“Nelson v Murdock” is clearly one of the most important Daredevil episodes we’re going to get, even with the first season not yet over. It’s an episode that finally puts the Foggy/Matt friendship at the forefront, with Foggy demanding answers about his best friend’s secret life. Knowing the truth about Matt does great things for everyone involved. It injects energy in Foggy and Matt’s rarely seen friendship and gives Eldon Henson and Charlie Cox meaty material to work with.
When Matt awakens on his couch, it’s to his poorly conceived crimefighting outfit in pieces, surrounded with bloody gauze pads and to an angry Foggy, in disbelief at this best friend’s longtime duplicity. Henson in particular gets to show a lot more range in this episode than he has before, when he’s been relegated to either comic relief or being an affectionate caretaker for Karen or Mrs. Cardenas. Moments have been sprinkled throughout that display Foggy’s affection for Matt, but “Nelson v. Murdock” is an episode that allows Henson to show off his acting chops, having to transition from the fun loving Foggy who takes Punjabi to impress a girl to the betrayed and agonizing present day Foggy. The change in Foggy and Matt’s dynamic also gives Charlie Cox new things to work with, as he’s clearly shamed by Foggy’s new outlook on him and their friendship, and like Foggy, heartbroken.
The flashbacks to their college days reveal plenty of strong elements to the Matt/Foggy friendship that haven’t had the opportunity to be as emphasized this season. It’s one of the show’s shortcomings that it hasn’t been able to show Foggy and Matt as the best friends they are, having to spend time developing Matt’s fight to save the city, while Foggy’s wrapped up in Union Allied and Karen. The flashbacks go from their first meeting to their decision to leave Landman & Zack for the more morally upright and less financially lucrative practice of their own. It’s endearing and funny to see them as college kids, making fun of each other on nighttime walks, during which Matt nearly tells Foggy the truth about his blindness and his heightened senses before thinking better of it. The flashbacks show a friendship that’s intimate and important to the both of them, which makes Foggy’s hurt all the more palpable especially as he trashes their new Nelson & Murdock sign and leaves the firm.
Matt telling Foggy the truth about himself also gives the audience a chance to hear firsthand how Matt got his start. It’s easy to assume, since we know Matt much better than Foggy does, but hearing it–and then seeing it–is something else entirely. When the flashbacks deviate from Foggy and Matt, it’s because we’ve reached Matt’s first night being Daredevil. His senses led him to have a heightened awareness of Hell’s Kitchen’s corruption, and he had to act, finally achieving peace once he did something. It’s a generous thing Matt’s doing, putting himself at risk to save others, but it’s just as beneficial for him as it is for them. Matt finally getting a good night’s sleep afterward is reminiscent of Fisk’s line to Vanessa about killing his father. She thought he did it to save his mother, and that may have been part of it, but it was also about what Fisk needed to do for himself.
It’s a contradictory stance, both benevolent and selfish, and Matt’s not the only one walking that thin line. Karen straddles it herself this episode as Ben decides he needs to focus more on caring for his ailing wife, as the insurance finally runs out. Seeing Ben and his wife finally interact with one another is adorable and touching, and it’s easy to see why Ben decides now that he can’t keep being the revolutionary reporter. He has to be responsible for Doris now, so he drops off everything he has on Fisk and Union Allied with Karen. Unwilling to see him go, Karen tricks him into heading to a nursing home where Marlene Fisk resides, a selfish move that may be for good reasons but is indifferent to Ben’s personal issues.
Then there’s Fisk, who’s warned by Madame Gao that his contradictory ways are losing him the faith of his remaining partners. Leland and Gao are similarly disturbed by the changes in Fisk’s demeanor since and Vanessa started seeing one another. And naturally Vanessa ends up poisoned at a gala, collapsing in Fisk’s arms and foaming at the mouth. The show’s gotten very comfortable using its female characters as victims, painfully so. It’s not surprising, since something befalling Vanessa was likely telegraphed from the start, the same way it is when a love interest shows up for a superhero. But it would be great if someone somewhere would decide that the well being of love interests being threatened is a tired trope that’s now over.
- Vanessa can’t die. She’s supposed to marry him! First the show pretends that Claire no longer exists, and then they kill off Vanessa? No thank you Steven S. Deknight.
- Foggy: “You listened to her heartbeat without her permission? We’re lawyers you can’t do that!”
- A Greek girl is mentioned as being in Matt’s Spanish class. Sounds like Elektra to me.
- Foggy mentions once again that his mom wanted him to be a butcher.
- Rosario Dawson’s much too talented to be as underused as she is, and every episode that goes by without her (especially obvious ones like this one) is another mark against Daredevil. And in a show so devoid of female characters and characters of color, ignoring Claire just looks lazy.