“Upstairs/Downstairs” is an episode where the good guys trying to regain some ground after being soundly defeated by Fisk. After being confronted by Daredevil, Agent Rahul Nadeem is finally coming around, and beginning to tug at the threads that he’d willfully ignored. Following Daredevil’s tip, he goes through the personnel working with him on Fisk, and it doesn’t take much to conclude that Dex is probably the man who impersonated Daredevil. But, feeling indebted to the man who saved his life — and reluctant to turn on one of his own without hard evidence — he stresses to Daredevil that they’re going to bring him in by the book. He’ll get to work coming up with a pretense to keep Dex busy, and then the two of them will search Dex’s apartment together.
We also haven’t seen Dex since “The Devil You Know,” and while his attack on the Bulletin seems to suggest that he’s fully pivoted to being a remorseless killer, “Upstairs/Downstairs” shows that’s not entirely true. We backtrack a bit to the massacre’s aftermath, when Dex comes home in his bloodied Daredevil costume, and he’s barely keeping it together. So he tries to center himself, listening to his tapes, and in one particularly dark image, he begins to clean his apartment, headphones on, running a vacuum, still in costume.
Dex tries to re-center himself in other ways, too. He tries to catch Julie on her jog, in public so she doesn’t feel threatened, and tells her he’s sorry, he just wants to talk, because he really needs her compassion right now. He doesn’t seem to understand that this is also terribly uncomfortable behavior, but Julie agrees to get a coffee with him. Once they sit down, Dex tries to explain why he’s latched on to her, that he needs her moral compass to measure his own by, and generally does an all-around terrible job at making a case for why she should let him in her life. (Culminating in a scene where, after talking about how the FBI used him as a scapegoat, Dex actually bleats like a goat. It is bananas.)
Julie, who must have superhuman composure, tells Dex that what he needs is a therapist, but she also acquiesces to letting him call her if she needs help. Unfortunately for her, it seems like someone is watching them over the cafe’s security camera. We don’t know who, but we can guess.
Did you guess Fisk? I’m guessing Fisk. You know who else is guessing Fisk? Foggy Nelson. The brash young lawyer, as we saw in “Aftermath,” thinks he’s on to Fisk’s scheme, and he’s at Karen’s apartment to show her what he’s learned, and to ask for help.
This is perhaps the most convoluted part of Daredevil thus far — but the short version is that Foggy’s hunch is that Fisk’s new racket is brokering police protection for New York’s crime bosses by being strategic about who he rats on. He also learns the exact terms of Fisk’s house arrest, and that he can go back to prison for breaking any of them. So, Foggy wants to gin up some headlines by crashing a Blake Tower campaign speech and turning it into a debate, airing allegations that Fisk is gaming the system, and spurring investigations that will doubtless show that Fisk is breaking his agreement.
Unfortunately, Karen disagrees — she thinks the way to nail Fisk is via his childhood murder of his father, something that his mother told Ben Urich before he died, a conversation Karen was present for. (It’s remarkable how much of a direct follow up to season one this season is. It’s cashing in chips that sat on a shelf for just about all of season two — and it honestly seems like the show would rather we forget that season happened.) Karen thinks that getting Fisk prosecuted for that, if she can just get the evidence, is the way to send Fisk back to prison. The problem, as Foggy says, is that there is no evidence. He asks her to go with his plan, and she seems to agree — even though she’s no longer a Bulletin reporter.
So all three of our heroes have a plan. Let’s see how they play out.
First, Matt. Nadeem has set up a distraction for Dex, introducing him to a lawyer that will help him build a wrongful suspension case. At Dex’s apartment, Daredevil and Nadeem then search for evidence. Matt smells the suit, and is able to crack into the safe where Dex kept up, but there’s nothing there. What he does find is the tape player, which he takes. Nadeem is so far unconvinced. (Daredevil has long been fond of taking a minimalist approach to Matt’s powers, his heightened hearing is what gets the most play. But I would love to see more of this — him describing the world through his other senses, tracking people through things he smells or tastes, and how he’s learned more about the world by navigating it that way. He’s a lawyer. He loves details.)
Daredevil, however, wants to take Dex down now, while he isn’t suspecting it. The resulting argument is loud enough for Dex to hear when he gets home earlier than expected, and so Daredevil and Nadeem are forced to flee with Dex on their tail. They escape, but not before Nadeem takes a bullet—lucky for him, Dex didn’t see who he tagged.
Elsewhere that night, Foggy is at the aforementioned fundraiser dinner, and despite Karen not showing up, decides to forge ahead with his plan, heckling Blake Tower when he takes the podium, enduring some heckles himself, but eventually finding the charisma to power through and accuse Tower of looking the other way when it comes to Fisk, saying that Fisk’s intel has been targeting criminals that had compromised law enforcement officials, pulling them out from the pockets of other crime bosses and dropping them into his. Consolidating power.
Despite the crowd’s initial hostility, Foggy is holding his ground and their attention, as smartphones come out. Then he comes around to Karen’s empty seat, and figures out where she might be. He swears, and immediately leaves.
For good reason, too: Karen’s got some spectacularly bad ideas. She’s at Fisk’s penthouse, having booked a room at the hotel to get past initial security, and making a call to Fisk’s lawyers to get the message across that she wants to speak to him about a story she’s working on about his mother. Fisk’s FBI guards let her in once she makes it clear that she knows the terms of his house arrest, and that they allow him to talk to the press.
She’s horrified by the luxury that Fisk is living in. Fisk, sitting down to talk, attempts to intimidate her, but she’s not here to mess around. She tells him that she knows Fisk killed his father as a boy, that it’s a story she’s going to find a way to print. But Fisk has let her in for a reason, and it’s because he wants to know how long she’s known about Matt Murdock’s secret life. Her stunned reaction gives her away, and now Fisk knows for sure: Matt Murdock is Daredevil.
Angry at herself for making such a grave error, Karen goes on the offensive, recklessly taunting Fisk and telling him that she killed James Wesley herself, working Fisk into a fury as he rises and bellows and — the FBI storms into the room, pulling Karen out in cuffs because Foggy had lied to them and said she intended to harm Fisk, so they would rush in and drag her out. Too late, though. Karen’s a target now.
Also a target: Nadeem. Dex knows his former superior is on to him, but he’s still spiraling. He burns the remainder of his old therapy tapes, and comes to Fisk, asking for help with Nadeem, help with everything. Breaking down in Fisk’s arms, the transfer of power is complete. Wilson Fisk is Ben Poindexter’s compass now, and he will go in whatever direction he wishes.
While these massive shifts are going on unbeknownst to him, Matt rages in the church basement, lashing out at Sister Maggie, rejecting her advice. She leaves him to pray upstairs, while Matt hits the heavy bag. But even though he’s preoccupied and a whole floor away, he can still hear her voice, praying aloud. So he hears her when she calls him her son, and falls to his knees.