This episode review took much longer to get through than I had planned, I’m sorry about that! I’ve been pretty busy at work, but a big part of it is due to how I always feel like I have to brace myself whenever I watch this episode. As much as I love it – and I can totally relate to the many for whom this is their favorite – it’s also quite upsetting. For the review, I’ll try my very best to examine all the different angles, but I’ve had process it a bit more than I’ve had to for previous reviews. The remaining three episodes should be up before the end of the month though!
Matt, badly injured, wakes up in his apartment. When he tries to sit up, Foggy appears and cuts him off. Angry and hurt by what he’s found out about his best friend, Foggy tells Matt that Claire stiched him up, after Matt had prevented him from calling 911. The entire scene is incredibly tense, and before we cut to the intro, Foggy asks: “Are you even really blind?” I’d probably be asking that too.
Next, we flash back to Matt and Foggy’s first meeting. Foggy is registering for his classes when Matt knocks on the door. They get introduced and we learn that Foggy recognizes Matt’s name and remembers hearing about what happened to him as a kid. Foggy clearly believes that, with Matt at his side, his prospects with the fairer sex will improve. Matt seems a little overwhelmed by Foggy’s direct approach, but is also grateful that Foggy doesn’t treat him differently than he would anyone else.
Back in Matt’s apartment in the present, the two talk about Matt’s powers, and how he kept them a secret all those years, from everyone. Foggy is mad that he told Claire, but Matt explains that he didn’t have a choice. Foggy then asks whether Matt shot the cops and blew up those buildings. Matt is visibly hurt by the question and starts crying, saying it was all Fisk. Karen then calls on Matt’s phone, and neither of them pick it up. When she next calls Foggy, Matt pleads with him not to tell her, and Foggy concocts a lie, saying Matt was in a car accident.
Fisk and Gao meet alone. Gao tells him the story about the snake who tried to bite an elephant, and was betrayed by its ambition. Fisk asks whether he is supposed to be the snake or the elephant in the story, and the conversation turns to Nobu. Fisk makes excuses for Nobu’s death by pointing out that he volunteered for the task. When the topic turns to the masked man, Fisk is forced to admit that he hasn’t found his body. Gao then wonders when Fisk’s ambition will turn to her. Fisk says she’s different from the others, in that she has his respect. Gao points out that Fisk used to be of a singular mind, but that he’s now pulled in two directions by the love in his life. Gao, now in English, says there is conflict within him, and she encourages him to choose sides, between savior and opressor. “Choose wisely or others shall choose for you.”
Ben is at his wife’s side at the hospital when she wakes up. They talk about his most recent story and their life together. After a long conversation, in the middle of a kiss, Doris’ mind seems to go blank and she is suddenly surprised to see him, which hits him hard. He is then called outside by the hospital administrator we know from earlier episodes. Ben gets negative news about the extension he had applied for and now has to explore other options for her care.
In Matt’s apartment, Foggy gets Matt’s gear out of the chest in the closet. When asked, Matt tells him that he ordered everything off the internet. Foggy then wonders about where Matt learned how to fight and Matt tells him about Stick. Foggy is understandably incredulous.
In another flashback scene, Matt and Foggy, are in their last semester of law school. They are walking along after a night of drinking. They joke about how Matt should study less, and Foggy study more. They talk about their future, and the Greek girl Matt dated briefly. When asked about whether or not he gets “the spins” when drinking alcohol, Matt comes very close to saying a little too much about his senses. They then talk about Matt’s first drink, his dad, and Foggy’s family coming to graduation. Foggy imagines a glorious future for them with big fancy offices, and they settle on the name “Nelson and Murdock.”
Ben is in his office, looking at folders about hospice care for his wife. Ellison offers him an editorial position for a different section of the newspaper, and mentions that it has better benefits. Ben says he’ll think about it. Next, Karen is entering the Nelson & Murdock offices, returning from a run to the county clerk’s office. She tries calling Foggy, recording a message saying it’s important, when Ben startles her by coming out of one of the side offices. He gives her his box of cards and newspaper clippings, and says that he’s taking time off to take care of his wife. Karen tells Ben about a nursing home she’s heard about upstate, and offers him to take a ride with her.
