Deborah Ann Woll and Toby Leonard Moore in Netflix’s “Daredevil.”
As the first season of Daredevil winds down (or speeds up, depending on how you’re looking at it), each installment of it feels less like a discrete episode of television and more like one act in a succession of them, all combining to finish the story. In other words, episodes are picking up directly where they left off and the themes of the previous episode are carrying over from hour to hour as well. It’s all gotten very Netflix-y all of a sudden, which is fine by us, because as Ben noted, this is right around the time the story gets interesting and this is the point you realize you’re glad you don’t have to wait a week for the next one.
Both Matt and Fisk are still wrestling (and by episode’s end, seemingly coming to terms) with what kind of man they’re going to be and what kind of war they’re going to fight. And each man’s struggle and conclusion come about because of the threat of losing those he loves. For Fisk, clearly that person is Vanessa, who lies in an induced coma as she fights off the poison that has already killed others. He perches on her bed and makes a grandiose and melodramatic speech to Vanessa about why he doesn’t pray and how much he’s going to make his enemies – specifically those who hurt her- suffer. He tells Wesley in a chilling scene, “I want to look in their eyes while I salt the Earth with their blood.” D’Onofrio’s performance ran the gamut from coldly pathological to campy scenery-chewing this episode, exactly as each scene required it. As Fisk becomes more supervillainous, the actor’s walking a fine line – and so far, pulling it off.
What makes Fisk’s threat so chilling is that he hasn’t yet found out that the only other people he feels any emotion for – his mother and Wesley – have either had their safety and privacy violated (two rights and concepts Fisk values above all others, obsessively so) or outright killed. The sense of doom hanging over everything by episode’s end is utterly palpable.
For Matt, it’s ladies day, as the only two in his life, Karen and Claire, each show up to tend to him in their own way – and to make it clear they find him wanting on several fronts. It’s very interesting to note that differences in how they deal with him. Claire is nurturing and cajoling, asking him once again to take it easy on himself and consider getting armor of some sort. She’s mildly flirtatious, but immediately becomes honest with him when he tries to take it further, making it clear that she’ll always be there for him to tend to him, but that she’ll never love him while he’s fighting this fight. Fisk is in danger of losing the woman he loves and Matt learns he won’t get even a chance to be with the woman he (sort of, maybe, kinda) loves. It’s a very sad, very grownup kind of talk.
Then Karen visits Matt and gives him a raft of shit for the way he’s acting and the fact that he’s clearly lying to her. Matt points out that she lied to him when she first met him and she defensively counters with “I didn’t want anyone to get hurt because of what I was doing.” “Yeah, I know the feeling,” says Matt. It’s odd, because they dance right around the fact that he’s the masked man all the time in their conversations, but she clearly has no idea that he is. She’s much more combative with him than Claire is because of it. Claire at least knows what Matt’s doing and knows she can’t be a part of it. Karen has no idea what he’s doing, but she knows he’s involved with something and she’s beside herself that he’s being openly dishonest about it. And worse, she knows that Foggy’s in on whatever secret’s being withheld from her. It’s a ridiculously complicated, only-in-superhero-story set of relationships and Karen tends to suffer for it, both in the story, and as a serviceable character.
In fact, we were beginning to find Karen to be something of a problematic character, but by the explosive end of this episode, we realized that all the qualities about her that grated – her nervousness, occasional flightiness, sometimes demanding nature, bouts of mild immaturity, dishonestly and and obsessive nature third only to Fisk’s and Matt’s – with no real explanation of why she was that way. When she turned the tables on Wesley (almost literally) and asked “Do you really think this is the first time I’ve shot someone?” it all fell into place. Not that we’re any closer to having her figured out, but at least now we know the vague and contradictory nature of the character is by design. And yes, that was a fist-pump of a moment, putting to rest a million dumb-girls-in-danger trope examples. How many times have you seen a damsel weepily hand a gun back to a bad guy because apparently pulling a trigger requires a penis?
Meanwhile, Senor Foggy Bear is avoiding his life by burying his face in Marci’s pillows, so to speak. She’s absolutely hilarious”(That’s a very asshole thing to say! I’m impressed!”) but completely unsupportive and uninterested in anything going on in his life. He doesn’t seem any closer to bouncing back from this than he did at the end of last episode, despite sex and boozing he clearly needed.
Pretty much everyone in this story is in a lot of pain, both physical and emotional at the moment. It seems when two men like Fisk and Murdock go through the metamorphosis each character is going through, it’s not only a painful process for them, but that pain ripples out to engulf all the people around them. As we noted last week, this is very much a Marvel Comics way of looking at heroism and evil. Fisk has pretty much embraced the darkest of his dark side, but Matt is struggling with the exact opposite question: whether he has any lightness left in him anymore. “Why did He put the devil in me?” Matt pleads with Father Lantom, who gives him perhaps the best advice he’ll get in order to push himself forward. He notes that the devil is a powerful symbol of what people fear the most; their own dark impulses. This is kind of the equivalent of having a bat fly through Bruce Wayne’s study window, but it effectively sets the stage for Matt graduating from low-rent vigilante to full-0n superhero by story’s end.
Especially now that Karen pretty much set the final battle into motion. All hell’s clearly about to break loose and both men are about to find out who they really are.
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