HomeTelevisionRecap: Marvel's Daredevil Episode 8-13

Recap: Marvel’s Daredevil Episode 8-13


Daredevil Final Episodes Summary:

As Matt (Charlie Cox) zeroes in on Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio), the future kingpin of crime decides to go public. When Matt underestimates his enemy, he’s forced to reveal his secret to Foggy (Elden Henson) and a rift forms between them. Meanwhile, Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) and Ben’s (Vondie Curtis-Hall) investigation into Fisk puts them both in danger. After the Nelson and Murdock team finally find a way to expose Fisk’s crimes, Matt and Fisk go head to head in an epic fistfight.

At the halfway point of the first season, I was not Daredevil’s biggest fan. Despite a few strong performances and one of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen, there were major problems. While the scattershot storytelling and weak characterization also plague the second half, I’ll admit to enjoying it much more. Part of that is because the show genuinely improves, becoming more focused as it moves toward Matt and Fisk’s showdown. The other is that I binge watched it.

Vincent D'Onfrio in Daredevil
Photo: Barry Wetcher
© 2014 Netflix, Inc. All rights reserved.

For the first half of the season, I watched no more than one episode a day, giving it my full attention and taking time to process it before moving on. By contrast, I finished the season in two chunks of three and that made it much easier to focus on the good. Foggy actually became charming thanks largely to his sweet flirtation with Karen. Too bad the show ruined it by having Foggy fall back into bed with his bitchy ex without resolving his feelings for Karen. I also realized how good the opening credits are, bathing the city in blood red to suggest Matt’s propensity for violence and the color of his signature suit. No matter that they’re exactly like the superior Hannibal’s. I even enjoyed seeing Matt don that suit. It’s pretty cool except for how wedged in its origin is. In fact, the only things that don’t improve are Matt and Fisk.

I unfavorably compared Daredevil to Breaking Bad while recapping episodes 2-7, but neglected to mention their most prominent shared characteristic: the indulgent storytelling. Both get lost in tangents, especially when it comes to their disorienting opening scenes. Daredevil has perhaps the most extreme example I’ve ever seen in the eighth episode, “Shadows in the Glass.” In it, we see Fisk go through his morning routine. He wakes from a nightmare, delicately sprinkles freshly-chopped chives over an omelet and then puts on what we learn are his dead father’s cufflinks. And then it ends with a jarring shot of Fisk looking in the mirror and seeing his young, blood-splattered self in the reflection. The point is to tell us that despite all his power, Fisk still feels like the frightened little boy who killed his father to protect his mother. It’s a heavy-handed bit of characterization that isn’t half so effective as the reveal for why he finds the painting Vanessa (Ayelet Zurer) sold him so calming. Speaking of, Vanessa figures into the morning routine metaphor too. At the end of the episode, we go through it all again, except this time, she becomes his surrogate mother and helps dress him, even making him reject his guilt over killing his father by picking a different pair of cufflinks.

Photo Credit: Barry Wetcher © 2014 Netflix, Inc. All rights reserved.
Photo Credit: Barry Wetcher
© 2014 Netflix, Inc. All rights reserved.

As before, it’s hard to understand how Fisk became such a fearsome villain when his core seems so shaky, even weak. The point is to suggest that Vanessa gives him strength and while it’s neither out of line with the comics or a bad piece of writing, it lacks punch because it has no build up. It all happens in this one episode. What does Vanessa see in Fisk? Why is she so undisturbed by his criminal activity? To put it simply, she needs a flashback episode—and she’s not the only one.

Karen is in even more desperate need of backstory. That isn’t a dig. She’s the most fully developed character on the show. You want to know more about her. That’s especially true in the scene where Toby Leonard Moore’s James Wesley takes Karen hostage. Moore and Woll are the series’ standouts and their confrontation is nothing if not thrilling. As Wesley uses his quiet, charming menace to frighten Karen into talking about her visit with Fisk’s mother, Karen tries to hide how terrified she is. Things look bad for her until she exploits Wesley’s ringing phone to take his gun. Typical Wesley, he maintains his cool, nonchalantly asking if she thinks he’d be foolish enough to put a loaded gun within her reach. Karen, stone-faced, asks if he thinks this is the first time she’s ever shot someone. While her confidence is likely a bluff given the nervous breakdown she has after murdering him, there’s something about the way she’s reacted to all the season’s horrors that makes you wonder. Maybe it’s the way her fear turns to arrogance when she hears Wesley hasn’t told anyone else what he knows or the way that she knows despite his bluffing that the gun she’s holding is loaded, but it all suggests that Karen isn’t just the sweet, victimized girl we met in the pilot.

