The effect appeared for the first and last time in the fifth episode of the first season, which also carries its name: World On Fire. I’ve briefly talked about my issues with the world on fire in other contexts, most recently on the “exploring the senses” episode of the #TalkDaredevil podcast. However, I’ve never gone into detail about why I’m not a fan of this particular interpretation of Matt’s “pseudo-visual” abilities.
Don’t take it literally
And let’s start there, with the word “interpretation.” Because, I think it’s important to keep in mind that every single artistic take on Daredevil’s radar sense (and beyond) in every comic book, and live-action appearance have been attempts to translate Matt’s inner world into something that we can comprehend. The natural constraints of telling a story in two-dimensional color means that we can never get a real sense of what “seeing” in colorless three dimensions is really like.
Considering the challenges various artistic takes on Daredevil’s “radar” sense come up against, a case could be made for never showing it at all. If we’re talking about the show, I would argue that such a choice would have been preferable to the world on fire effect. Especially since, from the way it’s described, you really do get the sense that we, the viewers, are meant to take this literally. I would love to know how an otherwise exceptionally ambitious creative team arrived at this particular choice.
However, I also truly believe there are good ways to portray Daredevil’s “radar,” as long as you still keep in mind that it can never be literally what Matt “sees.” In my opinion, the focus of any such attempt should be to not include any information that is strictly visual. Instead, creators should think long and hard about what features of the world that we typically access through vision, can in fact be accessed through our other senses. Those features should realistically be the only one Matt Murdock has any knowledge of.
PSA: I know many of you might see a fight to get Daredevil back (in some form, under some kind of deal with some network) to be a lost cause. However, those of us who started the #RenewDaredevil effort are still at it. This week is cast appreciation week, and you can read about it (and other things going on) on the website.
When the news first came that Netflix (pretty much single-handedly, it appears) had canceled Daredevil after three seasons, I took the news relatively well. I remember thinking that “at least we had a good ending that left everyone we care about alive and back together in the end.” Still, having been relatively optimistic about the prospects for at least a fourth season, I had an “aw, damn” moment, before going about my day.
After that though, during the second day post-cancellation, a big void gradually started up inside. Two weeks on, I’m still grappling with it even though life obviously moves on, and there are obviously real-life issues that do overshadow the Daredevil cancellation.
Still, it’s rough. I think it started with just the thought that we would never see Matt moving back into his apartment. It sounds like a silly little thing, but from that grew a sense of grief over the lost opportunities of having Matt, Foggy, and Karen get at least one season of actually working together.
I don’t think any of us are deluded enough to think that Daredevil would be devoid of conflict (something needed for any compelling story), but Matt would at least be operating from a new sense of self-awareness and self-acceptance. I would have loved to see that.
As some of you know, I’ve been struggling with my commitment to both the show and the comics before, which lead to a long hiatus. The end of season two left me pretty broken, to be honest, but the miracle that was season three seemed to not only deliver the redemption story I had been longing for, but in so doing, actually shed much needed light on Matt’s previous willingness to walk away from his civilian life and the friends in it. Everything was put right, and elevated the entire show, from beginning to its apparent end. And, showrunner Erik Oleson became someone I fully trusted to do this cast of characters right.
Allowing myself to get excited about season three, ahead of its release, got me back into blogging again. Now, though, I’m unsure of where to go next. You see, there’s a reason that this site has come to be solely focused on the Netflix show(s), to the extent that I’ve been posting much at all since Daredevil season two. I simply haven’t enjoyed the most recent run of the comics.
Why I can’t get with the comics right now…
I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around the current mindwipe status quo that, for much of the first couple of years of the Soule run, left Matt Murdock taking a back seat to the Daredevil identity, which is never something I’ve enjoyed. Sure, Matt was there, but surrounded by people we’ve never seen before and seemingly without a personal life.
That turned around over the last year or so when Foggy came back into Matt’s life and Matt entered into a semi-interesting career of his own, as deputy mayor under Wilson Fisk. But it’s constantly been grating me to see heroes he’s known for years not know that Matt and Daredevil are one of the same. A big part of who someone is, even a fictional character, boils down to his or her relationships. For me, it was not something I could get over.
Besides, while it seemed plausible forty years ago that Daredevil could hide his blindness consistently, even around people who were more than casual acquaintances, I simply don’t buy that for a modern take on the character. Look to episodes three and four of the third season of the Netflix show for an indication of the stakes involved. (No, he didn’t blow his cover, but he might have over something banal.) So, seeing Matt train Blindspot (for presumably many days and hours) without admitting to his blindness, or having it be discovered, fails to work for me for reasons of both logic and narrative “authenticity.”
And don’t even get me started on the senses writing over the last three years. Having the radar drawn as an Instagram filter on acid, and Matt (easily) “seeing” through walls (into a building across the street), just doesn’t work for me. At all. The latter is something I associate with Silver and Bronze age comics. Even though there may be some logic to this (you’ll have to read my science book eventually), this is a skill that I believe should be used very sparingly with at least some awareness its inherent limitations. They are considerable. Listening for a silent spot in the city to find Muse? Does that remind anyone else of the universally laughed-at scene of Daredevil landing a rocket in the second issue from 1964? If I actually sound a little pissed about this, it’s because I am.
I don’t mind high-powered heroes as such. I’ve seen every movie coming out of the MCU, many of them more than once. I’ve enjoyed comics about Matt’s fellow heroes with much more spectacular powers. I have a suprising level of attachment to much of Peter David’s work on Jamie Madrox (the “Multiple Man,” whose powers are as weird as they come). I grew up on Superman comics. I just think Daredevil is a hero who is at his best and most relatable when his powers are more modest and he’s treated as less of an omniscient demi-god.
This is especially true because of his blindness which is something writers need to show at least a modest interest in engaging with. It’s there. It’s real. It’s as real as his heightened senses are. Not doing this aspect of the character justice in 1964, or 1974, was fine. We can laugh at that now. Forty of fifty years later, it’s not funny to me. The Netflix show did it right. Is it too much to hope that writers can take inspiration from this? The fact that Matt’s powers don’t actually fully compensate for his blindness (even when his powers are depicted as more extreme than I might prefer) should, in my opinion, be treated more as a feature of the character than as an unfortunate design bug to be spoken of as rarely as possible.
Still, though, this is actually a minor quibble compared to the fact that Daredevil hasn’t felt like himself (to me) since around the time Mark Waid and Chris Samnee had him show up to court in a red Daredevil business suit. Which is a real shame since their entire run (initially with Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martín as pencillers) up until that point still ranks among my favorite runs ever. (And yes, their respect for Matt’s blindness was better than I’ve ever seen before or since, and for that they will have my eternal gratitude.)
As you might imagine, hearing new writer Chip Zdarsky say this, is sweet music to my ears:
“I’ve always loved the various tonal takes on DAREDEVIL, but for this run I’ve decided to really go deep on the realities of being a vigilante in this world. Out of all the main Super Heroes, Daredevil has felt like the one you could do that with. I don’t care to see a “reality-based” Fantastic Four (though as I type that I remember how much I loved UNSTABLE MOLECULES. The exception to prove the rule!), but I love the idea of a reality-based DAREDEVIL.”
Of course, I have no idea whether the (relative) realism he speaks of will apply to Matt’s senses, but it wouldn’t surprise me, and I’m hopeful that it might.
Our inner Daredevils
As for Checchetto coming back to draw Daredevil, I couldn’t be happier. His take on Matt is probably the one that comes closest to my own idea of what this character actually looks like. Because I, like probably most long-time readers of the comics, already had an idea in our heads of what Matt “should” look like, long before the Netflix show happened.
Elden Henson’s Foggy, especially with his haircut from season three, and Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen have supplanted whatever picture was in my head. But “my” Matt does not look like Charlie Cox. This isn’t actually a problem for me, in terms of enjoying the show, any more than seeing an actor portraying a real life person is a problem. For the purposes of enjoying the show, it doesn’t really matter that Charlie doesn’t look like “my” Matt.
But who is this “my Matt” person? I talked a bit about this in my post about “Being a Daredevil fan, 600 issues later” (also linked to above), and it’s what the title of this post is really in reference to. (I know, I sure took a while getting to the point.)
Forever Matt Murdock is the idea I have in my head of who Daredevil is, and he transcends each individual interpretation of the character. I assume everyone has this kind of timeless “forever” idea of who their favorite characters are. After all, what allows us to determine that someone is acting “out of character,” is some kind of idea of what the character in our heads would have done or said instead.
We all have slightly different takes on these characters, and that’s fine and perfectly normal, but I’m finding that my future dedication to Daredevil and this site, hinges on my ability to rediscover and reconnect with my inner Matt Murdock. I need to care about comic book Matt again, whether through his old stories or the new ones. This is the downside to getting a bit too invested in the television version of Matt that, in his third season especially, almost grew to supplant the one that was in my head to begin with.
So, this was a long, rambling text that I wrote in part do deal with my own frustrations about the current state of “Daredevil-dom.” So, I hope you’ll forgive some of the snark. And the complete lack of structure.
What are your own thoughts on all of this? Feel free to rant, rave, or otherwise voice your opinions in the comments!
UPDATE: As many of you have probably seen already, news is out that Daredevil has been canceled by Netflix. It turns out that my optimism was misplaced and this show has ended the only way it would: due to reasons other than viewing numbers and audience appreciation. Much of what I’ve written in this post is still relevant to the discussion of what might happen next, were the show to continue in some other form.
If Marvel is contractually allowed to continue the show, with the same cast, on some other platform, I believe they will. If they intend to reboot the show with a new cast, I’d say don’t bother. It’s this cast or none at all as far as I’m concerned.
I have to admit, the response to the #RenewDaredevil campaign has been pretty interesting. It ranges from, “Of course we’re getting a season four, why wouldn’t we? What are you guys even on about?” to “They’re obviously moving it to the new Disney streaming service,” and on to the majority position of “Great initiative, where do I sign up?”
It’s obvious that there is a lot of speculation (understandable) and misinformation (avoidable) out there. With this post, I hope to clear up some of the confusion. I will do this by looking at what we actually do know, or may at least be able to infer from available sources. To be sure, I’m offering some speculation of my own, but nothing that runs counter to known facts.
Data from just after the release of the Defenders, suggest that Daredevil has vastly outperformed all of the other Netflix Marvel shows (though The Punisher’s first season had yet to drop at the time). This would mean that even if season three had only half the viewership of season two, it would still have twice as many viewers as seasons one of Luke Cage and Iron Fist. The big caveat here is that we don’t actually have access to Netflix’s own data, and secondary sources are only indirect measures that might be inaccurate.
The Netflix business model
However, we are also moving in different Netflix landscape compared to two and a half years ago, when Daredevil’s second season came out. The number of shows on Netflix, in particular those actually produced by the company, have grown. A lot. I remember when the premiere of a new Netflix show was a special occasion. That’s no longer the case, and that naturally reduces the visibility of each individual show on the platform, and the amount of marketing it receives.
