Time for another review. This one’s another long one, but I’m having fun writing these, so I hope they’re not too painful to read. As always, you can skip directly to the review portion if you wish.
If you’re wondering why I even bother with the recaps, it’s not just the reasons I mentioned in my previous post, I also find writing them a good way to think more about the individual scenes and what they mean, and I also refer to the recap regularly while writing the review.
Matt, obviously still a bit fuzzy (or at least intermittently so) is back at the church the morning after his street fight/suicide attempt. Sitting with his back against the wall, he listens to the church bells and breaks into a dry sob, looking oh so inconsolable.
We very briefly check in on a very determined-looking Wilson Fisk before cutting immediately to the FBI carrying out a raid against a large mansion full of people caught doing all kinds of things they weren’t supposed to.
Ray Nadeem and his fellow agents are met with applause back at the office. One of the people they took down was an Albanian mob boss known as Mother Teresa, along with a couple of judges, a district police captain, and a deputy mayor. Ray and his fellow agent talk about how Fisk is a gift that’s going to keep giving.
This takes us back to Fisk who enters the prison’s weight room and finishes a couple of bench presses before his spotter stabs him in the torso, as payback for the raid on the Albanians. Fisk looks like he’s about to break the guy’s ribs and finish him off with a weight plate before having second thoughts. Prison guards show up and we cut to the intro.
Back with Matt, who has now collapsed into a pile on the floor, his hearing sounding pretty bad at the moment. Maggie wakes him and asks him where he went the night before. Matt tells her to go away, but she refuses. She chastises him for going out and picking fights and gives him his pills. She pleads with him to give himself time to heal before he gets himself killed, before realizing that that’s what he wanted. Maggie tells him that she’s impervious to his bad attitude and won’t go anywhere.
Matt asks Maggie why she became a nun. When she confirms that it was something she was called to do, Matt wonders how she would feel if she couldn’t be one anymore. Maggie understands where he’s going with this line of questioning and says that she wouldn’t lose faith, and would find some other purpose. Matt responds that if she could be anything else, it was never really her calling.
And wouldn’t she grieve if she could no longer be a nun? When Maggie responds in the affirmative, he asks her to leave, but she instead brings up a story of a time when she had felt lost, and how she’d left the order for a while before taking her final vows. She had considered a very different life and struggled to know which one God had intended for her. In the end, she just had to figure it out. Matt says that the difference between the two of them is that he no longer cares what God wants.
This takes us to a flashback scene of young Matt doing tricks with his cane on the door steps outside. He is joined by Father Lantom who has learned that he’s not behaving in catechism. Lantom asks Matt to sit and asks him about how many fights he’s been in. None of the kids he beat up wants to admit they’ve been beaten up by a blind kid, but Father Lantom doesn’t need any proof. He sees that Matt is angry, and that it’s understandable, but not sustainable.
Lantom says Matt is good at deflecting, but that he needs to find a way to deal with his anger, and harness it. Or else it will destroy him. Matt shrugs it off, because, if so, then that’s God’s plan. Father Lantom then stresses that humans have been given free will and that one of the reasons you pray is for help in making good decisions. Matt, upset, insists that he does pray, but that God doesn’t talk to him. Lantom says that God is subtle, and that God speaks in whispers
Back at FBI headquarters, Agent Ray Nadeem and one of his colleagues are going through the evidence collected during the raid. The latter tips him off to the fact that two of their fellow agents are talking to their boss, trying to take advantage of the situation. Ray rushes in and insists he take the lead on handling Fisk. His boss, Tammy Hattley, says that his financial situation is still an issue, but Ray pushes on and says that none of what they did would have been possible without his unexpected connection to Wilson Fisk, and that she needs to pass that on to the higher ups. Tammy finally relents, but also stresses that he can’t allow the information coming from Fisk to run dry.
