No episode better encapsulates Daredevil than Speak of the Devil. This episode has series-best character work, bringing Matt to question the validity of his mission against Fisk. This episode showcases an incredible fight between Daredevil and a villain that feels very gritty, yet very Marvel. And this episode contains a moment so aggravating that I paused the episode and walked away in anger, as it singlehandedly undid every ounce of characterization in the whole episode.
This episode features Daredevil’s best scene. After Matt finally meets Wilson Fisk for the first time, he turns to Father Lantom, a Catholic Priest played gamely by Peter McRobbie. Matt is sure that murdering Fisk would make the world a better place, but wonders if its worth the cost of his soul. Father Lantom intones the series’ best line: ”There’s a wide gulf between inaction and murder Matthew. Another man’s evil does not make you good. Men have used the atrocities of their enemies to justify their own throughout history.”
Matt has viewed Fisk as this unassailable phantom, a literal devil in Hell’s Kitchen. But upon meeting him, Matt realizes that Fisk is just a person. People love him, and will mourn his death. It’s this great bit where Matt is forced to question his mission, as Matt plumbs the depths of his soul while caught in a storm of moral ambiguity. Matt realizes that perhaps his devil is not so evil.
The next scene, Fisk murders an old woman for no reason. No more ambiguity: Matt’s mission is justified.
Generally speaking, Daredevil has a problem with vilifying Fisk. I really appreciate that the show is not simply trying to make Fisk a Tony Soprano ripoff. They seem eager to let Vincent D’Onofrio bring whatever strange tics and mannerisms he wants to the role. In Fisk-centric episodes, it works like gangbusters. Wilson is definitely the most nuanced, interesting character on this show. But in episodes like Speak of the Devil, where Fisk needs to be more boogeyman than tragic, he falls woefully short.
In Matt’s first scene with Father Lantom, Matt describes Fisk with such vitriol, believing him to be a literal devil choking the life out of the city. Matt is wrestling with himself. But what exactly is Fisk’s evil plan? When Matt, Karen and Foggy visited Josie’s Bar, I had a thought that to show the effect of Fisk’s influence, they should show Josie’s becoming a real shithole, like it is in the comics. Then I realized that if Fisk got his way, Josie’s would be bulldozed and replaced with a Starbucks.
Wilson Fisk is a great character, but he’s not a devil. Tony Soprano is a devil. Walter White is a devil. Boyd Crowder is a devil. Wilson Fisk is just a flawed man. In order for us to buy Fisk as a devil, we need to actually see his devilish actions. Prior to this episode, Fisk’s most heinous act was shooting a man loyal to him in order to frame Daredevil. By the way, an episode prior, that man murdered an unarmed Russian in cold blood. When Fisk visits violence, it’s not like it’s on anyone we like.
That’s why the murder of Senora Cardenas rankles me so much. It’s absolutely at odds with the way Fisk has been depicted the whole series. Wilson’s not the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. Neither is Matt. The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen is Madame Gao, with her rooms full of blinded acolytes sorting coke. The Devils of Hell’s Kitchen are Peter and Anatoly, who kidnap people and sell them into slavery. The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen is Nobu, with… whatever the hell his schemes are, but Peter Shinkoda is a fantastic hardass.
I think Daredevil’s mission statement has been to create a sense of ambiguity between its hero and villain. Is Matt really helping the city? Is Fisk really hurting it? Unfortunately, Daredevil made the case too strongly for Fisk. By the time the show makes Matt question his mission, the writers realize that there’s no personal or political stakes here. Based only on the first 8 1/2 episodes, Matt can’t justify his mission. The only way the writers can justify Daredevil is by having Fisk arbitrarily kill an innocent woman.
As much as I love Matt, Daredevil is kind of a shitty superhero. Maybe bringing Foggy in on his secret identity will give Daredevil a vision for what he wants Hell’s Kitchen to look like. Maybe in the end, Matt needs the support of others to actually validate his mission.
3 Flaming Charges out of 5. My notes from that moment are just, ”HAHAHAH NOBU CHARGES DARDEVIL WHILE HE’S FUCKING ON FIRE!!! Nobu is a badass. The badassest.” So sad to see him go.
I almost think that Fisk killed Cardenas specifically because Matt showed up at the art gallery. He felt out of control, and retaliating against Cardenas was a way to fulfill both Fisk and the Kingpin’s impulses, remove Murdock from his life, and lure Daredevil out all at once, all in a neat tidy package. It makes me like the plot a little more, but doesn’t make Fisk a grotesque villain either.
Fisk’s news conference is on the front page. Goddamn it. Hint: philanthropy doesn’t make the front page of a New York newspaper.
“My apologies, Nobu-san.” Even without a hair on his body, Fisk has a huge neckbeard.
Wait… Matt beat on like three different street level thugs, interrogated the junkie who killed Cardenas, made it all the way to Pier 81, and started a fight with Nobu before Karen and Foggy even left the bar?
Although I wasn’t sure of him at first, Elden Hansen does great work in this episode. His drunken breakdown is Foggy’s best moment.
Karen, on the other hand, gets her grossest moment in this episode. The visible relief at hearing it didn’t go well with Vanessa made me gag a little. I really hope they don’t turn Karen into a lovestruck schoolgirl whenever she’s around Matt.
Holy shit, it’s super easy to break into Matt’s apartment. Just go up to the roof.
When Karen reveals that they found her assailants, Matt says, “We press assault charges, get them to flip on Fisk.” Wait, what? Matt is not a prosecutor. He’s a defense attorney. He could only take them to civil court for a cash settlement, right? Any New York lawyers, chime in below.
Matt doesn’t kneel down all the way when he genuflects. What a slacker. A Catholic’s faith is measured in knee callouses.
Father Lantom reminds me so much of Marvel Television head Jeph Loeb. I’m sure that’s not intentional.
Matt and Foggy OTP. I need to see a bunch of Tumblr art where they make out. Comments section is below, please and thank you.