From this perspective, I think it’s actually wise that they’ve ceased the near automatic renewal of everything they put out. It’s better to spend the money on their better-performing properties. And, in the stiff competition with other shows on the same platform, Daredevil at least appears to be performing well.
In a weird twist, cutting down on the number of Marvel shows may even benefit those that remain. And Daredevil, The Punisher, and Jessica Jones all share a certain gritty quality that may even allow for more organic cameos and cross-overs than what we saw in The Defenders.
But we also don’t know (any extremely insightful entertainment lawyers out there?) what the cancellation for any of these shows means for their legal status after cancellation. Whether a show that Netflix has passed on becomes available – in the same format with the same actors – is something that is likely specified in the deal between Disney/Marvel and Netflix.
IfDisney/Marvel is free to take these shows to one of their own platforms, a better fit than Disney+ might be a certain other streaming service. After Disney’s planned acquisition of 20th Century Fox, the company will own 60% of Hulu. This would be a more natural home for the more mature heroes we will no longer be seeing on Netflix. Again, that’s if their deal allows for these shows to be resurrected elsewhere with no strings attached.
So, what I suspect this comes down to is that Netflix will have to decide whether keeping Daredevil going is a profitably move on their part. I’m willing to bet that, judging by what we know now, they will officially green-light a season four in the near future. The one issue that might complicate things comes down to politics. By continuing with the shows, Netflix is also contributing to building the brand of a company they are now in direct competition with. This will matter less, though, if Daredevil is still considered a net benefit to Netflix.
Why #RenewDaredevil matters
All of the ifs and buts that drive these decisions are beyond the reach and ken of individual fans. So you might wonder what point there is in launching a campaigning like #RenewDaredevil. My response would be: What is there to lose? It’s not as if Netflix is going to go back on a decision to give another season the green light because the fans are acting too much like fans. And, if they really are on the fence about this, it might do some good. Who knows?
On top of all of this, social media is a great way to bond as a fan community and express our appreciation for the actors, writers, directors and other staff members who have given us this show. From all of us: Thank you!
For those who want to join this campaign, here’s the link to the official #RenewDaredevil site (also on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram). You can also use your own images, or tweet/post without an image (though they do encourage interaction). Choosing to take a more laid back approach? Retweeting or sharing what others are doing is also a good way to be involved. If this type of thing is not for you, then sit this one out. It’s that simple.
If you, like me, are in an inconvenient time zone (I’m currently in Tokyo), there are apps that will let you schedule tweets/posts. I will be using Buffer to schedule posts to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (yup, there is a TOMP Instagram now).
Be sure to go to the official page to see what time you should post, depending on your time zone. Obviously, you’re free to post about #RenewDaredevil at any time, but there is a point to having a campaign that peaks at a certain time.
Have fun with this, that’s what it’s all about! I’ll be back with a new post on Saturday that references some things from season three – mentioned in my review of episode four – before getting back to individual episode reviews next week.
UPDATE: With the news of Daredevil’s cancellation, the campaign for tomorrow will shift focus to #ThankYouDaredevil. This will be our way of expressing support for the cast and crew. Join in if you want to. Need to vent? This post, or my most recent one, are good places to do that.
Word is starting to spread of the fan initiative underway to show Netflix just how much we’ve been enjoying Daredevil, and that we would very much like to see a season four. Though I’m hopeful for a season four, if Netflix is still on the fence about this, let’s knock them off that fence and make sure they land squarely on the renewal button!
Further down, you’ll find the official statement for this campaign, containing instructions and helpful tips for how to participate. The objective is to get #RenewDaredevil to trend, with particular focus on a specific time period when we concentrate our efforts, the first such “push” happening this Friday. Also, Check the official campaign site (screen shot below) for additional information and gorgeous, ready-made graphics you can use.
Dear Daredevil fans,
More than a month has passed since Daredevil Season 3’s successful premiere to much fan and critical acclaim, but with the recent cancellations of Luke Cage and Iron Fist, we know an automatic renewal for Daredevil is not guaranteed.
Introducing the #RenewDaredevil fan campaign. Our goal is to @Netflix about what we liked about #Daredevil and how much we want Netflix to #RenewDaredevil – using this hashtag. If enough of us post positive comments during 12-2pm ET (you can convert that to your own time zone here) every Friday starting with November 30, we can get #RenewDaredevil trending!
Here are some tips for participating successfully:
No more than 2 hashtags (#RenewDaredevil + #Daredevil or #DaredevilSeason4)
Tweets should be short and to the point
No foul language
Graphics increase engagement so use your fave pic(s), gifs or vids of DDS3
Twitter watches for engagement so remember: CLICK the gifs/vids/pics, likes AND rt all help the #RenewDaredevil team effort
Reply to DD cast, crew, big fans – they may RT and spread the word but NO HARASSMENT please
Remain a positive voice for the effort, no bullying/threatening others into RTs, no arguing with people who respond negatively to your posts
Let’s show Netflix the tremendous demand there is for more Daredevil seasons!
Thank you from the fans at #RenewDaredevil (renewdaredevil.com)
I have often been astounded by how generally awesome the Daredevil fan community is, but I’m still blown away by how much has been put together in short order. Efforts are underway to spread this information to all online channels in which Daredevil fans move in significant numbers.
We all know that there’s been an outpouring of support for this show already, but there is something to be said for creating some kind of structured campaign around this, and I hope you all join me in participating!
If you have answers and suggestions, please put them in the comments. If there are suggestions or questions I don’t know the answer to, I’ll feed them back to the official Renew Daredevil site admin.
Hey gang, you know the drill! Recap, followed by My thoughts (jump there directly, if you prefer), Matt’s thoughts, Senses watch, Quotes and Star player.
We see Dex, in his apartment getting ready for work. The place is immaculate and and the whole scene screams of an overzealous devotion to routine and order. Dex makes sure that the handles on his cups are aligned the same way, and the newspapers are neatly arranged in a perfect pile. Before exiting, we see a picture of Dex and a group of people from what is apparently a suicide prevention center. The camera focuses on Julie, whom we met in episode three.
Next, we see Matt’s ill-fated cab from the previous episode being pulled from the river. With Ben Donovan, in a perfect nod to the exact same phrase from the Born Again comics arc, telling Wilson Fisk that “There is no corpse,” we cut to Fisk’s suite. Donovan tries to smooth things over with a visibly annoyed Fisk, but assuring him that the body was probably swept away, and that a blind man wouldn’t be able to make it to shore anyway. Fisk shows him the footage from the prison, which he has saved on his phone, and his lawyer assures him that all the records show that Matt lost his sight at nine. But, if he can fight like that, he could have made it to shore.
FBI agents, including Dex and Ray show up. They sit down with Donovan and Fisk to renegotiate the terms of the latter’s deal. Donovan reminds them of all the good that came out of the bust against the Albanians, while Ray reminds the other side that they’re holding up their end of the deal by not pressing charges against Vanessa. But, there are apparently still terms that were promised that have not yet been delivers, such as some personal property and a freer range of movement. To keep things moving, Fisk decides to offer up another name, someone who’s made all kinds of criminal dealings on his behalf: Matthew Murdock. Cut to intro.
Dex takes a jog, just a few steps behind his stalking victim Julie. We follow them for a couple of minutes before cutting to the FBI storming Matt’s apartment. The only sign of Matt is a wet business suit on the floor.
Elsewhere, Karen confronts Felix Manning with what she has on him. The encounter does not go as planned at all. It turns out that Manning knows everything about her, including the names of her parents, and what exactly happened to her brother. He even knows where her bedroom was in the house she grew up in.
The rest of their conversation is equally chilling, and we next see Karen walking down the street, throwing nervous glances at people around her. It turns out that she’s right to, because the FBI shows up to take her to Matt’s apartment.
Karen, confused about what’s going on, follows Ray inside where a whole team of agents are busy taking pictures of everything in Matt’s apartment. The box that usually holds his Daredevil suit is – thankfully – empty, though his civilian clothes are still on the floor. Karen is asked about when she last heard from Matt. When she tells Ray it’s been months, he wonders why she’s been paying his bills and didn’t file a missing person’s report.
There are more questions. When did they start working for Fisk? (Never.) What about CGI? (Well, that one time and we didn’t know it was for Fisk.) At this, Ray shows her a photo of James Wesley, and Karen is stunned. She changes the topic, and gives Ray all she has on Fisk, and his connection to Manning, Red Lion national bank and the very hotel that is holding him. Ray is skeptical and asks for proof. Since Karen is not under arrest, she decides to bolt.
Back at the hotel, Donovan gives Fisk a large box full of documents. It’s all very top-secret stuff, sealed psychiatric records and so on. And so begins Fisk’s study of Benjamin Poindexter which is told in black and white with Fisk witnessing a scene between young Dex and his baseball coach. It turns out that he’s got a very good aim, but is considerably worse at playing well with others. When he’s pulled from the game, in the interest of fairness to the rest of the team, Dex responds by killing his coach with a ricocheted baseball.
Next, Dex is having a session with his therapist, Dr. Mercer. They talk about what happened with his coach, and Dex admits that his death wasn’t an accident. He is perplexed when the psychiatrist maintains that it wasn’t his fault. She talks about how alone he’s been, and how his parents died without teaching him everything. She then announces that they’re going to practice empathy, and what you say to someone who’s in pain.
We skip ahead a few years in time. Dex is a teenager, and his therapist is terminally ill. He is very sad and resentful of her illness, but she has tapes all of their sessions that she gives to him. At the suggestion that he see another therapist, Dex becomes very angry and says he wants to kill her to punish her for dying. She reminds him that death can be a beautiful event, never to be hastened with violence. And, that any good person with a decent heart will do, in terms of finding someone to guide him.
Closer to the present day, we see adult Dex at work at a suicide prevention hotline. Julie comes around to check on him, and tells him he’s doing great. When she leaves, he goes off script and asks the man on the phone what kind of weapon he has around, subtly suggesting that the man might consider killing his step-father rather than himself. When Julie comes back, Dex gets back with the program.
Finally, before going back to Fisk’s suite in the present day – and in color – we see Julie, Fisk and Dex under separate spotlights in a pitch black room. Dex and Julie are both eating pizza, but Julie is oblivious to Dex’s eyes on her. In the present, Fisk is looking at a large collection of documents in front om him, including a photo taken of Dex jogging behind Julie.
Donovan interrupts and asks Fisk what it’s all for. Fisk says that, for the moment, he is New York’s scapegoat. The attention that the protesters bring is an impediment to his plan. He concludes that the city needs a new villain, and that he thinks he might have found him.
