Note: not every plot detail is revealed but major spoilers exist and will harm your innocence.
1.08: “Shadows in the Glass”
Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio), a man of wealth and taste, is seen choosing, with great care, his clothes for the day—selecting just the right combination, including those ever present cufflinks “inherited” from his father. Observing his reflection in the mirror, he’s not in the least startled to see an earlier embodiment of himself—a young, bloodied twelve-year-old Wilson Fisk (Cole Jensen) looking back.
Through a glass darkly, Fisk's old man—an obnoxious lout running for 3rd Council District—called him Willy, tossing out gems like, “All you gotta do is put your mind to it and make it happen.” Unfortunately, daddy Fisk is only concerned with running for public service to line his pockets from accepted bribes and taking his frustrations out physically on his terrorized family. When young Fisk takes a hammer to his father with repeated blows, his mother bears witness to the irremediable monster’s origin.
Present day: Fisk pays Detective Hoffman (Daryl Edwards) to kill his partner Blake (Chris Tardio), but not before Daredevil (Charlie Cox) arrives to get some deathbed info from Blake; a clue in the name Confederated Global Investments pops up again in Foggy (Elden Henson), Matt (Cox), and Karen’s (Deborah Ann Woll) investigation; Madame Gao (Wai Ching) warns Fisk to “restore your house to order”; and Daredevil meets with Ben Urich to work together to expose Fisk publically (although Fisk weakens their fledgling evidence by going public himself).
Note: This is the first appearance of Melvin Potter (Matt Gerald), aka The Gladiator.
1.09: “Speak of the Devil”
…or when Daredevil meets the Kingpin. Matt goes to Vanessa’s (Ayelet Zurer) art gallery, under the pretense he wants to buy some art, after seeing the curator in a televised appearance with Fisk. Vanessa introduces them, and there’s a restrained tête-à-tête as both men are aware that they are on opposite sides of the case of the tenants being evicted. (Matt is one leg up knowing this is the mastermind running the city, while Fisk is unaware he’s talking to “the man in black.”)
Intercut throughout “Speak of the Devil” is Nobu’s (Peter Shinkoda) clash with Daredevil. Holy hell! Another no-holds-barred fight sequence as Nobu zings a Ninja weapon called (had to IMDb this) a kyoketsu-shoge that rips at DD’s flesh.
Nobu is the superior combatant, so his demise has the somewhat unsatisfying finish of Darth Maul being caught off guard in The Phantom Menace. Really, we have to suspend disbelief to think Nobu could be turned into a sizzler so easily. Still, it doesn’t detract from another strikingly executed Daredevil duel.
Developments: Strong religious infusion as Matt continues his conversations with Father Lantom (Peter McRobbie), who assures him the Devil is walking the Earth. (When asked by Karen, he describes himself as Catholic, which would explain his need for the Deity’s opinion.) An old Hollywood chestnut of going to the religious order for advice and then shunning it to continue on as already planned. Soporific plot device for such a sharp-minded program. It would have been better to have him talking to a philosopher about determinism versus this unfortunate cliché that nonetheless is played with devotional respect.
1.10: “Nelson v. Murdock”
The aftermath of graphic violence in Daredevil is soberly presented as Matt recovers from his near-death battle with Nobu. If at times the show seems to step over the line toward gratuitousness—bad guy impaling himself on a fence post, Nobu going up in flames—it's sharply brought into focus as the hero is not only shown to be extremely human (major kudos to the make-up team for their conjuring of scars and bullet wounds), but the recovery doesn’t happen in a New York minute.
There are real consequences by leading this vigilante existence. And Matt Murdock has to answer to his best friend, Foggy, for all the lies he has told him over the years. Best lines to lighten the mood:
Foggy: “A blind old man…taught you the ancient ways of martial arts. Isn't that the plot to Kung Fu?”
Matt: “I know how it sounds.”
Foggy: “I don't think that you do.“
Elsewhere in Hell’s Kitchen: Madame Gao to Fisk: ”How long before your ambition turns to me?“; Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall) thinks about taking a promotion as an editor to earn more money and benefits for his sick wife, Doris (Adriane Lenox); Ben and Karen meet Fisk's mom at an upscale nursing home; and several erudite party attendees are poisoned, including Vanessa.
