Ninja fight! Maybe you didn’t get that, let me clear my throat: FUCKING NINJA FIGHT!!!!!! I feel like I’m 12 again. One aspect of this episode I loved and found very original was the use of the ninja battle as the tie that binds. Though the ninja fight scenes are one complete fight, they are broken up chronologically and are stuck between all the other subplots. So essentially, the fight itself becomes not just a fight, but its own overarching subplot. Very cool. Credit due to the director Nick McCormick (The Good Wife), Silvera, and crew for a new take on the use of and cutting of a fight scene.
I’m conscious of the fact I haven’t been too critical of the series thus far. Daredevil’s my guy, my comic. Sometimes it’s hard to be critical, especially when DeKnight and crew have gotten so much right with these characters. But I wanted more from Nobu. I noticed — and was frustrated with — the same issues my fellow NOC Takeo points out, but he was more eloquent than I, so I pass the mic. More on that later. On to the recap.
Matt and Father Lantom go deeper into his moral dilemmas. Fisk polishes up his public persona. Karen, Foggy, and Ben are frustrated. A friendly face is lost. “Speak of the Devil” is dense. The episode felt longer than usual, but not in a bad way.
SMACK! There is no ease into this one. We are thrown headfirst into this battle. That’s how you start a damn episode. It opens with a red ninja destroying our blind hero. Of all the previous fights, we get the impression Matt really has no chance here and when the red ninja pulls out a kyoketsu-shoge, double bladed chain-sickle, things go from bad to worse.
Matt has his Kali/Eskrima sticks and is able to dodge and get a few deflections, but on a key throw of the blade he whiffs and gets a brutal cut across the chest. The choreography is more reminiscent of standard martial arts flicks with more slow-mo compared to the fast-paced one shots of before. That is not a problem though; the fight is epic, well-choreographed, still brutal, and had me on the edge of my seat.
Time jumps to pre-ninja fight with Matt asking the Father for that latte he offered back in an earlier episode. Matt tells him he’s been busy and Father Lantom says he’s never forgotten Battlin’ Jack and son. Matt then drops the pleasantries and gets down to it, asking him if he believes the devil exists. Lantom says he believes the “devil is a minor figure in the grand scheme” and goes on to give Matt a Hebrew lesson and that “Satan” means “adversary” and by propaganda, it got translated as a single monstrous entity. Seems to me like millions of Christians would do well to listen to Father Lantom preach.
Father Lantom elaborates by telling Matt about a trip he took to Rwanda where he met a holy man that was respected by both Hutus and Tutsis. A radical commander ordered his men to behead the holy man and all refused, so the commander decided he needed to meet this special man. They met, talked, and said he understood why everyone loved him. Then he hacked him and his family to pieces. That — he tells Matt — is where he saw the devil walking among us. So what’s weighing on Matt is: if you could kill the devil, would you?
There are so many reasons Daredevil became my superhero of choice as a kid. This one, tied to his faith, stands out from this episode: how can Matt defeat his enemy without becoming his enemy and resorting to ways? That is: killing everyone in his path even it may be the easiest and most effective way? How many superheroes grapple with these thoughts? I mean, look at Fisk. He’s winning in the race to clean up Hell’s Kitchen, and it’s weighing on Matt more as the legal means looks less and less probable.
Karen, Foggy, and Ben are in a pickle since Fisk came out of the shadows. He’s now in front of their exposé and Ben mentions the city is in love with the poor fat kid that Hell’s Kitchen abandoned. They know Fisk is behind the bombs, but then a fun moment happens: Matt, having met Urich for the first time as lawyer Matt, tells Urich the intel is all hearsay since it comes from the man in black. Shakespearean.
Karen starts to connect some dots between Confederated Global, the company that put Foggy and Matt on retainer, and Westmire Holt, Tully the slumlord’s company.
At one of their properties, Fisk and Wesley meet and Wesley proudly tells him his poll numbers are up. The PAC and nonprofit are great, and he’s got a meeting with a senator. Fisk is more concerned with detective Hoffman disappearing after taking out his partner, since he could unravel everything in the wrong hands. He’s consoled by the fact that the cops have a shoot-on-sight order for the man in the mask. In walks Nobu and man is he pissed. One of Fisk’s goons puts a hand on him to tell him he’s not welcome, and he quickly ends up in a wrist lock.
He’s mad about the docks and he’s mad about the delay in getting “his” city block that happens to include Ms. Cardenas’ place. Fisk tries to offer other property options, but Nobu tells him it absolutely has to be that one and there can be no more financial distractions. To this, Fisk says it’s not a money problem.
“The man in black.” Says Nobu. Fisk asks him if anyone from his organization could match him and Nobu says he knows a guy who knows a guy. Nobu reiterates the consortium crew telling Fisk to get his shit together, but does so more eloquently telling him emotions turn to carelessness. Wesley has his ultimate bromance moment when he tells Fisk he doesn’t like the way Nobu talks to him. Awww.
