Sorry for the delay, gang! Let’s get this show back on the road with Speak of the Devil.
This episode is told mostly in long flashbacks, with a few sneak peaks into the “future” of the here and now, until we catch up to that same “here and now” and the story unfolds from that point for the last ten minutes or so. For our first scene, that means that we begin near the end, chronologically speaking, with Matt in the middle of a brutal fight with Nobu, who has swapped his business attire for something red. As in the red of a ninja outfit. All we know at this point is that Matt is not doing well, struggling against his most challenging adversary yet, in what appears to be an abandoned warehouse.
After the intro sequence plays, we cut to the morning of the day before (though you’d have to watch the entire episode to see how the whole timeline is set up). Matt is sitting on the bench outside church when Father Lantom comes walking along. Matt declines the offer of confession, but decides to take the priest up on his previous offer of a latte. Matt obviously has things weighing on his mind and is interested in Father Lantom’s thoughts on the devil. The priest then tells him about his views on the topic while he was in seminary and how he, after his work during the genocide in Rwanda, came to believe that the devil does – to answer Matt’s question – walk among us, taking many forms.
Ben visits Karen and Foggy at the office, and they talk about the new developments in the wake of Fisk’s big announcement whereby he successfully managed to get out in front of the bad news they might have been able to use against him. Matt walks in and he and Ben are formally introduced. Ben mentions all the material that the man in the mask brought to him, and that he is on their side in trying to expose Fisk. None of it is of the kind that would hold up in court, or for publication, and all four try to put the pieces together, based on what they know about Leland Owlsley, James Wesley, Confederated Global (which is where Fisk gets most of his reported income), Westmeyer-Holt Contracting, and Armand Tully.
Down at the docks, Fisk and Wesley discuss Fisk’s approval ratings, and a breakfast invitation from senator Cherryh’s office. They move on to Hoffman, who was supposed to give a follow-up statement following Blake’s death, but never showed up for it. Wesley assures Fisk that they will find him. They also note that the man in the mask has been less active recently, but Fisk reasons that he may just be choosing his targets more carefully. Then, Nobu shows up, and he’s not happy with the real estate deal he’s struck with Fisk. Nobu wants a particular city block. This would involve a transfer of ownership of Elena’s building from Tully to Fisk, and Wesley is concerned about negative publicity. Fisk complies, and in return asks for Nobu’s help in dealing with the man in the mask. Nobu says he knows someone with skills to match. Nobu, too, notes that their adversary has become cautious. Fisk suggests going the emotional route, and you just know that’s going to be bad news.
We’re back with Matt, Foggy and Karen in the office. Matt appears to have trouble concentrating on work (hey, that insane stack of brailled pages isn’t going to read itself, buddy) while Karen and Foggy talk about Armand Tully in the front office. Foggy mentions that he’s talked to Marci and learned that it turns out that Tully really is on an island, one he bought with the money Confederated Global is paying for all of his real estate holdings. Karen notes that that would tie Fisk directly to the tenement case, but Foggy then says that the deal, according to the records, only went through earlier that day. Matt, who has now joined the others, explains to Karen that everything that happened up until Fisk was the owner on record would fall on Tully. And, Foggy adds that they can’t get to Tully because he can’t be extradited from the island he’s on. Next, Elena drops by and tells them that Tully has doubled his offer, and that some of the neighbors are thinking of taking it. Matt thinks that maybe she should, but Foggy and Karen want her to stay and fight, to which Elena happily agrees. After she leaves, the group goes back to strategizing, and Matt decides to go after Fisk from another angle: Vanessa.
Matt shows up at the art gallery and scans the surroundings, spotting the guards at the various doors, and hearing the clink of weapons on at least one of them. When Vanessa approaches, she and Matt introduce themselves, and he jokingly mentions his reasons for looking into buying some art. The two go on to have a flirtatious conversation about art, and Vanessa shows him one of her favorites. Matt asks her to describe it to him, before launching into his new line of questioning: Does she have a man in her life, and what might he like? At that very moment, Fisk himself walks through the door, and Matt has a very immediate and visceral reaction to him. When the two are introduced and throughout their conversation, Matt is struggling to control his anger, though he does a good enough job of it not to be rousing too much suspicion. He reminds Fisk they probably shouldn’t be talking when they’re on opposite sides of a case, and makes an excuse to leave.
