Review by Logan
How does a man become Wilson Fisk?
Let’s face it: being a villain is no easy thing. You have to kill, steal, ravage, and terrorize the city in which you reside, and still somehow be able to sleep at night. Sure, you could always be a sociopath who is incapable of remorse, but that line became trite after the first season of Criminal Minds. So how does a person become so twisted, so corrupt, that they actually believe their sins are excusable, that their depravity is acceptable?
The question is an important one, if the message is to be provocative and the character compelling. The battle of good versus evil is not one that consists only in actions, but in ideologies and philosophies. The morality of Daredevil is meaningless if the immorality of his Kingpin is not explored and explained.
Make no mistake about it: this is a dark episode. Even on my second watch through the series, it’s easily the hardest one to watch. Fisk is unveiled as a monster, sure, but arguably his father was more so. The abuse that Wilson and his mother receive from him in this episode is one of the worst, and most realistic, portrayals of domestic violence and emotional abuse I’ve seen on screen.
And yet, somehow, the writers manage to create empathy for the monster that is Wilson Fisk without providing a justification for his actions. We see how he might justify it within himself, the violence and depravity he must believe it takes to stop such a monster. He says that he’s not “cruel for the sake of cruelty,” and that separates him from his father, keeps him from being a monster. Even with the sheer rage that we see from Fisk several times throughout the series, for once, we see his side.
That’s a scary thought. It’s scary because once you acknowledge that the villain has a point, even if you know it’s a twisted, depraved, manipulated one, you acknowledge that he’s accessible. If I can see how he would become that, then what would it take for me to become that? Is that possible?
That’s the truly scary thing about sin – not just that it separates you from God, but that it changes you, morphs you until you’re so psychologically disparate from God’s own ethics and morals that you would hardly recognize yourself at the beginning. It’s a harsh reminder that we need to keep a check on ourselves and the sin in our own lives, lest we begin coming up with excuses to say that we aren’t, in fact, immoral people. But sin makes a sinner, just as murder makes a murderer. Just as Wilson Fisk is a monster, we are all sinners.
That sense of context is rounded out by the second plot of the episode, the investigation of Union Allied and the continued corruption that Daredevil is fighting. Murdock and company remind us: he is a monster. He just thinks he isn’t. And so this episode, one of the strongest of the series, is a tight episode with a thought-provoking message of spiritual application. Am I Matt Murdock, striving to fight the darkness, or am I Wilson Fisk, justifying its place in my soul?