During my hiatus (sorry about the hiatus, by the way), I finally got the chance to watch Daredevil, Marvel’s 2015 Netflix hit.
It wasn’t until Season 2 that my willing suspension of disbelief started to wane.
In an early episode of Season 2, someone tests to see if Matt is actually blind by checking for pupil contraction. Now, this is a bad test for blindness–pupil contraction is a reflex, meaning it pretty much goes on, even if the visual cortex (part of the brain associated with sight) is damaged. As long as you’ve got an optic nerve, your pupils will contract when there’s bright light in your face. (This is my understanding; I’m not an expert.)
Not all blindness occurs from damage to the eyes. (No wonder the Yakuza never get anywhere if they’re this stupid.)
However, later in the same season, Matt gets shot with an arrow and there’s a close-up of his eyes dilating. I’m calling bull on this one. If his pupils don’t contract in bright light, why would they dilate as a response to pain? Either his optic nerves aren’t damaged or they are. Seriously, Marvel. Consistency. Heard of it?
I’m going with the instance when Matt’s pupils failed to contract as that’s an actual plot point, not just something someone thought would look cool.
Hence, we can proceed on the assumption that the accident Matt was in as a child, giving him superpowers, resulted in (absolutely) damage to his optic nerves and (probably) damage to his eyes, as well.
It’s possible that Matt also suffered a head injury during the accident, damaging the visual cortex–but, since the nerves are, apparently, damaged, that’s mere speculation with no actual canon foundation.
On to his actual powers.
Matt’s powers are rooted in the fact that his brain doesn’t filter out seemingly extraneous sensory data.
In plain English, all of us could have supersenses, but to avoid crippling confusion and becoming overwhelmed, our brains filter out all the thousands of sensory impressions that aren’t immediately relevant.
Matt most likely has a sensory processing disorder–his variant is he experiences everything without a filter, which is where Stick comes in. Stick taught Matt how to manage all that data and assemble it into a coherent picture. It takes intense focus to not become overwhelmed.
It’s possible that the sensory processing disorder was caused by a head injury. Alternately, Matt may have had some form of SPD and it was exacerbated by the accident. (Don’t quote me on this. Again, not an expert.)
I can’t say if Matt’s senses are actually more perceptive than the average human’s (Stan Lee says they are, I think?), but his brain certainly doesn’t seem to filter out all the data most people would not experience because it wasn’t prioritized in their brain.
Matt also appears to have a nearly-eidetic memory (in the comics and to an extent in the show.) This, again, could have been something he had before the accident, but didn’t really notice until after.
(Some fans believe that Matt is autistic. I lean that way a bit, but I don’t know enough about it to actually have an opinion.)
If Matt’s visual cortex wasn’t damaged, it’s possible that he adapted to his blindness and his brain sort of repurposed itself to route some of the sensory data through there. (Humans’ ability to recover and adapt is insane, y’all.)
If we take the toxic-waste-enhanced element (and possibility to hear heartbeats–I don’t know if people can do that in real life…) away, Matt’s powers absolutely have an analog in the real world. Whether or not Matt’s senses are actually enhanced to an insane degree (like Stan Lee asserts), Matt’s powers are a tribute to the incredible degree to which people can adapt to things.
If anything in this post was in error, please let me know and I’ll correct it. Hopefully you all enjoyed my analysis!