Marvel’s Daredevil “The Path of the Righteous” Review (Episode 11) – Bloody and Alone

That Look Daredevil

Wow!

This episode of Marvel’s Daredevil doesn’t feature quite so focused a narrative as the previous one, but it is chock full of fantastic moments, all culminating in a final scene that absolutely drops the floor out from under you.

Dealing heavily with fallout from last episode, this one finds our protagonists scattered to the four winds while the antagonists gather around the hospital-bound Vanessa, awaiting word on whether she will survive last episode’s spiked cocktail. While Wilson is nearly paralyzed with worry for his lady love, Matt is still recovering from a physically and psychologically taxing previous two days. He receives visits from both of the ladies in his life (and bids farewell to one of them), and then pays a visit to his priest, where we are FINALLY clued into the logic that will make sense of his eventual alter ego.

To be honest, much of this episode feels like set-up for what’s to come. Moving pieces around the board, so to speak. It doesn’t make it any less entertaining, but it does make it a little hard to build a coherent review, so I’m just going to touch on a few of the stand-out moments and details.

The most important of which being…

Matt’s Balloon
 

Sad Matt Daredevil

Look at it. It has a monkey on it. It’s just floating there. And he’s so sad.

If Game of Thrones fans were able to make that gif of Theon burning the letter from season 2 go viral, I KNOW some enterprising DD fans can do the same for this image. “Sad Matt With A Balloon” needs to become a meme, STAT.

I’m counting on you, Daredevilers.

When You Really Need Me
 

Bye Claire Daredevil

One good thing about Rosario Dawson’s limited availability for this series is that, whenever she’s on screen, you know it’s important. In this case, it’s for Claire’s season 1 farewell. After patching Matt up one last time (and reminding him to get some body armor before he kills himself), she breaks the news that she’s getting out of the city for a while. When Matt implies that he’ll miss her, it prompts them to finally address their almost-romance, that ended before it could begin, back in episode 5.

This has been one of my favorite unexpected developments of the series; this honest, mutually respectful, yet failed love connection between Matt and Claire. Matt’s had enough failed romances to sink a battleship in the comics — in fact, he’s kind of got a “reputation” for them — but none have come close to the simple, sensible honesty of this one. The same qualities that attract them to one another are the things that push them apart — but, unlike Batman and Catwoman, who sort of childishly try to pretend that magnetic-opposite reaction isn’t there, Matt and Claire face it head on and come to terms with it. I love that. It’s refreshing.

In the end, Claire reaffirms that, while their relationship may never go beyond friendship, she will always be there to patch him up. Then, before exiting stage left, she delivers what will come to be the most important line of the episode: “You know, the only thing I remember from Sunday school is the martyrs. The saints. The saviors. They all end up the same way: bloody and alone.”

Coming hot on the heels of Karen’s own entreaty that Matt take better care of himself, this will at first seem like another instance of Claire having deeper insight due to her closer affiliation with Matt. And, really, that’s enough. It’s interesting to see Matt process the idea that he’s been subconsciously shaping himself into a biblical figure all along.

But, it’s not until much later that this line comes back to mind and makes us reevaluate a different character entirely.

The Devil’s Advocate
 

Devil's Advocate Daredevil

Matt’s conversation with Claire sends him back to church, where he and Father Lantom level with one another. Yes, Lantom knows who Matt really is, and with that knowledge in the open, Matt can finally dig into the deeper issues troubling him without having to talk around the subject. He calls back to their very first scene together in episode 1, when it was said that, growing up, a family member used to say the Murdock Boys had the devil in them.

Now, Matt wants to know why. If what he’s doing really is his true calling; if it’s the reason God put him on Earth… “Why did he put the devil in me?”

And here Father Lantom applies some truly lateral thinking to the usual topic of the devil’s role in religion. “Nothing drives people to church faster than the thought of the devil snapping at their heels,” he says. Maybe it was God’s plan all along for Lucifer to fall, to become a symbol to be feared; to remind people to tread the path of the righteous.

And there you have it. That’s the missing piece of the puzzle that justifies Matt adopting the devil as the symbol of his crusade. Sure, it’s a little Batman-y, “I will become a symbol,” blah blah, but here, I think it’s justified — maybe even more than with Batman. All Bruce Wayne did was take his childhood fear and try to translate that to larger scale. Matt is literally adopting the symbol of the great adversary of his religion in order to chase people back into the light. It’s thematically chewier.

This discussion prompts Matt to seek out the maker of the body armor Fisk wore during their fight in episode 7. And who better to give him that information than Hell’s Kitchen’s favorite loser, Turk Barrett! Daredevil beats on Turk, Turk spills the beans, and it all leads up to the episode’s big action set piece, wherein DD finally gets to meet Melvin Potter.

Who is Melvin Potter?
 

Meet Melvin Daredevil

One of the earliest villains Daredevil faced in the comics, Melvin Potter is actually one of the few Marvel characters to undergo a true evolution over the course of his career. Beginning as a costume maker who specialized in superhero reproductions and secretly wanted to be one of them, Potter became the Gladiator at first as a power fantasy — to prove he could hold his own against the city’s heroes — but later as an enforcer for whatever crime organization would take him, constantly seeking a chance to prove himself powerful.

After countless run-ins with Daredevil, Potter’s Gladiator persona started to crack and it was revealed that he actually suffered from some form of dissociative disorder. The Gladiator was a manifestation of Melvin’s need to be SEEN as powerful, but after undergoing therapy, he was able to suppress that part of himself and, thanks to legal counsel from a sympathetic Matt Murdock, he was acquitted of past charges on grounds of insanity. With continued support from his case worker turned therapist turned, eventually, wife, Betsy, Melvin returned to the simple life of a costume maker.

I first encountered him in the Christopher Golden novel, Daredevil: Predator’s Smile, where he was depicted as honest to a fault, intensely moral, and staunchly anti-violent. And, though stories in which other villains manipulate Melvin into putting on the Gladiator suit again have been recycled many times over the years, the core of the character has remained that of a genuinely good man with an unfortunate past.

This seems very close to the Melvin we’re formally introduced to in this episode. As portrayed by Matt Gerald, this Melvin is childlike and prone to rash acts of violence when he feels threatened (not entirely unlike Fisk), but is ultimately a good person trying to do the right thing to protect his friend Betsy, who helps him when he gets “confused.” It’s as though they’ve condensed all the defining elements of Potter’s story into this one scene, and it works! It’s entirely possible we may never actually see him take on the Gladiator persona, but to me at least, that’s okay, because Gladiator was only ever the precursor to the more interesting second iteration of the character.

Gladiator may, in some ways, be Melvin’s origin story. Maybe we’ll get to see it in flashbacks in season 2!

The Gospel According to Karen Page
 

Tables Turned Daredevil

Of course, the most momentous moment of the episode comes at the very end. The show has proven time and time again that it Does Not F with kiddy gloves. So, when Wesley learns that Karen and Ben have been to see Marlene Fisk, and immediately grabs a gun, I honestly had to start thinking to myself, “Who is the most expendable character: Karen or Ben?” Of course, Ben’s wife was also an option, but the look in Wesley’s eyes, the determination in his stride as he left the hospital… He had two targets, and only two. He wouldn’t come at this sideways.

Except… then he did. For the sake of all Wilson had done and all he had to lose, Wesley tried to bargain with Karen. Tried to intimidate her. And that was his downfall.

There’s a moment in the movie Memento where Guy Pierce’s character, Leonard, has a gun trained on another character (who will remain nameless to avoid spoilers). The two know each other, and the other character has seen Leonard make enough shallow threats when pushed to emotional extremes that he doesn’t take the gun pointed at him seriously — at least, not at first. But then he sees (as do we) something change in Leonard’s eyes and he realizes he’s made a miscalculation, that this is no shallow threat. He tries to say something at the last second, but his objection is lost in the gunshot.

We get almost that same exact moment in the final scene between Karen and Wesley. Even when she has the gun pointed at him, he plays it aloof, unconcerned. But then we see that change in Karen’s eyes, from desperate to predatory, and she delivers that great line: “You really think this is the first time I’ve shot someone?” I like to think that, despite his act, in that moment Wesley understands something is different. When he tries to say something, to talk her down, she shoots him.