We cut to Karen at the Bulletin. Her boss, Ellison, brings her a new story involving the attack of a real estate developer and his reality TV celebrity daughter, but Karen has other plans. She’s found out that the incidence of respiratory illnesses has gone up in the area around Midland Circle. Ellison points out that Midland Circle is clearly not just a story to her. He insists that, in spite of the high quality of work she’s done on those stories, they need to be done with it, and that he’s assigning her the story he brought her. He says that she might be able to empathize with a young in the middle of a family crisis.
Agent Nadeem visits Fisk in prison, after learning about the attack. Ray is obviously concerned about what happened, but doesn’t seem too worried about Fisk’s health. Fisk, on the other hand, insists that this is bigger than one person, and that everyone now knows that he’s cooperating with the FBI. He has now become a target, and can’t help the FBI – or Vanessa – if he’s dead.
Matt, who has apparently been able to dig out a worn jacket, baseball cap, new sunglasses and a proper white cane, looks ready to venture beyond the confines of the laundry room and visits the upstairs chapel. There are people there, and he remembers – through another flashback to his younger years – what it was like to sit there and listen to people’s prayers.
Back in the present, he is joined by Father Lantom who is glad to see him. Matt tells him of all the prayers he used to hear, of people pleading for help, or justice, and how he thought that God let him hear those prayers so that he could answer, and that what had been trying to help people. But he is not who he was and can’t do what he used to do. He had believed what he was hearing was God’s voice, but that the only thing God had to offer any of them was silence. Father Lantom asks if he believes his calling was a mistake. Matt says that he was deluding himself, in thinking God had anything to do with it. And, that while he may not be as capable as he once was, he doesn’t get to choose who he is: “I’m Daredevil. Not even God can stop that now.”
Matt goes out on the street, and stops by an open dry cleaning van (remember, the van the would-be kidnappers used last time had freshly dry-cleaned clothes in it). He tells the guy in the back that he’s looking for a dry-cleaner, but is told they’re not doing pick-ups at the moment. Matt awkwardly confesses that he’s looking for a different dry cleaner that he got a whiff of last night, one that had more of an herbal smell. The guys says he knows the place.
Karen visits the hospital for her story and sits down with victim’s daughter, Neda Kazemi. She is initially very reluctant to talk, and doesn’t want her story in the papers. Karen says she knows what it’s like to not be able to control what people say about you, and that not saying anything will not prevent the story from being in the papers. It just means that people will make up a story and that will be what people talk about. This leads us to our first real sense of what Karen herself has gone through. She says that she doesn’t know what it’s like to grow up with paparazzi but that she grew up in a small town where word got around, and that people think she killed her brother. And, that the story around it grew, got darker and stuck.
They go ahead with the interview and Karen learns that two men had tried to grab Mr. Kazemi and put him in a van. They only got away because another man attacked him, one that had a black mask over his face. Karen looks completely stunned at this revelation.
We check back in with Agent Nadeem who is at a meeting with his boss, District Attorney Blake Towers and the Police Commissioner. The two FBI agents plead for Fisk’s release into house incarceration. The others are very reluctant to go ahead with what the FBI is asking for, but Ray raises some very convincing arguments in favor of agreeing to Fisk’s terms. They were able to do more with Fisk’s intel than they had in years working with traditional means. He is sure that the deal will save lives and that Fisk will give up others.
It’s time to check in with Foggy who is on his way to a family event at Nelson’s Meats. He is greeted by kids shouting “Uncle Foggy!” and joins the party in the back. His mom takes him aside and explains that his father’s arthritis is getting worse and that she worries about him working at the store. She thinks forty years of slinging meats is enough, and that maybe it’s time for Foggy to come home. His brother Theo can’t do it alone, and Anna is asking that he put his brain to work for his family. As if catching herself, she reminds him that she’s not telling him what to do, just that she wishes he’d think about it.
