Now that Daredevil has established how essential moping is to Matt Murdock’s character, the series can really get started.
It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that this season of Daredevil could have just started here — while the setup of the premiere did feel necessary, its execution didn’t really come with much in the way of compelling hooks, or threads that could be spun into compelling plot lines that we’d be following this season.
So it’s pretty nice that episode two is as substantive as it is, digging into its characters a bit more and dropping small hints about the shape of things to come. We begin, of course, with Matt Murdock.
Still under the illusion that his noble sacrifice at the end of The Defenders should have been his redemption and the end of his story, Murdock is a man without a purpose, and it’s breaking him. He’s not in good enough shape to be the same caliber of vigilante he was, and without that, he feels purposeless. He is, as he tells Sister Maggie, grieving.
Lucky for him, Sister Maggie says that she is “impervious to bad attitude” and argues that while Matt might not be what he was, he’s deluded if he thinks he’s better off as worm food. But it’s not that simple for Matt, who has come to view his work as Daredevil as a fundamental part of his faith. Matt believed that being Daredevil was a way to answer the prayers of the helpless. Why else would he be able to hear them?
That’s the takeaway from a pair of brief flashbacks to Matt’s youth in the care of the church, where we learn that he is too good at both dogma and fighting — beating up bullies and arguing with nuns. Argumentation, Father Tomlin tells young Matt, is a skill, and argumentativeness is a sign — a bad one.
“You’re good. At arguing, deflecting,” Tomlin tells Matt. “You’re going to have to find a way of dealing with your anger. Or it’s going to destroy you.”
As we can see from present-day Matt, it’s not a lesson that ever really took. The dips into Matt’s past serve as prelude to the latest conversation Matt has with his priest, telling him that in his former belief in helping people, in “answering prayers,” he was deluding himself. Father Tomlin says maybe that’s good, maybe it’s time to stop — one of the things I really appreciate about Daredevil is that literally every normal person who learns that Matt is Daredevil immediately tells him to freaking stop — but Matt, of course, is having none of it. His delusion, he says, was in thinking that God had anything to do with it. He’s Daredevil, and “not even God can stop that now.”
Meanwhile, the deal that Agent Nadeem has cut with Fisk is bearing tremendous fruit. Corrupt officials, a deputy mayor, and all sorts of compromised figures are being apprehended, and the feds are downright giddy. Nadeem, concerned that his case is going to be pulled out from under him, confronts Agent Hatley, his boss, to make sure he holds onto the Fisk detail. Hatley (not unreasonably) tells him that’s a bad idea, because giving Nadeem such a high-profile assignment would open him up to scrutiny, and his financial liability makes him a target. Nadeem argues that this break will help him get out from under, that he can keep the Fisk gravy train running, and Hatley relents, on the condition that Fisk’s intel can’t run dry. Sounds like a great incentive for some bad decisions!
Case in point: Fisk is shanked for snitching. He survives, nearly killing his assailant before they get to do any real damage, but it’s enough for Fisk to demand safer accommodations — which Nadeem, desperate to keep his golden goose safe, is extremely willing to provide, even if it disgusts him. Thus, arrangements are made for Fisk to exit the penitentiary and enter house arrest, which will doubtless work out great for everyone involved.
In a lot of ways, this episode of Daredevil is about prisons both real and imagined, and how we’re often the ones to put ourselves in them. Fisk says so himself during a particularly hammy speech, noting that his cooperation comes out of concern for Vanessa, because his love for her makes for bonds far more effective than any they could put on him. But it also holds true for most of the cast. As Murdock wrestles with the Daredevil identity he’s shackled himself to, Foggy Nelson has Thanksgiving dinner (it’s Thanksgiving! Who knew?) with his family at his father’s butcher shop, unhappy with the man he’s become — a big-shot lawyer with enough money to buy expensive scotch, but without any sense of idealism to guide him. He seeks absolution from his brother Theo, who has started to take over the family business as their father gets older, despite the family’s hopes that Foggy would have done it. Theo tells Foggy he doesn’t mind — but he’s also not the person who can free Foggy from what he’s feeling.
The rest of the episode mostly deals with the fallout from Matt’s confrontation with the criminals at the end of the premiere, which is funny because it didn’t really seem all that significant, and likely won’t be beyond this episode. Matt, having decided that he is Daredevil even if he isn’t Matt Murdock anymore, has gone on the trail of the men who nearly killed him, tracing the sent of the dry cleaning van they used for cover.
At the same time, Karen Page is assigned to cover the crime by her editor at The New York Bulletin, because the victim is famous: Rostem Kazemi is a real estate mogul, and his daughter Neda, who was also present, is “the mean one” on Heiresses of Manhattan, a reality show that Page doesn’t want anyone to think she watches. Upon interviewing Neda, she learns that the Kazemis were saved by a masked man — which leads her to believe that Matt is still alive.
For now, a hunch is all Karen gets, but it’s enough. Matt, however, does find the men responsible for the Kazemi assault, dons his costume, does some light superhero-ing — carefully and with a bit of difficulty, but it goes well enough — and reports the men he apprehends to the police.
I tell you all of this not because it’s particularly necessary to understanding what this episode is about, but because it leads to what might be the most unintentionally funny scene Daredevil has ever done, wherein Matt, still wearing his mask, arrives in Mr. Kazemi’s hospital room while Neda sits beside him, and dramatically turns off the lights so he can tell Neda that he took care of the men who hurt her father.
“Thank God for you,” Neda tells him.
“He didn’t help you,” Daredevil says. “I did.”
This is, as we say in the biz, delicious.
Legitimately impressive, however, is the way the episode ends. Fisk, accompanied by a heavily armed escort, is being taken to his new accommodations, when the entire motorcade goes boom. It’s the Albanian mob — the one underworld faction most hurt by Fisk’s snitching, and therefore most out for blood.
They almost get what they want, taking out nearly every agent guarding Fisk … and are thwarted by an agent who is an extremely good marksman. Extremely good. So good that this agent might turn out to be important later. If you catch my drift.
But this attack isn’t just there to tease a man with uncanny hand-eye coordination. It’s also there to complicate the FBI’s arrangement with Fisk, which they likely wanted to keep quiet. Now it’s out there. Wilson Fisk is out of prison. And Matt Murdock has heard the news.
Our boy has found himself a purpose again. It’s probably not going to end well.