Foggy is, well, “working with” Marci in bed and getting some info from her in the process. They learn there is a tie between Tully and Confederated Global, but Tully happens to be hiding out on an island that has no extradition. Unfortunately for team Nelson & Murdock, it’s another dead end. In walks Elena Cardenas and she tells her lawyers that she was offered double to leave her apartment. Foggy tells her to stand firm. But Matt tells her to take the money and that if Fisk wants those tenements, he’s going to get them. Foggy and Karen can’t believe it and get pissed at Matt.Cardenas takes Señor Foggy’s advice, but there is a price to pay for her activism. Matt asks Karen about the woman in Fisk’s entourage at the press conference, and she tells him she’s an art dealer. He says he think he’ll invest in some art.
Matt arrives in Vanessa’s gallery and they are suavely and elegantly flirty. It is a nice 180 degree contrast from Fisk’s awkwardness with her at the beginning. She sees he’s blind, but he tells her he enjoys art through someone else’s eyes. She describes the red of a piece as rage, anger, love, and hope. Shortly after, she asks if Matt is hitting on her. He asks if she’s seeing anyone and she says she is, in fact, he can ask him about it himself. In walks slow-mo Wilson Fisk.
It’s a treat to see Fisk, Vanessa, and Murdock share a moment. Matt initially tenses up, but quickly realizes he needs to play it cool so he shakes Fisk’s hand and asks him advice from a man of taste. “Buy what the lady tells you,” he replies. Matt mentions they shouldn’t be speaking much since they’re on opposite sides of the tenant case. Fisk mentions seeing Hell’s Kitchen reach its potential is important to him. Matt agrees and takes off.
It’s a quick, but electric scene when you think of the characters’ layers at play. 1.) Vanessa is smooth as silk trying to make a sale, and she enjoys a man that has some game, but also wants to show off her boyfriend. 2.) Matt is kind of undercover and enjoys Vanessa’s allure, but once Fisk enters he realizes he’s legally in a bad spot. Also, as the superhero, he ends up shaking the hand of the man he may kill. 3.) Fisk is our monster fronting as a well-liked philanthropist who believes he’s outsmarted the blind lawyer, but is also a man in love and doesn’t want to blow it with Vanessa again even though he can’t wait for Matt to leave. Layers, man.
Matt heads back to the church to talk to Father Lantom and wonders how he knew he was in the pew. Lantom says, “you want the short answer or the long answer?” — which was a line Matt used on him in the past and infers that he has an idea of Matt’s extra-legal activities. Matt tells him he visited the devil and that he has someone that loves him. All of a sudden he’s seeing his devil as more of a person that would be mourned if taken away from his beloved.
Father Lantom tells him Lucifer was once an angel and then digs in with some important lines. He tells Matt to leave judgment for God and that:
“There’s a wide gulf between inaction and murder Matthew. Another man’s evil does not make you good. Men have used the atrocities of their enemies to justify their own throughout history.”
Matt struggles with his no kill policy and Father Lantom tells him if he takes a life the darkness will spread and consume him. What if it has, Matt wonders. He tells Matt he wouldn’t be sitting here if it had and adds that the reason he met Vanessa in the first place was to look for a reason not to kill Fisk. Peter McRobbie is the moral anchor in this episode as Father Lantom and the winner of half of the Golden Broken Arm for acting.
Back at the office Karen and Foggy are still feeling the frustrations of connecting the dots. Karen asks Matt if he got what he needed from Vanessa, and she sounds like a jealous high schooler. Kind of weak. Foggy cracks a joke about the blind guy falling into a man hole, and they wallow in the dead ends of the case some more until Karen realizes they have a real “Nelson and Murdock” sign for the office!
Matt tells them: “We’re gonna make a difference. It doesn’t seem like it, but we are.” Aw, now things are looking better. Short lived. The phone rings and they learn Elena Cardenas has been murdered. They head to the morgue where Foggy and Matt’s cop buddy Brett tells them multiple stab wounds, jumped by a junkie, and no next of kin. Foggy and Karen are hit hard and Woll and Henson are convincing in their mourning. Matt’s knuckles pop out over his cane and just like that, he thinks he now may have a reason to take Fisk’s life that trumps Vanessa.
A brief second ninja battle interlude happens where Nobu tells the exhausted and destroyed man in black he’s a worthy opponent and it will be an honor to claim his life. He proceeds to slice and dice him again with the kyoketsu-shoge.
The scene smash cuts to Josie’s Bar where the three amigos are drinking and mourning Elena Cardenas. Karen and Foggy start to wane and think the criminal element is too much now that it’s claimed a friend. Matt asks Karen if she’s religious. No, she replies. You? Catholic, he says. Does it help? Not today. Matt leaves the others and walks off with beams of red light covering him. Nice artistic foreshadowing from director McCormick.
Foggy gets drunker and wonders how Karen speaks Spanish. He then begins to blame himself for Elena’s death saying he should have listened to Matt and had her take the money. He tells her he got into law to help people, but now thinks it’s all bullshit when you’re up against somebody that owns everything and everyone.
