Review by Logan
If you could save numerous lives by taking one, would you?
In a broad review of Daredevil‘s first season on Christian Entertainment Reviews, I referred to Daredevil as a Christian superhero. As even showrunner Drew Goddard once said, a key defining element of Matt Murdock as a character is his faith. He’s a staunch Catholic, and that plays heavily into his decisions about how to go about his crusade in a way that is moral.
Once Wilson Fisk is introduced, the all-important question for almost every superhero in comic book history is introduced: is it moral to kill the bad guy when it isn’t in self-defense? In a stroke of vigilante vengeance, can the intentional taking of a life be justified? Daredevil tackles that issue head-on and not just with monologues or wise old uncles, but though discussions of faith and morality with a priest – even going so far as to quote scripture.
There are several things about this episode and its format that work well, but perhaps the best is how it balances the two sides of Matt during this episode: the rational side of him that is debating whether or not he can kill Wilson Fisk, and the emotional side of him, which becomes even further enraged at the reign of terror that The Kingpin is enforcing around him, striking at the most defenseless. But it’s the conversations with the priest that ultimately make this episode the strongest, and that largely because the priest says some very wise things that, while being painfully obvious, still avoid the cliche.
While Matt is talking about his dilemma, he presents the classic superhero catch 22: if he kills Wilson Fisk his soul is damned, but how can he justify sitting idly while he hurts so many people? The response is a good one:
“There’s a wide gulf between inaction and murder, Matthew. Another man’s evil doesn’t make you good.”
That fact is especially important in this case, because we’re talking about a man that is so evil, he’s represented in their veiled discussions as the devil. This is a man that is so wicked, so entrenched in evil, that only Lucifer himself serves as a proper representation. That’s especially important for the worldview of this series, because this episode comes right on the heels of a Fisk-centric episode that showed how a man becomes Wilson Fisk. It showed us his abusive father, the horrible circumstances that he had to grow up in and how, even if you acknowledge that he’s evil, you can kind of see where he’s coming from.
But, the show writers remind us, that doesn’t justify his evil. And Daredevil’s prospective decision to commit murder, no matter how justified it may seem because of his circumstances, would not justify that evil act. And it could very well be, as the priest also reminds us, that when the righteous man partakes in an evil act, the well becomes poisoned – that because he, being a hero, chooses one evil act, all of Hell’s Kitchen will suffer, and what little good that is seen coming from his actions will be blotted out.
This is where Daredevil becomes something deeper than a bloody crime drama, or another superhero series. This is where it outdoes Arrow, The Flash, and Agents of SHIELD. It gives us a real and practical discussion about the would-be justification of immoral acts by well-meaning individuals. That’s not to say that everything in the episode is theologically sound. The priest seems confused on whether or not the devil is real, at one point seeming to say that the devil is represented in mankind’s sheer evil, yet another time referring to Lucifer is a real entity. But the discussions of morality contain truth that has, to some extent, brought a true takeaway for me not just as a viewer, but as a Christian.