Friday, April 17, 2015

Wesley, Without Backstory, Dominates "The Path Of The Righteous"

The Good: Decent character development, Good acting
The Bad: Virtually plotless until the last minute!
The Basics: While Wilson Fisk is focused on the poisoned Vanessa, Wesley takes over the day to day operations for him while Daredevil moves closer to getting his iconic costume.

In creating a television series based upon a work with as much material and history as Daredevil, the executive producers and writers are given the tough task of balancing the needs of the fans who know that history with keeping them entertained. So, for example, readers of the comic book series The Walking Dead were incredibly surprised when the third season (reviewed here!) ended with Andrea getting killed as she survives in the books. As a fan of the Daredevil, I've been straining to recall how Vanessa was killed in the books. By the time "The Path Of The Righteous" comes up in Daredevil, there's a reasonable suspicion fans of the book might have that the show is going to kill her off much sooner than they did in the books.

It is impossible to discuss much of "The Path Of The Righteous" without referencing the end of "Nelson V. Murdock." "The Path Of The Righteous" picks up right after "Nelson V. Murdock" (reviewed here!), with the aftermath of a fundraiser Fisk was throwing where a few people were poisoned. Fisk's momentum is stopped by that disaster and Daredevil uses the episode to shake up the formula it has gotten into. "The Path Of The Righteous" does not use flashbacks the way the prior episodes did and that allows the episode to truly advance the plot and characters.

Picking up twenty minutes after Vanessa was poisoned, Fisk and Wesley manage to get her to an emergency room. The next day, Karen visits the wounded Matt Murdock and tells him all she has discovered about Wilson Fisk, through Fisk's mother. Foggy Nelson wakes up with Marci after a drunken night, reeling from the shock of learning Matt's secret and he seems content to let the fissure between himself and Matt fester. While Wesley and Owlsley try to figure out who poisoned Fisk's guests and Wesley tasks the accountant with dealing with Gao, Claire visits Matt and patches him up once again. Karen's quest to expose Fisk's past brings her to Urich, who has learned about the fundraiser and thinks that Fisk's network might be trying to murder him because he went public.

After a trip to church, Murdock attacks Turk to try to find out what he can about Fisk's body armor. When Owlsley returns to the hospital, Wesley blocks him from Fisk and tries to figure out if Gao was involved in poisoning Vanessa. Vanessa, for her part, remains in a coma, the only surviving victim of the poison at the party. While Wesley learns that Fisk's mother has had potentially problematic visitors, Murdock visits Melvin Potter. After a brief fight, he interrogates Potter and sets up getting his suit. But when Wesley learns about Page's quest, he leaves Fisk's side to deal with the problem himself.

"The Path Of The Righteous" is notable for the way it continues to detail the relationship between Fisk and Wesley. While Matt Murdock turns to god (or Father Lantom), Fisk turns to Wesley in his darkest moment and his right-hand man is the only one he trusts to get Vanessa to safety if she lives. Toby Leonard Moore plays Wesley with a deep, unspoken love for Fisk and Vincent D'Onofrio does a good job at having Fisk try to express himself to Wesley. What is on the page is an awkward exchange, but what D'Onofrio and Moore bring to one of the critical scenes is a series of looks, well-cut together by director Nick Gomez, that gives the two men powerful on-screen chemistry. Wesley is more than just a gatekeeper, preventing Owlsley from annoying Fisk during his time of need; he is a protector, facilitator and power broker.

Wesley's episode does a good job of continuing the story of Fisk, Wesley and the rise of the Kingpin without actually giving anything away about Wesley's history. The potential there is for something very unsatisfying, but somehow Gomez pulls it off; "The Path Of The Righteous" is very entertaining.

One of the episode's most interesting scenes comes late in the episode. Nelson and Page have a scene and in serialized television, they are saddled with a scene that can be one of the most difficult to try to pull off. Foggy Nelson now harbors a big secret and it is affecting his resolve, friendship, and ability to keep his moral compass working. Page's quest to pursue Union Allied and Fisk (and, incidentally, the truth) puts her in conflict with Urich and her bosses, all of whom seem to have given up on hunting the truth. The scene where she confronts Foggy at Josie's bar has the potential to be very much like a soap opera. While it skirts near that, Elden Henson and Deborah Ann Woll manage to keep it reined in.

"The Path Of The Righteous" is not a very cinematic episode, but it is a character-focused one. The performers do a good job of taking a cerebral episode and making it watchable. "The Path Of The Righteous" is an episode that is a lot of waiting until the action of the episode's final moment and it isolates the characters to make the wait interesting. And the end genuinely is good enough to justify the wait!

For other works with Matt Gerald, be sure to check out my reviews of:
"Shadows In The Glass" - Daredevil
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Red Dawn
Terminator 3: The Rise Of The Machines

[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 television episode and movie reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page!

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