Dex sits at the bar of the hotel when Julie comes around to ask him if he wants something to drink. He is baffled, and lost for words. With a slight delay, Julie recognizes him and asks if he used to work at the Brooklyn Suicide Hotline. They get reacquainted and Julie says it’s her first day on the job. She was offered double the pay of her last job if she could start immediately. Dex tells her he’s at the hotel because they’re guarding Wilson Fisk and have an office upstairs. She has other customers to attend to, but they agree to meet after her shift.
Foggy is throwing a campaign event at Nelson’s Meats, and his brother Theo is offering the crowd deli meats, over Foggy’s mild protests. Agent Ray Nadeem enters while Foggy talks to an old woman who lost her husband when the bombs when off in Hell’s Kitchen (as seen in season one), and offers her support.
Ray approaches Foggy and, after briefly working under the pretense that he’s there for sandwiches, asks him when he last saw Matt Murdock. Foggy goes on the offensive and says that he won’t back down from criticizing the feds’ love affair with Wilson Fisk. Ray suggests a theory for why Foggy and Matt split ways: Foggy is a decent guy and couldn’t stomach that Matt took on Wilson Fisk as a client. Foggy vehemently disputes this, noting the sole exception of CGI, and defends their practice.
They then talk about the last time he saw Matt and Foggy says that all that happened was that Matt was sorry that their friendship wasn’t what it used to be. Foggy then learns that Matt was the one who stole his wallet, as Ray asks him if he knowingly gave Matt his bar I.D. so he could enter a prison. Ray finishes with an accusation that makes Foggy very uncomfortable: Matt is hiding a double life, Foggy and Karen know about it, and this is why they are no longer partners or friends.
Dex is having dinner with Julie. It gets off to a good start, with the two of them comparing jogging routes and Dex joking about how she might be stalking him. Things go from good to awkward, and from awkward to worse, when Dex reveals that he knows a little too much about her life.
Julie is starting to feel uncomfortable and makes an excuse to leave, saying she has to feed her dog. When he accuses her of not having a dog, she gets scared and gets up to leave. Dex pleads with her, but only makes things worse by grabbing her arm, and she bolts for the door.
Karen shows up at Nelson’s Meats to talk to Foggy. Karen says she thinks Agent Nadeem can figure things out, and Foggy first thinks that she told them Matt is Daredevil. That isn’t the case, but Foggy gets worked up, and says he shouldn’t have let Matt tell her his secret, or get her involved, and that he’ll take the fall for her if it comes to that.
Karen interrupts, and says what she did was worse and that she needs attorney-client privilege before she can go on. Karen, trembling, tells Foggy about how the FBI think Matt had something to do with Wesley’s disappearance. If they keep investigating, they’re going to find out that she killed him.
Dex goes back to his immaculate apartment and punches a hole through the wall, and bloodies his shirt with his cut knuckles. He tries to clean the blood off and then goes berserk, throwing a knife at the picture on the wall, straight through Julie’s face. He gets one of his therapy tapes out and listens to it to calm himself down.
With just a few minutes left of the episode, we see Matt stagger in through his loft door, his suit drenched. He struggles down the stairs while undressing, and lays down on the floor. The next morning, we see him wake up on the couch as he hears the approaching FBI team outside. He manages to escape to the roof before they enter, and listens in on their conversation. Somewhere, on a police radio, he hears that Matthew Murdock is to be considered armed and dangerous.
One thing that all seasons of Daredevil have consistently done better than any other Marvel show is craft episodes that are distinct, in that they put a different character under the spotlight, or focus more on a particular story within the story. I’ve actually watched all seasons of the various Marvel shows more than once (except Jessica Jones, season two), and I don’t think I can remember separate episodes of any of them.
It may be the case that I just pay more attention to Daredevil, very plausible given my own niche interests, but I don’t think it’s just that. For me, season one has “the Claire episode,” “the Fisk episode,” “the Foggy finding out about Matt episode” and so on. In season two, the episode with Daredevil and Frank stands out, as does the episode where Matt goes on a date with Karen and comes home to find Elektra. The following episode, where Elektra features heavily, also stands out. There are many more moments within these and other episodes that stand out as well.
The same is very much true of season three. In this way, Daredevil has mastered its format in a way that few other binge-watchable shows have. Its seasons are at once both an 11+ hour movie and a string of not-quite-episodic television “chapters.” Building a narrative that combines the best elements of these two very different structures is really hard. I think many of the pacing issues of the other Marvel shows (most of which I’ve still very much enjoyed) can be attributed to treating each season too much like a movie and not paying enough attention to the architecture of each episode.
This is clearly not the case with this episode of Daredevil. It leans into its unique premise in a way that really pays off, and shows just how much these creators trust their own method.
The show’s main character appears in just a few short minutes at the end, and instead we’re treated to a cinematically unusual and very memorable spotlight episode of how Dex came to be who he is. The way this is done, with the near-constant presence of Wilson Fisk, also ties these two men’s stories together while heightening the sense of Fisk being this great mastermind who gains access into people’s most intimate moments.
The creepiness of all this is evident in his henchmen as well. We get our first real look at Felix Manning, and he is truly terrifying. Everything he knows about Karen gives her a feeling of being completely exposed and unable to hide. Fisk hovers above it all like a near-deity.
People have had somewhat mixed views about how this episode treats the topic of mental illness. Since I’m no expert on this, I can’t really say to which degree Dex’s story and current behavior lines up with his diagnoses (plural). I fully understand that even people with the exact same condition can experience and express that in different ways, and can certainly understand people who may feel stigmatized or misrepresented.
On the other hand, creators should not be barred from telling fictional accounts of people with mental health problems. Part of the point of this episode seems to me to explain to the audience why Dex might be unusually susceptible to Fisk’s machinations, without actually making a monster of him. I think it succeeds in that regard, and I also think that most audiences members are smart enough to understand the nuances of this topic.
There is one plot point this episode that does seem questionable to me though. When Fisk gives the FBI Matt’s name, why does no one ask, or give the appearance of knowing, that he was the one that took down Wilson Fisk? Karen brings it up at Matt’s apartment, but it’s as if the FBI won’t seriously entertain this piece of information.
That Matt would have served Fisk in any way seems far-fetched. And, because of that history, Matt also has to be viewed as someone Fisk might have a personal vendetta against, and he should be challenged on this point. At this point in our story, I guess it could be construed as the FBI simply being extremely thorough.
Another character who has an amazing episode this time around is Karen. Holy crap what an emotional roller-coaster she goes on. I was so impressed that I’m declaring her the star of this episode. Hence, more on her below.
Well, Matt is barely in this episode, but I will say this: I choose to believe that it’s a sign of something that he goes back to his apartment after (somewhat mysteriously) dragging himself out of the river, and not back to the church. Is he beginning to associate at least some measure of comfort with his old life. For a guy who claims to want to shed “Matt Murdock,” he sure seems to have a thing for Matt Murdock’s apartment.
Well, since Matt doesn’t show up in this episode much, there’s not that much to report. But, I’ll take this opportunity to voice a very strong preference I have for not taking Matt’s sense of hearing too far. Now, this season is relatively down to Earth in this regard, so there’s not too much for me to complain about. We can see Matt hearing things through thick walls – and other structures – and that’s mostly fine by me.
In real life, and I kind of need people to get this, there’s a reason besides not having super-hearing that prevents us from hearing the way Matt does. We call that reason physics. Physics puts limits on just how thick a wall can be and still let some sound through, and how far a sound can travel without spreading into literal nothingness. The Daredevil comic, and this show, obviously push all kinds of limits in this regard. And they kind of have to – yes, even I admit that – because it’s a superhero show, and a little sci-fi magic does us all good.
However, I do prefer when writers of either medium give an indication that they are at least somewhat aware of the difference between poetic license on the one hand, and suspension-of-disbelief-breaking absurdity on the other (Daredevil is not Superman). The way Matt finds Fisk, who could be anywhere within a several-block radius (inside a moving van), in the last episode of season one feels really overblown to me. And I don’t care that he’s done similar things in the comic.
I’m thrilled that there is actually very little of this kind of stuff in season three. Which is also the reason I’m choosing to believe that the police radio Matt listens to in the roof scene at the end of this episode is coming from a police car on the street below, and not some ridiculous distance away. It’s a choice. I’m making it.
On the flip side, I still say that Matt’s sense of smell is underused and underestimated. So there. 😉
Felix Manning: “I don’t fix problems. I make them disappear.”
Dex: “That’s hard. That’s really hard.”
Fisk: “Fortunately, the public is easily distracted. Which makes the solution for my problem quite simple.”
Agent Nadeem: “I think Matt Murdock is hiding a double life. Lawyer by day and criminal by night.”
The spotlight character this episode is Dex, who is given an interesting origin story that give us reasons to both care and be very, very concerned. I’ve already mentioned why his story makes this a strong episode, while also showing us Fisk’s elaborate and manipulative brand of evil. And, I will also add here that I thought his scenes with Julie were really strong. However, another character who has a real “oh shit!” episode here is Karen, which is why I’m making her my star player.
Karen really starts this episode on top. She’s got intel on Felix Manning, and she knows where to find him. She has everything she needs for a big showdown, only to have Manning flip the whole thing around and reduce her to panic and paranoia. Of course, you’re not being paranoid if someone is actually following you, and minutes later Karen is picked up by the FBI.
If she thought things couldn’t get worse, she was sadly mistaken. Now Wesley is back to haunt her, and at the end of the episode she has an important and very intense scene with Foggy in which she finally has to come clean about this huge secret she’s been hiding for two seasons. These are some huge moments for Karen, and they are played to absolute perfection by Deborah Ann Woll.
You know the drill! After the Recap, we have My thoughts (<– click to jump directly to it), “Matt’s thoughts” (where we track Matt’s mental state through the season), Senses watch (where I nitpick the shit out of the treatments of Matt’s senses, but also applaud all the good stuff), Quotes and Star Player.
We see Fisk step into a much nicer shower than the one he’s used to, while remembering the events from the night before. We are shown Fisk arriving at the hotel, while the agents talk amongst themselves about the casualties they suffered. Also at the hotel are Fisk’s attorneys. Fisk is shaken by the attempt on his life by the Albanians, and instructs them to locate Vanessa.
Fisk is shown his lavish suite, where he’ll be confined and monitored at all times. Agent Ray Nadeem lays down the law and uncuffs Fisk. When Ray says he’ll be safe there, Fisk has the poor taste of pointing out how he was nearly killed. Ray can’t contain his anger, and reminds Fisk of the agents that were killed.
We’re back with Fisk in the shower. He’s told that his lawyers are there to see him. Ben Donovan asks that the cameras be shut off while he speaks with his client. Fisk says to forget about the cameras. He wants to know whether Vanessa is safe. Donovan admits that he doesn’t know. Vanessa is missing. And with that, we cut to the intro.
