As a reporter, I should be allowed to hate this episode on principle alone.
Despite a slip here and there, Ben Urich was a rare television breed. For the most part, there's a wide chasm between what television writers think I do for a living and what I actually do for a living. Whether it was "House of Cards," "Political Animals," or the one that makes me laugh the most, "The Newsroom," TV seems populated by journalism characters who must have been written by people that have zero understanding of my profession.
Ben Urich wasn't that. Played by a game Vondie Curtis-Hall, the character was largely one of the highlights of "Daredevil's" first season. He was disciplined, frustrated with the endless creep of the digital meteor, but also (for the most part) above printing the single-source slop that Karen Page was pushing on him. He was a credit to his species.
And now he's dead. Because Wilson Fisk had to protect his Mommy.
While I resisted the urge to throw my coffee table at my roommate's piano when Wilson choked the life out of Ben in the closing scene of "The Ones We Leave Behind," the episode is a nice bounce back as Daredevil closes out its first season. The show's pacing has taken a hit due to the injuries Matt suffered a few episodes back, but this one was buoyed by Urich's last stand and Wilson's complete inability to move past this desperate need to protect his mother from threats real and imagined.
That closing sequence is a testament to how well this show understands its characters. Urich, facing what he has to know are his final moments, remains even keeled. He doesn't cower before Fisk. He doesn't even think about giving up Karen as the other person in the room with Momma Fisk, maybe accepting it's his turn to take the pain most of his sources endured over the course of a career spent rooting out corruption in the Kitchen and New York City.
Wilson, meanwhile, is still trapped in that room from 30 years ago. He's never left it. Sure, Ben and Karen may have crossed a line by speaking to his mother, but, I mean, they spoke to her. That's it. Then again, as we've learned time and time again, loyalty is not easily earned by those who fly in Wilson Fisk's orbit. Wilson got a little horror-movie villain for my liking here (especially lurking in the shadows behind Ben and in Karen's dream sequence), but Vincent D'Onofrio still played him as a time bomb.
Every time he appeared on screen, I was afraid someone would get hurt. His poor bodyguard was destined for a beating the second he let Wesley leave the hospital. Urich was dead as soon as he walked in his front door. Occasionally, Wilson's stuttering man-child act falls into an almost Christopher Walken camp level, but when D'Onofrio has that awkward rage at the right pitch, this character is easily the best thing about "Daredevil."
Speaking of the man who will become "Daredevil," Matt unfortunately spends most of this episode helping set up the eventual "Iron Fist" series. I have to assume the far, far away place Madame Gao referenced is K'un L'un (home of all of Marvel's martial arts based characters), and her ability to drop Matt with one shove seems reminiscent of the internal chi that Danny Rand will use in Netflix's next superhero series.
I don't really know what to make of the "man in the mask scenes" here. Outside of his unwitting goodbye to Urich, Matt spends most of this episode chasing his tail, not getting terribly closer to Fisk. The reveal that Leland and Gao were behind Vanessa's poisoning was also less than surprising.
Well, we have one episode to go. "Daredevil" exploded out of the gates but has kind of stumbled in its final act. Here's hoping the finale looks more like the pilot than these last few episodes. If nothing else, we're getting the red costume in the next one, right?
Random Thoughts Without Fear:
Leland Owlsly has an uncanny ability for irritating Wilson to the point that he should expect to be head-butted to death, and yet, "The Owl" lives on.
The Adventures of Romeo Foggy, litigator and lover, is the Web series we deserve, but not the one we need right now. Love how he is sleeping his way into finding out what Fisk is up to and sticking it to his old law firm in the process.
So ... are we not gonna talk about the wasted opportunity of a Matt versus Gao story line? He seemed plenty furious about her drug runners purposefully blinding themselves, and her syndicate seemed like a worthy challenge. We've seen Matt tear apart every other layer of the Fisk criminal onion; why did we wait this long to let him run up against the enemy tailor-made to evoke an emotional response from our hero?