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If there were a famous quote associated with the penultimate episode of Daredevil season 1, “The Ones We Leave Behind” (1x12), it would be from The Untouchables: “If they put one of yours in the hospital, you put one of theirs in the morgue.” That’s pretty much where the conflict of this episode comes from: at the end of the last episode, “The Path of the Righteous” (1x11), Karen killed Fisk’s friend and assistant Wesley (spoiler alert…); in this episode, the characters are left to deal with the ramifications of that act.
The episode begins with Karen attempting to cover up and move on from killing Wesley. She throws the gun into the river before going home. When she gets home she almost immediately crawls into a bottle to forget about what happened and then takes a shower before going to sleep—both attempts to do the same thing. However, she cannot forget, and her dreams are haunted by the fear of what Fisk will do to her if he finds out that she is responsible for Wesley’s death: he will come to her apartment and kill her. Because she cannot sleep, Karen goes to the office to try to forget about what has happened. She is so preoccupied with her fears that she doesn’t notice that Foggy is also in the office, struggling to work through his feelings regarding Matt’s deception and the case. Foggy notices that there is something wrong with Karen, but he is too wrapped up in his own thoughts to probe why she has drunk so much—or her assertion that she’s going to move on from alcohol to the “hard stuff” (which probably doesn’t mean marijuana). In contrast to Karen, Foggy actually appears to be in a better place after having several days to come to terms with Matt’s revelation. He is ready to return to work on the case—just not ready to talk to Matt about it. Like I said in my review of “The Path of the Righteousness,” I’m glad that putting Matt’s team back together again is not a simple and easy process.
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Fisk’s first scene in the episode is a continuation of his final scene in the previous episode: he is standing in Vanessa’s hospital room, checking his phone and waiting for Wesley to call him back. However, he is distracted when Vanessa wakes up and asks why she is in the hospital. He explains what happened before telling her that he has made arrangements to get her out of the country—which she of course refuses to do without him. He insists that he needs to keep her safe, but she insists that she is not going to leave him. Finally he promises her that “I will make them suffer for what they’ve done,” and she responds with “I expect nothing less.” It wasn’t until this episode that I realized just how much of an enigma Vanessa is. Why is she with Fisk in the first place? He was careful to hide who he was from her when they first met, but she must have been suspicious when Anatoly crashed their date and started rambling about a deal. Then Fisk blew up half the city on their second date, and she still decided to stay with him. On hearing his story of what his father did—and what he did to his father—she is taken aback a bit, but she stays and sleeps with him. I think that she believes in what he is doing for the city—and I wonder if this really is “true love.” What else could keep her coming back to a murdering sociopath like Fisk?
It’s right after this scene that Fisk learns of Wesley’s death. At first he just stares at the scene. Then he lashes out at Francis for allowing Wesley to leave by himself. When Owlsley insists that Francis was being loyal, Fisk relents and orders him cleaned up. We learn later that Fisk promotes Francis to take Wesley’s place as his assistant, and that only because Wesley trusted him. At this point Fisk is starting to unravel: his girl was attacked because of him, and now his best friend was killed. All he has left is to find out who is responsible for both those acts and punish them. He begins by checking Wesley’s phone, where he sees that his final call was to his (Fisk’s) mother. He immediately makes arrangements to move his mother out of the country while trying to figure out what she said to Wesley and how it is connected with his death. Unfortunately, she cannot remember anything. Fisk’s response to everything that is happening feels extremely natural for him, but at the same time like a huge departure for this character (as compared to the comics). Instead of cold and calculating, Fisk in this episode is emotional and impulsive. However, this season is his origin story as well; in his future appearances he will probably be closer to the cold and calculating Kingpin we know from the comics.
Meanwhile, Matt’s team is attempting several methods for taking down Fisk. Foggy arranges a meeting with Marci (the ex-girlfriend he slept with) and shows her the information Matt tracked down on Fisk. Though she is initially reluctant and worried for her job because Fisk is a client of Landman and Zack, she eventually agrees to take a look when he tells her that Fisk is going down one way or another, and anyone involved with him (including at her law firm) will get dragged down, too. By the end of the conversation, Marci is willing to consider helping them work the legal angle against Fisk. This is one of the things I like about Daredevil: they don’t ignore Matt’s regular job, and they explore how his and Foggy’s devotion to the law impact their handling of the case.