Karen is having dinner with her boss, Mitchell Ellison and his wife Lily. They’ve also invited their nephew Jason, and amid the chit-chat about how to order food, and how annoyingly perfect Mitchell and his wife are together, Lily lets it slip that she and her husband had set up Karen and Jason on a kind of date. She thought he had informed them of this fact, and it gets uncomfortable for everyone, for Jason and Karen in particular.
Karen finds an excuse to go to the kitchen and her boss follows her. He apologizes and says she would never have agreed to it if he’d asked her. Karen points out that, while he meant well, he didn’t leave that choice up to her. Ellison says he just wants her to be happy. Karen asserts that she is, but when that sounds a bit flat, she simply states that she’s not ready.
Karen decides to go back to the dinner table, and they all enjoy a good time together. We learn that both Jason and Karen are interested in literature, and that Karen was going to be an English major, but that it didn’t pan out. When the conversation goes back to Jason’s cat, he says he enjoys the company and shared a room with his brother growing up. The conversation turns to siblings, and Karen says that she had a brother too, and that he died. Just as Lily is about to cheer them all up with dessert, Ellison and Karen get phone calls from the office alerting them to Fisk’s release from prison.
Karen and Ellison both get ready to leave, and Ellison tells Karen right away that she has to stay away from the story. Karen pushes back, acknowledging her history with Fisk but how that also makes her knowledgable and gives her a unique angle.
We cut to Foggy, who is sleeping on the couch of the apartment he now apparently shares with his girlfriend Marci. She is up working when Foggy wakes from a bad dream. It’s clear that she is familiar with Foggy’s recurring dreams about his dead friend.
Marci assures Foggy that he has nothing to feel guilty about, and that whatever happened to Matt wasn’t his fault. Foggy talks about how he has this great life now, but it’s clear that it feels empty to him. While Marci goes back to working on her brief, Foggy steps away and checks his phone. That’s when he, too, learns of Fisk’s new status.
Matt goes to check out what’s happening at the hotel where Fisk is kept. There are people all around, protesting, but we learn that rather than being alone, Matt brings with him his internal manifestation of Wilson Fisk. When he talks to himself, his inner version of Fisk talks back to him, telling him that God is angry with him for trying to kill himself, and reminds him that God restored his hearing just in time for him to hear the crowds chant his name.
Karen shows up at the hotel gates and, when Matt notices, his inner Fisk warns him that he’ll get her killed, along with all the other people in his life who died because of him.
When Karen starts talking to the police, Matt takes the opportunity to sneak out. As if catching something familiar in the corner of her, Karen spins around and narrowly misses Matt. She instead turns her attention to finding the person in charge, and is shown in the direction of Agent Nadeem.
Karen, obviously livid, is mocking Fisk’s sleeping arrangements and the life of luxury it affords him. Nadeem, feeling both pressured by the line of inquiry and sadness for his fallen colleagues, reminds Karen about the lives that were lost and tells her to write about them.
Matt, still in the area of the hotel, locates the back door and hangs around for a bit. He hears the code that opens the door being entered by someone from a maintenance crew and gets an idea. The back of their van is open, and Matt gets a spare jacket and some boxes to haul and makes for the entrance.
On the inside, he aimlessly starts walking around the hotel looking for clues, and listening on the FBI and security staff. Imaginary Fisk is back again, giving us a window into what Matt is thinking. It is clear that Matt doesn’t really have a plan for what comes next. And, he’s still trying to dissect the logic behind why Fisk would be let out in the first place, arriving at the conclusion that he must have cut a deal.
We go back to the real Fisk who is sitting, oh-so-sad-looking, staring at his wall. The agents in charge watch him on the monitors, while talking about what happened to their colleagues. There is resentment about Fisk getting a penthouse, when they have agents killed and severely injured.
Next, Fisk’s lawyers show up to tell him Vanessa has been located, and that precautions have been taken to keep her safe. It angers him to learn that she’s outside of Barcelona and not some place more exotic, given the risk of extradition, but Ben Donovan points out that Vanessa enjoys the art and can be very insistent. Fisk buys this explanation, briefly seeming to admire his beloved’s strong personality, but warns she’ll be easy prey for the Albanians. He tells his lawyers to get in touch with their contact, Felix Manning, to have her moved some place safer.
Foggy goes to visit District Attorney Blake Towers who is in the middle of his re-election campaign and is trying on suits and preparing a speech. Foggy really wastes no time getting ready to go up against Fisk and wants to inform Towers that he is willing to join whatever effort must certainly be waged to put Fisk back in prison.
Towers is rather dismissive of Foggy, and his concerns. He says he’s objected to the house incarceration and has done everything to fight it (not quite true, as you may recall from episode one). Foggy has already done some digging and says that they might be able to open up a state case to at least put him back behind bars. Towers argues that it’s just not feasible, and that there’s nothing he can do.
Foggy tries one last time to win him over, with moral arguments, and by reminding him of Mrs. Cardenas (from the first season), one of Fisk’s innocent civilian casualties, of which he is convinced there will be many more. Foggy is asked to leave, and tells Towers he’s cancelling his check.
People are still chanting outside, while Matt is wandering the hotel (and let’s be honest, he stands out like a sore thumb). He sits down at the bar and orders coffee. His inner Wilson Fisk joins him once more, and they have an (inner) dialogue about Matt’s options. Fisk is wondering if Matt will bring him back to prison, knowing there is only one way to stop him. When teased that he won’t take that route, Matt muses “You’re sure about that?”
Ben Donovan, on the phone to Felix Manning (presumably) passes behind Matt, and imaginary Fisk convinces him to follow Donovan to the elevator, where he is stopped by none other than Agent Poindexter who asks to see his room key. Matt feigns confusion and pretends to have left his key in the car, while Fisk-in-his-head comes up with ways for Matt to overpower the man in his way.
Agent Nadeem pays a visit to the hospital where his fellow agents are being treated. People are sobbing, and he offers his condolences to some people in the hallway. Ray finds his boss, and they discuss the status of an Agent Andrews. Ray admits to being scared to show his face, but Hattley insists that nobody blames him, and that moving Fisk was ultimately her call. She wants him to see the bigger picture, and that this is what protecting people sometimes looks like. Hattley leaves and Ray hugs his wife who is also at the hospital.
Back at the penthouse, Fisk is gets ready to eat while Dex watches. Fisk tries to strike up a conversation, beginning by thanking the agent for saving his life. He offers his condolences for the lives that were lost, and drones on about how having a loved one dying to save him must be particularly difficult for the families. Dex doesn’t bite, and tells Fisk to finish his meal.
Next, Fisk tries to flatter Dex by pointing out his spectacular talent, though the sentiment is obviously genuine. That gets at least a glance from the agent, but when Fisk asks where he acquired such skill, Dex decides that meal time is over.
We next spend some time with Dex at the therapist’s office. The appointment is mandatory given the ambush of the previous episode where he was personally responsible for shooting a number of attackers. Dex is impatient, and says that what he did would have been applauded if he had been wearing a mask.
After some back and forth, he goes along with the process. The therapist asks if he has a support system to process the stuff he goes through, and Dex mentions a woman named Julie. He says he has dinner with her most nights, and that she – a bartender – is like a professional listener and that he tells her everything. That she never judges him.
Matt, who has now spent most of the episode in and around the hotel, has now made it to the parking garage and is hiding in Donovan’s car. When the latter gets in, Matt loops a rope around his neck and forces him to tell Matt why Fisk flipped on the Albanians. Donovan does his best to play coy, but Matt wants to know what Fisk is getting out of this, aside from a sweet deal with the FBI. Donovan then says it all has to do with Vanessa, that the feds will drop all charges against her. Matt seems doubtful, but Donovan’s heartbeat checks out.
When other agents approach, Matt slips out of the car, and begins an extended cat and mouse game of hiding from, sneaking up on, and taking out agents one by one. He finally ends up in a one against many brawl with shots fired, but ultimately ends up on top. Imaginary Fisk shows up again and goads him into taking his rage out on the agents. Fisk reminds him that he’s going to lose everyone he loves.
At the Bulletin, Karen is chastised by Ellison for refusing to let the Fisk story go, telling her that she was spotted at the hotel by the colleague he assigned the story to. Karen goes on the defensive and tells him that she was actually there for her story. The Kazemis used to own the hotel, but Karen is pretty sure the hotel is now owned by Wilson Fisk. Specifically, it’s own through nested shell companies that are all represented by Fisk’s law firm. The hotel was sold by Mr. Kazemi a few months ago, but when he publicly announced his intention to buy it back, he was attacked. Karen is preparing a story, but an impressed Ellison still wants to give it to her colleague Mason. Karen is angry, but ultimately doesn’t care about the credit. All she cares about is that Fisk got out of prison.
Matt is back at the church, rinsing off his bloody fists. Sister Maggie comes to help take care of the wounds, while the two have a conversation about whether it’s possible for people to change. Matt says he believes that people are born the way they are. Maggie seems to think Matt is talking about himself, but he is referring mainly to Wilson Fisk. Matt thinks that Fisk is incapable of change, and that the FBI don’t know him like he does. When asked what he’s going to do, Matt openly contemplates stopping him for good this time.
Dex, nursing a bottle of pills behind the wheel of his car, watches a young redheaded woman, whom we immediately assume is Julie, lock up the bar where she works and head across the street to a pizza place. Dex takes out a monocular and keeps watching her from afar. She orders the kind of pizza that Dex previously told the therapist was her favorite. Clearly, this is the kind of relationship that only one of them knows they are in.
Foggy is drinking alone at a bar. He sees a brochure for Blake Towers re-election campaign, crumples it into a ball and throws it away in disgust. Suddenly, Matt is behind him and whispers his name. Foggy looks up in disbelief, saying “This isn’t real.” Matt, looking pretty tortured, confirms that it is. They hug, but Matt remains pretty subdued, and asks Foggy to take a seat. He insists that he’s not back, and that Matt Murdock isn’t going to be a part of him anymore. The only reason he came back was to warn Foggy and Karen that Fisk is out and that they’re both in danger.
Matt says that he’s had a rough couple of months, and been questioning the point of it all. But, since last night, it’s clear to him that he’s going to find a way to bring Fisk down, but need for Foggy and Karen to be safe in order to do that. He needs for them to stay out of it and leave it to him. Foggy won’t have it. He’s not going to promise to stay out of it. Matt then says that he was wrong to become Foggy’s friend; that it was selfish of him to put him in danger. He won’t make that mistake again, and says that they’re over.
Foggy, seriously hurt, tells Matt there’s something wrong with him. Matt casually agrees, and finishes by once again telling Foggy to stay clear of Fisk and to not tell Karen that they’ve met.
Matt steps outside and shows the audience a less cold-hearted version of himself. He lets out a deep sigh, and takes Foggy’s pick-pocketed wallet out of his coat jacket. He runs his thumb over Foggy’s bar association ID.
Meanwhile, Matt has ended up on Fisk’s radar. Donovan reports back to Fisk on what happened in the garage. He says that he wasn’t in the red suit, but it was “him.” Fisk turns to the window, and says “So, the Devil is back.”
This is yet another really strong episode. And, perhaps even more than the previous two episodes it manages to do quite a lot with everybody’s storylines without any of it seeming rushed. On the contrary, we are offered long scenes of things like Karen having dinner at her boss’s house and Matt exploring Fisk’s hotel, that would seem almost indulgent if it weren’t for the fact that every single scene serves a purpose.
In the case of the scene with Karen, it tells us something about her (close) relationship with Mitchell Ellison, and how he perceives her (not happy). We also learn a little bit more about who she was before we first met her in season one. She was going to be an English major, before something (which we’ll of course learn about in a later episode) apparently threw her off course. And of course, the painful memory of her brother is brought back. These are the kinds of scenes there just wouldn’t be time for in a movie, because, while hardly “filler,” they’re not absolutely essential. They’re a luxury.
In the vein of more “show” than “tell,” we see Fisk settling into his new home. The way they’ve shot him stepping into the shower, contrasting that with the ankle monitor and the prison-like demands is really nice, and the flash-back scene to the aftermath of the ambush is impressive as well. It’s got a perfect rushed feeling to it, where Fisk is very much a package being delivered, with everyone around him busy doing their jobs.
On this topic, I also want to talk briefly about Fisk’s lawyer, Ben Donovan (also known in the Marvel 616 universe as “Big Ben”). Donovan, played by Danny Johnson, may not be a member of the core cast, but is one of those great supporting characters who adds to this sense of the world we are in. Completely unscrupulous, he cares more about the letter of the law than the spirit in which laws were written. I just love such throwaway lines as “My client is not implying that he knows how to reach a wanted fugitive.”
Speaking of character moments, and supporting characters. Marci is back and very supportive of Foggy who is really going through a hard time. While Karen is worse at hiding how Matt’s “death” has affected her, Foggy is better than she is at putting on a brave face. It’s probably only Marci who knows how much he’s mourning his friend, and how guilty he feels about it. He’s mentioned it to Karen, certainly, but with her he’s taken on the role of the level-headed one.
This is a very strong episode for Foggy overall, which is why I’m naming him the “star player” this time around. The competition is tight, sure, but Foggy wastes no time at all doing whatever he can to put Fisk back where he belongs. By the time he shows up to speak with Blake Towers, he’s already done his homework on ways to undo what the FBI did. Which is why it’s such an insult when Matt comes to warn him and tell him to walk away. For both Foggy and Karen, the business with Fisk is just as personal as it is for Matt.
Speaking of guilt, Ray is swimming in it this episode. He doesn’t have a lot of screen time, but what we do see of him is pretty heartbreaking. From the aftermath of the ambush, and his confrontation with Karen outside the hotel, to his walk of shame at the hospital, there is this strong sense of failure. Going forward, we know that he has a vested interest in making sure that moving Fisk will ultimately be worth the sacrifice.
Agent Benjamin “Dex” Poindexter gets his first proper introduction this episode. Fisk is already starting to try to tease out who he is, obviously impressed by his conduct during the ambush. So far though, Dex isn’t biting.
But there is something off about him, and that’s probably clear even to those who are not familiar with his story in the comics. His scene with the therapist, specifically when he starts talking about a “Julie,” immediately got me thinking: “I wonder if Julie knows they are in a relationship?” My suspicions were confirmed when, toward the end of the episode, Dex is sitting in his car waiting for a woman to get off work and go to get her usual pizza slice across the street. He knows her favorite pizza and, apparently, every detail of her routine. I love how this is set up.
I said that Foggy is good at putting on a game face. Karen is a good example of the opposite. When Fisk is released she is like Foggy in that she runs right for that bone and refuses to let go. But Karen also projects this intense, rushed energy that makes her lose her cool at times.
While I’ve always felt that Deborah Ann Woll does a good enough job playing Karen, I have to admit I didn’t quite recognize her brilliance until this season. Seeing Karen, barely containing her rage, mock Agent Nadeem about what items might be on Fisk’s menu, reveals a much more interesting side to her character. She was always reluctant to back down, but now she does it with this increased energy that really grabs the viewers’ attention. Woll has a a great handle on this version of Karen.
Seeing Karen act the way she does in this episode also reminds the viewer of ways in which she’s similar to Matt. Of course, Matt has never allowed himself to look at any of his friends too closely, and that informs a lot of his actions. Between this basic tendency of his and his shaky mental state (more on that below), you can kind of understand why he believes that he is the only one with any legitimate claim to Fisk – and the only one with any real agency. It’s this kind of arrogance that makes him so lonely.
Given where Matt’s head is, I think it was a brilliant move by the writers to have him seem so emotionally cold during his reunion with Foggy. The latter clocks Matt as being completely bonkers, which is a prerequisite for Foggy ending the encounter more concerned than angry. When Matt says that “Matt Murdock isn’t going to be a part of me anymore,” it’s already starting to sound ridiculous to everyone (including the viewers), except Matt himself.
Before getting into the specifics of Matt’s mental state, I just want to give to thumbs up to how he’s handled throughout the episode. But, there are a couple of “Matt ex machina” moments, where Matt inexplicably shows up someplace without us knowing how.
I mentioned this issue in my previous review, and it is by no means a new phenomenon, but Matt is literally the only character that has any of these moments. My first example of this from this episode is when Matt is shown waiting in Donovan’s car, while we know he first has to find it, then get inside it. You can easily solve this problem by having him hide out, wait for Donovan, then sneak into the back seat of the right car when he hears it unlock. I will even buy that he smelled his way to the right car to save himself som time. But we honestly have no idea and he isn’t carrying anything he could use to open a car door.
A ten-second peak at what happens before this scene would have fixed this issue, and it is clearly fixable. The same thing goes for how Matt shows up at the bar where Foggy is (which isn’t Josie’s). We can assume that Matt followed him, that’s the most reasonable explanation, but the briefest of peaks at this would have made the writing even stronger.
Generally though, these are nitpicks on my part. The entire sequence of how Matt shows up at the hotel, manages to sneak inside, and spends much of the episode roaming about talking to his inner Wilson Fisk may sound banal when described this way, but it’s a wonderful character study. Very nicely done.
I guess this is the episode where Matt is getting better and worse, at the same time. While we never get the sense that Matt believes he’s having an actual conversation with Fisk – he knows these are his own thoughts – it’s unclear of whether he’s talking to himself out loud. He might be for all we know.
At the same time, it is Fisk’s release that actually brings Matt back into the world, and gives him a mission. This is not a bad thing, even though Matt’s ideas about what to do, and how he’s the only one to do it, are pretty messed up. (Also, does he really think that Foggy doesn’t know that Fisk was released, or is the whole reunion only a ruse in order to steak Foggy’s wallet?)
Of course, underneath this stern, single-minded focus lies a more heartbreaking truth. All of those conversations happening in Matt’s head are his thoughts. When Fisk says things like “They all died because of you, Matthew,” “Everything that’s happened since you refused to kill me is on you,” or “You’ll never keep Karen safe,” that’s all Matt thinking those things to himself.
He must really think of himself as this toxic person who can never allow himself real relationships for fear that he’ll ruin people’s lives. And when the people around him are clearly signaling to him that they think he’s worth it, he refuses to believe that they are the best judges of their own self-interest. It’s a perfect storm of arrogance and self-loathing.
Matt’s conversations with Maggie have matured though. He does confide in her, and probably assumes that her connection to him doesn’t put her in jeopardy. In their one scene together this episode, Matt returns to the theme of nature versus nurture: “I think we come into this world who we are. And maybe we get a little nicer. Or a little angrier. But we can’t change our fundamental nature.”
While he’s certainly not wrong in suggesting that people are not born as blank slates (anyone who has observed young children display distinct personalities will know this), Matt’s views on the topic seem to frame this inner nature as more of an innate curse than as a broad set of predispositions and temperamental tendencies that interact with the outside world. He claims to be talking about Fisk, but when he stresses that people might get “a little angrier,” it sounds as if he’s talking about himself. Is this some small admission that life’s circumstances may have made him angrier than he might have been?
Aside from those instances that I’ve referred to as “Matt ex machina” above (which are really more storytelling glitches than anything that necessarily have to do with Matt’s senses), this is a really good episode from a senses perspective. There’s nothing that strikes me as overblown, and a lot of interesting details.
I guess the most talked-about aspect of this, when it comes to this episode and the following one, is that Matt sets out to investigate Fisk while pretending he can see. This is no small challenge for an actor. Charlie Cox, while not obscuring his own vision, has to play a character who is blind with heightened senses, pretending to be sighted. Among other things, he has to act out trying to look people in the eye without actually looking them in the eye. That’s a lot of layers.
The way Charlie, as Matt, cleverly solves this problem is by just looking super-distracted. (And you kind of have to wonder, between Matt’s eyes being all over the place and his scruffy clothes, whether Dex, who stops him at the elevator might suspect that he’s high on something.) There’s also the clever use of a hotel brochure that Matt pretends to read.
I like that you also get a sense that there is real risk involved in this endeavor, though this is even more obvious in the next episode. Depending on the circumstances, Matt can get away with this ruse for any length of time. When I’ve suggested in the past that pretending to be sighted is not something he can do consistently for any length of time, I’m not talking about the casual encounters on display in this episode. But, this is still risky. Matt messes up the code on his first go (which may or may not be because he misjudges whether the number keys start at the top of the key pad), and he’s got not clue what a “BNC” is. Of course, this likely has as much to do with the fact that it’s a specialty term that lies outside his field of expertise, but this situation could just as easily have hinged on something else where his blindness might have been the main issue. Either way, the whole thing is well-played by everyone involved.
Ray Nadeem: “Good men died tonight. You will make their sacrifice mean something.
Marci: “What was it this time? Laughing Matt?” Foggy: [shakes head] “Body Matt.” Marci: “Foggy Bear!”
(Imaginary) Fisk: “Wouldn’t that be something? If I became more valuable to this city than you ever were?”
Foggy: “The Wilson Fisk case. I want to provide my complete, unmitigated, fully caffeinated support.”
(Imaginary) Fisk: “You can’t kill me. You can’t even kill yourself.”
Fisk: “You saved my life last night.” Dex: “Yeah, we all make mistakes.”
Ellison: “You know, it took Ben decades to become this much of a pain in my ass.
Sister Maggie: So, you’re suggesting God set a dangerous mobster free just to spite you? Matt: “Nah. Probably just a coincidence. Sister Maggie: “Because that would be incredibly narcissistic.”
Yup, I’m going to have to go with Foggy. While this applies to Karen too – though even more so in later episodes – Foggy is proactive and just as interested in taking down Wilson Fisk as Matt is. And, he’s not afraid to tell his friend that. His baffled, almost disgusted, “No!” when Matt tells him to back down from Fisk is spot on. Why would he? How is Fisk any less of an enemy to Foggy than he is to Matt? He isn’t, and Foggy knows that.
