Review by Logan
Throughout its 13 episodes, Daredevil has morphed its way across several genres. It starts out as a crime show, turns into a drama, and ends up an action series before the very end. This episode is firmly in the lattermost category, with the most high-stakes fighting the series has seen yet.
But first, there’s Ben Urich’s funeral. We all know as viewers that the ultimate confrontation between Fisk and Daredevil is coming, so why the slow opening? Why the emotional setup? It seems almost out of place, if you come into this episode with preconceived notions of what the finale ought to be. Understood properly in the light of Ben’s very necessary place in the series, however, it makes perfect sense.
The truth. That is what Ben’s character brings to light. Is what his place as a journalist means to the story, and it’s what Ben so admired about Karen, as Ben’s wife tells her. That all-encompassing drive to uncover injustice and show the beast for what he truly is.
As a thematic element, that gives context to the final conflict between the two primary characters. Murdock is passionate for justice, but his emotional ties to Elayna and the other victims of Fisk’s madness threaten to blurry his vision. Violence in response to violence, when not tempered by other important virtues, only multiplies the suffering. But to stop the madman, to bring to light his bloody hands, to mark the truth as your goal – that brings morality into the equation.
But if possible, Ben’s character becomes even more important as a catalyst for the final portion of the character arcs of each of our protagonists. His death drives Matt to an even greater degree of righteous fury, and even serves as a subtle means for reconciliation with Foggy. Thereafter, with the revelation that Detective Hoffman is still alive, things are set in motion for Fisk’s ultimate demise.
I can spend the rest of this review raving about how compelling and exciting the action sequences are that connect the remaining events of the episode. But really, what strikes me more about this episode is how the writers took a mercilessly dark and violent drama, with all of its grim views to the darkest side of human nature, and somehow, someway, managed to find in it a redemptive story, and an ending that does in fact conceive of a light at the end of the tunnel.
First, the redemptive portion of the story. Matt’s faith has long created a conflict in him where the bloodiness of what he does, and more particularly what he believes will ultimately be necessary, does not match up well with the ethics of the God he believes in and serves. And so what once became a crusade of righteousness and justice—ethics and virtues of God Himself—soon appears to become a mission in spite of God’s moral boundaries, not because of them. That leaves Matt on a road to a very dark place. But thanks largely to the intervention of a certain priest, Matt’s focus has become more pointed and clear. And so it is that he tells Foggy “I have to stop him before there’s no one left to bury.” He has turned from “kill him” to “stop him,” so bringing the conflict full circle. It is a truly genuine conflict, and yet Matt brings to a place as though to say, yes, the evil is great, but you can fight them without becoming them. That’s an important destination for Matt to arrive at, both for reconciliation with the Christian worldview, and with the Punisher making his appearance in the upcoming second season.
Secondly, there is hope in this story. I worry sometimes as the popularized mode of Christian film, that it sees the world as full of happy endings, relatively free of pain and sorrow, and Christians are free to live in a world sanitized of the worst aspects of human nature—that simply isn’t reality, and Christians often have to live in very terrible circumstances and resist horrid influences. Thanks to the ever-increasing tenacity of Satan, sometimes the lives of Christians, at least in terms of their state in life and external circumstances, really suck. But conversely, writers whom do not endorse the Christian worldview often emerge from the acknowledgement of objective and absolute evil with doom and gloom proclamations, as though we are left in Romans 3 without the rest of the story – that no one does good, not even one, and so evil reigns. Not so in Daredevil – the cinematographer even dares show a sunny day for one of the final scenes.
But Daredevil has something that other shows do not, even others that do contain such a triumph over evil. As the conflict has closed and the heroes are rejoicing, Matt notes that there’s something in Karen’s voice that he’d hoped would go away after this war was over, and yet it hasn’t. And in that pursuing conversation, we are reminded of lost lives, among other things. Elayna is still dead. Ben is still dead. Karen was still assaulted in her own home. A bomb still went off in the city, killing hundreds. We can’t erase the consequences of our evil. The consequences exist all the same. Even Matt admits that there are decisions he would give anything to change. And yet, all we can do is move forward.
That scene is perhaps the most balanced perspective on consequence and regret of immorality that I’ve seen in recent cinema or television. It’s a fitting end to a compelling series, almost so much so as to ensure disappointment in a sequel series. Time will tell if that becomes true, but for the time being, the episode solidifies Daredevil as the most thought-provoking comic adaptation to date.