While Foggy is working the legal angle, Matt approaches Ben for information about the heroin he found. Ben identifies it as “Steel Serpent” heroin which is provided by the Chinese and had been distributed by the Russians. Matt notes that there was a blind man in a taxi when he went after the Russians (in “World on Fire,” 1x05). Ben comments that he’s seen some blind people around and gives Matt a location. The next morning Matt goes to the location in his street clothes and listens to the traffic until he hears the sound of a blind woman tapping her cane. When the woman gets into a car, Matt climbs a fire escape and follows the car over the rooftops (I suppose he could keep up with the car because of traffic). He arrives just in time to observe the woman being let out at a warehouse and hear the secret knock that lets people inside. That night, Matt returns to the same warehouse, where he finds an assembly line of blind people packaging heroin by feel. Madame Gao spots him and orders the blind people to mob him (though he escapes). He confronts her and takes out her guards, one of whom opens fire and ignites a couple barrels of chemicals. He accuses her of blinding all her workers, but she asserts that they blinded themselves out of devotion to her and as a way to move past the distractions of “your world.” When he demands information about Fisk, she hits him a single time, knocking him across the room. Before he can confront her again, she escapes as the building catches fire. Matt rescues the workers and escapes, leading to a confrontation with his police buddy, Brett, in which he tells Brett that he did not kill any cops and that several officers at his precinct are dirty. I think Matt’s best scene in the episode is the one of him parkouring across the rooftops to follow the town car. It gives him a chance to show off his abilities—it’s like something straight out of a comic book.
This episode also plants a lot of seeds for Madame Gao’s future story. Her heroin is “Steel Serpent” and bears the same imprint as Iron Fist’s enemy by the same name. She is able to knock Matt across a room with a single blow despite appearing as a frail old woman. When she meets with Owlsley—and we discover that the two of them conspired together to kill Vanessa so Fisk will regain his focus—she says that she’s going to return to her home, which is “a good deal further” away than China. It’s a pretty good bet that she is someone out of the Iron Fist universe; the suggestion going around is that she is the “Crane Mother.” I would not be surprised at all to see her again in the Iron Fist series.
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Karen spends the entire episode trying to recover from the trauma of killing Wesley. She calls and visits Ben multiple times begging him to publish the story and expose Fisk, telling him that she “thinks” that they know about their visit to Fisk’s mother. However, Ben is doubtful that his editor will go for it when he has very little supporting evidence. Instead, he suggests that she publish it on the internet herself, but she tells him that no one will believe her when they find out her back story. The next day Ben gives the story to his editor, Ellison, who rejects it offhand, despite Ben’s best efforts to convince him otherwise. When Ben accuses Ellison of taking money from Fisk, he fires Ben, who resignedly goes to visit Doris. Doris convinces Ben that he needs to tell the story more than he ever needed the paper, and Ben returns home to write the story up and start a blog. Ben telling Karen his plan is actually the closest thing to a happy scene that Karen has in the entire episode. After hanging up with Ben, Matt shows up at the office, and finds himself telling Karen everything that’s going wrong. He’s been pushing the people he cares about away (unintentionally). He’s seen the worst parts of humanity. He feels alone and realizes he can’t do what he has to do on his own. Finally, she hugs him and assures him that he is not alone because he has her (and Foggy). This might be my favorite scene in the episode, as it shows Matt finally turning a corner and accepting help in his lone vigilante business.
The good feelings don’t last, however, as Ben returns home and starts on his blog, only to be interrupted when Fisk reveals himself sitting in the corner. This conversation is actually a fascinating character study for Fisk. He apologizes for thinking that Ben wasn’t relevant anymore. He mocks Ben’s belief that putting his story on the internet would make a difference. When Ben denies knowing anything about Wesley’s death, Fisk comments that he is a man of principle—and Fisk even admires him for it. But even still, Fisk kills Ben by strangling him to punish him for going to visit his mother. From the moment Fisk was in the room, it was clear that he was going to kill Ben, but through the entire conversation, Fisk doesn’t act angry or threatening until just before he attacks. I really like the brutality of it, even though it is all dark and shadowed. But it’s sad that Ben had to die. The ending with the clock ticking makes an interesting parallel to the ending of the previous episode with the phone ringing.
I really enjoyed this episode for how it planted seeds for Iron Fist and helped to develop the characters. I also have to applaud Marvel for having the guts to kill off a major (comic book) character like Ben Urich—who is not going to be taking any trips to T.A.H.I.T.I. I also like the portrayal of Matt’s gymnastic abilities, something that we didn’t get a lot of in this season. The ending really makes me excited for the finale!
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