Owlsley chastises Fisk for Nobu being burned alive, as the two of them and Wesley get ready for an event. Fisk wants Owlsley to talk to Gao, to reassure her that everything is fine. Owlsley and Fisk then talk about Vanessa. Owlsley is quite up front about his concerns regarding the distractions in Fisk’s life.
Back in Matt’s apartment, Foggy gets a call from Mahoney, who says that the junkie who killed Elena has been found dead, taking a dive off a building. Foggy confronts Matt about it, and Matt denies having anything to do with it, saying that he’s never killed anyone. Matt admits that he wanted to kill Fisk, though, after what happened with Elena, and that he got hurt after going to the warehouse with the intention of killing him.
We flash back to the more recent past: Matt and Foggy’s internship at Landman and Zack. Seated at a large conference table as part of a legal team, their firm is looking to bring a countersuit against a man who’s developed a serious disease through his work at a Roxxon-owned plant, claiming that he had breached his contract by presumably disclosing trade secrets. During the hearing, Matt discovers that the man is telling the truth. Later, when Foggy has learned that they have been offered positions at the firm after their internship, Matt instead wants out. Foggy reluctantly agrees that Landman and Zack may not be the place for them after all.
Back in the present, Foggy is at the window of Matt’s apartment while Matt is resting on his couch. Matt confronts him about wanting to say something, because he can always tell when Foggy is about to. Foggy replies “I really don’t” and we cut to Ben and Karen who are taking a ride in Ben’s car. They talk about Doris, and how Karen hadn’t realized how bad things were. They talk about hard times and secrets, and we get further indications that Karen is hiding some pretty heavy things from her past (some of which Ben probably doesn’t know about, even after his previous background check on her). When they pull up to the retirement home, Ben realizes right away that it’s out of his price range, but Karen insists they take a look around. She is clearly up to something.
Back with Matt and Foggy, Foggy is now yelling at Matt (seemed like there was something he wanted to say, after all). He wants to know how Matt went from just having heightened senses to doing what he does now. Matt tells the story about how he used to listen to the sirens as a kid, and only later learned how many sirens there were. Shortly after they left Landman and Zack, Matt heard the cries of a girl who was being molested by her father. Matt tells Foggy he caught up with him one night and attacked him. We the cut to the scene of Matt jumping him, and punching him over and over until his fists are covered in blood. Foggy then confronts Matt about all the years he must have kept training, suggesting that there is more to it, that Matt maybe can’t stop himself. Matt then flat out admits that he doesn’t want to stop.
At the retirement home, Karen suggests they talk to one of the people who live their. Clearly, she has someone special in mind, and they enter the room of a Mrs. M. Vistain. Karen prods her about her past, with Ben growing increasingly uncomfortable. When Karen asks about her former husbands, specifically the first one, Mrs. Vistain starts talking and we realize that this is Wilson Fisk’s mother. And, she’s admitting to some pretty horrible things.
Wilson Fisk, with Vanessa at his side, gives a speech at a fundraising event for Fisk’s charity. Next, there is mingling and Wesley, Vanessa and Owlsley talk about politics when people suddenly drop all around them, foaming at the mouth. It doesn’t take long before Vanessa collapses as well with Fisk rushing to her aid. Owlsley, who has yet to take a sip out of his glass, drops it to the floor.
In Matt’s apartment, Foggy is still furious with Matt, saying that he’s going to get himself killed, or find himself in prison; that he and Karen are now a part of this, and that they never had any say in the matter. After delivering some hard truths about their relationship, Foggy walks out the door leaving Matt sobbing on the couch.
In a final flashback scene, we see Matt and Foggy in a bar. Judging by the cuts on Matt’s face, this takes place shortly after Matt’s first attack. Foggy has drawn a sign for their door on a bar napkin, hoping that Matt will be able to feel it. They speak jokingly about the commitments of going into business together and make a toast to their future. Finally, in the present, we see Foggy at the office, throwing the Nelson and Murdock sign into the garbage.
As mentioned at the beginning of the post, this is always a difficult episode for me to watch. On the one hand, I absolutely love that they decided to let Foggy in on Matt’s secret so early. In the timeline of this show, Matt’s vigilante activities go back just a few weeks. In the comic book universe, it took nearly 350 issues and thirty years before Foggy learned the truth, and he was far from the first person to do so. Considering how much this show is borrowing from the Bendis run – at least in tone and the overall look – it doesn’t surprise me though. Matt and Foggy are so much better together when Foggy knows about Matt’s abilities and secret life.