At his apartment Matt hesitates pulling out his dad’s old boxing robe and memorabilia. He opens it and a second compartment holds his black ninja uniform and Kali sticks. It’s time for a tour of rage in the name of Elena Cardenas. Through quick beat downs and arm breaks of street thugs, he finds Elena’s purse and proceeds to smack down a junkie that looks like he weighs less than 100 pounds. Personally, this scene was harder for me to watch than the torture one from episode two that caused the fuss. Hearing the skeleton guy beg and scream brought more visions of Guantanamo and actual torture at the hands of today’s perpetrators of war crimes. Matt is able to get Pier 81 out of him and tells him to turn himself in to Brett Mahoney at the 15th Precinct.
When he arrives at the Pier, Matt in black sees the tenement redevelopment plan and then hears the strange heartbeat he heard with Stick at the docks. Matt tells him he’s not here for him, but Nobu tells him, “Yet I’m the one you found.”
Nobu mentions the old fool, Matt counters he’s not with his war, but Nobu is not happy about the docks. Matt is upset that a woman had to be killed to lure him into a trap. Nobu wonders how he sensed him. Matt tells him he sensed his slowed heart rate and lowered body temperature.
“The old fool has taught you our way,” says Nobu and tells Matt he demands respect. Matt tells him to earn it, and they’re off. We get the beginning of the non-linear broken up fight as Matt blocks the darts thrown by ninja Nobu.
The final chapter of the ninja battle shows Nobu swinging the blade all over and eventually hitting gas or some flammable liquid. Once he pulls it out, Nobu really tears Matt apart with it. Nobu lassos it around him and after the loop, the blade cuts in as Nobu knocks him down and drags his bloody body on the ground. Looking grim. Somehow after he’s out of it, Matt gets off a dropkick to send Nobu conveniently into the liquid. What if it got in his eyes? A new blind ninja?
Just as he’s ready to finish Matt off, Matt deflects the blade with one of his sticks up to a lantern that makes some sparks that rain down on Nobu sending him ablaze. Ninja on fire; and he still comes after Matt.
As Nobu burns, Fisk and his crew enter and he thanks the man in black for taking out Nobu, even if accidentally. He says in a perfect world, they would have killed each other and tells him of his character flaws towards helping women, children, and the elderly. Fisk says the man in black’s options are limited by necessity.
This gets Matt going, but as he’s already half-dead, he’s no match for Fisk who beats the shit out of him with fists, throws, and heat butts, oh my! As Wesley aims his gun to put an end to Matt, he tosses one of his sticks to deflect it and crashes through a window into a lake now filled with his blood.
At his apartment, a hammered Foggy is pounding on the door telling Matt they’ve got to fight for Elena. He gets in, hears a crash, grabs something to arm himself, and finds the man in black unconscious and bleeding all over the floor. Foggy peels back the mask and sees his BFF.
Dense. As I alluded to in the beginning, we’re getting a glimpse of The Hand, which is awesome. Hell yeah! However, there are some real criticisms that need to be brought to light here surrounding Nobu. Why not give us a little bit more character development instead of leaving us with the quiet, obedient, Japanese stereotype? What if there were no second season? Was it too much for one flashback to balance it with the Russians and get some meat on the character and learn a bit more about Stick’s war (for those that haven’t read the comics)? Takeo is spot on, and his voice is the kyoketsu-shoge slicing through the shitty writing and racist overtones for Nobu (and other Asian characters — spoiler alerts in his piece if you haven’t made it past this episode).
I think the blame lies with the writers and DeKnight on this one. So, to honor his work (and his stuntman), the other half of the Golden Broken Arm for action and general ninjutsu badassery goes to Peter Shinkoda.
Finally, and most importantly, there is Matt’s no kill policy that we saw play out with the Father in this episode. Yet, even if it was an accident, he kills Nobu. HELLO?! HE KILLS NOBU!! Just a tad hypocritical, no?
What about the darkness he and the Father talked about at length? No remorse, no Catholic guilt, nothing. What are we to believe the life of a Japanese man is worth? I still consider Daredevil one of the best things ever filmed in general, but I kept waiting for at least a flashback, if not something more and these points, especially the latter, really let me down.
Devil in the Details
- A few people on the internets chronologically cut together the Nobu fight. Like I said before, I actually prefer how it plays out in the episode, but here it is from throwing darts top to flame broiled bottom:
- Kagenobu Yashioka is the founder of The Hand in the comics. When Matt mentioned “Nobu” to Stick two episodes past, he said something like “whatever he’s calling himself these days.”
- Between how this episode ends, how the Stick episode ends, and knowing there will be a Daredevil Season 2, I have a feeling The Hand will play a much larger role in the show to come. Hopefully the writers redeem themselves and read Takeo’s piece and raise the depth of the Japanese characters to what we expect from a show that has set the bar sky high.