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Daredevil Recap: Matt Murdock, Meet Daredevil

Daredevil

The Devil You Know
Season 3 Episode 6
Editor’s Rating *****

Daredevil

The Devil You Know
Season 3 Episode 6
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: David Lee/Netflix

Is Matt Murdock a bad person?

This is a serious question. Text your friends, and ask them — hopefully they also watch Daredevil, or else they might be very confused. (If they read Daredevil comics, their answer might be very different, and definitely much longer.)

To be fair, Daredevil doesn’t quite know how to answer that question, either. It certainly has an answer at this juncture (yes, he is)  but struggles whenever it has to justify it. Like during a crucial scene in “The Devil You Know,” when Karen and Foggy decide what they’re going to do with their recently returned friend now that he’s made his presence known to both of them.

Much like with Foggy, Matt has shown up in Karen’s apartment because he needs something: a reporter to hear Jasper Evans’ confession once he finds him. Karen refuses — rightfully so, because wow, what a lousy thing to do, Matt — but she wonders with Foggy if she was in the right.

Foggy, however, thinks that she should help him — provided that Matt agrees to turn himself in to the FBI. It’s a two-birds-with-one-stone sort of thing. They help their wayward friend do some real tangible good in putting Fisk back in prison, and the feds are also incentivized to leave Foggy and Karen alone once they have their prize — something Foggy has thought about now that he knows the details of Karen’s killing of Wesley. (There’s also, presumably, a tertiary goal in that maybe Matt will come out the other end better for it, but given that guy’s propensity for learning the wrong lesson at every juncture, it isn’t likely.)

But cooperating with Matt and forgiving him are very different things, and Karen can’t bring herself to do the latter. Foggy understands this, but also says that Matt has been abandoned by everyone in his life, for his entire life — and he’s not going to be another person who does that to him. It’s a conversation that Karen continues when she goes to the church where Matt is staying, looking for him but only finding Sister Maggie.

“When someone tries to push you away, you need to find the strength to hold on tighter.” Maggie tells her, speaking from her own considerable experience with dealing with Matt’s obstinance. It’s a sentiment that sounds nice and certainly makes sense under normal, reflexive, prickly defensiveness from people who are hurting, but also … kind of a great way to enable emotional abuse from people who have faked their own deaths!

Daredevil, and shows like it, like to sell themselves as serious takes on their subjects, when they’re really just about seriousness as an aesthetic. When the show stops to apply the same self-seriousness to its characters’ emotional and psychological states, you get cringe-y moments like this and Dex’s childhood diagnosis of “borderline personality disorder” scribbled next to “sociopathic tendencies.” It is, ultimately, the show doing a disservice to itself, taking on weight it isn’t built to support in an attempt to elevate its pulp — when pulp played straight would do just fine.

Speaking of Dex — he’s not doing so well. Completely unmoored, he’s not sleeping, and is vulnerable to Fisk’s manipulation, even though he’s, on some level, aware of it. He finds a pretense to be alone with Fisk and tells him so — but of course, he’s playing into Fisk’s hand. Fisk tells him about his own murderous history, how he killed his father with a hammer as a child, and discovered that he had to hide his true nature to become something palatable to society. It’s a pain Fisk believes Dex shares.

Turns out he’s right. When the FBI decides to publicly throw Poindexter under the bus for the motorcade attack, suspending him for the PR play, Dex’s last tether to normalcy is severed. He goes home, ready to end his life — and then Fisk comes calling with a job.

Meanwhile, Matt has agreed to Foggy and Karen’s plan. He’ll turn himself in, once he gets Jasper to talk to Karen on the record, and they get Fisk put away. Nadeem also agrees to hear Jasper’s testimony before Foggy produces Matt for questioning, even though he and Hatley decide that this is a bluff. (They know Jasper is not in solitary, where they thought he was. They just need it to be a bluff. They’re in too deep, and Nadeem just got his promotion.)

Now it’s time for Daredevil’s carefully laid plot threads to blow the hell up.

After some help from Daredevil, Karen has Jasper in the Bulletin’s office, ready to give an interview. Also there are Foggy and Matt, who’s ready to talk to the FBI (Nadeem is en route with a small army of feds) once Jasper talks to Karen and Nadeem.

Then Daredevil arrives and slaughters the entire newsroom.

It turns out Fisk had a copy of Daredevil’s red suit made for Poindexter and sent him to take out Jasper. He’s about to cut through Foggy to do it, but then Matt — who has just enough time to zip on a coat and pull a black mask over his face — saves him.

The ensuing fight is my favorite one in Daredevil so far, a wonderfully gripping setpiece that’s  small yet explosive, a well-choreographed bout between a couple of soon-to-be-nemeses. It’s a fight where you can see both characters trying to figure each other out, each surprised by the other’s talents. Matt is frequently caught off guard with Dex’s superhuman marksmanship, and Dex underestimates Matt’s hand-to-hand skill, so the fight becomes a push and pull as one man tries to bring their combat closer and the other tries to put some distance between them. Ultimately, Dex gets the upper hand, knocking Matt unconscious and cutting through Foggy and Mitchell Ellison (neither lethally, it seems) to take Karen’s gun from her and shoot Jasper with it.

He does all this just in time for the FBI to arrive — by design, because he wants to be seen. He makes sure that in taking out a number of FBI guards, Nadeem sees him, achieving Fisk’s goal of giving New York City a new public enemy number one: Daredevil.

Daredevil Recap: Matt Murdock, Meet Daredevil