Photo: David Lee (Netflix)

There are a lot of great things about Daredevil’s version of Wilson Fisk. The fact that his road to villainy was paved with good intentions of saving his city is a strong core concept for the character. His “gentle giant who can suddenly snap” demeanor is both captivating and unnerving. And Vincent D’Onofrio is giving an all-time great comic book villain performance in the role. But those compelling elements also mask a fundamental problem with the character too, one that has kind of been there from the beginning but which really becomes apparent in this episode: There are no real rules to what Wilson Fisk can and can’t do. And while I understand why that’s terrifying for the show’s characters, it’s not all that interesting as a viewer.

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Throughout this season I’ve been questioning just how much power Fisk actually has over his situation, and “Aftermath” offers the big reveal that he controls, well, basically everything. Not only does he have a secret lair where he can spy on his FBI guards and seemingly anything else he wants to, he also has the resources and forethought to account for literally every possible contingency. It’s something we already saw in the elaborate prison attack earlier in the season, which not only hinged on Matt Murdock showing up at the prison in the first place, but also included escalating backup plans to poison, beat, and drown him once he did. This episode, meanwhile, reveals that Fisk was (simultaneously I guess?) working on a whole other elaborate plan that anticipated Daredevil investigating Melvin Potter about Dex’s faux Daredevil suit and somehow conveniently timed an FBI raid to occur at the exact same moment. Just how many backup plans does Fisk have? And how far in advance is he arranging them all?

I get that this all-powerful version of Fisk is more akin to the Kingpin of the comics, but “that’s how it is in the comics!” isn’t an excuse for Daredevil breaking its own established world with very little justification or explanation. In the first season, Fisk was a powerful crime lord who was nevertheless struggling to establish the full reach of his power. Now he’s a full-on all-seeing supervillain, and I have no idea how we got here. It’s one thing to watch a Superman movie where his heightened powerset is a fundamental part of the story from the beginning. It’s another to watch an X-Men movie where halfway through Cyclops suddenly reveals he’s also super strong and can fly. As Bob’s Burgers once memorably put it, “A lie is not a twist.” And right now it feels like Daredevil’s third season has come awfully close to lying about Wilson Fisk. Hopefully whatever Foggy discovered about Fisk’s plan will help the show return to a more grounded reality.

The Fisk stuff is just one of many elements of this episode that I struggled to connect with. None of the Melvin stuff worked for me, especially not the way the show wanted me to buy into the idea that Melvin is an innocent bystander and Matt is an asshole for abandoning him. First of all, I’m not sure how Matt getting arrested was going to help Melvin. Not only is Melvin an accomplice to Daredevil, fake Daredevil, and Fisk, he just brutally attacked a bunch of FBI officers—I’m pretty sure he’s going to prison no matter what. Also Melvin just double-crossed Matt and then straight-up tried to murder him with a circular saw blade?!? I’m sympathetic to Melvin’s blackmail plight, but he was mixed up with all this Fisk stuff way before Matt entered the picture. Seems to me like he and Betsy should’ve been trying to run for their lives, not just relying on Daredevil to save them.

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Because we’re apparently living in a topsy-turvy world, the part of this episode I enjoyed the most was the Nadeem storyline. I haven’t really cared about Nadeem’s problems as a put-upon family man to the most generic wife and son in the world, nor have I enjoyed him as an antagonistic force to our central heroes. But I found it really compelling to watch him slowly realize just how much Fisk has played him and the rest of the FBI. The scene where Nadeem walks into Fisk’s penthouse and sees all the redecorating is great, and having him team up with Matt at the end of this episode finally gives Nadeem’s arc a sense of purpose it’s been sorely missing. I just wish this season had gotten there sooner.


Stray observations

  • The shot of all the Bulletin staffers’ phones lighting up with concerned texts was incredibly upsetting and, arguably, too much for this show to handle. I don’t think these binge-reviews are the place to get into it, but I have a lot of questions about action movies, violence, and the line of good taste.
  • I could write a whole other review just about how great the Matt and Sister Maggie dynamic is in this episode. She admits she doesn’t actually understand Matt’s world and was wrong to offer him advice; he accepts her apology and clearly still values her perspective. Those are great examples of status shifts, character growth, and nuanced relationship development! If only the rest of the episode had been as strong.
  • Fantasy Fisk is back! He works even less well this time around because the juxtaposition between Matt’s projection and the real-life Fisk feels so much smaller.
  • That scene of Karen calling her dad was absolutely brutal, and the best acting Deborah Ann Woll has ever done on this series.
  • Apparently Ellison isn’t dead, even though I’m 99 percent sure we saw his body lying motionless and unattended at the end of last episode. He is, however, really pissed off that Karen won’t tell him who Daredevil is. Next thing you know, he’ll be demanding more pictures of Spider-Man too!
  • An important note I took while watching this episode: “CHARLIE. COX’S. ABS.”

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