Saturday, April 18, 2015

Hell's Kitchen Falls Into Darkness: "The Ones We Leave Behind"

The Good: Good acting, Excellent character and plot development, Direction and dramatic tension.
The Bad: A little plot-heavy . . .
The Basics: Daredevil rushes toward its first season finale with "The Ones We Leave Behind" which pushes all the characters to their most helpless positions yet!

Character-centered dramas tend to have plot elements that influence future character development. When an episode has a character reacting to their actions in one episode in the subsequent episode, it becomes virtually impossible not to have plot spoilers in discussing the reflective work. As Daredevil reaches its penultimate episode with "The Ones We Leave Behind," it becomes impossible to discuss the episode without referencing events from the last few minutes of "The Path Of The Righteous" (reviewed here!). "The Ones We Leave Behind" has the three central protagonists of Daredevil at odds with one another and it starts as an incredibly dark, miserable place for all involved.

"The Ones We Leave Behind" opens, very simply, with Karen Page throwing Wesley's gun (the one she shot him with) into the river, before returning home to drink, shower excessively, and have nightmares. Such an opening continues and furthers the strong trend in Daredevil for the show having a deeply human bent to it (as opposed to being comic book-like or glossing over the psychology of violence like most super hero works). Karen Page is entirely unsettled by her defensive murder of Wesley and that plays out throughout the entire episode "The Ones We Leave Behind."

Deep in shock after killing Wesley, Page returns to Nelson & Murdock where she runs into Foggy, who asks her about what is going on with her. After Nelson takes the files Page and Urich assembled on the Masked Vigilante, he passes Matt Murdock on the way out of the office. Matt recognizes that something is wrong with Karen, but does not press her too hard. Fisk is thrilled when Vanessa wakes up. His jubilation is cut short when Wesley's body is found. In his rage, Fisk nearly kills his bodyguard that let Wesley leave the hospital alone. Owlsley visits the scene of the crime and calms Fisk down.

The Masked Vigilante visits Urich, chasing a lead on how heroin is entering Hell's Kitchen. Urich is visited immediately afterward by Page, who tries to get him to publish the piece on Fisk murdering his father. Foggy, for his part, tries to enlist Marci to investigate Fisk (who is a client at the law firm she works for). Unfortunately for Ben, pushing his editor on the Fisk backstory piece results in him getting fired. When Murdock infiltrates Gao's factory, his attempt to liberate the factory turns disastrous, though it does put him and Gao in front of one another. Gao and Owlsley meet and their machinations are revealed . . . leaving Leland on his own with Fisk!

"The Ones We Leave Behind" is very character-centered and much of the push in the episode comes from Karen Page. Page is understandably rattled by her actions. The episode makes intriguing allusions to Page's past, in addition to using her character as a tenacious activist trying to right the wrongs that surround her. Deborah Ann Woll plays Page completely convincingly and the opening sequence of "The Ones We Leave Behind" is heartbreaking to watch as a result.

I am very much not into trendy things like parkour, but Daredevil uses it pretty well in "The Ones We Leave Behind." Murdock leaping over the rooftops of Hell's Kitchen is an iconic image and director Euros Lyn does an excellent job of translating that from the page to the screen in this episode. As Matt runs over the rooftops chasing a car he is tailing, the sequence is clear and entertaining. In an episode that is steeped with consequences, the fact that Murdock tears opens his stitches tailing the car is a wonderful detail.

One of the interesting aspects of Daredevil is how the show could develop while fitting into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. Amid all of the gritty, real-world aspects that frame the heroics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the mysticism that crops up in Daredevil seems tragically incongruent. In "The Ones We Leave Behind," the supernatural aspects of Daredevil begin to bleed into the storyline in the character of Gao. Gao has been characterized as a mysterious Chinese mobster and as she exits Hell's Kitchen, her line indicates a potential mystic tie to the Shadowland storyline from the book Daredevil. Like Doctor Strange, Shadowland would be impossible to execute in the Marvel Cinematic Universe without introducing a strong supernatural element to a series that has belabored realism and the unexplained, as opposed to magic and the fantastical.

"The Ones We Leave Behind" is well-executed in terms of dramatic tension. With the death of Wesley in the prior episode, the rising tension in all of Urich's scenes is palpable. Wesley is a central character to Wilson Fisk in the established canon of Daredevil, so killing him so early in Daredevil means all bets are off for canon. That makes Urich's arc in "The Ones We Leave Behind" a ramping up of tension that is stomach-tightening to watch.

Daredevil is brilliantly focused and while it is heavily-serialized, it manages to keep a high level of quality for many of the individual episodes because it keeps the focus on the characters and gives them realistic motivations and struggles. "The Ones We Leave Behind" is an excellent embodiment of that, even if the titular character is almost incidental to it.

For other works with Adriane Lenox, be visit my reviews of:
"Nelson V. Murdock" - Daredevil
"Rabbit In A Snow Storm" - Daredevil
The Skeleton Twins
Red Lights
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
The Blind Side

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Daredevil - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season of the Man Without Fear here!


For other elements of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, please visit my Marvel Cinematic Universe Best To Worst Review Index Page!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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