconic costume. On a surface level, it makes sense that Matt needs some better armor. Nobu sliced him up pretty badly in their previous encounter. However, the decision to make the costume red and put horns on the mask obviously harkens back to Father Lantom’s words. Matt Murdock’s struggle to reconcile the two halves of his identity begins to come together when he turns himself into a symbol of the Devil, scaring every villain in Hell’s Kitchen onto the path of redemption.

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