Pick a path, says Tony.
We all like to think we’re the hero of our own lives. The good guys. We all like to think we’re on the path of the righteous, whether or not we define what ‘righteous’ means to us.
As Nelson and Murdock continue their silence, they both strive to normalise their relationship with Karen, both try to save her from the fall-out of their falling out, while both avoiding her questions as to the nature of their disagreement. Meanwhile, after she dragged Ben to the home where Fisk’s mother is still alive, only to discover the young Wilson’s murder of his father, Karen is getting increasingly sick of feeling like the only one still on the right path – Ben’s annoyed she didn’t just come out with her (as it turns out) prior discovery that Fisk’s mother lived there, but instead led him on a merry dance to go and see her. Every one of them thinks they’re on the right path – Murdock with his masked activities, Nelson with his righteous anger, Ben and his mood, Karen and her quest to keep her eyes on the prize of Fisk while everyone else lets the world go to hell.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, Fisk is by Vanessa’s bedside in a fleapit Hell’s Kitchen hospital, already making plans to distance her from him to keep her safe, acting out a passion play of remorse because she got hurt standing next to him. Meanwhile Leland, Fisk’s money man and all-round creep is the anti-Karen, the player keen to find out who poisoned the champagne at Fisk’s benefit ball, and to take some responsibility off Fisk’s shoulders. Wesley, the soft-talking chill-machine that is Fisk’s right hand takes a call from the boss’s mother, talking about the blonde woman and the black man who came to see her. He too feels himself to be on the path of the righteous when he engineers an impromptu meeting with Karen.
Claire – reliable nurse Claire, who Murdock even had Foggy call in the midst of his semi-conscious broken-bodied betrayalfest, and who came - returns to patch him up again after Murdock exerts himself, and her constant advice to him to ‘get some body armour or something,’ sparks a thought. Fisk has something sewn into all his suits, a kind of ultra-thin body armour that, when Murdock went up against him, ensured he was barely scratched. Unable to solve the problem with Foggy, unable to persuade Claire back into a relationship beyond the bounds of clinical ethics, unable to help Karen in her hurting, Murdock goes to solve the problem he can solve by hitting people a lot, finding Fisk’s extra-special tailor, and after a certain amount of hardcore negotiation, is promised not so much a suit as a symbol. There’s been a sense throughout the whole of the first season that Murdock is a hero still struggling to find himself, the whole ‘Man in the Mask’ image too easy to misconstrue, too quick to absorb all the media slime that Fisk can throw at him. There’s a feeling in this episode of moving towards the conclusion of the first season, and of this whole season as an extended origin story for the character we all know and love as Daredevil. It’s a feeling helped along again in this episode by Matt talking to his priest, who knows what he does. The idea that Murdock struggles with is that God makes everyone with a unique purpose, a destiny just for them, and yet at the same time he feels he has ‘the Devil’ in him, the urge to fight, to hurt those he believes deserve it. His priest, who to be fair to him, should get danger money, suggests that the sense of Murdock’s ‘inner devil’ could be God prompting him to find the better angels of his nature, to make that devil go God’s work against a bigger personification of Satan, in the form of the man that Matt went out to kill. This whole struggle has more than a little ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ about it, hence that feeling of the season revealed as an elongated origin story for the ‘Daredevil’ as we know him.
It’s gorgeous to contrast all this theological soul-searching with Fisk’s position. With the woman he loves in a life-or-death struggle which others who drank the same champagne have already lost, he tells the sleeping Vanessa that he doesn’t know how to pray. He’s seen it in movies and on TV, and he’s tried it, but it was an illusion, a fiction of faith, so he can’t pray for her. But what he promises, in a vow that ‘not even God if such a thing exists can stop me from keeping,’ is that those responsible for her condition will be made to suffer. He cannot believe in a god, but he can promise God’s own vengeance, because Wilson Fisk has that power.
Without spoiling too much, by the end of this episode, somebody dies and somebody lives, and Fisk is set on a warpath, tempered only by Leland’s words – ‘Whatever war you’re thinking of starting, remember how close you are to your bigger goal.’ And by the end of the episode, someone is also doomed to consider the age-old question of whether you can still be on the path of the righteous if you go beyond your own – and society’s – definition of morality. In effect, it’s Murdock’s longstanding battle with his inner devil, broadened out; is there any place for you among the good guys if you do a bad thing, even for the sake of your own life?
Episode 11 denotes a definite shift in focus within the Season 1 arc. Just as, say, episode 7, which introduced us to Stick, felt a million miles further forward in the story than episode 1, so episode 11 feels the same distance ahead again, with a change of gear that ramps up towards the finale in just two episodes’ time. If the moment in Matt Murdock’s life where he goes out with murder in his heart is a Rubicon in episode 9, then this episode feels like the engines of the finale, the engines of the origin of the Daredevil have slammed in, ready to drive us forward.
Daredevil, Season 1, has been unmissable, binge-worthy programming right from the start, significantly ahead of some of its DC stablemates by virtue of its faithful dedication to realism wherever possible, and treating the ‘super’ element of its superhero as a mostly explicable add-on in a real-life fable of making a difference. If you’ve come this far with it, there’s little doubt you’ll see it through to the end and be waiting, come the 18th March, to stream the bejesus out of Season 2.
And we’ll be right there with you.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk