Between the Lines: Let the Devil Out, Part III

By Steve Rzasa

“When I heard all those prayers, all those… suffering people, I thought it was God’s voice. But I was wrong. All I ever heard was people in pain. And all he ever gave any of us was… silence.” Matt Murdock, “Daredevil, Season 3×2– “Please”

Warning: Spoilers abound! If you haven’t watched The Defenders or Season 3 of Daredevil, don’t read any further.

The quote above is what Matt Murdock, the superhero Daredevil, bemoans at the onset of Season 3. Wrong as he is, it’s still a bracing reminder that this how many people—even Christians—feel about God at times.

It takes a long, painful journey for Matt to learn that even if he can’t hear or see God, it doesn’t mean the Trinity is inactive. Far from it.

Matt plays a vital role in the crossover series The Defenders, that sees him join up with New York City superheroes Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Danny Rand (aka Iron Fist). When they have to stop an immortal ninja clan called the Hand from destroying the city, Matt literally and figuratively lays down his life.

In the figurative sense, he puts on the Daredevil costume at a time when he claims to his friends that he has no desire to continue his vigilante ways. But he later confesses to his priest and confidante, Father Paul Lantom, that he wants to fight. That he needs to. Not just for the good of the city. But to wreak vengeance on the evil.

In a literal sense, Matt stays behind under the Midland Circle building to make sure the Hand is crushed for good when the structure implodes—but he also attempts to save Elektra, the woman who was his lover and was dead but lives again.  He goes willingly to his death, all in the effort to redeem a lost soul and, at the very end, with rock collapsing around them, he seems to have succeeded.

Season Three is Matt’s return from the dead. The episode is even named “Resurrection.” It’s a beginning rife with Christian symbolism, most explicit when Matt falls from bed, disoriented. Sister Maggie—whom we later discover is his mother—holds his broken body, just like an iconic image from the comics, which in turn mirrors the famous pose of Michelangelo’s “The Pietà.”

Images: Matt Murdock held by Sister Maggie, patterned off a scene from comic lore, patterned off a centuries-old sculpture.

His powers have weakened. His body is battered. He feels God has abandoned him and that his mentor, Stick, was right about needing to be alone to wage this war—likely in part because he harbored affection toward the old man and yet Stick died, leaving Matt alone. He recounts Job but only half way, because when he points out Job never cursed God, he surmises, “Job was a [expletive].”  It’s a similar line that Stick said about Matt when Matt refused to kill.

The theme of abandonment, parental or otherwise, runs deep throughout Season 3, and informs Daredevil’s nemesis, too—one FBI Special Agent Benjamin Poindexter. “Dex,” as he’s known, is a top marksman who hides a dark secret: he’s a troubled man who later experiences a full psychotic break. He’s a killer, yet he also yearns for love and safety, two things that have eluded him his entire life. This is a man who needs redemption—like Matt—and yet grew up without a strong moral support, without the church, without people who cared for him.

Matt gets Father Lantom. Dex gets the real Devil of Hell’s Kitchen—Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin. Fisk manipulates Dex, going so far as to murder the only woman who may have been able to help Dex, to turn Dex into his personal weapon of vengeance, which he turns loose on Daredevil and Hell’s Kitchen.

Image: Matt Murdock, the real Daredevil (left), battles the imposter Dex wearing his former costume.

Just how much damage Dex in his Daredevil disguise causes comes to a climax when he tries to kill Karen Page—and instead murders Father Lantom.

Matt faces not only an evil incarnation of himself, wearing his own armored costume, but also the wrath of a city which can’t decide whether to love or hate Daredevil.

In the end, Matt realizes he can’t remain alone if he is to succeed, and when he’s beaten Fisk, doesn’t run and hide from the problem. Fisk threatens to tell everyone Matt’s secret identity and go after his closest friends, and Matt instead counterattacks by saying Fisk’s wife, Vanessa, will go to jail forever if that happens. It’s love vs. love, and this time, good triumphs.

More than conquering his physical enemies and limitations, Matt conquers fear, which as he says at Lantom’s funeral, was what the priest was trying to teach him all along:

“For me, personally, he spent many years trying to get me to face my own fears. To understand how they enslaved me, how they divided me from the people that I love. He counseled me to transcend my fears, to be brave enough to forgive… and see the possibilities of being a man without fear.”

Isn’t that at the heart of Christianity? How many times does Jesus tell his disciples, “Fear not” or “Have no fear”? And in 1 John 4:18 we learn, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

We’re to fear and love God, but we don’t have to be afraid. Not anymore.

What Matt Murdock doesn’t comment upon, though, is the initial comparison of his life to Job’s. Because at the end of Season 3, Matt has regained nearly everything he lost. And though he was mad at God, he never denied his existence.

It’s in one of those final conversations with Maggie that Matt realizes he was wrong:

Matt: “Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about it recently, ’cause… I realize I’ve made some bad choices and hurt people that I love without meaning to.”

Maggie: “You don’t always know when you start down a false path.”

Matt: “No, you don’t. And that’s my point. I realize that if my life had turned out any differently, that I would never have become Daredevil. And although people have died on my watch, people who shouldn’t have, there are countless others that have lived. So, maybe it is all part of God’s plan. Maybe my life has been exactly as it had to be.”

We may never see another Daredevil season again, seeing as how it has been canceled by Netflix. But what an arc this character has taken. This Daredevil incarnation is without a doubt one of the most Christian characters in film and television in this early part of the century—a man torn by sin, desperate for redemption, who always comes back to God, no matter how many times he must be lifted out of despair.

The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen has become a Man of God.

Steve Rzasa is the author of eleven novels and numerous short stories of science-fiction, fantasy, steampunk, and contemporary fiction. His work has won the ACFW Carol Award for Speculative fiction.

Steve received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University, and worked for eight years at newspapers in Maine and Wyoming. He’s been a librarian since 2008, and received his Library Support Staff Certification from the American Library Association in 2014—one of only 100 graduates nationwide and four in Wyoming. He is the technical services librarian in Buffalo, Wyoming, where he lives with his wife and two boys. Steve’s a fan of all things science-fiction and superhero, and is also a student of history.

www.steverzasa.com

 

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