“I’m not seeking penance for what I’ve done, Father. I’m asking forgiveness…for what I’m about to do.”
It begins with a confession. Matt Murdock is a devout Catholic whose calling towards violence is at odds with his faith. He sees the neighborhood he grew up in—Hell’s Kitchen—as a battleground of increasing crime and preying upon the innocent. With heightened senses, he prowls the city at night while, during the day, he’s one half of Nelson & Murdock, defense attorneys trying to make their mark to help the common people. This dichotomy is what has, and always will, define the two sides of Matt Murdock’s life.
Thanks to a head’s up by a police contact, Matt and Foggy meet Karen Page, a former employee in the financial department of Union Allied who stumbled across quite the find. It turns out that “The Incident” (the Chitaura invasion in ‘The Avengers’) benefited more than a few people with Union Allied front and center in a major embezzlement scheme. But Union Allied is just the beginning. The Russians, Yakuza, and Chinese mob have banded together, remaining in the shadows while New York is still picking up the pieces. At the head of this mystery, cabal is Wilson Fisk, a powerful businessman whose true purpose — to clean up Hell’s Kitchen — seems noble enough, if not for the fact that he’ll do anything to get it done. Including murder.
Matt’s journey puts Fisk on his radar and vice versa. D’Onofrio’s Fisk is a most unique villain; his socially awkward, soft-spoken demeanor belies the power and ruthlessness behind his façade. Fisk’s plans relies on the Consortium he’s established with the foreign players, led by Madam Gao, Nobu, the Ranskahov brothers, and Leland Owlsley. The devil of Hell’s Kitchen becomes a spanner in their work, breaking down not only their individual business ventures but trust in one another. In short, Matt’s alter ego finds himself in the sights of a very powerful and very determined bad guy.
Tangling with Fisk would be enough but then Matt’s former mentor, Stick, comes back into his life, preaching to Matt about the endless shadow war between the Chaste and the Hand. Stick’s introduction reminds viewers that, while Matt, as a Murdock, may indeed have the devil in him, there is a line he will not cross. Even as he takes on the Consortium, dismantling their drug, trafficking and weapons trade, he refuses to take a life. Stick is hardcore and practical in that regard, understanding that there are circumstances where lives must be taken. Matt refusal of that philosophy is revisited in Season Two with not only the Punisher but when Elektra comes to town.
In many ways, Season One is about coming to terms with the darkness within you. From the flashbacks to his childhood, Matt has always been a good soul. But even those with such light there exist corners of darkness. Whereas Matt was dealt a tough hand when his father Jack was murdered, Wilson Fisk’s own father was a hard and violent man, dishing out his frustrations upon Wilson and his mother. Though Wilson kills his father in defense of his mother, the action sets his path. His desire to clean up Hell’s Kitchen, as previously mentioned, may be just (just like Matt’s wishes to keep the streets safe) but Fisk has no true boundaries in shaping the Kitchen into his own image. Thus, the confrontation between two men, straddling both lightness and dark, takes shape. The one-on-one fight that caps off the season is one built on a dozen hours of storytelling and, in such, brings a satisfying conclusion to this year one journey. Though not fully at peace with himself, Matt is in a good place with both Foggy and Karen by his side. There are regrets, decisions he’d like to take back, just like all of us. But changing the past will never be in the cards…
“It’s like I told Foggy; all we can do is move forward. Together.”