Tony finds a thread. Everyone’s surprised.
They say death is sometimes visible in the air just before it strikes. Certainly when you’re in charge of a fictional narrative, you can make it manifest, or you can have it come as a horrible shock.
Writer Douglas Petrie and Britain’s own Euros Lyn on directorial duties make death a presence all the way through this episode, just waiting to pounce on one particular character.
Every conversation that character has feels like a goodbye. Every shot of them, a going down of the sun. It’s almost creepy, the intangible sense of coming to an end.
But there’s more to this episode than just the impending death of an important character. After all, however much we as objective observers can see it coming, in reality, people don’t see a sudden death coming – the clue is in the name. So all the concerns of the day to day world keep chugging along until Bam! Out of nowhere, you lose your stake in the great game.
By the time we reach episode 12, things are not going well on either side of the criminal fence. Nelson, Murdock and Page are becoming frozen in their awkward silences, and Karen in particular feels like she has made a mistake throwing in her lot with the two lawyers who made her feel safe when no-one else could.
Vanessa comes round and refuses to be put aside for her own safety, choosing to stick with Fisk and instead, advising him to make those who would try to separate them ‘understand’ the folly of their actions. We learn who was responsible for the poisoning at Fisk’s benefit ball, and while it’s a fairly obvious reveal, the joy of those is that people rarely see those coming in real life either, so Fisk’s reaction when he finds out the truth doesn’t strike us as false. Violent and terrifying, certainly, but not false.
Ben is fired for taking the story of Fisk’s mother, and his murder of his father, to his editor. And there is probably one of the most spectacular, extended sequences of ‘Daredevil’ action in the whole season as Murdock, dressed as Murdock the lawyer, runs, leaps, climbs and rolls his way to the heart of a secret. It has always been bizarre, whenever Charlie Cox breaks out the Daredevil antics in his civilian clothes, not, we like to tell ourselves, because we don’t believe a blind man could do any of that, but because Cox has consistently delivered a portrayal of a blind man that we believe. It’s his Man in the Mask garb that visually unlocks for us the fact that he has incredible sensory gifts, while when he’s dressed as Matt Murdock the lawyer, we actually experience a lurch of panic for him the moment he starts running and climbing, which takes another moment to settle.
That right there is a powerful performance, people.
What he finds at the heart of the secret is highly disturbing – there’s not really any level on which episode 12 could be described as an ‘easy watch.’ But there is catharsis in it too, and a drawing together of threads.
Stick, the hard-headed, hard-assed old man who trained the young Matt Murdock to meditate, to channel his gift and harness his abilities, all to be a perfect soldier, once told him he needed to push away the people he cared about in order to keep them safe and be effective.
‘Seems like you listened,’ Karen tells him here.
At the time, we wondered what that man would be like, what the Man in the Mask would be like without the daylight Murdock, lawyer to the hopeless. Without Foggy Nelson to keep him on the path of the righteous. Without Karen Page to make him smile and occasionally amaze him.
Here we see exactly what that man would be like, and it is heart-rending. Murdock has a minor breakdown, a realisation that he can’t do what he does alone, that he can’t take a single step more without the true markers that help him navigate the minefield of his daily life – the friends that remind him why it’s worth it. And faced with his breakdown, Karen proves her worth by her compassion, telling him he was never alone, and letting him move forward, we hope, to a reconciliation with Foggy too before the season ends.
As Murdock gains the strength and clarity of his daylight friends back one by one, the most remarkable thing happens. The revelation of who poisoned the benefit champagne and why exposes a thread. A thread to pull on, when Fisk has been so careful to scatter all the leads, to send all the connections between himself and his life as a racketeer and gangmaster into the wind. Suddenly, against all the odds, there is a possibility that Fisk has a weakness he never expected, and it sends a thrill through us, knowing that with one episode left of the season, the finale will focus on a race to reach that thread, to turn it to advantage, one way or the other. There will be one king of Hell’s Kitchen, one Devil or the other will survive, and –
You didn’t forget the bam, did you? In all the excitement that there’s a way to bring Wilson Fisk down, you didn’t forget that death can pop up out of nowhere and call you to account. Death ends this episode, swallowing down any sense of triumph we have. The religious viewer could tell you that sometimes, that’s what God does. In the midst of triumph, so there are tears, and vice versa. Matt Murdock could tell you that.
The gods of Daredevil, its writers, directors and stars, have built a universe not in seven days, but in twelve hours that so resembles our own it makes us feel the pain of the characters’ losses, the pangs of devastation when a world that looked to be coming right remembers it still has evil in it.
Nevertheless, the thread is out there. And perhaps there’s something – at least within a created, fictional world – to the concept of spiritual justice after all. If Matt Murdock can do what’s right, if he can win his oldest friend’s forgiveness, then maybe, just maybe, by the end of episode 13, he can be an angel of deliverance for a city of darkness. Maybe, just maybe he’ll earn his just rewards – a fairer city, less afraid of the devils it knows and the devils it doesn’t. And maybe, just maybe, if he’s good enough, he can be a deliverer from evil, a bringer of justice to Wilson Fisk, his personal incarnation of the Devil.
Maybe. In life, we are in death. But maybe, just maybe, sometimes life wins.
All we know is you’re going to want to watch him try.
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