We also get to see a softer side to Foggy, at home with Marci. The fact that he has nightmares about Matt’s “death,” apparently common enough that he and his girlfriend actually have code names for the different dreams, is beautiful and tragic. But way to go Foggy in creating a life for yourself, even if – as seen both here and in the previous episode – it isn’t quite what you imagined.
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.
Okay, gang! It’s time to start tackling these reviews again. Old friends of this site know the drill, for those who are new, the format I always follow is this: We start with a longish, and fairly detailed Recap. These are honestly more for posterity, or for people who need to refresh their memory before commenting on a particular scene. If you have this episode fresh in your memory, you can easily jump straight to the review portion of the post.
The review portion always consists of the sections My thoughts, Senses watch, Easter egg watch, Quotes, and Star player. Senses watch is where I analyze the use of Matt’s senses in each of the episodes. It’s me, how could I not? The others are pretty self-explanatory.
For season one, though not season two, I also had a segment called Accessible gadget watch, but since there’s virtually nothing to report on that front (except a single text message read aloud in one of the later episodes), I’m obviously scrapping that. Instead, I’m adding a new section I’m jokingly going to call Matt’s thoughts. Because Matt’s arc isn’t always easy to follow this season, and my own opinon on it changed pretty dramatically (for the better) between first and second viewings, I thought I’d take a swing at tracking what exactly is going on in that noggin’ of his as the show progresses.
Crystal clear? Let’s get going!
Matt is seen being thrown, very angel-like upward (downward?, to the side?) during the collapse of Midland Circle and is pulled out through a drainage pipe that takes him to the surface. The less we think about the details of this particular scene, the better. Either way, he is eventually discovered by a passing cab driver. Barely conscious, he asks for Father Lantom at Clinton Church.
Next, we find Matt is at the church, there is a distinct underwater effect at work and the agitated voices of of Father Lantom and Maggie are heard, distantly, in the background. When Maggie is told who he is, she interrupts her 911 call and agrees to treat him there.
Matt, still just semi-conscious remembers Elektra and his last moments with her. As he comes to, and Maggie is called for, he asks about Elektra, and where he is. In response, he is told that he is at St. Agnes and that he’s been there several weeks. Matt keeps pushing for information about Elektra. (I’ve decided to assume he’s been going in and out of consciousness, since there is no life support equipment and he cannot have gone without food and drink for weeks.)
Against the nuns’ orders, Matt tries to stand, while complaining about his right ear, and falls off the bed. He exclaims that “He can’t see” and echoes of young Matt shouting the same thing are heard before we cut to the intro.
We get back to the show, and Matt tries to assess the damage to his body when Father Lantom shows up to speak with him. Matt is noticeably distressed by the fact that he didn’t notice the priest coming in. Father Lantom explains why he brought Matt to this place and assures him the nuns can be trusted. He offers Matt communion, or a friendly ear, but Matt is still wondering about Elektra. Lantom obviously doesn’t know about her resurrection, but doesn’t object when Matt tries to explain. Matt is told that no one else was seen leaving the building, and he dismisses Lantom’s second offer of communion. Lantom reminds him that it truly is a miracle that he survived, but a distraught Matt indicates that he is not interested in one of their usual conversations about God.
Some indeterminate time later, Matt is approached by a couple of the children from the orphanage who are asking him questions. Matt acknowledges that he grew up there, same as them, when Maggie arrives and tells them to leave. Maggie is there to tend to his wounds, adding that she’ll do it “preferably without you flailing around like an idiot.” Maggie, in trying to make sense of what she knows about the new patient under her care, notes that she shouldn’t be surprised and that she remembers Matt’s anger. At the time, she clearly saw it as a natural response to his circumstances. This leads to a brief conversation about The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen and whether Matt really is blind. She gets a bit of sarcasm from Matt before he explains that the accident that blinded him sharpened his other senses. However, he is now deaf in his right ear and, as he puts it, “can’t even walk to the bathroom right now.” Maggie assures him that he’ll be back on his feet, whether he can do backflips or not, but also suggests that he needs to leave as soon as he’s able. When asked if there is anyone she can call, he responds that there is no one.
This provides a nice segue to one of those supposed “no ones,” as we cut to Karen on her way to Matt’s apartment, finishing up att call to the paper. She knocks before entering, in the vain hope that someone will be home, and picks up the latest of Matt’s bills to add to the growing piles on Matt’s coffee table. We now get a flashback to when Matt told her he was Daredevil, at the end of season two. Next, we cut back to present-day Karen who takes a look at the empty chest that used to hold Matt’s Daredevil suit, before we are being treated to another flashback to what happened after the reveal scene, a conversation between Matt and Karen that took place at his apartment:
We see Karen entering Matt’s apartment and walking past him over to the window. She asks if he can see her. Matt says “no, not see exactly.” He says it’s different, and that he thinks it’s better. Karen prods him for a better answer and he explains that he can sense things about her, mentioning that he knows where she went just before she came to see him – “their” Indian place – explaining all the details he can pick up on. Karen says she feels humiliated, and they both agree that she has every right to be angry.
For Karen, this is complicated by the fact that Daredevil has saved her life. She says she’s been playing it over and over, asking herself how she could be that mad at someone who’d saved her. Matt is very understanding and knows he broke her trust. He offers her a drink, and she nods commenting that, of course, he knew she nodded, as he goes to get it. She asks if the “cane thing” is just an act and Matt admits that it is, and apologizes. This sets off another round of questions from Karen about why he didn’t trust her, and whether he thought she would judge him, especially when she didn’t judge Frank. Matt comments that maybe she should be judging Frank, and that while he doesn’t know what motivates people, he knows when he’s being lied to.
Matt promises that he will never lie to her again and, when asked, directs Karen to the suit in his closet. He promises that it’s over and that he’s going to leave Daredevil behind. She draws a subtle comparison between his past behavior and that of an addict, and how Matt and Foggy nearly had her convinced that Matt had a drinking problem. Matt finally puts her hand on his heart once again assures her that he doesn’t need Daredevil to be a part of his life anymore. Karen wisely points out that Daredevil may not be the problem.
Back in the present, Karen is joined by Foggy. He is under the impression that they would be packing the place up when Karen admits she asked him there under false pretenses, and that what she really needs help with is talking to the landlord about getting an extension, as Matt is being evicted. Unbeknownst to Foggy, Karen has been paying Matt’s rent since his disappearance.
Foggy sits the two of them down on the couch and tries to talk some sense into Karen, asking her to look at the facts of what happened and come to terms with the fact that Matt is dead. Foggy admits he doesn’t want to accept it either, especially since he feels guilty for bringing Matt the suit. Karen comforts Foggy, and then admits that she’s being irrational but that she can just “feel” that he’s not dead. They agree to split the bills.
Back at the church, Matt is being pushed in a wheelchair by Father Lantom and Sister Maggie. They are moving him to new sleeping quarters underneath the chapel (currently on loan to the local mosque). Everything viewed from Matt’s perspective still looks blurry and sounds as if it’s happening under water. Father Lantom apologizes for the place smelling a bit musty, but Matt drily responds that he can’t smell anything anyway. Maggie notes that the space is also the laundry room and will be noisy at times. Matt sarcastically responds that he can always turn a deaf ear to it, which Maggie counters with a bit of snark of her own.
Matt once again dismisses Father Lantom’s offer to talk, but decides he wants to stay up a while. Maggie shows him where the bed and the call button are and comments on his attitude, jokingly noting that maybe he doesn’t actually have any friends. Matt talks about Stick’s motto, that caring for people would make him weak, for which Maggie once again has a flippant response you would never expect from a nun.
Equipped with a walking cane for his limp, Matt starts exploring the space and finds his childhood braille Bible. This takes us into a conversation about religion, and Matt says that he has finally learned where he and God stand, and that he has now seen his true face. Matt tells the story from the Book of Job and ends with declaring Job a “pussy.” Matt says that he too believed he was God’s soldier. Sister Maggie gives him her crucifix which he flings to the end of the bed. Maggie insists that while Matt may hate God now, the feeling is not mutual. Matt says that it’s simply the case that he’s seen God’s true face now. He also says that he does have friends and people he cares about, but is choosing to let them believe that he is gone because he is. He knows his truth now, that in front of this God, he would rather die as the Devil than live as Matt Murdock.
We cut to Wilson Fisk cooking one of his trademark omelettes (are we ever going to get a recipe for that?) in a setting that turns out to be a flashback to better times. The setting cleverly changes from a luxurious kitchen to a prison with paper plates when we join Fisk in his current predicament. He yells at his prison mates to be quiet and pushes the omelette to the side as his attorneys enter. They let him know that his appeal is proceeding according to plan, but that his beloved Vanessa is facing criminal charges if she is located, or if she returns to the U.S. Fisk asks them to leave and takes a long hard look at the grey-white wall.
Back at the church, Matt at least tries to explore the space he’s in, snapping his fingers to hear the echoes and trying to look for the surrounding statues with his hands. He then gets overconfident and trips over a low bench. That’s when Maggie joins him and offers him hot toddy, and medicine. Matt complains that he can’t smell anything, that all he can taste is blood and ash. When Matt cracks wise about the pills and alcohol, Maggie calls him out. On finding out that Matt’s symptoms aren’t improving, she tells him to give it time. She then dishes out some hard truths about how he’s feeling sorry for himself when many of the kids in her care, who are worse off than him, are trying to make the most out of life, while he is “bravely” giving up despite his many gifts.
Matt, noticeably annoyed, accuses Maggie of having a simplistic worldview and tells her that she doesn’t know anything about him or his life. Maggie says she knows self-pity when she sees it and reminds him of his father, “famous around here,” who would go down many times, but always got back up. She leaves, and Matt lays down on his bed and listens to the sirens in the distance, looking infinitely sad.
What looks to be the following morning, Matt walks over to the sink and accidentally knocks down a neti pot from the shelf. This gives him the idea to rinse out his sinuses, which dislodges a whole shit show (pardon my French) of blood and mucus. When he touches the sink, and then the mirror, he notices that he can sense the vibrations trough hard surfaces. Running around the area, his sense of space is coming back. We see him getting back in shape through a sequence of scenes in which he is doing pushups, and practicing his boxing using laundry bags filled with detergent. When Maggie walks in on him, he frantically talks about all the subway trains he can detect, and correctly identifies the food she’s brought.
Sister Maggie and Father Lantom discuss an idea of hers, that he is not entirely comfortable with. We quickly learn that what she has in mind is a sparring match with another boxer. Maggie says it’s the only thing that’s getting him out of bed, and that he needs to know he’s still got it. Lantom arranges to have a sparring partner brought in and Matt refuses to wear protection, in order to hear and feel everything. His opponent is a little taken aback when he realizes he’ll be fighting a blind guy, but the two go at it with Matt holding his own until his hearing once again betrays him, after a blow to his bad ear, and takes away his spatial awareness. Matt goes down in defeat.