Foggy goes to talk to his dad, who jokingly gives him a hard time about bringing expensive wine. His dad says he’s proud of him, living the life he always wanted. Foggy, on the other hand, isn’t so sure, but his dad reminds him of when he was a kid telling everyone he owned the store.
Back with Fisk who is being fitted with an ankle monitor by Ray Nadeem, who seems mildly disgusted by the deal Fisk’s lawyers have managed to negotiate on his behalf. Fisk is then lead out of the prison by a heavily armed FBI patrol.
We are back with Matt (and it’s getting dark, has he been wandering the streets all day?) who stops by yet another open dry cleaning truck, and sniffs around. It appears he’s found the right place, and enters the nearby shop, pretending his doesn’t notice the line. The clerk, initially annoyed, gives him a break when he sees the cane and asks if he’s picking up. Matt claims to just like the smell of the place and asks if they have a brochure. He is given a coupon and the camera zooms in on the clerk’s missing middle finger. Matt now knows he’s found his man. (With this, I actually had to go back and check, and yes Matt feels the man’s missing finger while fighting him in the back of the van in the previous episode.)
He puts the mask on, and goes into the back of the building, making sure to hide from the people there. He walks around for a bit, spotting the place where they were probably going to hide Mr. Kazemi, along with a lot of weapons. Matt turns off the main switch, luring the clerk downstairs and zaps him, while fighting off two other guys. He punches them until they stay down, and calls the police.
Foggy is still at his parents’ shop, talking to his brother. Foggy is grateful his brother is taking over the business. Theo says that, for a long time, he’d wished that Foggy would be taking over, but acknowledges that Foggy has a head that’s good for other things, and that he should continue living the dream. Foggy, again, isn’t so sure he’s living the dream. That he had an idea of how things were going to go, and how he and Matt had talked about their plans. Without Matt, Foggy isn’t so sure who he is. Foggy and Theo toast each other before Karen rushes in.
Foggy greets Karen with a joke, but she hugs him and whispers that she thinks Matt’s alive. They go outside and Karen tells him about the man in the mask. Foggy insists it could have been anybody. Foggy also wants to believe that it could be Matt, but says that he knows Matt is gone. If he were alive, he would have reached out to them. Karen is upset that Foggy’s not more willing to find out, but Foggy is certain that Matt is dead. Karen runs out the door in anger.
Matt, wearing the black mask, shows up at the hospital to tell the Kazemis that the people who attacked them have been arrested for another crime, and where she can go to identify them. Neda Kazemi thanks him by saying “Thank God, for you.” “He didn’t help you. I did,” Matt responds.
Fisk is en route to his new home. The agents are laying down the law, when Fisk gets personal and starts talking about how he discovered love with Vanessa, and how love is the perfect prison. There are always ways out of a physical prison, but love is inescapable. Consequently, he is always in prison. The chains that hold him are nothing to him so long as they help him protect Vanessa.
Suddenly, the car in front of them explodes, and then their own car is flipped over, with everyone but Fisk either dead or unconscious. Then there is gun fire. Fisk hides and the agents outside are taken down by their attackers. The Albanians start firing and cut open the car, until they themselves are taken out by someone else. An agent with infallible aim who ends his spree by killing two of the attackers, even as they are surrendering. He finishes by aiming his gun at a visibly impressed Wilson Fisk, preventing the latter’s escape.
Matt, now in his street clothes exits the hospital just as he notices his hearing coming back. When he gets to the curb, ambulances start gathering around the hospital entrance. He overhears talk of how there are multiple gunshot wounds and how the Albanians killed everyone but Fisk. A police officer right next to him confirms what is already clear: The FBI let Wilson Fisk out of prison. And, on that happy note, we end this episode.
I really enjoyed the first episode, but in many ways, I think this one might be even better. A lot of chess pieces are being moved around the board here, and we get some great scenes with all of our major characters.
