If we can appropriate the Tumblr-speak for a moment: This one gave us the feels. Big time.
Maybe it was the chemistry of the two actors and maybe the show has done a good enough job of hinting at how deep their relationship goes, but for whatever reasons, this dissection and then (hopefully temporary) dissolution of Foggy and Matt’s friendship was one of the best representations of male friendship we’ve ever seen in a TV show. We were completely blindsided by the emotional aspect of it. When Foggy discovered Matt’s secret at the end of the last episode, it was an “Oh BOY! What happens NEXT?” delicious sort of cliffhanger. The last thing we expected as a followup was a 40-minute teary conversation between two men who love each other very much, because one hurt the other with a raft of lies that the other isn’t going to get over any time soon.
As an aside, and totally in violation of our pretensions to being Serious Television Critics, we feel we have to mention that in the middle of one of those tear-filled scenes, we had this brief discussion:
T: Have I ever mentioned that a guy in a zip-up hoodie with no shirt on underneath is something I find incredibly hot?
Lo: No, but you’re so right. Oh my God.
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Anyway, inferred homoeroticism aside, this episode became the entire emotional core of the series so far, taking the previously lightly delineated friendship of Foggy and Matt and revealing it to be one of those life-changing, soul-mate-style friendships that a person is lucky to find once in their lives. Foggy and Matt are two people who perfectly fit each other, like a pair of puzzle pieces. Matt is introspective and tends toward seriousness; Foggy is gregarious and impulsive. Matt is in constant danger of allowing the darkness to consume him; Foggy is nothing but bright light. But more importantly, despite the differences in personality, they are each equally as committed in their own way to justice, even if Matt has to twist Foggy’s arm just a little bit to give up on the idea of riches.
What made these scenes work so well were the performances. Charlie Cox and Elden Hensen both knocked it out of the park this episode, making their meet-cute and subsequent flashback journeys together into highly entertaining and relatable vignettes. This made their present-day scenes (and note how the flashbacks tend to be infused with a golden glow while the present day scenes are ice-blue in tone) all the more painful. We had a brief discussion as to whether Foggy was being unfair or overreacting, and just as our debate reached its crescendo, Foggy asked Matt if he’d been able to tell when he was lying the whole time he knew him and just played along. “There. Right there,” said Tom, who’d been arguing that Foggy was right. That’s a friendship-killer right there. Even if Foggy can convince himself that Matt is doing something good and just, that’s a years-long humiliation he’ll have to get over if there’s any chance this friendship can be restored.
And let’s just get it out there: of course this friendship is going to be restored. We’re not exactly on the edge of our seats regarding the nearly inevitable outcome, but we really appreciated the way this episode took one of the most basic of superhero tropes (“Someone has discovered my secret identity!”) and gave it so much emotional weight by layering it with believable reactions and consequences. But when we say we know this friendship is going to be patched up, we mean that the show shouldn’t drag this conflict out. Let’s get Foggy and Matt back to being the best friends and avocados the world needs.
Meanwhile, Ben decides to give up the good fight because he can no longer pay the emotional costs of seeking justice. By the way, this is a very Marvel comics way of looking at the life of a hero. You seek justice and you fight the fight, but you will always pay a heavy price for it. Karen, in a shit move that made us instantly go from liking her to thinking she’s a little crazy, all but kidnapped Ben and shoved him into an extraordinarily dangerous situation against his will and without telling him ahead of time. And for what? As Ben – or really, anyone with a bare minimum of common sense – could see, an elderly woman with dementia is not exactly a smoking gun and there’s very little they could do with the information. But what really makes this horrifying to us is the way she used the tragedy in Ben’s life – his own wife’s dementia – to force him into this situation. She actually took him to an elaborately expensive care facility he’d never be able to afford, knowing that he’s quitting everything to take care of his wife, who has nowhere else to go. That’s not just cold, that’s sociopathic. And again, anyone with a functioning brain cell (or who wasn’t – oddly, it has to be said – obsessed) would need about 5 seconds of reflection to determine that the man who owns half the New York City police force probably has a couple of people watching his elderly mother, who he’s hidden away in an expensive facility. To be honest, we’re surprised Ben didn’t flip out on her more than he did. Her obsession – which we reiterate gets stranger by the moment – has all but put a target on both of them. Her obsession here is making her extremely reckless and it’s forcing a lot of questions about her barely-hinted-at shady past. There’s something up with that girl.
Wilson Fisk is wrestling with similar questions about the direction of his life and the cost of his obsessions. Pretty much everyone except for Wesley thinks Vanessa is a bad idea. He’s too distracted, says Leland. He needs to decide what kind of man he’s going to be, urges Madame Gao. “There is conflict in you,”she notes, in a stunning display of understatement. “Man cannot be both savior and oppressor.” That last part is less about Vanessa and more of “Come to the Dark Side, Luke,” moment. Gao clearly thinks Fisk’s pretensions to “saving” the city are a distraction from his true calling, which is amassing power for power’s sake. She’s pretty much saying “Drop the savior act and be the supervillain we both know you are.” We’ve noted before this season is as much Kingpin’s origin story as it is Daredevil’s.
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