Episode 10, Nelson Vs Murdock – After discovering that his best friend is secretly the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, an angry and frustrated Foggy demands to know everything, including why Matt has been lying since the day they met. Meanwhile, when Ben is on the verge of giving up investigating Wilson Fisk, Karen delivers him a surprising new source.
In many ways, this is the hero converse to episode 8 in which we learned of Fisk’s origins through his opening up to Vanessa. Here, we dive into Matt’s adult history from meeting Foggy to masking up for the first time as a visualisation of Foggy suddenly questioning everything he thought he knew about his best friend. Elden Henson deserves a unanimous verdict of outstanding from the jury. So far in the series, his role has been primarily comedic. We saw a bit of his more dramatic side last episode in the face of tragedy, but here, the takes it to another level as his entire world comes crashing around him (Imagine how you’d feel if your best friend secretly knew every time you were lying). He still manages to slip the laughs (his flashback hair is worth the price of admission alone) in to break up the heavier tone, but it’s the intelligence of his arguments and opinions that really make their scenes stand out. As Matt divulges on, we clearly feel Foggy understanding why Matt told many of his lies and made these choices she has done, yet that still doesn’t mean he agrees with him. In fact, by the episode's climax, all the anger has burned away between them leaving love as the only motive for his actions, purely and simply because he’s terrified Matt will get himself killed if he keeps this up. Patching up your wounding friend is one thing, but laying him in the ground is quite another. His closing argument sums it all perfectly: That although the city may need Matt in a mask, he sure as hell doesn’t. This is yet another marvellous example of Daredevil taking much deeper and expansive approaches to its more expected character milestones. From day/episode one, we always knew somebody Matt had been keeping his secret from would find out. Yet just how it plays out, with such an unexpected twist on Foggy’s character, makes it so entertaining. Preconceptions are the true villains of any adaptation, but if you can knock them out like this, no power in (MCU)verse can stop you.
The diaries of Matt, the adult years also deliver some good explainers into his abilities and crime fighting. Though it’s still great to see the series sticking to its guns of not over-explaining Matt’s powers with the wonderfully obvious justification that even he himself doesn’t fully understand them (few supernatural chemical spills come with instruction manuals). Matt’s story of the sirens makes an incredibly effective metaphor for his powers beginning his heroic motivation by making him aware of the problem in ways he couldn’t previously comprehend. It makes complete sense that after enough time tuning into his private suffering FM radio, he would reach a breaking point of wanting to do something about it. You also have to love that his “work in progress” costume came straight off The Internet in the best Kick Ass style. The footage of Matt’s first venture is immensely powerful as he beats down on the abusing father with blood dripping off his fists. Although, if we look a little closer, there are some very clever nods to the Matt/Fisk comparable character traits. Firstly, just as Matt’s first victim was an abusive father and so to was Fisk’s (even if physical rather than sexual) as killed his own. Then consider the parting shot of Matt standing over his prone victim throwing left after right punch into his face..... exactly the move and style that Fisk used on a prone Matt in last episode's fight. Finally on the flashbacks, did you spot the Captain America/Agent Carter “Roxon” Easter egg during the deposition at Matt & Foggy’s interned firm? Or the framed front pages behind Ben Urich’s desk (probably there all along but very prominent here in certain camera shots) showing “Harlem Horror” from The Incredible Hulk and of course “Battle of New York” from Avengers?
As for Ben, he gets a touching moment when his wife wakes up for the first time this series. She clearly suffers from some form Alzheimer’s/Dementia and their time together both before and after she lapses really cements their relationship and better justifies the significance of his personal life troubles in his storyline by giving him something worth losing. The surprise journey with Karen isn’t quite as rewarding as it should be, but their new found informant does provide a nice twist and something tempting enough to pull Ben back in from the brink of walking away. The smaller Wilson Fisk story this episode flows similarly to the Ben & Karen arc in that it’s mostly just about getting to the big payoff. However, it is good to see wider scale reaction to Fisk’s relationship with Vanessa as associates she the softening change within him even if he doesn’t. His exchanges with Madam Gao are becoming a sneaky little series highlight as the frail old lady and powerhouse of a man address each other with the utmost mutual respect.
