Daredevil: Speak of the Devil

Posted on April 28, 2015


Charlie Cox, Vincent D’Onofrio and Ayelet Zurer in Netflix’s “Daredevil.”


While “Speak of the Devil” makes an admirably apt and witty title, considering the lengthy scene devoted specifically to talking about his existence, we’d have been just as content with “Things Get Worse.” It’s not quite “Shit Hits The Fan,” but there was a definite tipping of the moral scales this episode, with an accompanying slide into the abyss, as Matt comes face to face not just with Wilson Fisk but with the kind of evil – not to mention damage – he’s capable of.

Framed by an intensely brutal fight between Murdock and Nobu in full ninja gear, this was the episode where the deadly payoff we’ve been expecting all along finely came. And while Mrs. Cardenas’ death is appropriately tragic, and the character was established well enough that we felt the loss of her presence in the cast, we couldn’t help thinking it felt a little … expected. Not that we’re bloodthirsty for more deaths. It’s just that, as much as this episode tried to make this death seem devastating, we kind of figured it to be an inevitability from the moment the character was introduced. Which isn’t to say the character of Mrs. Cardenas didn’t do what she was designed to do. She efficiently and effectively provided Team Senor Foggy with a victim they could trace (semi-) directly to Fisk. Up until now, Murdock’s war against Fisk has been a battle between competing philosophies. But with Mrs. Cardenas, the tag line to a thousand cheesy action sequels is embodied: “This time, it’s personal.” She is Matt’s reason to go from crusader to tortured potential murderer. She is the victim that will prove to Matt Murdock that the devil exists.

Matt goes back to see Father Lantom, a character we’d half-forgotten about. The show is juggling so many characters and doing its best to establish an entire universe inside Hell’s Kitchen, but sometimes the gap between appearances for certain characters (Where the hell is Claire?) is to its detriment. There was a brief moment on our parts of “Oh, right. They had this whole ‘Catholic’ theme going on for a while there.” Nevertheless, we like the character and the scene where they discuss the existence of Satan can stand as one of the strongest, from a thematic standpoint, of the entire series. True, it was a bit … actorly, in the sense that people mostly don’t talk in these quiet, melodramatic 10-minute perfectly articulated monologues about such weighty questions. It probably wasn’t the actor’s fault, but Father Lantom sounded like someone delivering lines in that scene instead of telling a story. But like we said, it was a deeply compelling scene, not only because the story he told was horrifying and fascinating at the same time, but because it made an interesting point about how blind (you’ll pardon the term) Matt is to what Father Lantom is trying to tell him: that he believes in the devil, except he believes in him as a concept that’s embodied in people’s actions. The devil is not a who but a what; not a being but a way of being.

“What if you could have stopped him?” Matt asks. Father Lantom reacts with mild confusion. “Stop him…how?” Matt is struggling with whether or not to kill the devil but to Father Lantom (and in truth – or at least the truth of this story), the very question is nonsense, akin to asking “What if I killed racism?” or “What if I beat up hypocrisy?” The point is, evil will not end because Matt kills one man. But Matt can’t quite see that because he’s starting to become consumed with a sort of obsessive rage for Fisk. The scene ends there, which is important, because Matt has not yet realized that killing Fisk would not stop evil and it probably wouldn’t even stop Fisk’s particular brand of it from thriving in a place like Hell’s Kitchen. After all, it’s heavy with gangster types already, all of whom have already told Fisk they’ll continue work without him if he doesn’t come through for them. In other words, Matt’s course of action in this episode was doomed because he couldn’t hear what Father Lantom was trying to tell him.

The obsessiveness this crusade is instilling in Matt propelled him through the doors of Vanessa’s gallery (because literally all other avenues of investigation are closed to Team Senor Foggy), where we got to watch the two people most obsessed with Wilson Fisk (who aren’t Wilson Fisk) meet each other. And in a weird way, it said something about the man that he would inspire love from such a charismatic woman and obsessiveness from such an intense and charming man. It’s a fabulous scene. We never really expected these two characters to face off in any meaningful way, and it’s amazing how we now feel the season would have been incomplete without a meeting between the two. And while the meeting between Fisk and Murdock seemed inevitable the moment Matt decided to go there, it was still tense and almost cringe-inducing.

Still, that art gallery meeting was only a tease compared to the penultimate scene, where Fisk and the Mask come face to face in a showdown that still managed to shock us with its brutality, even though this series has indulged in more than enough brutal moments. Mrs. Cardenas is dead, Fisk is beloved by the city, and Matt is clearly outmatched by his opponent, both physically and (so far, at least) intellectually. Things have never looked bleaker. Especially since Matt now has to rely on Foggy, who just had his entire world rocked by the revelation that his blind friend is some sort of superhuman terrorist. Matt may just be on the verge of losing the one friend he seems to have in the world. Fisk may not have beaten him totally (only because he’s not dead), but he sure did deliver one hell of a beatdown on our hero. We’re set for the third act comeback, because you don’t beat your hero down that badly if you’re not going to write in a little payback before the end of the story.

[Still: tomandlorenzo.com]

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