Ray Nadeem finally gets his big breakthrough at work (and it’s got that “be careful what you ask for” vibe all over it), and if you know how the story ends (don’t worry I’m not going to spoil anything aside), there is a lot to appreciate as you go back and carefully study everything that happens in his story.
Deborah Ann Woll gives a perfect performance as a slightly off-kilter Karen who is frantically chasing clues about Midtown Circle and is all too willing to pounce on the news that there is someone out there who just might be Matt. She so desperately needs it to be Matt, and she needs Foggy to believe it too.
Foggy, meanwhile is struggling with family responsibilities. I find it quite heartening to learn that Foggy has people in his life that care about him, and it’s a great to have these new additions to the family. I will say, though, that I really wished there was a Candace Nelson as well. For those of you unfamiliar with the comic, Candace is Foggy’s sister (and only known sibling) and she actually had quite a few guest appearances of the years. On the other hand, she may be lurking in the background as Foggy clearly has nieces and nephews that are not the children of his brother Theo.
It does pain me a little though, to see Foggy’s mom plead with him to come back and work at the store. I’ve never had that kind of expectations from my own family (this is in part a cultural thing), and don’t think I could handle it if I did. I’d feel awful knowing that I was letting anyone down. Although, Foggy’s father seems more supportive of Foggy stepping out on his own.
Vincent D’Onofrio goes full Wilson Fisk in this episode. A schemer with the air of a diva who doesn’t hesitate to lecture, at some length, about his views on love. He’s making himself vulnerable, superficially, but you always know that everything he says is for a purpose that benefits no one but Fisk himself. He likes to dress his cruelty up in poetry.
I also have to admit that I cheered when we saw Skylar Gaertner (who is now conveniently three years older than the last time we saw him) is back as young Matt in two flashback scenes. With Matt’s youth still very much a mystery, any look back at how he grew up helps flesh out the character overall. It’s also a really nice touch to see young Matt overhear someone complain about their lawyer not being good enough. Nice way to plant a seed for a later to career!
Of course, as many have pointed out, learning that Matt and Father Lantom go way back does mess with season one canon to an extent, as we got the distinct feeling that theirs was a new acquaintance at the time. I don’t mind it too much though, and as a reader of the comics (any long-running comic, really), you’re used to that sort of thing.
What about adult Matt? Well, much more on his inner journey below, but as far as his physical journey goes, he finally tires of sitting around a church laundry room. Looking very much like a sad Stick knock-off, he goes chasing down clues to who was behind last evening’s kidnapping attempt. I’ll pick apart the sensory aspects of this bit of detective work below (short version: it’s good overall, if a bit contradictory at times), but before we get to that, I want to take the opportunity to discuss something I promised to get back to in my last review that’s relevant to this episode: What are some valid reasons to carry a white cane that you don’t actually need for mobility purposes?
In this particular situation, one might argue that he’s still not quite himself in terms of his senses, but that doesn’t really hold up. He successfully fought off kidnappers the night before, and gets into another successful fight before the day is over. There are also no secret identity reasons for him to use it out and about the way he does here. In fact, if he’s trying to lay low and bury Matt Murdock then he’d be less recognizable if he decided to go without it. (I know that season one plants the idea that people don’t pay attention to blind people, but realistically, it’s human nature to notice anything and anyone who stands out, for any reason.)
So, what lead to the creative decision to give “on patrol” Matt a cane? I wouldn’t know for sure, but I’d be impressed if it’s for the reason that makes the most sense, i.e. that the cane sends a signal to anyone he’s talking to that puts a proper context to his questions, and let’s them know how to best respond. I’m not just making this up. There is a reason that white canes look a particular way, and some people use them exclusively to signal to other people that they have a vision impairment (though such canes tend to be shorter).