Rather than go back to the office, Matt stops by his church. He finds Father Lantom in one of the pews, and sits down just behind him. Lantom asks about how Matt knew he was there, and Matt jokingly asks whether he’d like “the short answer or the long one.” Father Lantom admits that he was worried Matt might have gone out and done something stupid after their talk earlier, and Matt talks about how his meeting with Vanessa, “the one close to the devil,” has affected him. It is clear that a sense of desperation has driven Matt to return to church. He is very conflicted about his feelings about Fisk, and his next course of action. Lantom picks up on this inner conflict, sets him straight, and gives him another perspective from which to look at his actions.
The next morning, Matt goes back to the office, and meets Karen at her desk. Karen and Foggy tell him that they managed to identify the men who attacked her outside Elena’s apartment, by looking at the photos on their contractor’s licenses. It turns out that they work for Westmeyer-Holt Contracting. Matt is hopeful about the connection to Fisk, but Foggy has already heard from Ben’s sources that the two men have disappeared, just like Hoffman. To get them all in a better mood, Foggy shows Matt the sign he got for the office. As Matt and Foggy turn around, Karen gets a very ominous phone call.
The trio is next seen at the morgue, where Elena’s body is uncovered. Matt asks Detective Mahoney how it happened, and learns that the neighbors saw a junkie flee the scene with her purse, and that she died of multiple stab wounds. A sobbing Karen hugs Foggy while Matt squeezes his cane so hard his knuckles turn white.
Back to the future: i.e Nobu and Matt, still in the middle of their fight in the warehouse. This is where the scene really gets bloody. Matt ends up with really bad stab wounds and the hook on Nobu’s weapon cuts into him, dragging him along the floor.
A few hours earlier, the three friends are having drinks at Josie’s to drown their sorrows after Elena’s death. Foggy talks about how Marci had mentioned a criminal element in Elena’s building, but Matt doesn’t think it was a coincidence the way she died, and suggests that Fisk was involved. Next, Fisk is on TV, talking about Mrs. Cardenas’ death which happened in a building he now owns. Foggy gets a call from the funeral home and leaves Matt and Karen at the table. Karen says she hopes the mask gets to Fisk. Matt asks Karen whether she is religious (she’s not) and when she asks him the same thing, he tells her that he’s Catholic, though he says its gives him no comfort on a day like the one they’ve had. Matt excuses himself and goes home.
Back in his apartment, Matt gets his suit out of the chest in his wardrobe. On top of it are his father’s things, and Matt touches his father’s robe affectionately before crossing himself and getting the suit out. Next, we see Matt beat up no fewer than three thugs, looking for information about who killed Elena. The second guy spills small packets of drugs on the street, which gives Matt a further clue to show to the third guy who finally tells him where he can find the guy who (apparently) sells them.
Next, Matt finds himself in a filthy apartment where two guys are shooting up. He recognizes the scent of the same drugs that lead thim there, and then finds a wad of cash in the main suspect’s jacket. Matt then “looks” around the room and finds Elena’s bag under a sofa cushion. (It appears that he’s sniffing the room. If that’s the case, then two big thumbs up for appropriate use of heightened senses. If he is actually supposed to find that purse by any other means, don’t tell me because that would make me cry.) Demanding to know where he got the purse, Matt roughs up the junkie who finally tells him the address of the warehouse where “they” took him. Who else smells a massive set-up?
Matt goes to the warehouse and finds a table covered with large documents, they’re plans and city maps. He removes his glove and skims the papers when he is interrupted by a nearby heartbeat. Nobu approaches. Matt recognizes him as the one who was at the docks with the boy (in episode seven). They have a little chat about Stick, “the war,” and Fisk. Matt says he came for Fisk, Nobu says he’ll have to settle for him, and that is how the fight begins.