In the battle of Nelson Vs Murdock, there’s a very clear winner and that is us. The pair that never struggle for chemistry absolutely rip us an emotional new one as they pierce out hearts and funny bones in equal measure. With only 3 episodes to go, the final act events do yield a feel of escalation but neither do they feel like we’re already plunging towards a climax. This Devil has a few more tricks up its sleeves before taking the curtain and they’ll most certainly be treats for us.
Episode 11, The Path of the Righteous – While still recovery from his injuries and fall out with Foggy, Matt peruses the maker of Fisk’s armoured suits, Melvin Potter, to make something very special for him. Fisk is left distraught as Vanessa fights for her life in hospital and when Wesley discovers who visited his employers mother he quickly takes matters into his own hand.
This episode makes a great examination of how different people deal with vulnerability, the biggest of which centres around Matt and Fisk. While still baring the barely closed wounds of his fight with Nobu, Matt must accept his own physical vulnerabilities if he’s to continue prowling the streets for trouble. This manages to tick one big comics required box in a much more natural fashion Matt looks to upgrade his costume to something more visually familiar. While there’s still some notions towards heroic symbolism by coinciding it with a bass motivation of protection, it keeps things much more grounded. There’s also his emotional weakness in the fray as his ever-decreasing secrecy forces him to accept that he can’t deal with the ordeals he faces without the help of others. In isolation, he drinks too much while wallowing in self-pity, and it’s only through interactions with Karen and Claire that he’s motivated back into action. Fisk is more interesting external examination as the focus is on how others react to his emerged weakness in the face of Vanessa’s hospitalisation. The dissension in the ranks scenes between Wesley and Leland are particularly enjoyable as the ever straight talking Leland speculates if Fisk is still the right man to lead them in his current state. Despite Wesley’s conviction, the remarks clearly hit home as he takes matters upon himself rather than including his emotionally crippled friend and employer. Fisk’s longer road to recovery only serves to solidify his status as a fully-fleshed and humanized antagonist. He’s arguably the most interesting villain the MCU has delivered to date and that shows no signs of changing. Finally, there are the smaller solutions to weakness like Foggy’s soggy antics with his ex Marci, employing distraction to avoid dealing with his feelings over Matt’s secrecy rather than confronting them. Amy Rutberg was immensely enjoyable last time getting owned in the lobby by Foggy and she’s just as fun here being completely uncaring to his problems.
The Daredevil costume arc makes a great introduction for armourer extraordinaire Melvin Potter, aka Gladiator. While he’s anything but metal clad, there a couple nice little nods to his comic character like wielding buzz saw blades and mentioning his relations with Betsy Beatty. Yet the actual result is an ambitious but utterly wonderful departure for the comic source material as this hulking brute is revealed with childlike mental disabilities. The whole workshop scene is brilliant to watch from the extensive fight sequence to the sudden emotional breakdown when Melvin believes he’s lost (seeing him walk in with a kiddie drink makes a great oddball clue). Again, it circles back to dealing weakness as Melvin’s is horribly exploited both in his simpler/gentle giant capacities and the threat of hurting loved ones for his non-compliance. Matt Gerald does fantastic work here as Potter. You can’t help but feel apathy for the guy as it all comes flooding out. Hopefully, we’ll see more of him in the future as he provides wonderful opportunities for development.
Karen and Ben’s investigations look in danger of stalling again as they play down the end revelations of last episode, but her final act scenes smash this into a great new direction. At so many points in her capture or captivity, there’s a great of genuine character peril and surprise in how the events play out as adversity turns to unexpected opportunity. It will be extremely interesting to see the consequences play out for Karen with Wilson Fisk already on the warpath over Vanessa’s injuries. She could very well be facing some of his trademark necessary cruelty before the season finishes.
In many ways, Path of the Righteous Man is a slowly and taking stock episode before launching into the finale events, getting Matt back on his feet in some form of fighting condition and Fisk through his shell shock over nearly loosing Vanessa. This is often a difficult episode for a series to negotiate but Daredevil acquits itself admirably by keeping the interest without heavy action content and providing good character developing scenes to show those involved evolving from the recent events rather simply waiting for normal service to resume. The final hours of Daredevil are nigh but it’s certainly counting down to something great.