The “Daredevil” opening season’s jaw-dropping one-take “hallway fight” has already been eclipsed by this year’s “decent into hell” climax from the “New York’s Finest” episode. That’s because the introduction of vigilante Punisher (Jon Bernthal) has raised the jeopardy and the morality for Daredevil (Charlie Cox), who’s now forced to question his new crime fighting role in trying to clean up Hell’s Kitchen.
“Last season it was situational, where he was thrown into things, and this season it’s more character-based and now he has a lot more to deal with,” explained stunt coordinator Philip Silvera. “We want to match the questioning of the morality in the storytelling with the action design.
“Matt (Daredevil) pays homage to his father, who was a boxer, and he’s learned different martial arts over the years from Stick (Scott Glenn). Whereas Frank (Punisher) has a military background and a more tactical side of thinking. But he also has a temper so when you get him to that point of complete rage, you see a different side of him.”
The episode revolves around Punisher taking Daredevil prisoner and chaining him to a chimney. After overtaking the vigilante, Daredevil takes him down the staircase. Meanwhile, the Dogs of War, a biker gang threatened by Punisher, rushes up the building’s staircase to attack him. Unable to make an escape with the unconscious Punisher down the freight elevator, Daredevil is forced to take on the gang in a flurry of action and non-stop motion for nearly five minutes that ends up on the ground floor.
Daredevil dispatches the first four gang members in a hallway with flashing lights illuminating his final showdown the rest of the gang waiting for him at the bottom. Despite battling exhaustion, he manages to top it off with a somersault.
“Last season’s hallway sequence was different in tone but this is also a more complex story of Daredevil fighting to be who he is and not cross that line,” added Silvera. “You see shades of it throughout the fight. There was a description of going down the staircase as ‘the decent into hell.’ And I think we wanted to see that in this sequence.”
The success of the action sequences naturally has a lot to do with the prep and organization. “The whole team goes non-stop for six months,” Silvera continued. “We’ll get a sequence and I’ll go off and concept it and meet with my assistant fight coordinator, Roberto Gutierrez, and then we’ll finish fleshing it out together. And we’ll bring in the stunt doubles and the other outside performers. Then we’ll do a previs [pre-visualization], so we’re filming it from top to bottom, like on the day.
“This season I’m second unit director, so whatever I shoot during the previs will then be art-based to shoot on the night or the day of filming, which makes it more efficient. Other than costumes and wardrobe, the previs was almost verbatim to the finished sequence, with a lot of complex camera moves and choreography.”
The fight serves as the perfect metaphor for Daredevil’s moral dilemma: “They both have a mission and both have a similar brutality. But one will kill and the other will not [unless he’s provoked].”