It’s a great moment, maybe the series’ best. It’s certainly more exciting than Fisk and Matt beating each other senseless in the finale. Karen and Wesley seem like real people. Matt and Fisk are never anything but two ideas at opposite ends of a spectrum. Especially in the second half of the season, they seem to do less and less while the secondary characters provide much of the momentum and emotional development. All they do is give one self-aggrandizing speech after another. But it’s hard to notice how meaningless their words are because that’s kind of what we expect of prestige dramas these days. And that’s what Daredevil wants to be.

Charlie Cox in Daredevil
Photo: Barry Wetcher
© 2014 Netflix, Inc. All rights reserved.

Netflix isn’t quite HBO, but it’s still established itself as a place for quality original television with shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Daredevil benefits from that pedigree and has the Marvel imprimatur to boot. While the studio doesn’t have the respect of something like Pixar, it’s made a string of very entertaining films and one solid TV show (Agent Carter, obviously). People trust the Marvel brand in a way they don’t DC, for instance. More importantly, though, Daredevil has the trappings of what we expect a prestige drama to look like. Inky black shadows, violence, moral ambiguity, shocking twists, speechifying and male heroes with delusions of grandeur—all the elements that suggest quality. Yet Daredevil isn’t actually great, it just seems like it, especially when you don’t pay much attention.

That’s the real reason viewers might not notice the show’s problems: its release is designed for binge watching. Unlike Arrow, The Flash or even Gotham, Daredevil doesn’t have to justify its existence by making viewers want to come back each week. Those shows had to start essentially as villain-of-the-week procedurals that introduced the larger comic book mythology gradually to avoid alienating viewers new to the characters. Daredevil can take its time and indulge because the episodes are made and out there regardless if anyone watches them. More importantly, the release model is designed to encourage viewers to leave little time to reflect on the season’s overall arc and the way it develops. That’s why I enjoyed the final six episodes more than the prior seven. Binge-watching gives the show a flow it doesn’t actually possess.

That’s never clearer than in the season’s final moments. After 13 episodes of brutal violence, deaths and so many losses it’s a wonder the characters (mostly Karen) can go on, our heroes finally get a win and take down Fisk. Yet even if that final shot of Fisk behind bars is the payoff the show needed, it’s not quite as strong as it should be. Matt may have put on the suit, but his journey to victorious vigilante happens too quickly. One minute his crusade is hopeless, the next, he’s won. By making Fisk basically invincible and omnipotent for much of the season, Matt’s sudden success feels unearned. Empire ended its first season the same way, but went through at least two seasons’ worth of story to get there. Daredevil barely covers half a season. What that storyline needed was space to breathe and time to build. But Netflix isn’t about delayed gratification. Marvel was very smart to not put Daredevil on actual television. It just wouldn’t hold up viewed week to week. What a blessing and curse the Netflix model is.

Rating: 6/10

By day, Marisa Carpico stresses over every detail of America’s election system. By night, she becomes a pop culture and celebrity obsessive. Whether it’s movies, TV or music, she watches and listens to it all so you don’t have to. You can find her risking her life by reading comic books while walking down the crowded streets of New York City, having inappropriate emotional reactions at her iPad screen while riding the subway or occasionally letting her love of a band convince her to stand for hours on end in one of the city’s many purgatorial concert spaces. You can follow her on Twitter to read her insightful social commentary or more likely complain about how cold it is at @MarisaCarpico.

Marisa Carpico
Marisa Carpico
By day, Marisa Carpico stresses over America’s election system. By night, she becomes a pop culture obsessive. Whether it’s movies, TV or music, she watches and listens to it all so you don’t have to.

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