Sitting on his bed later, Maggie tries to cheer him up. This time when she puts her crucifix around his neck, he lets it stay on. At this point, Matt seems more sad than angry and acknowledges that Maggie has been very kind to him. The two joke about how others might think she’s gone soft. They talk about Matt’s stiches and how he used to stich up his dad. Before leaving, she asks him to come to mass with her but he asks for a raincheck.
After listening in to the music above for a while, Matt digs out some scraps of fabric from the laundry room and takes to the streets, climbing on top of the church to listen to what’s happening in his city. He doesn’t have to wait long to hear screams for help.
We cut to a scene of Matt interrupting a kidnapping. The victims get away but Matt stays and fights. And he does so longer than he needs to. In fact, when they fight is over and the perpetrators are ready to leave, he finds a metal pipe and throws it to them, striking a pose that invites them to keep hitting him, all while muttering “God forgive me.” When the police sirens draw close they walk away, leaving Matt still very much alive and waiting in vain for that final blow.
We now cut to two new characters, Ray Nadeem and his wife Seema who are in the kitchen for a family event. When Ray asks for more turkey, Seema tells him that none of their credit cards work anymore, and the atmosphere gets a bit tense before they are interrupted by their son Sami. Their conversation after that continues in Hindi, and we learn that their financial troubles are quite serious.
We next learn the cause of the celebration, which is that Ray’s sister-in-law is officially in remission after battling cancer. In his speech in front of his family members, Ray talks about how it hasn’t been easy for them, with their insurance being denied. Words passed between Ray and his brother lets us know that Ray has helped pay for his sister-in-law’s treatment.
A little later, Ray catches his son playing alone outside and finds out that Sami would have preferred to spend the evening at his friend’s house. A friend with a bowling alley in his basement. Ray then promises that their home will be party central in time for summer, when they put a pool in. This exchange is overheard by Seema who is very worried about their finances and suggests taking up extra work. Ray promises to fix everything.
The next morning we see him get his firearm ready and head to work at the FBI where he goes to see his boss Tammy Hatley about his performance review, so that he can get his much-delayed promotion. He learns that the reason it’s been put off has to do with his finances, as his debt situation puts him at risk for recruitment. Hatley says she’s sorry, but can’t do anything to help. Though while he’s there, he gets sent to carry out the bureau’s regular visit to Wilson Fisk, in prison.
At the prison, Fisk has something to say that, at first, sounds threatening. He asks Ray whether he’s got anyone in his life he’d do anything to protect. It turns out that Fisk is ready to make a deal in exchange for Vanessa’s safety, and that he would do anything to protect her.
I noticed that some of the early reviewers were pretty divided on this first episode. Some loved it, others found it slow. Personally, I really liked it. It may be a brave creative move to spend this much time on dialogue, in a show that usually features quite a bit of action, but I found these longer scenes absolutely necessary.
One thing I’ve occasionally missed in earlier seasons has been the room to just let characters breathe and have conversations with each other that feel a bit more like real life, while also conveying information about who they are. Luke Cage, for instance, occasionally got a bit too slow (especially in the first season), but it never seemed to worry about boring readers with what I thought were reasonable amounts of exposition, with characters just talking to each other for a few minutes.
So much has happened since season two of Daredevil, especially with the dramatic events of The Defenders, that everyone needs some catching up at this point.
It is wonderful that we’re being treated to full flashback scene to when Karen found out about Matt, and I also love the scene that she had with Foggy. After season two, it seemed like they would not be seeing much of each other either, but on display here is a warm and caring friendship. We see a new side to Foggy overall this season, one that is more in line with the character we recognize from the comics.
So, let’s talk about that Karen reveal scene. I know that so many fans had been wishing for that scene, and missed seeing it in The Defenders. Considering that Daredevil’s audience likely dwarfs that of The Defenders, saving such a crucial scene for this season made perfect sense. Is it good? It is. It is not everything I would have wanted, but I’m mostly satisfied with it. The “I can just sense stuff” example (more on that below) was a pretty good one, and they also did a good job of portraying Karen’s ambivalence at being lied to by a man that’s saved her life, not once, but twice.
What I don’t understand, and this applies just as much to the Foggy reveal scene in season one as well, is why he doesn’t take the opportunity to casually mention something he can’t do, or say something that makes “the act” seem more forgivable, and the situation more complex. You could, of course, argue that that would seem like he’s deflecting responsibility for his deceit, and I’d buy that.
However, I also genuinely feel that there are legitimate reasons for why going “full blind guy” is the only sustainable way of hiding heightened senses that would otherwise invite all kinds of unwanted attention. It’s not as if he could have gone through college and law school pretending he can see. (I also feel somewhat obligated to point out that while I agree completely that Matt obviously doesn’t need a cane for mobility reasons, there are other reasons for carrying a white cane that I’ll have to come back to next episode because it contains a scene that kind of illustrates this point.)
I’m giving Sister Maggie “star player” status this episode (see below), and her addition to the cast is spectacular. I’ll be honest, I am one of those people who thinks that Matt’s Catholicism in all his live action ventures is overblown compared to how this subject matter is treated in the comics (anyone who has read a lot of Daredevil outside of the most famous runs will know that there is no mention of religion in the vast majority of the issues, and Born Again deals more with religious themes than Matt’s personal faith).
Having said that, I do think that the religious elements have been well-handled in this show thus far and have really added to the overall quality of the story. This trend continuous in the first episode of this season. Sister Maggie and Father Lantom both paint a very sympathetic picture of clergy that even this agnostic-by-default Swede can get behind. The conversations between Matt and his two caretakers are used to explore universal themes and finding one’s personal purpose, more than debating scripture. That works well here.
This first episode also does a good job of setting up newcomer Ray Nadeem and his family. It is always a challenge to introduce new characters into a universe of known players and make people care about them, but Ray’s predicament, as well as his basic humanity, is communicated effectively. As soon as I saw what he was up against, I suspected that he might be a Detective Manolis type character in this story. Since I’m not giving away spoilers for upcoming episodes, I’m not going to give any indication here of where his story takes him.
Fisk has relatively little to do in this first episode, except eating prison omelette, but the scenes he is in are eminently watchable. There is the controlled reaction to the news about Vanessa, and his terrifying encounter with Agent Nadeem where he offers them a deal. It’s really quite fascinating how threatening Fisk can be while simply having a conversation. He’s like a barely contained box of explosives next to a spark.
So, what about Matt? Well, I’m saving him for last, since there’s a lot to talk about in terms of what happens this episide. Some of what’s going on in his head, we’ll save for the section below. This first thing to say here is just was a gem of an actor we have in Charlie Cox. His scenes are always well-acted, and his physical range is just insane.
Many people talk about his fighting chops, and rightly so, but portaying Matt Murdock in any scene always requires constant attention to what his body is doing. How is his posture? What is his head doing? Where are his eyes looking? You get what I mean. For an excellent example of this, look no further than the boxing scene, and observe the change that happens when his bad ear blanks out on him again. He embodies this completely.
There’s also that emotional change that takes place as he oscillates between anger and resentment, on the one hand, and genuine despair on the other. It seems Cox was ready to take on the challenge of “make Matt look sadder than we’ve ever seen him before” and run with it.
So where is Matt’s head this episode? Well, I think the first thing to realize about Matt’s state of mind is that he has just survived what should have been certain death after having put all of his eggs in the same basket. At the end of season two, there was an abyss between him and everyone in his life that continued, despite attempts to make amends and a minimum of hard feelings, throughout The Defenders. For all intents and purposes, Matt had set up a separate life, and severed most of his ties to the life he associates with “Matt Murdock.”
When Elektra appeared again (*sigh*) and turned his head around once more, it was like driving over a cliff. And you don’t really make plans for surviving that dive, do you? And when you do, having cracked all the eggs in your proverbial basket, you’re bound to be confused. And, as far as “Matt Murdock” is concerned, if that life is only defined by those who knew him as such, and they all think he’s dead, it may make some kind of weird sense for Matt to think of that part of himself as dead. As in, civilian Matt Murdock only exists within the context of those relationships. Consequently, only “Daredevil” – this symbolic manifestation of Matt’s perceived purpose, stripped of all normal human attachments – remains.
This place is already a terrible place to be. When Matt realizes that he may no longer be able to do many of the things his heightened senses used to allow, it creates a perfect storm that completely fractures his sense of self and his role in the world. I will admit to being wary when the first teaser came out, with Matt saying that he’d rather die as the Devil than live as Matt Murdock. In this episode, there is a context for that statement, because it comes right after he talks about his new relationship with God, and he puts a distinct emphasis on the word “this”: “…in front of this God I’d rather die as the Devil than live as Matt Murdock.” It’s almost as if he’s sticking it to God. If this new and ugly-faced God has decided that the life he left behind is the only one that is compatible with a life without his sensory endowments, then “screw that.” Pretty much.
This anger gradually wanes and gives room to a profound sadness. This happens after Matt gets some of his senses back, and his hope is beginning to come back to him, but finds that he’s fragile. That a smack across the head from his sparring partner is enough to temporarily rob him of his ability to detect objects around him. It is at this point he actually turns suicidal. It is truly heartbreaking to watch. Though is there perhaps some part of him that can at least see it as a sign that his would-be killers are chased away at the last minute.
Generally though, we do have to look at Matt as someone who is, to some extent delusional. Not in the sense that he is psychotic, but that he is trapped in a kind twisted mindset that is not uncommon in someone who is suffering from a deep depression. There are legitimate reasons for his grief, but his despair takes him a few steps beyond that.
So, obviously a lot to comment on in this episode. First of all, the depiction of Matt’s sense of being under water and cut off from the things around him is done exceptionally well. If you listen to this episode in stereo, you can tell that the sound on his right side is gone. How brilliant is that?
And how brilliant is if of the writer (in this case, showrunner Erik Oleson himself) to destroy Matt’s “radar sense” by making him deaf in one ear? It’s fantastic. It’s one of the most insightful creative decisions regarding Matt’s senses of the entire show, going back to the very first season. As a nice side effect, it also cements the idea that the “radar” really is echolocation on steroids, which is by far my favorite interpretation of the radar sense. (And I’m saying this as someone who has written a ridiculous amount about Daredevil’s radar sense.)
Lose one ear, and the brain loses its ability to extract sound source information using the so-called interaural time difference, and the interaural level difference. These refer to the the slight difference between the time it takes for a sound, at either side of the midline, to reach each ear, as well as the difference in sound pressure (volume) at each ear. Given how crucial every single single spatial cue that can be extracted from sound would have to be, losing two such major cues would absolutely be enough to collapse Matt’s sense of where objects are and the space they occupy. Very, very nicely done.
