Season One, Episodes Nine & Ten — “Speak of the Devil”, “Nelson v. Murdock”

Screenshot 2015-06-09 at 8.11.47 PM - EditedBy Jarrod Jones. Whoo. Yeah. Still at it. Still picking away at Marvel’s Daredevil, and after Tuesday’s announcement concerning this incredible show’s second season, it felt especially good to know that there were still a few more episodes to fully experience before I start staring off into the future with everybody else. The “no binge-watching” rule, it seems, has worked out for me quite well.

It also means that I have a lot of ground to cover. And with episode nine’s 75% terrific performance, I walked into quite the white-knuckler: “Speak of the Devil” gave us the reverential pathos that ought to come with a Catholic vigilante, and the thrilling, bone-crunching action I’ve come to expect. It also comes with the same yawn-inducing struggle from our conspira-busters, Ben, Foggy, and Karen. Man, Matt needs to wrap this Kingpin business up toot-sweet, if only so Karen and Foggy can finally succumb to their carnal urges, learn macrame, or otherwise do anything else.

Meanwhile, “Nelson v. Murdock” had precisely what I was expecting after the Kingpin made Matt so delirious he let a drunken clod like Foggy Nelson discover his secret identity: college days flashback. It seems that even Marvel’s Daredevil isn’t impervious to cliche. Thankfully, the show has more on its mind.

WHAT WORKED: Matt Murdock’s (Charlie Cox) sit-down with Father Lantom (Peter McRobbie ) dredges up Daredevil‘s philosophical preponderances and hangs them out to dry. And yes, there are moments where the “good v. evil” chit-chat gets a bit heavy, but that’s the point. Matt has so much to consider as a vengeful creature of the night, especially the thoughts that come with finally ending a man’s life. Even if that man is Wilson Fisk, these are questions that deserve the light of day, and Daredevil provides them, warts and all.

Matt has a particularly adorable encounter with Vanessa Marianna (Ayelet Zurer) that brings him face-to-face with the man he would see behind bars. Who knew that a cat-and-mouse between the Man Without Fear and Kingpin’s main squeeze would elicit such squeals? And, for the record, that particularly fetching red piece ought to hang over all of our headboards.

Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall) finally gets a moment for himself, which he shares with his ailing wife, Doris (Adriane Lenox). The sequence allows us to invest in our beleaguered reporter, and it takes careful time to explore the pain that comes with his non-Fisk related activities. As an avid television viewer, this makes me worry for the future of Ben Urich.

Even though I saw this college flashback coming from an episode away, Daredevil goes out of its way to make it as bittersweet and, yeah, actually touching as it possibly can. Everything from how Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) won’t let that “Ma wanted me to be a butcher” anecdote go, to how we have an insider’s knowledge to how much Matt has kept Foggy from the truth makes these flashbacks matter more than what I had anticipated. (But I still feel that the boys’ age betrays the trope.)

Foggy and Matt’s heart-to-heart is rightfully prolonged and painful, but it means that Matt’s inevitable descent into superhero-dom (and the red costume it requires) won’t just be something that needs to happen, it will become something that matters. The building blocks of Daredevil’s mythology take place here. I only hope Murdock makes good on his promises to Foggy. (The spectre of Marvel practically demands it, but the journey better be worth it.)

WHAT DIDN’T: Listening to Ben, Foggy Nelson, Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), and Matt hammer through all of the corporate interests that are tied to Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) is a wee bit too prickly for a show this impassioned. I know each episode has to help in the narrative heavy lifting, but jesus, what a snore. I’ve been asking for more daytime for Mr. Murdock, but if it means he’s sitting in the background watching a pair of numbskulls play the part, then get him back in black.

Godammit, I’m usually half-drunk when I write these things, and I still spotted Leland Owlsley’s (Bob Gunton) poisoned Champagne ruse coming from halfway across town. (Maybe it wasn’t poisoned, so much as it was a putrid California Sparkling Brut.) This was lazy, predictable storytelling on a level that makes me uncomfortable.

BEST LINE(s):

Do you believe [the Devil] exists? In this world, among us?” – Matt. “You want the short answer, or the long one?” – Father Lantom, about to tell Matt the way of the world.

Friend of yours came to see me the other night… the man in the mask.” “Terrorist cop-killer.” “Says he was framed.” “I could say I’m Captain America, but it doesn’t put wings on my head.” Ben Urich v. Foggy Nelson, in a battle of wits.

“‘Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is the righteous man who gives way before the wicked.’ Proverbs 25-something, I never can remember.” – Father Lantom rules.

Hate when you don’t answer my calls, buddy. I always think you fell down an open manhole or something.” – Foggy.

What are we supposed to do against somebody that owns everything? Everyone? What can we do to somebody like that?” – Foggy. “The only thing you can: you make them pay.” – Karen.

You keep sweet talking… I’m gonna climb in there with you.” – Ben, to his wife.

The hell did you get all this crap?” – Foggy. “The Internet.” – Matt.

I haven’t been in a room with so many deep pockets since the junk bond days.” – Owlsley.

BEST MOMENT: 

Episode Nine — Matt’s had his fill. Drawing the parallels between Matt’s day life and his night life might not always work out the way it should (see above) but when it does, Daredevil sure can pack a wallop. When Karen, Foggy, and Matt identify the body of kindly, elderly Señora Elena Cardenas (Judith Delgado), a victim of a presumed mugging, Matt knows what’s really up. And as he angrily grips his white cane, the show cuts to his bloody fight with a red-robed assassin sent by Fisk, revealed to be Nobu (Peter Shinkoda). Way to get my blood up, show.

EPISODE’S MVP:

Episode Nine — Father Lantom. Matt knows he doesn’t stand alone against Fisk, but when it comes to searching his own soul, well that’s a job for only one man. Peter McRobbie’s man of the cloth offers the sage advice that makes the complicated simple, and the simple… y’know. This kind of relationship is what grounds Daredevil from the otherwise crowded skies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and with a group of writers perfectly aware of this, Lantom and Murdock’s relationship shines.

Episode Ten — Foggy Nelson. Even when those flashbacks made him look like a discarded Foghat bassist, Elden Henson ably displayed the righteous, indignant rage that comes with finding out your best friend has lied to you for so many years. Even when its own tropes threaten to trivialize Daredevil, I can’t believe it, but it was Henson who balanced it more than I thought he could.

marvepds011hjpg-3b0158_640wADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE:

– Father Lantom needs to learn how to pour a rosetta.

– Speaking of Father Lantom: Peter McRobbie popped up in another Marvel enterprise, back in the day when Sony had the upstart studio by the scruff of its neck, as an OsCorp flunkie in Spider-Man 2.

– Maybe it’s because we don’t see much of Matt in the sunshine, but… did he get his hair highlighted? Because it’s starting to look really red.

– What are you even talking about, Fisk? Hell’s Kitchen is doing just fine. In fact, I hear white folks are calling it “Clinton” these days.

– It takes three rings for 911 to pick up in New York?

– I’m just trying to picture Jon Bernthal’s Punisher in a world like the one Daredevil provides. And I have to tell you; it works.

– If Matt and Foggy went to college back in 2010, why does Foggy look like he just walked out of a Spin Doctors concert?

– The rooftop where Fisk and Madame Gao have a chit-chat is the exact same rooftop where Tobey Maguire dropped off Kirsten Dunst in Spider-Man. That’s the 620 Loft & Garden on Fifth Avenue, Manhattan.

– “Are you trying to tell me that you didn’t take Spanish to snuggle up to what’s-her-name… the Greek girl?” – WHAT GREEK GIRL, MATT?

– Roxxon shout out.

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