Matt and Karen are still drinking, and they’re both in terrible shape. Karen things they should go home, but Foggy is devastated. He feels guilty about advising Elena not to take the money. He thinks about the lofty ideas that inspired him and Matt to do what they do, and how that all seems like bullshit now. Karen does her best to comfort him.
We’re back to as “current time” as it gets, with Matt being dragged along the floor with a hook in his stomach. He makes a last push for it and kicks Nobu against the gasoline from the canisters that were punctured at an earlier point during the fight. Matt throws one of his billy clubs into a light fixture and the sparks that come raining down set Nobu on fire.
This is when Fisk comes in the room, flanked by Wesley and new recruit Francis. Fisk thanks him for taking out Nobu, and admits that he baited the hook with Elena to lure Matt out. Matt says he’s going to kill Fisk and the two do a little hand to hand combat. Matt is not fairing well against his massive opponent. When Wesley is asked to take Matt out, he hears the gun being cocked and raised and defends himself with a well-aimed throw of his billy club, before taking a dive through the window and landing in the water below.
Foggy is at Matt’s door, saying that they need to keep the fight going and asking for Matt to let him in. When he hears a sound from inside, he rushes to the roof and goes in through the other door, worried about what might have happened to Matt. This is when Matt stumbles in and collapses on the floor. Foggy then realizes that the man in the mask is none other than his best friend. And that’s what I call a cliff-hanger!
This is a very strong episode overall, with lots of shocking developments. There’s the final scene where Foggy finds out about Matt’s secret life – more on that in the review of next episode, obviously – Matt’s first meeting with Fisk (and their first fight!), Mrs. Cardenas’ shocking death and that amazing gallery scene with Vanessa. Oh, and Matt almost getting hacked to bits by Nobu.
If you go to the bottom of the post and look at the quotes, you’re going to find that half of them are from the conversation between Matt and Vanessa at the gallery. It’s no wonder. They have fantastic chemistry, and it’s one of relatively few scenes in this series that’s actually funny for more than a couple of seconds. Not in a way that’s over the top or reeks of anyone trying to hard, but in that awkward and very human way.
We all know Matt is there to learn whatever he can about Vanessa’s connection to Fisk, just so that he can learn more about Fisk. That’s his only reason. He has no real interest in (visual) art, though the explanation he comes up with – that’ it’s for the benefit of his guests – is perfectly reasonable. He switches on the charm, Vanessa responds by even more charming, and the two have the ball rolling. This, they have in common. Much of the humor comes from their different perspectives though.
Vanessa sincerely loves her art. Matt, on the other hand, is not going to pretend that this will somehow translate into a profound experience for him. When he dead-pans “Sight helps” there’s an element of bullshit cutting that I find to be pretty funny. Vanessa then makes it funnier by not really taking in what he’s saying, but still being self-aware enough to joke that her next line can, in fact, be used as a “line.” And, after all that talk about how intimate it is to experience art through someone else’s eyes, she shows him a painting and seems to completely forget that he can’t see it. He actually has to ask. Everything that’s great about this scene comes down to great scripting, and even greater timing.
The flirting continues when the subject turns to Fisk, and when the man himself appears, the scene continues to be absolutely fantastic, but for very different reasons. When Vanessa announces that the man in her life has just arrived, Matt’s world stops. The camera does that fantastic spin around the room, so that we catch Fisk the same time Matt does. It marks a great shift in tone, and Charlie Cox does a stellar job of appearing overcome with rage and being civil, though not exactly cordial, at the same time. We’ve been building up to this moment for a long time now, so you can really see the sparks flying between these two. This is the moment Fisk becomes more than just a voice to Matt.
All of this does a number on Matt, who seeks out Father Lantom for the second time. This makes Lantom the most critical player in the entire episode, in some ways (more on this below). It only makes sense that there’s a physical beating to match. The scenes where Matt is slashed, cut and gutted by Nobu remain difficult to watch even after my many repeat viewings, and the punches from Fisk are equally painful. And then the fact that Matt now knows that Elena died to get to him? It’s awful stuff. Good awful, but still.
