The story of a superhero's identity being revealed to his best friend/lover/family member is one that's been told ad nauseam through comic book lore, and it's one that's often botched.
As a viewer or reader, it's easy to demonize the aggrieved partner, see them as a nag preventing our hero from fighting for truth, justice, the American way or our desperate need to see someone punch Vincent D'Onofrio's character in the face.
But if I didn't agree with Foggy Nelson, I at least sympathized with him here, thanks in no small part to an excellent showing from Elden Henson in "Nelson v. Murdock."
With Matt Murdock sidelined after the savage beating he took from Nobu and Wilson Fisk (D'Onofrio) last week, we're treated to an episode that basically functions as a two-man morality play between Matt and Foggy. Our hero does his best to validate his mission to his best friend, but it's pretty hard to side with him as Henson's entire performance screams betrayal and hurt.
It's written on his face, in his vocal patterns, his motions ... it's almost like we were given Matt's senses for one episode so we could bear the full brunt of Foggy's pain.
"Nelson v. Murdock" is about as well-constructed of an episode as we've seen from "Daredevil," with the earnest, sweet flashbacks of the budding Matt-Foggy relationship juxtaposed with Foggy storming around Matt's apartment in present day, growing more furious everytime Matt speaks.
From Foggy's incredulous reaction to some of Matt's explanations ("An old blind man taught you the ancient ways of martial arts?") to his ability to cut through Matt's rationalizations and point out that he is fighting for himself as much as anything else, this is appointment television.
Foggy has every right to be livid here, regardless of whether or not you agree with Matt's nocturnal activities. He's shaped his entire professional life on his singular trust in Matt, from giving up a lush job at a shady corporate law firm to launching their own no-frills business. Now, he sees that trust as misplaced. This would, understandably, leave Foggy completely unglued.
He knows he wouldn't have hid this from Matt, and if Matt was listening to his heartbeat, he would too. That closing scene, and the mere nature of Matt's powers, has to make this especially painful for Foggy. He's always trusted Matt, but Matt has never had to trust him. If Foggy was ever lying to him, hiding some part of his life, Matt would know.
The episode's slow pace was obviously necessitated by Matt's injuries, but the showdown between friends was well worth it. Foggy has always been a more interesting character in the comics when he acts as a moral compass in both facets of Matt's life, guiding him as attorney by day and vigilante by night.
The excellence of the Matt-Foggy scenes kind of reduced everything else to noise, though I did enjoy seeing Fisk appear vulnerable for once. His attempt to consolidate power by stomping down Nobu has only agitated his closest remaining allies, and while Owlsly is little more than a pencil-pusher, Madame Gao could prove a serious threat going forward. Is she responsible for the poisoning at the banquet? What about Wesley? No sign of him there? Maybe a little jealousy?
I'd doubt it, but given Fisk's penchant for irrational behavior when Vanessa is brought into the equation, I could see Fisk growing paranoid and burning his own house a bit to find out who poisoned his lady love.
Another great offering, and with three to go, it's time to accept that Netflix struck gold with this series, and may have endeared itself to a whole new audience if the subsequent Marvel series can follow "Daredevil's" lead.
Random thoughts without fear:
This episode, and the nominally weaker "Stick," have also shown this series' ability to pace things a little better than Netflix's other mainstays. While "House of Cards" is often guilty of pummeling me with new political manuevers and key character shifts episode after episode, "Daredevil" has figured out when to pump the brakes.
The mob war with the Russians came to a close, and then we went off on that Matt Murdock origin episode in "Stick." Fisk and Murdock's first direct assaults on one another filled Episodes 8 and 9, and now we get another breather. This is the first time I haven't felt assaulted by the streaming model.
The Karen/Ben Urich story line seemed to be coming to a close as Ben decided to spend his days at his ailing wife's bedside, but then Karen drags him on a road trip to meet Mama Fisk. This is a pretty cruel move by Karen. She doesn't realize Fisk's mother's ramblings will mean little to a prosecutor or editor, but it'll probably be enough to keep Ben in the game against his will.
The Gao-Fisk relationship is surprisingly delightful. I'm not quite sure if their mutual respect is driven by fear of one another, or genuine friendship, but it's a very interesting dynamic.
Comic book reference you may have missed: In all the hilarity of Matt and Foggy's drunken stumble through their college campus, Foggy mentions that Matt took a Spanish class in order to impress "that Greek girl." I'd assume most of you caught this, but for those uninitiated to the Daredevil mythos, Foggy has to be referring to Elektra Natchios, another of Daredevil's great loves. She also has links to the Hand, which could tie her into whatever Nobu is up too.
Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for breaking news