1.11: “The Path of the Righteous”
Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk's worlds are in decay. Matt because he's still recovering from being sliced and diced by Nobu, coupled with Foggy no longer trusting him now that he knows Matt is Daredevil. Across town, Fisk holds vigil at the hospital where Vanessa is possibly dying from poisoned champagne. An attack he assumes was meant for him. Was it Madame Gao? The Japanese? He sends shifty-eyed Leland Owlsley (Bob Gunton) to consult with Gao.
The weakest episode of Season One sends Matt back to talk to Father Lantom, tossing out the incredibly lame line, “…then why did he put the Devil in me?” I know we are reaching for the title of the show, but damn, that’s a little obvious.
Also wearing thin, beyond the God talks, is all the confessing and hearts pouring out like Days of Our Lives (i.e., Matt with the Rev, then Matt and Karen, Karen and Ben, Fisk with Wesley, and Fisk to an unconscious Vanessa). And, in the strangest admission, Karen owns up that she was wrong in luring Ben to an old folk’s home in upstate NY. No kidding, Karen! Risking his hanging-by-a-thread life on visiting Fisk’s mom when he thinks you are helping him look for a home for his debilitated wife.
Developments: Fisk's mom tells Wesley that she had visitors. Wesley puts two and two together and then, impetuously, goes it alone in kidnapping Karen.
1.12: “The Ones We Leave Behind”
I liked James Wesley (Toby Leonard Moore). I admired his cool reasoning and meritorious services to Fisk, and for those reasons, I have a quibble with his death. How could such a smart man be so dumb? Yes, he’s out of his element and was caught off guard by the phone call. It’s a small objection, because the scene leading up to Karen swiping the gun was tense. Her blasting him away in the chest surprised me as much as it did Wesley.
Vanessa wakes up. Fisk assures, “I'll make them suffer for what they've done.” To which Vanessa eerily replies, “I expect nothing less.” But first, he mourns Wesley and confronts Urich over the reporter visiting his mom. Ben covers for Karen (Ben, I will say it for you: “thanks for nothing, blondie!”) and is murdered by Fisk.
Developments: To tail a car, Matt finally becomes the superhero from the comics. Scaling a building and running across the rooftops of Hell’s Kitchen with ease; it’s revealed that Owlsley and Madame Gao tried killing Vanessa; Fisk makes preparations for moving his mom to Italy; Foggy meets his former snake of a girlfriend (Amy Rutberg as Marci Stahl), showing her what he has on Fisk, urging, “Take your soul back.”
Solemn, tear-jerking opening as Ben Urich is laid to rest. Ben’s wife lets Karen off the hook, saying that her husband’s calling was to follow a story down—that he died doing what he loved. (Give me a call, Mrs. Urich. We’ll talk.)
Fisk confronts Owlsley’s back-stabbing ways, accusing the goon of stealing from him and orchestrating the attempt on Vanessa’s life with Gao’s help. Owlsley has some major cojones for telling Fisk to his face that he is only going to take half his fortune before inquiring, “We on the same page?” while standing next to an empty elevator shaft! Fisk replies, “No…I don’t think we are.” Going down, anyone?
Marci has been copying files from Landman and Zack on the quiet and handing them to Foggy, connecting her company’s dealings with Fisk and Owlsley. Let’s give Foggy some credit—while Matt was using fists, Foggy was using his wits to bring down the Kingpin.
This characterization is a nice change from the poltroonish Foggy Nelson that I grew up reading in the comics.
Best line is when Foggy chastises Matt:
“You go after him in the mask again, he might kill you. Or you might kill him, which would probably have the same effect on someone as Catholic as you are.”
Matt and Foggy learn Detective Hoffman is still alive, and Daredevil convinces him to turn himself in, causing a domino effect of corrupt dirty cops, lawyers, and one senator being swept up in a dragnet. Fisk is also rounded up but escapes, prodding the man in black—now with Melvin Potter’s Daredevil attire—to go after Fisk.
The final showdown is exactly what it needs to be: brutal, bloody, and revealing. Fisk attacks like a bulldog from hell, asserting the city doesn’t deserve him. Daredevil comes into his own, using Potter’s armor to its fullest potential in defeating the Kingpin. A satisfying ending to the best live-action series adapted from a comic book.
The Flash? Arrow? Jessica Jones?
At this point, nothing comes close to Daredevil.
David Cranmer aka Edward A. Grainger is the publisher and editor of BEAT to a PULP books http://www.beattoapulp.com/ and writer of the forthcoming The Drifter Detective #7: Torn and Frayed. He lives in New York with his wife and daughter.