Can we talk about Daredevil’s women problem? Yeah, yeah, there aren’t enough women, but the problem I find most egregious is how the narrative itself downplays not only the women in the story, but their actions and agency. Take Karen. Her storyline reaches a weird peak this episode after she tries to deal with the fact that she shot Wesley. (I’m going to miss him dearly; Toby Leonard Moore’s American accent always sounded like he was very slowly savoring a piece of chocolate.) She drinks herself to sleep and sobs in the shower, but she doesn’t tell anyone. Even when Foggy asks her about her night, she murmurs something, and when Matt asks, she simply says, “The world fell apart.” When Foggy says, “You can’t just run around killing people and call yourself a human being!” she gets the same look someone might get if their friend were ranting about how much they hate how their roommate pees in the shower while realizing that she totally did just that last night, except instead of peeing in the shower she shot a man eight times and hid the murder weapon. And while we can understand why she’d want to keep her murder under wraps, the way this is eventually swept under the rug this episode is telling in terms of how disinterested this show really is in the lives of its female characters. She shot someone before, right? So why don’t we get a flashback?
Matt tortures people, goes outside the law, and his only suggestion of a moral code is the fact that he doesn’t kill anyone (but comas are totally cool). But the show demonstrates how he arrived at the conclusion that vigilante was the answer, even giving him a chance to explain his own story to Foggy. Karen’s judgmental, pushy idealism is hard to swallow when we don’t even know why she’s fighting beyond ideals, but it’s even more egregious that she doesn’t get the emotional or narrative space to articulate how she got there. A judgy, pushy nature tends to come from a self-correcting measure, but what is Karen correcting for? Sure, yes, okay, we get her dreaming about Wilson Fisk attempting to kill her in her kitchen and saying, “[Killing] gets easier the more you do it,” perhaps implying that she killed someone before. But when the show aims for “mysterious” for Karen’s backstory, it just hits on “vague,” with the sense that the writers themselves don’t know or care about her life pre-Nelson and Murdock. This better be course corrected by season two – meanwhile, my guess is she was part of a bank robbing girl gang, like Laura van den Berg’s “Lessons.”
But Karen’s character is also incredibly annoying because another aspect of the patronizing writing is that she doesn’t even suffer the consequences of her actions, the way Fisk or Ben or Matt or even Wesley and the Russian brothers did. She’s the one who dragged Ben to meet Fisk’s mom without informing him of what was going on, and he dies for it while protecting her. And can we talk about how Ben is yet another character who’s given the short end of the stick? The Ben Urich of the comics is very much alive, but we apparently need yet another person of color to die on this show – Elena Cardenas being the first – for us to hate Wilson Fisk more. Ben also dies doing what he hates: attempting to write about Fisk’s story on the Internet after being fired for his job, like his wife told him. (Oh look, yet another woman who should’ve been featured sooner because she talks so much sense). Apparently Karen couldn’t have done this herself because no one would believe her because of her past. The speech Wilson makes to Ben about how everyone is distracted by “celebrity weddings and videos of cats and texting,” was hilarious, but still not worth all the weird rants about the Internet this show made. A friend of mine pointed out that if the print media is corrupt or disinterested in Ben’s story, it would actually behoove him to go to the internet, if not another newspaper, because someone would’ve wanted the story. Seriously, though, at least one person from the Daily Intelligencer or Gawker or The Awl would’ve been covering all this, digging and digging to find at least one weird thing on Fisk.
Another woman who doesn’t get her own narrative space on this show is Vanessa, who finally wakes up in this episode and demands she gets to stay. I understand why she doesn’t want to leave the country, because love or whatever – although, couldn’t they just take a helicopter out to the Hamptons for a bit? How far does Fisk’s network of enemies span that you have to leave the country to feel safe from them? But she doesn’t even seem interested in learning who or why someone would’ve tried to kill Fisk (or her, as it turns out). Revenge is good enough for her, as long as it’s taken care of! Apparently, akin to the way other couples divide up finances or grocery shopping, Vanessa’s fine doing the potential dying as long as her partner does all the potential revenging for her.
And who took out the hit on her, exactly? Turns out it was Leland and Madame Gao colluding in their jealousy of the attention Wilson Fisk’s girlfriend’s getting. They try to figure out who killed Wesley, but in the end, Madame Gao just says she’s leaving for her homeland. “Where? China?” asks Leland as she disappears into the night. “It is a considerable distance farther,” she says, which better be answered properly next season, because Madame Gao is terrifying. In fact, I find her more terrifying than Wilson Fisk could ever be. When Matt follows the trail to her heroin operation, even he’s a bit shaken by the fact that it operates on a cult-esque system of convincing people to blind themselves and live in a world where all they know is making heroin for her.
By doing this, Madame Gao emulates what I always felt was the most skin-crawling Marvel villain – scientist-cum-terrorist, political fearmonger, and Nice Guy Aldrich Killian. He was far scarier and worse, more effective, than the likes of Loki who – like Wilson Fisk – operates on misguided egoism, access to armies, and daddy issues. But of course her storyline is brushed off because, didn’t you know? Female villains apparently only elicit 77 percent of the horror male villains do.
There are significant highlights this episode: Brett and Marci are back! Foggy asks Marci for help with their case against Fisk, as her law firm represents Fisk. Unlike Karen, though, Foggy specifically makes a case for potential career suicide so she can make the informed decision to do so. Marci might be kind of an asshole, but hey, a few character strokes and you can already tell she lives in an apartment with a doorman and avoids Brooklyn at all costs:
Marci: You know that buffalo wouldn’t make me a vodka martini? I had to settle for just vodka.
Foggy: Oh yeah, she can be, um…you gotta ask nice.
Marci: I pay nice. That should be enough.
Plus, she does actually shift through the papers Foggy gives her and promises to risk getting disbarred for him. Maybe they will actually be able to solve this legally?
- Foggy “smoked a doobie once,” maybe out of solidarity with Matt, who couldn’t because of the possible sensory overload?
- The other woman who gets a bit more airtime is Fisk’s mother, who is like everyone’s mother and doesn’t want to get sent away from the fancy place where they brought her zuppa inglese every night. (The same dessert Fisk ordered for himself and Vanessa on their first date, and what his mom gave him when he was crying.) It doesn’t matter if they have it in Italy! She doesn’t speak Italian!
- The way Wilson beats up the guy that Wesley left in charge makes me wonder what exactly his anger was going into before all this commotion. Was he just less angry?
- This episode, in Men Crying on Daredevil: Fisk sobs as he kisses Wesley on the forehead, Matt sobs in Karen’s arms when he tells her he can’t be alone after finding out how much darker the world could be. Oh, Matt, you’re going to be so upset when you find out her backstory. If that ever happens, that is!