I’ve written before about Dex and how Daredevil could have treated the character better. Episode 8 drives home just how connected the two are. While the show should have thought up an easier way to make the character evil, they very clearly make Fisk the villain. “Upstairs/Downstairs” is the episode that pushes Dex over the edge and Fisk, still reveling in the culmination of his plans, moves the pieces around the board.
What the episode lacks in action it delivers in emotional pathos. For fans who dislike Karen Page, the character gets some real opportunities to shine. Episode 8 revs up the action for Karen, Fisk, Dex, and the supporting players. Matt’s action takes a step back until the very end of the episode – but it’s worth the wait.
Finding and Losing the North Star
Dex to his credit works to try and get back on track. He pulls out his therapist’s tapes again, starts cleaning up, and tries to put himself back on a rigid schedule. Wilson Bethel’s take on Dex, living with his issues is accurate and despite the overdone take on the mentally ill villain, he makes a very real effort. Dex even begs Julie for a chance to apologize and for a while things look like they’re going well for the FBI agent.
His resolve is tested by two different situations threatening his painfully poised worldview. First, the lawyer who Nadeem hired to help him get back on the job says it’ll take 6 months to get him back on the job. That might have gone better if it wasn’t for Julie’s sudden death and breaking up with him via text – even if they didn’t have any sort of relationship to begin with.
Dex’s mental health becomes the subject for large chunks of the episode. Nadeem’s lawyer turns out to be a ruse to try and get him out of the apartment. Nadeem and Matt team up and discover Dex’s tapes and how he has psychopathic issues. The pair are cornered by Dex who angles the bullets to try and shoot Nadeem and Daredevil. In one of the more tense moments of the show, the two of them face off against the first inkling of the man that Dex could become. Thanks to Matt, Nadeem gets away and Matt is left to marvel at the seeds of a potentially long-lasting rivalry.
Fisk vs Karen
The great thing about Fisk is just how many characters would find him frustrating. How many characters would fly into a rage as he manipulates them? Fisk can rile up anyone, but the show puts Karen in the position where she can rile up the great Kingpin, twisting him into a pretzel of rage that, after all his machinations, is well deserved.
It’s a moment that’s been built up since the first season when Karen shot Wesley. Karen taunts Fisk, tries to put him up against the wall, and makes herself a target of the Kingpin of New York. One of the most poignant moments, Karen taunting Fisk over killing James Wesley, makes Fisk relatable. Everyone gives incredible performances. While there are a lot of Emmy-worthy performances, Fisk and Karen’s tete a tete ends when she’s dragged out by the FBI, but it’s not over for either of them.
When you consider where Karen was at the end of the previous episode it’s fascinating to see how similar the two of them are. Karen promised Fisk that she was going to expose his family secrets and Fisk, just as unable to go home again as Karen, rages against her. Both tear at each other and it is one of the most stellar pieces of filmmaking.
There’s no other way to frame the reveal when Matt finally returns to the church. As he’s tortured by the similarities between himself and Dex, he listens to Maggie praying. That’s when he learns that the angel watching over him is, in fact, his biological mother.
It’s a hell of a twist and a real cliffhanger to hang the episode on.
Episodes 7 and 8 of Daredevil may not have a lot of action, but they have pathos. We see hints of what every character could be by the end of the series. The standout is Fisk and Karen’s tete a tete – but dropping that Mother Maggie reveal makes it a hell of a cliffhanger.
What did you think of Episode 7 “Aftermath” and Episode 8 “Upstairs/Downstairs”? Share your thoughts in the comments below.