Just think about it. Matt’s question about where he can find the dry cleaner with a particularly herbal smell might have sounded really strange to the guy he’s talking to, if he hadn’t realized that Matt can’t see. And while we never hear his exact response, this realization would have also lead him to a better answer. He might give an exact adress, or its proximity to some particular landmark (perhaps even a smelly or noisy one), as opposed to “go to ‘x’ and look for the sign that says ‘y’.” It simply makes for more efficient communication.
The same goes for his next stop. This scene is actually a very interesting mix of the same phenomenon and a very obvious ruse. Matt benefits from playing up the “blind act” to get the information he needs, but it’s also a short cut to eliciting information specific to the sensory modalities that suit him best, and avoiding getting information back that he can’t use. And, if we imagine a similar real-life scenario in which he isn’t working a case, and is actually inquiring about their dry-cleaning, he’d get a much better answer to questions like “What do you charge for a suit?” than “Our prices are on the sign in the window.” And then he’d be back to having to disclose a vision problem of some kind anyway, and quite possibly rouse unwanted scrutiny.
Matt starts this episode pretty near the bottom, but there are – at least to me – some minor signs of acceptance that suggest he’s at least moved on from the bottom of the pit the previous episode. He is grieving, but also recognizes the grief for what it is to some extent.
One important scene is the one with Sister Maggie about what it means to have a calling. Matt obviously has a very single-minded, all-or-nothing view, of what a calling is, in that he doesn’t seem to consider that there are potentially more than one way to live out ones perceived purpose. (A purpose should probably ideally take the form of a “what?” or a “why?” as opposed to a “how?”). Either way, Matt now makes it clear that he doesn’t care what God wants, which seems like a reasonable protest in the face of feeling robbed of one’s purpose.
One thing I noticed at the beginning of this scene with Sister Maggie is how she insists that she isn’t going anywhere. That she’ll stay right where she is. When I rewatched this show, that bit really stood out to me. The way she is subtly telling him that there is nothing he can say or do that will lead to her withdraw her support is huge for a character who, whether he realizes is or not, has a history (when in pain) of treating people like he’s daring them to go away.
The flashback scene with Father Lantom also gives some insight into how he deals with his anger. The last time we saw Matt as a boy, in season one, he came across as quite resilient considering everything he’d gone through. Not that there is much material to go on, but he seemed to be dealing with his accident as well as could be expected, and after his father died, he seemed eager to open up to Stick and was very willing to learn from him.
In this scene, which we know takes place after Stick left, you get the sense that everything that’s happened in his life has caught up with him, and that Stick’s abandonment must have really stung. No wonder he’s angry. And lonely. Add being a teenager on top of that, and you really understand his search for some kind of higher meaning behind it all. Here, Lantom brings up the word “harness,” in connection with Matt’s anger, and you have to wonder what kind of seed that may have planted. If you apply your anger toward a higher purpose, it becomes meaningful and allows you to put off actually dealing with it.
Another interesting thing, that echoes in the present as well, is that Matt really doesn’t think he has much say in the matter. If he’s angry, that’s because it’s something that’s a part of him. You notice this in adult Matt’s conversation with Father Lantom in the chapel.
When he stresses that he is Daredevil, he talks about it as if the choice has been made for him. But while he used to believe it was God, he now apparently sees it as some deeply ingrained part of his very nature. And, rather than simply being a positive conduit for his anger, which had been the case in the past when he wasn’t only Daredevil, it takes over. And, with no God to sanctify this “compulsion,” it becomes only that. Ugly and meaningless.
Still, Matt does go out to tie up the loose strings left from the night before. And this too is some small sign of recovery. He may be partly running on auto-pilot (remember, he’s “Daredevil” now, whether God or even Matt himself likes it), but at least he’s able to find some short-term goal in essentially working a case and seeing it through. That’s a few steps up from suicide. And of course, he is given an even clearer purpose at the end of the episode when he learns that Fisk is no longer in prison…
So, at least some things to talk about here. If you’ve read my “first thoughts” post, you may recall that I mentioned that Matt has a habit of just showing up places with little to indicate how he got there, and on what information. While I’ve come around completely on Matt’s arc this season (I now find it both intriguing and emotionally compelling), I still stand by this one single criticism.