My only issue, in terms of how the episode is written is that Nobu perhaps comes off a little too much like a stereotypical ninja. I would have liked a little more depth to him here. He has lines like: “You are a worthy opponent. It is an honor to claim your life.” Nuff’ said.
For the most part, I really liked what I saw this episode. Looking at the gallery scene, you can tell that the subtle effects (such as the sound of a gun against a holster) are back, and it has that perfect mix of fantastic but not overblown that this show, at its best, has given us.
There are three scenes that are worth commenting on, though. The first is when Matt beats up the junkie who killed Elena and finds her purse under a sofa cushion. Matt appears to be sniffing right before he does this, which I think is great because that’s the only way he could have logically found that purse. I actually happen to think that the sense of smell is generally underused in Daredevil – the comic and this show – which I think has a lot to do with people’s strange detachment to this sense in real life. This scene uses smell to great effect.
Then there’s the scene where Matt meets Nobu, and Nobu remarks that Matt didn’t detect him at first. Matt responds that Nobu had slowed his heart rate and lowered his body temperature to escape detection. The bit with the body temperature doesn’t exactly make me jump for joy, but I guess we can crack that up ninja logic? 😉
We’ve talked about the part where Matt runs his fingers over the building plans before. It appears that print reading by touch has been retired for this show, and nothing in this scene actually invalidates that assumption. Feeling the raised lines (that, they would have to be, even if they are just barely there) of what is essentially a line drawing doesn’t equal the print touch speed reading of the sixties.
(Accessible) gadget watch
Nothing much this episode. Matt’s phone rings again, in its regular chatty manner. Then there’s lots of braille reading on Matt’s desk, but that isn’t actually a “gadget.” That’s pretty much it.
Easter egg watch
Fisk mentions breakfast with a senator Cherryh, and we also get to meet him in person later in the series. Randolph Cherryh also appears briefly in the comics as a corrupt politician with ties in the Kingpin. His first appearance was in Daredevil #177.
And, of course, pretty much everything about Nobu screams of the Hand, but you didn’t need me to tell you that. One final little thing, that isn’t actually an Easter egg, but a heart-breaking nod to Jack Murdock from earlier in the season. Below are the keepsakes Matt keeps in his chest. Aside from the robe, there’s a faded photo of Matt and his father taken at Fogwell’s gym and a braille alphabet card with what looks like blood on it. 🙁
Foggy: “Somebody knows something. It’s just a matter of asking the right people the right questions in the right tone of voice.”
Ben: “Maybe he knows there are some roads you can’t come back from.”
Matt: “I’m told by my guest my apartment is a bit stark. I thought maybe some art would warm it up.”
Vanessa: “I’m going to go out on a limb and assume these guests were women.”
Matt: “Well, I’m not trying to impress the pizza guy.”
Vanessa: “You don’t need sight to appreciate art, but you do need honesty.”
Matt: “Sight helps.”
Vanessa: “There’s something very intimate about experiencing art through someone else’s eyes. It’s a good line by the way, you should use it.”
Matt: “I might.”
Father Lantom: “There’s a wide gulf between inaction and murder, Matthew. Another man’s evil does not make you good.”
Father Lantom: “Are you struggling with the fact that you don’t want to kill this man, but have to? Or, that you don’t have to kill him, but want to?”
Matt: “I’ve hurt a lot of people tonight, to get what I need to know. The asshole who killed Mrs. Cardenas shoots up at this address, likes cheap menthols, thinks it covers the stench of his rotting teeth. It doesn’t.”
Well, considering that he pretty much saves Matt’s soul this episode, this award goes to Father Lantom. He is the perfect conversational partner for Matt, he takes Matt’s ideas and turns them on their head, asks the hard questions, and offers another way to look at things. Matt is stuck in his mindset, and needs someone who can challenge that. At this point in his journey, Lantom is that person. I like this character a lot. As an agnostic who have always felt that Daredevil’s Catholicism has been overstated, I could not be happier about how religion is used in this series. That’s saying something.