Thursday, June 18, 2015

Daredevil S01 E10: Nelson v. Murdock

The best friend is usually the last one to know. In the comics it seems that friendships and relationships outside the superhero business are kept in the dark far longer than those in the business. Oh sure, there are exceptions, notably employment situations as with Alfred Pennyworth and Batman, but for the most part, for every Thomas Kalmaku and Happy Hogan, there are dozens of James Gordons, Jimmy Olsens, Harry Osborns, and Etta Candys. And then there's Foggy Nelson.

Now as I've said before, I'm not a big Daredevil fan and the gaps in my comics knowledge of the character are large, but to me the character of Franklin 'Foggy' Nelson seems much more soap opera than the usual early Stan Lee fare. While Foggy is Matt Murdock's best friend, his law partner, and at the best of times, his conscience - the early comics portray him as almost a nebbishy comic relief sidekick, more of a Doiby Dickles than a Rick Jones. He was forever caught in that humiliating love triangle with Matt and Karen Page when he hopelessly pined after her while she was always in love with Matt.

And like a 1950s Lois Lane, he stupidly fell for Matt's ruse of having a twin brother Mike, to help cover up his secret identity. As lame as that trick was, I did dig the homage made in this series when Matt tells Night Nurse to call him Mike. Let's not even get into Karen's character as she also fell for Mike Murdock, and hard. But even as a kid, I looked at Foggy and I would never hire Nelson and Murdock - what if you got the dim half?

As the years go by, Foggy continued to be portrayed as ineffectual, and certainly various comics creators put him through hell. Bad marriage, unemployment, an on again/off again friendship/partnership with Matt - none of these things helped to strengthen his character. It's a sad state of affairs that he actually learns Daredevil's secret identity along with the rest of the world when he is outted by the press. And then, Foggy doesn't even believe it until he finds a beaten and battered Matt in costume, just as he did in our last episode.

I think the real turnaround for Foggy Nelson was in the much-maligned 2003 movie, and his portrayal by future founding father of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Jon Favreau. A more gregarious personality and snappy aware dialogue saved him and made cool. And it's this version that Elden Henson mines in his Netflix version. On an interesting sidenote, Favreau also invigorated the similarly hated Happy Hogan in the Iron Man franchise. If I had my way, he'd play Steve Trevor in the upcoming Wonder Woman movie the same way.

In the last moments of "Speak of the Devil," a drunken Foggy came across the horribly beaten Daredevil in Matt's apartment, and is shocked to find its Matt under the mask. Well, at least it's better than reading it in the newspaper. We open as Matt wakes up. Night Nurse has been and gone, and Foggy is understandably angry. "Are you even blind?" launches us into the credit sequence and an "Arrow" style flashback.

Then, they were college roommates, fast friends with common backgrounds, and for Foggy, someone to look up to, and the perfect wingman. It's easy to see how betrayed he feels. The noose tightens when Karen calls and Foggy is forced to do the thing he hates Matt for - lie to someone he cares about.

Meanwhile Madame Gao, who along with Owsley is now all that's left of Fisk's legion of doom, takes a park bench meeting with the Kingpin. She delivers a warning and poses a question. Nobu's clan, who we almost certainly know is The Hand, has a long memory and will be taking their vengeance on Fisk. That's one, but more directly, Gao wants to know when Fisk will turn on her. She says he must decide if he is a savior or an oppressor, for he cannot be both.

Ben gets the bad news about his wife's care and decides to pack it in, giving all his notes to Karen. Under the premise of finding a home for Ben's wife, she has him drive her to a place far away, where she knows Wilson Fisk's mother is. This was a bit weird to me. Why didn't she just tell him, and save them both a lot of time? Speaking of Fisk, his benefit goes very bad very quickly. Poisoned champagne, with more than a few casualties, including possibly Vanessa. Somebody is going to pay...

We are also given, through the flashbacks, the last few pieces of Daredevil's origin. I was left wondering just how good friends were Matt and Foggy. At least how good a friend was Matt, while he's been lying to him for years. I have to admit to liking secret identities done realistically for once. Foggy's reaction to the truth is exactly what it should have been. I just wonder where this leaves their friendship as Foggy tosses their new firm sign in the trash.

As scenes change to address each member of the cast, one can't help but remember the last filler episode "Cut Man," where Matt was also incapacitated. This is a trick that works perhaps once a season, more than that, especially in a series meant to be binge-watched, it's a cliche. As we speed toward a conclusion, this is a solid STOP sign as opposed to merely a speed bump. Much happens and there's lot of good stuff here, but the trick is old and we can see the man behind the curtain.

There are some interesting tidbits in this episode. In Ben's office, among the newspaper clippings on his wall are those about the 'Battle of New York' and the 'Harlem Terror,' referencing the Chitauri invasion and the Hulk's rampage in Harlem, both from the Avengers movies. And in one of Foggy's flashbacks there is a case involving Roxxon, the oil corporation featured in both Iron Man 3 and "Agent Carter," which is constantly on the side of evil in the comics.

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