At first glance, “Nelson v Murdock” doesn’t feel as important as the following episode makes it. It takes place mostly in flashback, or in the present day confines of Matt’s apartment as he tries to explain his choices to Foggy. The large steps taken in Fisk’s, Karen’s and Ben’s storylines are secondary, only to be blown up in “The Path of the Righteous”. With circumstances like the ones these characters are in, there are damning consequences for the choices they make, and none of them can be called unexpected.
This episode wins itself a couple points by having Claire return, but by the time we see her she’s headed out of town. It’s a relief to see her after an extended absence, but since she’s leaving anyway there are obviously no further plans to utilize her this season, one of the recurring missteps of Daredevil‘s first string of episodes. Her and Matt’s charming goodbye is further reason to be annoyed at the show giving up on a good thing in their chemistry and natural banter. While it’s refreshing to see Claire immediately knowing that Matt’s never going to give up Daredevil, and thereby removing herself from the equation before her feelings can be even be more hurt, it’s less revolutionary and more lazy when the show can’t find a place for her once she’s not part of the superhero machine.
With Claire and Foggy both deciding that Daredevil isn’t someone they can be around, it gives Matt something to think about. It’s a reminder that if he persists on his path he’s going to be sacrificing some things, like his special friendship with Foggy, and a potentially promising romance with Claire. And still recovering from his fight with Nobu, Matt’s also reminded that his mission is also going to be a physically harrowing one. He’d have died without Claire and Foggy’s help, and now both of them are moving on without him. So body armor’s a necessity, and Matt turns his attention to Fisk’s tailor Melvin who, after fighting with Daredevil throughout his workshop, agrees to make a suit for Matt after if he can stop Fisk.
Fisk rushes Vanessa to the hospital and is forced to wait around while the doctors try to save her. With it appearing as though he was targeted in an assassination attempt, Fisk and Wesley make plans to get Vanessa out of the country and keep her safe. This kind of paternalistic behavior isn’t out of place in the superhero genre, and though the Daredevil writers said they wouldn’t be hitting the rote superhero beats with Matt (I miss you, Claire!), that doesn’t mean they can’t hit them with Vanessa. Fisk may not be the “hero”, but he’s occupying the same role as the guilt ridden love interest.
The mystery now is who was behind the attack. With Gao out of sight, despite Leland’s multiple offscreen visits to her, she’s the main suspect. She’s said more than once that she questions Fisk’s abilities to maintain leadership now that he’s fallen in love with Vanessa. But even killing her likely wouldn’t solve that particular problem. If Vanessa were to die, Fisk would become even more unstable, and he could either lose his hold on the city or grip it so tight that he destroys it beyond repair. With so few people Fisk can call himself close to, his relationship with those people are even more vital. Vanessa and Wesley both fall under this category, and Wesley in particular takes on a more visible role as Fisk’s friend and ally, acting as Fisk’s lone source of comfort in the hospital. The episode takes on a tragic bent when, as Fisk is concerned with Vanessa, he doesn’t even realize that it’s Wesley he should be most afraid for. Wesley’s an especially loyal friend, so loyal that he takes attacks against Fisk personally. And in Fisk’s time of need, Wesley decides to handle a sudden problem on his own: Karen, who he realizes has discovered Marlene.
Karen’s also on her own in her fight this episode. With Foggy occupied with learning the truth about Matt, Matt dealing with Daredevil things, and Ben pissed at her for tricking him into seeing Marlene Fisk, Karen’s got a lot on her plate that she has to chew on her own. Karen having a storyline of her own, regardless of how repetitive it may be at times, is one of the show’s strengths. But it runs the risk of isolating her. At this point in the season, you’d think everyone would be coming together, but they’re falling apart. And the emotional stakes of the collapse of the relationships doesn’t land well when we’ve seen so little of Karen, Foggy and Matt interacting as a group outside of work (or even inside of work really). and with the distance between them, no one notices when Wesley grabs Karen.
Like Fisk and Matt, Karen has to face the consequences of her actions this episode. Her crusade is one that she’s known all along could have deadly consequences, but she’s persisted despite warnings. Just as Fisk knows that having Vanessa by his side poses a risk to her, and Matt knows that his choice to be Daredevil is going to limit his options as far as personal relationships, Karen knows the danger she’s jumped into by trying to do the right thing. Wesley tries to convince her to use her talents for Fisk, rather than him killing her. Karen naturally refuses, and she gets her hands on Wesley’s gun and kills him. It’s quite the shock, even with Karen’s death being unlikely. There was really no other way the scene could go, one of them had to die since a clean escape for either of them wouldn’t have been possible. It adds a nice new layer to Karen’s character that she’s shot someone before (are we going to learn her backstory this season or not?), and even though Wesley’s death will likely send Fisk on a warpath, it makes me excited for what else the season has in store for Karen.
- Marci: Whatever’s going on between you two…I don’t really care.”
- Matt: I’m really not in the mood for this tonight.”
Turk: “It’s cool, man, it’s cool.”
- Foggy and Matt’s breakup is very sad. Karen tries to help them patch it up, but that’s hard to do when Foggy can’t explain to her what’s going on.
- Claire won’t even be around to see Matt’s new and improved costume. If this really is Claire’s last onscreen appearance for Daredevil, maybe we can hope to see her on Luke Cage.
- Ben finds a photo that has a photo of one of Bill Fisk’s campaign posters, and that’s something.
- It was very sweet of Wesley to put Karen’s purse neatly at her feet like that. And it’s also nice of him to leave the gun on the table and distractedly reach for his phone.
- Now that he’s dead I doubt this will happen, but I’d love to know how Fisk and Wesley became as close as they are.
- There’s another dumpster below Turk. If Matt had dropped him in there like he did the other guy, how long would the rooftop gimmick last?