This phenomenon is by no means new to this season. To be fair, it’s probably less prevalent this season than in the previous two. However, because of how flawless the rest of the storytelling is, it becomes more noticeable. No other appearance or action by any other character at any point in this story seems off or in need of an explanation.
I use this particular episode review to address this issue, because 1) Matt showing up at the hospital to check in on the people he saved is a perfect example of what I mean, and 2) the sequence of events leading him to discover the would-be kidnappers is a perfect example of the exact opposite. The way he tracked them down makes one hundred percent sense, and is an example of great writing. But, we have no idea of how he found the right hospital room.
Now, you may be thinking, “Hey, he could probably hear them through the wall and track them by scent or something!” And I would say that it’s certainly plausible under ideal circumstances. There’s only a couple of issues here: When Matt shows up to check on them, he seems surprised, even dismayed (oh no, he failed!) to find that Mr. Kazemi is in a coma. Which means that he obviously hadn’t registered his vital signs from some great distance before getting there. And, the daughter probably wasn’t talking. Add to this the fact that it’s never actually been established on this show that Matt recognizes people by the sound of their heartbeats, the way he does in the comic. (He seems to use them solely as a lie detector.)
Well, what about smell? This has always been my favorite way to think about how Matt primarily recognizes people, and I’ve always argued that Daredevil’s sense of smell is woefully underused. Could Matt easily have found the Kazemis by smell, at least as long as he starts off on the right floor? Absolutely, but this opens up a bit of a plot hole in an earlier scene.
Going back to Matt at the dry cleaner’s, he asks for a brochure (and is offered a coupon), and takes the opportunity to feel the clerk’s hand, which is missing a finger, to make sure it’s the same guy from the night before. Why on Earth does he need to do this? Matt should recognize someone he’s met with up close that recently. He’s even heard the guy’s voice before. (By the way, this exact same failure to recognize someone from an earlier encounter will be repeated later in the season.) That he doesn’t peg this guy right away makes it all the more implausible that he’d “sense” his way to the Kazemi’s.
Of course, we know he walked in wearing civilian clothes (because he wears them going out), so he could have just hung around the hospital picking up gossip about the famous patient around the nurse’s station. Absolutely, but a tiny snippet of this would have been nice. Just a few seconds to make sure there are no gaps in the story.
So, for once, my criticism is mostly that Matt doesn’t sense something he should, and that the addition of some kind of indication of how he found the Kazemi’s would have made the episode every so slightly better.
Easter egg watch
There’s a framed front page that says “Harlem Terror” on Karen’s wall, which is obviously a shout-out to Luke Cage. Quite honestly, I’m having a hard time looking for Easter eggs because I keep getting so pulled into the story. I may just scrap this section for my coming reviews (or put them in the recap if I spot them), but feel free to let the rest of us know if you found anything interesting in the comment section.
Sister Maggie: “I have a special gift too. I’m impervious to bad attitude. So you can throw your self-pitying bullshit at me all day, Murdock, and I’ll still be standing right here.”
Father Lantom: “You’re good, at arguing and deflecting and denying you’re angry to other people. But you’re gonna have to deal with your anger, Matthew. Find a way to… harness it.”
Ellison: “It’s one thing to work a story, Karen. It’s another to let a story work you.”
Wilson Fisk: “Those terms guarantee my safety.”
Agent Nadeem: “Beyoncé has fewer demands.”
Foggy: “When he was around, I knew who I was.”
This is a hard one this time since there was so much quality time spent with all the characters. I’d be inclined to pick Maggie again, honestly, but I’m actually going to pick Father Lantom. Sure, he was only in a couple of scenes, one of which retconned his introduction in season one, but both scenes are really strong Lantom scenes.