On the other hand, I have always been slightly uncomfortable with the level of pretense that goes into being Matt Murdock, and it’s one of those aspects of the character that I feel warrants a closer examination and explanation. My absolute favorite take on it, to date, is actually from the Waid/Samnee run where Matt explains to Foggy that he found it empowering to have a big secret like that. (See this page, from Daredevil #23, vol 3, and my post from last year “How Daredevil became Matt Murdock.”) There has to be more to it than Matt just finding it hard to explain, and I’m not sure this episode manages to deliver fully, even while covering a lot of ground.
Part of the problem is that much of the supposed explanations for everything Matt does is missing from this episode, which obviously takes place over the course of an entire day. There is always the risk of an episode like this one being weighed down by too much exposition, but I honestly would have wanted Matt to say something, “on camera,” about the ways in which his heightened senses don’t compensate and that he could never pretend to be sighted. Not only because so many people seem to not fully get this (in some interviews, Charlie Cox even appears to be in this group, though to his credit, he’s also said certain things that suggest otherwise), but because, to me, it’s basically the only thing that makes Matt’s charade forgivable.
Of course, the act of concealing his heightened senses, in and of itself, is only one part of the betrayal. The other is what it means when it comes to things like Foggy realizing that Matt has been able to tell every time he’s told a lie. It’s such a violation of your most private thoughts, even though Matt can’t really help knowing these things. Then there is, of course, the huge revelation of what Matt does as the “Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.” Foggy is left not only wondering what Matt can do, but who he is and what he’s morally capable of. I really appreciate that Foggy argues his case like a lawyer here. They’re supposed to be going through the legal system, and what Matt is doing is so far outside of what they’re supposed to be about. You might question how Foggy would even suspect that Matt is guilty of everything he’s accused of – and Matt is clearly incredibly hurt by the question – but he’s now in the position of wondering whether anything he thought he knew about Matt Murdock is real.
The flashback sequences, though really wonderful, are also pretty hard for me to watch because I’m constantly reminded of Matt’s deceit. At the same time, they go a long way to smoothing things over for the viewer because while Matt is playing down his heightened senses – as he must, apparently – he’s probably sincere in every other respect. One way of thinking about it is that, to Matt, his “big lie” probably felt smaller around Foggy than it might have around other people, precisely because Foggy was always, from their very first meeting, willing to treat Matt’s blindness as nothing more than a minor physical trait with little bearing on his overall personality. So, when Foggy asks “Was anything ever real with us?” Matt probably genuinely feels that they were, at least in the ways that most mattered to him.
This episode, more than any other, also puts a spotlight on how there is more than one way to be a “good person.” Matt is both a scheming liar (there’s no denying it), and an idealist of the first order. Not only does he not hesitate to put himself in harm’s way to help others, he also feels very strongly that he can’t be in an environment that requires him to bargain with his conscience the way he did at Landman and Zack. Foggy, on the other hand, is more willing to let what is legal obscure what is moral (though he doesn’t have the benefit of a built-in lie detector). And he’s honest about wanting nice things. He doesn’t value money above all else, but worldly possessions are more important to him than they are to Matt. On the other hand, the emphasis here should be on the word “honest.” Foggy is genuine, he doesn’t pretend to be someone he’s not. He’s the kind of person Matt could probably read like an open book, even if he didn’t have heightened senses. Foggy is uncomplicated whereas Matt’s value system is so convoluted not even he knows how to navigate it.
One thing that this show has been masterful at is exploring the same themes from different angles. This is evident in how Matt’s life and motivations can be compared and contrasted with Fisk’s throughout the series. This episode is all about pretense and deception. We see Fisk and Gao forego Wesley’s company and speak directly with each other. As Gao points out, “the time for pretense is over.” At the same time, Karen doesn’t hesitate to use deception to trick Ben into going further down a road he was planning to get off. It is really a pretty heinous thing to do but, like Matt, she probably figures that her deception is serving a higher purpose. At the end of the day, this episode is as much about the lies we tell ourselves as it is about the lies we tell others.