And shoots him, and shoots him.

This is catharsis of a sort for Karen. This is all the fear and anger and frustration that’s welled up in her since episode 1 finally being unloaded on one of her oppressors. But it’s also an act of deplorable violence that, the way this show works, WILL have consequences.

Team Daredevil has drawn first blood. One of the main cast is dead. Endgame is upon us. I’m thrilled to say I have NO idea what will happen next.

A Note About Toby Leonard Moore
 

Bye Wesley Daredevil

I could not have cared less about Wesley. He was never anything more than a Yes-Man in the comics, and when the cast of this series was being announced, Moore was the only actor I had never heard of. I barely paid him a moment’s notice in group interviews and didn’t think his appeal would go much further beyond his “magic hammer” line from the trailers.

Then I actually watched the show, and let me tell you… Wesley is one of the best characters on it.

Was.

Was one of the best characters. Because he’s gone now. And my first reaction, after I picked my jaw up off the ground, was a little, “Awww,” because it meant we wouldn’t get any more of Toby Leonard Moore’s brilliant performance. Everything, from every subtle twitch of his pitch perfect delivery, to his flawless American accent (Moore is Australian), to the wonderful dry wit provided by the writers, came together in a way that makes the character of Wesley essential to the series. Moore’s loss from the show will be as saddening for the audience as Wesley’s is for Fisk.

Which, I suppose brings me to my final point…

The Martyrs
 

RIP Wesley Daredevil

When Claire says that martyrs always end up bloody and alone, she’s talking about Matt. But when you see the way the episode ends, with Wesley lying dead in an empty room while the phone that brought about his demise continues to ring, you’ve got to wonder if there’s more to dig into here. I mean, it can’t be an accident that “bloody and alone” is EXACTLY how Wesley is depicted in the end.

IS Wesley a martyr?

Well… Martyrs die for the things they believe in. Wesley does spend a good chunk of his speech to Karen talking about beliefs, but the crux of his point is that Wilson believes very strongly in the city, and Wesley does not; that Wesley only sticks around because he’s needed. You could then logically speculate that what Wesley believes in is Wilson. But, does he die for Wilson?

Well… yes.

Wesley dies because he chose to bargain with Karen rather than kill her outright. He did this to protect Wilson, not only from the ramifications that would arise from her death, but because he knows how it would affect Wilson to know his mother had been brought into this. Wilson would fly off the handle, thereby potentially damaging his philanthropic pursuits. So, Wesley hides the revelation from him… and then promptly dies for his trouble.

And why does he die? Because he is momentarily distracted by a phone call… from Wilson.

So, yes, Wesley believes in Wilson, and it is that belief that gets him killed. If you consider Karen’s motivations, you could even say Wesley literally died for Wilson’s sins.

So… yeah, I do believe Wesley is the real martyr of this episode. Or I could be crazy. It will bring me ENORMOUS joy if I learn that this was the writers’ actual intent, as opposed to me just stringing together random coincidences with paperthin logic.

Easter Egg Hunt:
 

Symbolism Daredevil

– That’s Melvin’s Gladiator chest emblem on the drafting table! And when he attacks Matt, he does so using a razor blade, which is his primary weapon in the comics. Hell, this scene is handled so well, I almost want to call Matt Gerald an easter egg. Seriously, he looks EXACTLY like Melvin Potter. Great bit of casting there.

– I have my suspicions about Karen’s history — suspicions I won’t share as I suspect they’re informed by one of the biggest DD stories from the comics and, as you know, I’m not about spoiling future stories. But her admission that she’s killed before not only makes you realize where the scene is going just before it gets there, it also recontextualizes her in a way that even the comic fans wouldn’t see coming. I don’t remember murder in Karen’s back story from the comics, so I am very eager to learn more. To paraphrase Kevin Smith, just because a chick answers phones for a living doesn’t me she can’t start some shit.

We’re two episodes from the end now. Next episode is all about “The Ones We Leave Behind.” Ones. Plural. Should I be worried?

And, remember… Sad Matt With a Balloon. Make it happen.

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