Ben decides to run with his big story, and Madame Gao unleashes the super punch.
Killing people is hard work. Well, for some people killing is hard work. It’s really easy for others. The penultimate episode of Daredevil’s first season is bookended by examples of both types of people, with each murder having a profound impact on the series heading into the finale.
Karen definitely falls in the former category. We know this because she’s hitting the bottle pretty hard and having fake-out nightmares about Fisk breaking into her easily-broken-into apartment after tossing Wesley’s gun into the river. The murder of Fisk’s right-hand man is weighing so heavily on her conscience that she’s forced to go into work during the middle of the night just to distract herself. Yes, it’s that bad. Foggy startles her when he comes out of his office, since she didn’t know he was there. Things get really cute when Foggy’s about to take off with the box of evidence Daredevil gave Ben (to give to the lawyer he slept with) and he runs right into Matt, because apparently no one in the employ of Nelson & Murdock is getting any sleep around here. Once Foggy takes off, Karen and Matt are left to talk about how crappy their respectives lives are. The secretary even comes close to telling her boss about that guy she shot, but she keeps things vague, saying “the world fell apart.”
Ironically, Fisk’s world is a little bit closer to coming back together… for now. Vanessa is awake, but confused about why she’s in the hospital. Fisk explains the situation to her and assures her that no one will harm her once she’s out of the country. Nope. That’s not working for Vanessa. She understood the kind of man Fisk was when she got into the relationship, and she’s not about to run and hide just because people are coming after him. Being the romantic that he is, Fisk promises to punish whoever did this to her, and she seems really into the idea, which is pretty cool of her.
Less cool are the current whereabout of Wesley. Fisk’s men have found him, and the big guy goes to see his gun-downed friend. That last bit is particularly significant to Fisk’s character on the whole. Wesley was his friend, and that’s majorly important for someone as clearly lonely as the Kingpin. Fisk’s heartache over Vanessa’s poisoning and now Wesley’s death are easily some of the series’ most emotionally resonant moments, and that’s kind of crazy when you think about it. I’ve pointed out before that Vincent D’Onofrio’s take on the comic book villain is anything but expected, and by placing him at the emotional forefront of scenes like this essentially casts him as the protagonist, one of the show’s most daring and brilliant creative choices.
Even with Fisk sidelined with emotional trauma, he’s still a threat, and Matt is still fighting to bring him down. His next lead centers on the packet of heroin he took off of Elena Cardenas’ killer. Ben recognizes the marking on it as the Steel Serpent—a reference to one of Iron Fist’s enemies—and he tells Matt that the head of the Chinese organization is a woman. When Matt mentions the blind guy who died in the taxicab, the reporter remembers seeing a similar person with a backpack, hanging out in Hell’s Kitchen during the day. The tip from Ben is enough for Matt to track down one of the blind people—with the help of his super parkour skills—to a warehouse.
Shortly after his talk with Matt, Ben is once again snuck upon, this time by Karen. She’s still kind of freaked out about the Wesley situation, since Fisk’s mom must have talked, and that would mean bad things for the both of them. Ben tells her again that he doesn’t think they have enough to run with the story, but she begs him, suggesting that she fears that they don’t have much more time to move against Fisk. Ben agrees to pitch the story to his boss the next day, because what harm is there in trying. It’s not like it will kill him…
NEXT: Yeah, about that…
Fisk, having connected the dots between Wesley’s death and his recent cell phone records, pulls his mom out of the nursing home and plans to send her to Italy. It’s unclear right away whether he’s able to extract Karen’s and Ben’s identities from the apparent dementia patient. (Is there anything to the coincidence that both Fisk’s mom and Ben’s wife appear to have the exact same symptoms?) But Ben figures he’s been uncovered when his editor refuses to run the story. The writer makes a big scene in the newsroom, outright accusing his boss of taking money from Fisk, and he gets fired as a result.
Now decked out in darker attire, Matt returns to the drug warehouse to see what he can see. Gao’s there, lording over her army of blind drug workers, and she spots Matt after he takes out a few of the guards and wanders right into the only bright lights in the whole building. The blind people gang up on Matt on Gao’s orders, but he’s able to escape and confront the old lady himself. She tells him that he’s ruined the lives of her workers—who apparently blinded themselves—and then super punches Matt and escapes. We don’t see much more of Gao later, aside from one scene where she and Owlsley talk about how they totally poisoned Vanessa. I’m really hoping that we see more of Gao in the future Marvel Netflix series, especially after that super-punch and the reference to her home being somewhere much farther than China. She rules.
After the encounter in the warehouse, Matt has a surprising talk with Karen back at the office. She’s still out of sorts with her two bosses no longer talking to each other and pretty much ignoring her entirely. Matt acknowledges that things have been hard, but he thinks there’s something to learn from that. He tells her about Stick—without naming him or telling her that he’s a blind karate master—and his philosophy that Matt would have to close himself off to people if he was ever going to be good at what he does. In the past few days, Matt has been following that advice, but he’s beginning to see that there is no way he can do this by himself. It’s a genuine moment, and Charlie Cox again deserves a lot of credit for making this superhero emotionally very real.
About Ben. Poor, sweet Ben. I’ll forgive him the swipes he took at writing on the Internet—which is a lot more than cat videos, Fisk!—because of what happens after he gets home from the hospital. It was there that his wife told him to just publish the damn story online already. Ben was all set to blow the lid off of Fisk’s patricidal ways, when the big man himself shows up. Fisk had been waiting for Ben, to ask him about going to see his mother. Was Ben the only one who went to see her? Was he the one who killed Wesley? The answers “yes” and “no,” respectively, taking Karen out of Fisk’s crosshairs for now, but his responses aren’t good enough to save his own life.
As sad as I was to see Ben go, my main feeling during the violent conclusion of this episode was how mad I am at Karen. This season has been full of people melodramatically blaming themselves for the deaths of others, but here’s the genuine article. This is very much Karen’s fault. She prayed on Ben’s love for his wife and tricked him into interrogating a woman with dementia.
That’s some evil crap.