There’s quite a bit this episode, as Matt has to explain his powers to Foggy. As mentioned, much of the actual explaining presumably take place between scenes though, much to my dismay. Matt lists the various ways in which he just “knows things,” and I was okay with them the second time I saw the episode, even though the bit about how he could tell Foggy had eaten onions two days ago only actually makes sense to me because he knows Foggy well. People don’t all metabolize things the same way, after all, and it seems the quantity would also be a variable factor. But it’s a minor quibble.
I had more issues with his hearing the girl who was being molested “down the block.” There are ways I can imagine this that feel more or less okay, but Matt’s ability to hear things over very great distances – or worse, through several walls or floors – will always be my biggest sensory pet peeve, here as well as in the comic. There’s heightened senses, and there’s Superman. Or psychic abilities. They shouldn’t be the same thing, but that’s a personal preference that not everybody shares obviously.
Matt pointing out that he has to concentrate to hear who Foggy is talking to on the phone was interesting though. This is in line with the comics, in the sense that Matt has rarely (outside of maybe the Bendis run), been imagined as anything but human when it comes to simple things like allocating attention. Attention is a finite resource and is also a logical prerequisite for a person’s ability to concentrate. Concentrating on one thing pretty much presupposes that there are other things going on that you’re not concentrating on. Daredevil analyzing a scene has usually been about him mentally picking it apart in a mostly sequential fashion, not unlike what a normal person would do, just using other kinds of cues.
(Accessible) gadget watch
Well, we get another phone call, this time from Karen, announced for both Matt and Foggy to hear. And there’s more braille reading. Again, not exactly a gadget. I will say this though: Matt has already read more braille in this show than in every issue of Daredevil combined.
Easter egg watch
This episode has the Easter egg that had almost every die-hard Daredevil fan oohing, with the mention of the “Greek girl” Matt dated in college (and who apparently was in his Spanish class). This is obviously a reference to Elektra.
During their internship at Landman and Zack, Matt and Foggy work with a team of lawyers representing Marvel’s well-known evil corporation Roxxon.
At Fisk’s benefit gala, Owsley mentions senator a “van Lunt and his crackpot astrologer.” Aside from advising senator Cherryh on his senate campaign, van Lunt apparently owns the building they’re in. In the 616 universe, Cornelius van Lunt is better known under his Taurus identity, as one of the leaders of the Zodiac criminal empire.
Foggy: “Come on! You got your peepers knocked out, saving that old dude.”
Matt: “They didn’t get knocked out.”
Foggy: “Good. ‘Cause that would be… a little freaky. No offense!”
Foggy: “Me and you, Marverick and Goose. No secrets.”
Matt: “Goose died. And, he was married.”
Foggy: “A blind, old man taught you the ancient ways of martial arts? Isn’t that the plot to Kung Fu?”
Foggy: “Murdock and Nelson, attorneys at law!”
Matt: “Nelson and Murdock. It sounds better.”
Foggy: “You think?”
Matt: “Yeah, trust me. I can’t see worth shit, but my hearing’s spectacular.”
Wesley: “You weren’t particularly fond of Nobu. You thought he was unsettling, as I recall.”
Owlsley: “I find you unsettling half the time. See me lighting a match?”
Matt: “Sometimes the law isn’t enough.”
Foggy: “With you as my partner, there’s no telling when I’m going to be able to afford a real meal again.”
Karen: “We all have things we hold onto for ourselves, that we don’t want anyone to know.”
Ben: “But there’s always someone who does, sooner or later.”
Matt: “Sounds like we’re getting married.”
Foggy: “This is way more important than a civil union. We’re going to be business partners! We’ll share everything with each other; our thoughts, our dreams, bills, crushing debt.”
Foggy: “Misspelling Hanukkah is a mistake, attempted murder is a little something else.”
Foggy Nelson, hands down. This is the episode where you’re really rooting for Foggy. We love Matt, flaws and all, but Foggy really has every right to be as angry as he is. For me, the thing that best defines Foggy as a character here is this exchange:
Foggy: “I wouldn’t have kept this from you Matt. Not from you.”
Matt: “You don’t know that, you don’t know that.”
Foggy: “Yeah. I do.”
I really believe that Foggy means this. Matt may be the idealist of the two of them, but Foggy is more genuine as a person in that what you see is what you get kind of way.