'Daredevil' recap: 'Nelson v. Murdock'
Vanessa learns the hard way that drinking villain champagne is dangerous.
Considering that one of Daredevil’s most problematic elements thus far has been the struggle to make us care about anyone outside of Matt and Fisk—Foggy, in particular—it doesn’t instill much confidence in the ninth hour when it’s titled “Nelson v. Murdock.” It’s my personal opinion that the argument between the two law partners in the aftermath of Matt’s run-in with Nobu really doesn’t work at all on a dramatic level until the very end, but instead of complaining throughout the recap (because no one wants to read that), I’ll lay it all out up front.
Literally every question that Foggy has for Matt after discovering his secret identity is something that the audience fully understands and something we’ve never really needed to know. What good does it do us to sit there while Matt explains the minutia of what he can do as Daredevil? The episode doesn’t get to the real implications of Matt spending time as a superhero and what that means for his friends and the people he cares about—the thematic meat of the conversation—until the very end. Instead, Foggy has questions about reading heartbeats, Matt’s training schedule, and where he bought his gear, stuff that in the grand scheme of their relationship doesn’t matter that much. It’s such an odd dramatic choice that it leaves you with the sense that the writers felt obligated to fill an entire episode’s story line to Foggy questioning Matt, when they could have gotten that over with quickly and then explored the moral dilemma with action, rather than a series of questions.
Rant over. And for everyone ready to hate in the comment sections, it should be noted that this aspect of the series, while problematic, hasn’t derailed the entire season (which I like quite a lot).
Anyway, Matt is in really bad shape after his fight with a ninja, as any of us would be. As he slowly comes to, he (unwisely) peels back one of the bandages on his body to reveal the extent of Claire’s patch-up job on him. Oh, that’s right. Claire was there, as Foggy informs him before launching into a long series of questions, like “Are you even really blind?” The seismic disturbance in their friendship is enough to trigger a flashback to Matt and Foggy’s days as college roommates that comes complete with one really laughable wig. Once Matt explains to Foggy how he’s able to see yet still considers himself blind, his friend gets to the big questions, like “Did you do all that evil stuff?” That answer is easy: It was Fisk. Some of the other stuff is harder to explain. For instance, who is (was?) Nobu? “Yeah, I think he’s some kind of ninja,” Matt says. When Karen calls both of their cells, Foggy is forced to lie to their assistant in order to cover up all of the superhero-ing that’s going on under her nose. (He tells her that Matt was hit by a car, but later in the episode, she doesn’t seem that bothered by it.) The fib hits on Foggy’s bigger issues with Matt’s secret identity, but first he has a different demand. “I want to know everything, and don’t you leave a damn thing out.” Maybe Foggy should just get a Netflix account.
Since Madame Gao is not a stupid person, she has some concerns about her working relationship with Wilson Fisk. As someone who has been paying close attention to who’s been dying around her, Gao can see that, through a variety of different circumstances, Fisk has had a hand in the destruction of half of the criminal syndicate. There’s the heavy implication that Fisk knew exactly what he was doing when he told Nobu to find a warrior to take out the masked man, since there was no way that Nobu would find someone else to do the job, and now Gao is wondering when Fisk’s ambition is going to put her in the cross hairs. But their chat is not all “Are you going to kill me?” Gao also has some advice. She warns Fisk that the two roles he’s currently playing—that of savior and oppressor—cannot exist in the same person and that eventually he or someone else will have to pick one for him.
Ominous stuff, huh?
NEXT: Don’t drink the champagne!
Things aren’t looking so good for old Ben Urich either. Though he’s able to share a brief but tender moment with his wife—during which she reaffirms her belief that Ben is dogged reporter first and foremost—the hospital wasn’t able to further extend the stay for her, forcing Ben to look into hospice care as an alternative. The turn of events is the final straw for the reporter, and he decides that he’s going to turn down a chance to edit the Metro section of his paper in order to take his wife home for care there. (Did anyone else notice the front pages behind Ben that reference both The Incredible Hulk and The Avengers?) Ben even hands over everything he has on the Fisk case to Karen, in hopes that she’ll continue the crusade. She, however, has another idea.
Was it truly horrible that Karen tricked Ben into coming with her to track down Fisk’s mom, under the pretense of finding his wife hospice care, or was that just me? Either way, that’s what she did, dragging Ben all the way upstate to bother the former Mrs. Fisk, who maintains that Wilson was always a good boy and that he did only what was necessary. I wonder what’s going to happen if Karen and Ben uncover what Fisk did to his dad. Is the play to get him arrested for the decades-old murder?
Back at Matt’s, Foggy reveals that their friend in the NYPD called to say that Mrs. Cardenas’ murderer had taken a tumble off a roof, and he wants to know if the masked man is responsible for that. Matt admits that murder isn’t in his tool kit, but that it nearly was after the old lady died. “Sometimes law isn’t enough,” he tells Foggy, triggering yet another flashback, this time to their days at Landman & Zack, when the firm is representing the Roxon oil company, a name that will no doubt make any Marvel fan giddy, in a suit against one of its former employees. The evil corporation is going after the sick man for damages, claiming that he spilled trade secrets to a third party—in reality, it was just his doctor. This is the case, as we learn, that forced Matt and Foggy into their brave, new, private world of law, further binding the two friends together.
It’s here that Foggy finally gets to his big point. By putting on the mask, Matt has forcibly dragged everyone he loves into danger with him. This is a compulsion for Matt, one that he can’t see himself quitting, even when he knows the potential costs. The fact that the episode lands on this point almost makes what preceded entirely worth it. Matt’s Catholicism is an essential part of his character, not just set decoration meant to pepper the screen with symbolism and iconography. Anyone with a Catholic mother can tell you that what Matt is experiencing at the end of this episode is an extreme sense of guilt, torn between which of his loves to protect: his city or his friends.
It’s a dilemma that mirrors the choice Gao presents Fisk, and we see exactly how violently that kind of situation can play out. The newly anointed protector of the city is holding a fundraiser in light of the recent bombing attacks. Before heading to the event, Fisk meets briefly with Owlsley, who shares Gao’s concerns about the formerly unmovable crime lord. The accountant blames the change on Vanessa, but Fisk argues that finding someone to love is no stranger than when Owlsley did it himself. At the event, Owlsley makes reference to something being taken care of. It’s clearly an oblique reference to something, but we’re all a little too busy freaking out about the champagne to worry about that. People all around the party, including poor Vanessa, begin foaming at the mouth.
All of their lives hang in the balance as we immediately click to watch the next episode, but, to be honest, it doesn’t look good.