Daredevil - 1.11 The Path of the Righteous

Writers: Steven S. DeKnight & Douglas Petrie
Director: Nick Gomez

As some within Fisk’s “business ventures” become less and less comfortable with ‘Wilson Fisk – Public Figure’ he learns the lengths that some people are willing to go to in order to get their wishes.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who really knows Fisk that he can reinvent himself in the blink of an eye; he has done it before.  Having murdered his father, and aided his mother in disposal of the body; Wilson was effectively given up to the State as his mother ran off and re-married (not once, but twice).  When reaching adulthood, and in an effort to control what the world knew about him, (if knowledge is power; then if you control the world’s knowledge of you, you effectively control the world) he not only destroyed almost all public records of his origin but “killed” his mother (at least legally/officially) making him an orphan in the eyes of the law.

This is one of the beautiful things about Fisk’s origin story, yes there’s more to come –certainly more than you’ll expect should DeKnight and co introduce his son, Richard.  It typifies the kind of person he is (whether he sees it or not).  Where Matt’s origin is about a new dawn; the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that grows brighter until the full light of day (Prov. 4:18), Fisk’s is surrounded in darkness.  Matt’s (if not all superheroes) origin takes an ending, a death, a darkness and begins a new day from it whereas Wilson Fisk destroys.  He ends his father’s life.  He begins a new life of his own and as the “full light of day” arrives (crime boss status) he ends his mother’s life (making her legally dead and putting her in care).  Is he being intentionally “evil” and destructive?  No.  His intended destruction is always more localised, like smashing car doors off people’s heads; he genuinely thinks he is doing the right thing but he is hardwired by his genes, and his childhood environment, to end things.  To cause darkness, to render into nothing; even when he isn’t the perpetrator of that darkness, it is there because of him.  His actions, his choices, his associations.  Consider this on rewatching.  He perceives himself as having control over his world but does he have it?  Does he have more control over his than Matt does of his own?  Through his conscience, Matt has a limited amount of control over his “destiny” (and I use that word with the lowest of lowercases).  Claire sees it, and points out as much on her way out of town (more on that in the final installment).  It gives Matt a pre-determined path.  A fatalism that eludes to tragedy.  Shakespearian tragedy, Greek tragedy, no matter how good the rest of the play, the final act must be bloody.  This is the path that Matt has inherited rather than choosen.

Having, quite fittingly, looked at construction & destruction we’re going to focus on two story arcs in this episode which feature these.  Having dug through public records for a lead on Wilson Fisk, Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) stumbles upon a marriage certificate for Wilson’s mother –dated a few years after her supposed death.  Digging deeper, she discovers her location in a residential care home where she and Ben discover the darkest secret of Wilson’s childhood.

In other reviews as part of our Marvel at Marvel series we’ve talked of the pros and cons of rigid adherence to source material.  Karen Page is a perfect example of what can be done when you have an iconic character who has, historically, not had the strongest arcs to attract a performer.  Daredevil opens on a murder mystery surrounding Karen; she is the catalyst for the entire investigation and through the series never shies away for that desire for “the truth”.  Her integrity is only matched by her bravery and when you look at the groups she inhabits, the trajectory of the stories these groups occupy she is central to all matters.  Few character have such an impact on proceedings as Karen.  She is another example of how light is created from darkness.  In investigating Fisk’s constructed origin she is destroys it in order to allow the truth to shine over the rubble.  Having made the discovery in 1.10 she pushes for Ben to get the word out, all too aware of what happened the last time they sat on a Fisk story. 

For all of her qualities, Karen is even less pragmatic than Matt.  In the Daredevil world it equates to the following formulas: less pragmatic = more fatalistic, lack of pragmatism = lack of sight.  In many ways, and occasions, Karen is more blind than Matt.  Her crusade for justice has led her and Ben to split open a hornet’s nest while poking a bear with a stick.  Urich sees it.  He understands that this particular truth is like a gun with one bullet in it and even if you fire it with Bullseye accuracy you might just end up killing yourself.  Karen can’t see this.  Her impatience has placed them in a dangerous position, one that leads her to a point of tragedy (here comes that bloody ending the Greeks love!).  In another of the show’s incredibly WTF-moments Page kills Wesley… a lot!  Having filled him with multiple bullet holes she has aligned herself with her “destiny”.  One that’s promised to all non-pragmatic characters.  Full disclosure, I had not spotted this next comparison myself.  This came from J David Weter’s excellent Dave’s Daredevil Podcast Season One special.  Wilson Fisk has the white wall of his family home and his Rabbit in a Snow Storm painting, Matt Murdock has his world on fire and Inferno painting; Karen Page started the season with blood on her hands (literally) and is now ending the season with blood of her hands (figuratively) having killed Wesley.  The bloody carpet of her apartment is her white wall, Wesley’s body –her rabbit in a snow storm.  Killing his father greatly affected Wilson, the guilt of “killing” his father through desire greatly affected Matt.  In killing Wesley, Karen has placed herself central between these two men; only time will tell which direction she goes and whether the blood will wash off.

In closing, let’s have a look at another character from the rich history of Horn Head.  Like “The Owl”, Melvin Potter (aka the Gladiator) was an exciting yet problematic prospect.  Between the pages he is the owner of a costume store (probably the greatest costume story ever as DD once acquired himself a realistic Thor costume) who is driven to the edge and becomes The Gladiator.  For many years Potter was something of a half-assed joke character.  He sat alongside Leapfrog, The Matador and (in the hands of bad writers) Stiltman in the Awkward Antagonists category.  It was only when Frank Miller replaced Gene Colan that we began to see other aspects of Melvin’s personality; the troubled psychological side, the side that deemed it acceptable to dress up as a Roman Gladiator and go rampaging.  DeKnight’s update of the character is excellent, and is played perfectly by Matt Gerald (The Shield); an actor who is in a lot but rarely given the room to showcase what he can really do.  Displacing him from the costume store and giving him a rundown old workshop where he makes armour-lined suits for Wilson Fisk is a stroke of genius.  Showing his design drawing for a rather dangerous looking gladiatorial suit is mouthwatering!  He also provides Matt with the perfect side-step in fully realising his vigilante persona but the best thing about Potter is how he means well.  He is crazy… beyond crazy.  He is jerking it in the street, eating a bowl of poop mental but not necessarily harmful.  Prone to outbursts when he’s threatened (who isn’t?) but a character in the midst of his own dawn and in even less control over himself than any.

< 1.10 Nelson v. Murdock | 1.12 The Ones We Leave Behind >

Interesting fact!
The title of this episode is also the quote on Nick Fury's grave in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and, subsequently, Jackson's most famous monologue.


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