There’s a lot of things I really admire about Daredevil, even if I think they don’t exactly work. From a marketing perspective, it would’ve been easier for Marvel to go with the red suit, but instead they went with the black. It would’ve been easier to make Fisk a generic gangster than a lovestruck loner. It would’ve been easier to make Daredevil a full-fledged superhero from the beginning instead of making a season-long origin story. When it comes to Daredevil, Marvel did not take the easy road.
But as much as I admire Marvel’s ambition, it’s unfortunate that Daredevil’s final episode shits the bed so spectacularly in its final hour.
After his season toiling away, Wilson Fisk is finally ready to remake Hell’s Kitchen in his own image. At long last, Wilson Fisk has everything he wants, and he throws it all away down an elevator shaft. It’s only in the end that Fisk discovers that he’s not the hero of this story. In an overwrought monologue delivered skillfully by Vincent D’Onofrio, Fisk realizes that he’s not the altruistic savior of Hell’s Kitchen, but a man working selfishly on his own agenda.
Daredevil’s mission statement seems to be to make Wilson Fisk the MCU’s greatest villain. Unfortunately, in their attempts to add nuances to Fisk, they accidentally made him one of the MCU’s greatest heroes. CCM at the Cracked message boards (highlight for spoilers) points out how Fisk’s arc mirrors a typical superhero origin story: tragic childhood, orphan (partially), secret identity, refusing the call, hiding to protect his loved ones, girlfriend under attack, etc. It’s a great concept, but the show leans too heavily on it. Fisk is an antihero, when the show is in desperate need of a villain. He ought to be the Claudius to Matt’s Hamlet; instead, he’s the Macbeth to Matt’s Macduff.
Fisk is so well-developed this season that it actually causes the heroes’ characterization to suffer. Matt, Foggy, and Karen’s hard work pays off this episode, due entirely to events in this episode. That’s right: visiting Fisk’s mother, uncovering his childhood murder, the death of Wesley, the death of Ben: all amount to nothing. It’s only because Fisk murders Leland that he can be brought to justice. The entire mother subplot doesn’t affect the outcome at all. Fisk is the instrument of his own demise; Matt and Foggy are incidental.
In the end, making Fisk an agent of change is misguided. The Hell’s Kitchen that Fisk describes is probably very similar to one Matt would like. Giving the villain and hero similar objectives is an interesting thought exercise, but it makes for a very dissatisfying serial narrative. Come season 3, when Hell’s Kitchen is still a shithole, how will Matt be able to justify his mission? Fisk might’ve been the only bridge to a better Hell’s Kitchen, and Matt just burned it down.
For a show defined by its incredible action scenes, the final confrontation between Daredevil and Fisk is an extreme disappointment. It’s cheap and poorly written, feeling like something straight out of a low-rated superhero show on Fox in the ‘90s. The writing is grotesquely bad, turning Fisk into a snarling over-the-top brute. The editing is confusing, likely to hide the obvious stiffness of the red suit. A random alleyway is the least interesting location for a showdown between Daredevil and Fisk. Perhaps most confusing: I assumed that Daredevil was thrashed by Fisk because he was cut to shit by Nobu. But this final fight puts Fisk and Daredevil as physical equals, which is preposterous, no matter how beastly Fisk is.
Daredevil teased the red suit for three episodes before debuting it in an almost incidental final fight. The show has cited The Raid as an inspiration, so why not fully invoke the comparison in the final moments? Cut the poorly-shot bridge assault, and hole Fisk inside his fortress-like apartment, behind floors of heavily-armed goons. A helicopter is on the way to retrieve him, and the police can’t get inside before he’ll be in the wind. Have Daredevil battle through the goons, eventually facing Fisk in his personal sanctuary. Instead of being a man on a truck, make Matt the Devil rising from hell to bring Fisk down with him.
But having said that, I don’t know that I can hold the aesthetics of the final fight against the show. The rest of the season looked so damn good that it’s likely that Marvel simply ran out of money by the final minutes of the final episode. What I describe would’ve been far more expensive than what they actually shot. If a cheap final fight justifies four or five excellent smaller fights, I won’t be too surly.
I’m not sure that Steven DeKnight should have Karen call Daredevil’s name “goofy” when Fisk monologues, ”I wanted to make this city something better than it is. Something beautiful. You took that away from me! You took everything! I’m gonna kill you!” I hate that the show is embarrassed of Daredevil’s comic book roots. Marvel Studios embraces the comic origins of their heroes, and are beloved by audiences. I’m also bewildered that DeKnight, Daredevil’s showrunner, enables his writers to explore extreme philosophical depths while he pens Fisk’s worst moments of the season. At least it’s confined to one scene; if the dialogue was always this bad, the show would’ve been unbearable.
Having said all that, there is one thing I really like at the end of this episode: Matt, Foggy, and Karen are together again. Though Fisk slowly became the show’s lead, Daredevil’s emotional core lie in the employees of Nelson and Murdock. The chemistry between Charlie Cox, Elden Hanson and Deborah Ann Woll is so excellent that after thirteen episodes, it still feels fresh and revelatory. I’m hoping that Daredevil’s second season eases off on Fisk, leaving room for these three to deepen their emotional connections.
And despite the disappointing ending, I’m leaving Daredevil hungry for more. I’m mostly still buzzing from Episode 12. If Season 2 is Daredevil fighting international cartels of ninjas, I couldn’t be happier. Even still, Daredevil’s first season is better than I ever expected. It’s a truly cinematic show, both technically and in terms of scope. Matt Murdock is one of the best heroes produced by Marvel to date, standing alongside Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Peter Quill. Daredevil raises the bar for Marvel Television, even if it doesn’t quite stick the landing.
1.5 Billy Clubs out of 5. Though the red suit is a dud, Daredevil’s iconic weapon was a lot of fun. It’s just too bad we saw so little of it.
Thanks for reading our coverage of Daredevil! We’re not done yet: tomorrow our final review will focus on the whole series, its strengths and weaknesses, and what it represents for the whole MCU moving forward.
For all my criticisms of this episode, Fisk’s proposal during an FBI raid is rather inspired and sweet.
Man, how high up in the food chain is Hoffman? He didn’t just bring down crooked cops; he brought down a reporter, a partner at a law firm, and a fucking Senator. I would’ve guessed the only person with that kind of information was Wesley.
I like that Ellison was not Fisk’s man in the newsroom, but some random reporter we’ve never even seen. Just goes to show that right up until the end, Urich’s instincts were shit.
So Marci is totally going to work at Nelson/Murdock next season, right? Amy Rutberg is a lot of fun as the bitchy blonde babe.
Despite being lawyers, Matt and Foggy are terrible liars. They really are genuine good guys.
Melvin Potter is a much better character when they don’t lean on his “simple” nature. It’s a lot easier to imagine him and Daredevil pitching ideas back and forth, talking about metal clubs, incorporating red, and adding horns.
In the last episode, I loved when Daredevil disabled a man in the darkness. This episode, I really dislike that an entire fight scene happened with Hoffman’s eyes closed. Again, it feels budgetary; they just didn’t have enough time to choreograph and shoot a brand new fight scene.
Though I do dislike the final fight, seeing Fisk fleeing, panicked, into the alley was super rewarding.
Can someone make a gif of Daredevil’s table flip punch? Please post in the comments below.