The triumph of last episode’s reveal of the Nelson and Murdock, Attorney at Law sign is undercut as Foggy, disgusted, tosses the plaque in the trash.
“Nelson v Murdock” is propelled by astounding performances from Elden Hensley and Charlie Cox. With the majority of the episode’s run time taking place in scenes of the two of them in conversation, the casting and performance of these best friends were more important than ever, especially because they had to portray the characters in vastly different circumstances at different times. The chemistry between the two and the way they pull off the pain that Matt’s secrets has caused creates a deeply moving episode that is uncomfortable and painful to watch. With the argument cut between scenes of the two meeting and becoming friends in college, the depth of their friendship—their brotherhood—becomes clear. Smart writing and editing makes the fight all the more heartbreaking with quick cuts from happier times to furious and sullen stares from Foggy.
The episode comes late in the run time, and it’s moments like this that make all the time spent on building the characters and revealing who they are and what they care about early on so worth it. The emotional payoff is significant and meaningful as the two best friends are at such extreme odds. The episode only works because character has been such a focus on the show.
One of the great things about Daredevil as a series the way it deals with consequences of actions, begging the question, “What is a hero?” That’s really what Foggy’s argument forces Matt to ask himself. Would Matt be more heroic if he was just the man Foggy thought he was? Foggy becomes Matt’s conscience personified. The arguments he has been gripping with and able to push to the back of his mind come to bite him as his best friend stands there in front of him betrayed and hurt. Everything he knew about Matt is a lie. He has a whole second life. Foggy knows that Matt’s dad never wanted him fighting. He knows that Matt is always talking about the importance of the law. He sees the hypocrisy of everything Matt has been doing and calls Matt out on it. Even going so far as to compare him with Fisk.
“The city needs me” argument doesn’t fly with Foggy at this moment when he is so hurt and shocked. He forces Matt to see that he doesn’t do what he does in isolation, that the consequences could hurt others.
- “This city needs me in that mask, Foggy.”
- “Maybe you’re right. Maybe it does. But I don’t. I only ever needed my friend.”
What is a hero? Is Matt a hero, when he is taking the law into his own hands and contemplating murder? When Foggy was out on Matt, he has to ponder all those questions. One cannot be savior and oppressor. The question is, will Matt continue on the path he has set out on?
The scenes of the two in college provide a contrast and much needed levity in the midst of such heavy discord. The drunken conversations and transition from awkward first encounter to heart-to-hearts on the steps and starting out as business partners gives us an even clearer glance into the bond the two have, and provide Cox and Henson a variety of scenes to play.
Meanwhile, Ben and Karen continue to play off and inform one another. They have an interesting mentor/mentee kind of relationship, with Ben the withered veteran and Karen more tireless, reckless, and sometimes manipulative. The reveal of Karen’s true motives in taking Ben to the retirement home/hospice care center is both disturbing in the way she used Ben’s situation and shocking from a story perspective. The fact that Fisk’s mother is alive is a potential game changer for the manufactured history he presented to the world when going public. Vend Curtis-Hall continues to portray the perspective of the every man with such measured charm and grit that makes Ben Urich every bit the character he was in the comics. He’s fearless, but tired, passionate, but measured. When he gives Karen the evidence he’s collected to take the editor job and pay off his wife’s medical bills, it’s clear that he does is it with regret. But he is old enough and wise enough to know that he can’t put himself first when his loved ones need help…Actions and consequences. A familiar theme.
Fisk is dealing with his own issues, as well. With the death of Nobu, both Madame Gao and Owsley no longer trust him. They see his relationship with Vanessa as a weakness. A liability. They want the man who will do whatever is necessary. Someone who has to worry about a girlfriend or a loved one? There’s no room for that. While Matt Murdock has to come to grips with the fact that his actions affect the people he cares about, Fisk is being pushed to let go of all of his attachments. Vanessa’s attempted assassination to goad Fisk into becoming his more brutal self is a plot point lifted directly from the comics. So much so that my first thought was that Wesley was responsible. As this episode ends we are not sure who did it. But everyone close to Fisk is a possible suspect.
Actions and consequences.
As things close on this episode, it becomes apparent that we are reaching a turning point in the series. Both Fisk and Murdock are at crossroads with intense circumstances that force them to reevaluate their operations. Things can only get more explosive as the third act unfolds.
- “Misspelling Hanukkah is a mistake! Attempted murder is something else.”
- There’s been enough “Avocados at Law” memes since the show was released that I won’t bother quoting the scene, but it’s definitely one of the highlights of the episode.
- “Isn’t that the plot to Kung Fu?” it’s funny because it’s true.
- Would’ve been nice to see Claire Temple in this episode, rather than just have her mentioned. But I imagine Rosario Dawson’s paycheck is a little bigger than most of the others and they need to pay her in all the other Netflix series where she’ll be appearing.
- Like I said, a major part of Kingpin’s story in the comics was the attempted murder of Vanessa.
- Roxxon Industries is a long running company in the Marvel U. They are notoriously corrupt. The tradition continues.
- The “Greek girl” Foggy mentions in the college flashback is an obvious reference to ELEKTRA! Who Matt dated in college and later returned to be an assasin. She was created by Frank Miller in his initial run.