I’m a little more perplexed by the scene where Matt regains his ability to sense the vibrations around him by touch. I’m thinking that he never lost that in the first place, but by getting that gunk out of his nasal cavity, he is able to help coax his hearing back “online” by pairing his restored hearing with vibrations he can feel. That’s the only way I can make sense of it, even though it’s a compelling scene overall.
What about what he tells Karen in the reveal scene? That he can smell the curry on her (on her clothes, not from something she’s eaten), and taste the Jameson on her lips. Yup, this all checks out. The smell of curry would manifest itself differently clinging to her clothes than if she had been eating it. I would argue that he’s smelling rather than tasting the whiskey though, but these senses tend to blend together anyway so it totally works. Nice example.
Easter egg watch
In terms of imagery, we obviously have the scene of Matt at the top of the church, arms wrapped around the cross which is very recognizable.
Another scene that many people may have missed that is also straight out of the comics (I’m expanding this category to including everything that counts as fan service from the comics) is at the beginning, when Matt wakes up and falls out of bed. This is very similar to a scene of him, also falling out of bed, from Daredevil #170, after he discovers he’s lost his radar sense.
Orphan: “Damn, what happened to you?” Matt: “Life.” (Mentioned here because Matt sounds so much like an emo 16-year-old, it’s actually quite funny)
Foggy: “What, so when you asked me to help you move boxes…” Karen: “Uh, yeah I lied. I mean, technically, it was more of, like, a ruse. Foggy: Gotcha. You rused. Karen: Hmm. Foggy: Journalism has changed you, Page.
Matt: “You know what I realized? Job was a pussy.”
Matt: “I am what I do in the dark now. I bleed for no one but myself.”
Maggie: “What you said about rather dying as the Devil than living as Matt Murdock… I just want you to know that I think you’re a hero. Hiding down here, feeling sorry for yourself. I mean, just out back, there’s an orphanage full of kids who’ve lost everything and everyone. Some of them are disabled, much worse off than you ever were. And they’re still trying to make the most out of life, the little cowards.”
Maggie: Hands should be used for God’s work. Matt: Yeah? That’s why he made me this way? Maggie: No. That’s why he made boxing
Do I need to say it? It’s Sister Maggie, without at doubt. I love her character this season, and she is much more interesting than she ever was in the comics. In this episode in particular, she challenges Matt’s world view, cuts him no slack, and stays firmly grounded when Matt is all drama. Joanne Whalley is a perfect casting choice, and I love that her take on the character challenges the notion of how nuns are supposed to act and think. Bravo!
Spoiler warning: I’m writing this after having watched all thirteen episodes of Marvel’s Daredevil. While I won’t go too far into specifics, I still advice against reading further if you still have a few episodes to go. Full spoilers allowed in the comment section.
Note: I’ve also made some edits to this text since first posting it.
Update: After seeing the season for the second time, I’ve come around completely about Matt’s arc. I really tried to pay attention to it the second time around, and I get it now.
Rather than go back and change something I’ve written, which is unwise, I’ll do another post on just his arc at some point. First though, I’ll get to my individual episode reviews starting tomorrow.
By a “fortunate” combination of a cold that kept me home from work (yes, the cold was real…) and living in a good time zone (the show dropped at 9 AM in most of Western Europe), I have actually finished watching Daredevil season three already. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to go into reviews of individual episodes right away or do a “first thoughts” post, but the mood struck so here we are.
I have mostly positive things to say about his season. In fact, this is the first time I’ve watched a season of Daredevil and felt this good about it right afterwards. You might recall that I only came to love season one after a rewatch and some time to digest the missteps. I’m still not entirely over the last third of season two, despite being impressed with that season’s overall level of quality. Season three of Daredevil, on the other hand, is the best-paced and most satisfying season of anything to come out of the Marvel/Netflix collaboration, topping the first season of The Punisher (yes, even as a Daredevil fan, I rank that above the first two seasons of Daredevil).
In my first comment on Twitter, after finishing the season, I rated it as 96% perfect. Maybe that was a bit of a stretch, but I still mostly stand by that. And I’m curious to see how I feel after rewatching, something which has always heightened my overall appreciation for this show in the past.
There is some fantastic character growth happening this season. Fisk is menacing in a visceral way, and Foggy and Karen come into their own in ways that deserve a standing ovation. Sister Maggie is a fantastic addition to the cast (though I was actually a bit disappointed that they went the “expected” route with her origin after hinting that we wouldn’t). Father Lantom had an insanely strong comeback and both Bullseye and Ray Nadeem were great and fully fleshed-out additions to the cast. Oh, and we got to see more of Jack Murdock and young Matt, respectively. I loved that!
Most of the Marvel/Netflix shows have had issues with pacing, as well as bits and pieces that feel like filler. That is not the case with season three of Daredevil. The eleven hours and change flew by, and I didn’t want it to end.
This season also has a more drawn-out ending than previous seasons, and I mean that in a very good way. Sure, there are climactic things happening in the final episode, but the creative team makes full use of the “long movie” format and seem to realize that the final twenty minutes are not to a very long “movie” what they are to an actual movie that runs for just over two hours.
This is a big step up from earlier productions that have suffered from being forced to sputter along while saving this one major showdown for the finale. In this case, the “sputtering” feels fun and meaningful all the way through.
So far, I haven’t really mentioned Matt, and there’s a reason for that. Charlie Cox does a fanstastic job playing him, as usual, and I honestly can’t imagine anyone else in the role at this point. His arc, however, is by far the least satisfying and this is pretty much the entire reason I’m not calling this a complete home run. After all the talk about confronting one’s fears, I still can’t tell you what Matt’s biggest fear is or exactly how he overcame it. (Unless we’re talking true intimacy, but we already knew that.)
When he finally finds his way back to the metaphorical light at the end, it happens quite suddenly and inexplicably. Again, I can’t pin down any one thing that was done or said to bring that about. And as much as I still deeply care about the Netflix version of the character, he is being pretty much insufferable to the people around him for much of the season with relatively little to explain his sudden maturation near the end. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy every minute of screen time that he got, because I did, and I always want to see more of him. That, and his fight scenes are amazing as well.
There is also a slight issue with his powers that becomes more striking because everything else is so perfect. And it’s not even one my usual complaints (I’m over his random and oddly specific ability to know everything about guns people are firing even from absurd distances), but the way so many of his moves and actions are omitted that bother me. This isn’t actually new to this season, just more obvious because of how grounded the rest of characters are this time around. With most of them, you always know what they know and how they know it because it’s all presented so well and the puzzle pieces so well thought out.
With Matt, that’s not always the case. When he shows up at Nadeem’s house, I’m wondering: “How did he get there? Did he take a cab?” (The place is clearly in the suburbs.) When he meets Karen at the home of the man who shanked Wilson Fisk, in episode six, she is surprised to see him there. I was surprised to not hear him explain how he’d followed her, but that he had instead also found the guy’s address. How? If he knew, he didn’t have to ask Karen for help. And, how did he find out on his own? Did he google it? That would have been fine, but would have required showing us how Matt googles things. There are others scenes and events that have some of the same issues, but I guess I’ll get back to them when I review the individual episodes.
There are complications with this character connected to those of his senses that work really well – and the one that doesn’t work at all – that actually need a little more explaining and exposition. If there’s one thing (okay, two) I’ve been trying to communicate in my ten plus years of writing about this character, it’s this:
1) You don’t have to give up trying to make intellectual sense of his powers, and resort to what comes across as near-magic and deus ex machina appearances, and
2) you don’t need to shy away from showing people his perceptual deficits (and not only when he’s injured, which was done very well, by the way). I’m willing to bet an arm that more people are put off by too little of this than too much. Trust me, it’s okay to have a blind superhero occasionally run into trouble because of it.
For instance: In the final episode, when Matt calls Dex from the phone of Fisk’s fixer, it would have made the scene better if we had been shown how he did that from someone else’s smartphone than omitting that information (it would have taken fifteen seconds, at most). Some of us know that accessibility features can be switched on easily on modern smartphones, but a great many people don’t, and at least some of them must be wondering how he made that call on a phone that wasn’t his. Even Siri would have worked.
Given these last few paragraphs, it might seem like this is a lot more than four percent, but I can assure you that it’s not. There really is so much to love this season, and none of the things that didn’t work for me are things that cannot be addressed and expanded on in future seasons.
Nothing and no one has been “broken” here, and so much of what many of us loved about the teamwork between the core trio has been restored by the end, even though it was a bit quicker and less complicated than it needed to be. Though I don’t expect Matt’s life to be carefree for long when next season inevitably rolls around, I do hope he can lean on his friends instead of pushing them away.
At the time of this writing, we are about 36 hours away from the release of the third season of Daredevil. Depending on where you are in the world, you may be able to start watching right away, or need to postpone it for a few hours. If you are a regular TOMP reader, I suspect you’ll hit “play” as soon as logistics and family and work responsibilities allow.
On a personal note, I think I’ve devised a plan that will allow me to finish watching within the first sixteen hours. While I certainly see the appeal in dragging it out, I don’t think I could put off knowing where it all ends. As long as nothing happens to put me off entirely, I’ll rewatch at a more comfortable pace of the next few days. Besides, I have to start pushing out those individual episode reviews ASAP.
I haven’t really had time to blog in the last few days, and part of the reason is that I’ve been so busy just sharing, retweeting and otherwise engaging with the posters, teasers and reviews coming out over the last few days on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. This is just one of the many reasons you should follow me on those platforms, if you use them yourself (links in the footer).
And the Daredevil account has certainly been busy. In this post, you’ll find the Bullseye-centric trailer that came out just minutes before me and Claire sat down to discuss the official trailer. Below is the Wilson Fisk featurette, released just a few days ago. It contains interviews with Vincent D’Onofrio and Charlie Cox – that latter still covered in fake blood – and quite a bit of previously unseen footage. Whether the Daredevil marketing team has been too generous with what they’ve been giving away, or have been saving the best for last, is a discussion to be had after we’ve all had time to digest this upcoming season.
In addition to this, Daredevil’s Instagram account has been putting out a series of all-black videos (we all see what you did there…) with snippets of dialogue from the show. At the time of this writing, there are nine of them. For all we know, there might be more. As evidence of the marketing machine still being in full swing, there was the release of a new poster just a few hours ago. It’s gorgeous, I tell ya (see below).
For those of you looking for high-resolution versions of many of the promotional stills that have been released over the last few weeks, the marketing team has you covered. They’re available in a few places, including comicbookmovie.com.
So, what happens around these parts of the Internet? Well, I won’t post again until after I’ve seen the whole show. I’ll start with either a “first impressions” type of post or a straight review of the first episode.
In the mean time, feel free to chime in with your last-minute comments below. Anything known from reviews (though not individual episode reviews) and promotional materials is safe to discuss. However, I ask that you wait until I publish my next post to post your thoughts on the show after having seen it yourself. Let’s keep this and earlier posts safe for people who have yet to see the show.