Thursday, November 6, 2008

Preposterous Plot Points #9 - "Ah, what the hell. I'll just make another private mass..."

Uh, so this priest walks into his apartment..., wait. Let's start from the beginning.

Daredevil has just been kicked off a rooftop and into the dumpster right below by a fat yakuza gangster. I am not making this up. In fact he is in pretty bad shape and with a flu that is messing up his radar and heightened senses. We could say that he got trashed, but the pun would be horrible. Vowing to get revenge on the fatso as soon as he has recovered some strength (and, hopefully, stopped dripping from his nose), he decides to do as his cinematographic counterpart and go to seek shelter in a nearby empty church.

Not content to just sit on one of the empty benches, he goes to hide inside the confessional. In particular, he goes to occupy the priest's compartment.
Just like that. As if nothing was.
Last time I dared to try something like that in a church I was five years old. You'd think this would stop people from saying that Daredevil is a devout catholic, but trust me, it doesn't.
Luckily, no one comes by. Imagine if a old lady with a heart condition went there, kneeled at that confessional, started making her penance, believing her parson to be at the other side of the grille, only to discover afterwards that she had been telling her sins to a figure clad like Belzeebub.
Anyway, DD passes out. He wakes up later, to the words of what sounds like a honest-to-god confession.

As soon as his ears perceive the last words, he bursts out of the confessional. But whoever was there the moment before, has disappeared.
Wow. That was quick.
Either Hell's Kitchen is being colonized by a sect of catholic ninjas who disappear right after confessing (and without even waiting for the priest's absolution), or fatigue and flu have brought our hero's reaction time to equal that of a stoned frat boy.

This mystery settles in an angle of his mind, as our hero goes on with his life. Two days after that, he's in his office, checking recent suicide cases with his private eye, Dakota North. They find out that a woman has committed suicided several days before, by slitting her wrists, in her apartment at the Biltmore. A bell rings in Matt's head.
That night, as Daredevil, he goes to investigate.

I must confess that, being a non native English speaker, I was puzzled when I read "condo" at first. What could a "million dollar condo" be? A uber-elastic, hyper-durable, state-of-the-art contraceptive? No, turns out it's just a short for condominium. You learn something new every day.

His heightened sense of smell detects traces of wax lingering in the air. The type used in church candles, specifically. As he ponders about that, he's surprised by the noise of the apartment door being opened.
He, Daredevil, the hero with heightened hearing, whose purpose consists in having an uncanny awareness of everything surrounding him, is surprised by a sudden sound coming from the corridor right there. Not even hand ninjas can sneak up on him, he can even discern heartbeats, and yet he didn't hear any approaching sound, no breathing, no fumbling for the keys, not even footsteps. I call BS on that.
I forgot to say it in the beginning of this post, but just from this particular here you could tell that this story is written by Brubaker (script is by Ande Parks). DD's hypersenses here, in fact, seem to be working with the intensity required by the plot. Had Bendis been the writer, we would've had DD not only sensing the incoming person as soon as he reached the staircase, but also knowing what he had had for breakfast that morning by the time he had reached the third floor.

Oh, and there's the "Catholic guilt" thing.
I'll explain it for those who don't know. Catholic guilt is how "chic" pop culture labels guilt when it's coming from a catholic person.
Any ordinary guy could feel sorry about, who knows... having robbed a bank, or having ruined another person's life, or having stolen a lollypop from a little girl... et cetera. But if it's a person who is known to be catholic to do that, then it's Catholic guilt. Also, the more a person is implied to be a practicing catholic - the priest Matt heard before in the confessional, in this case - the more gusto the non-catholic takes in calling "catholic guilt" an ordinary feeling of remorse coming from this person.
It's one of those expressions that makes you feel oh-so-knowledgeable of how the modern world goes whenever you use it in a message board or in the plot of a crime drama tv series.
Not really defending any religion here (I'm an atheist), but I think it's a rather trite cliché, besides being utterly senseless.

Apart from the use of that expression in Matt's thoughts, a major development of the story is centered on the priest's incomprehensible behaviour. Basically, he had hired Little Loco, a young, filthy gang leader from the latinoamerican slums of the city, to brutally slay the lady living in his aparment and have it look like a suicide so that he could earn millions by selling it at increased price. After that, feeling guilty, he goes there, to celebrate private masses at night. Not once, but twice.

So, this man is an assassin (legally), is greedy, unscrupulous, willing to make deals with the most despicable criminals in the city, and then he feels the need to make midnight masses to atone for it.
Isn't that a little contradictory?
I also love how DD goes into "threaten with gritted teeth"-mode* without knowing anything of it all. As far as he could tell, the priest could've been feeling genuinely guilty for what was a mere suicide and was celebrating a mass out of this sense of guilt, or even just out of compassion for the soul of the suicide woman. That is certain a simpler (and more logical) explanation than jumping to the conclusion that the guy was the instigator.
Heck, he could've just interrogated him and detect if he was lying.
All this act with the "hypocrite catholic priest" was also ultimately unnecessary for the purpose of having DD find the killer. Matt could've picked dozens of clues or other traces thanks to his heightened senses in that crime scene, and those could've lead him to Little Loco just the same.
But apparently the idea of the "hypocrite-catholic-priest" as instigator was too alluring not to be used as a plot point.

In conclusion, notice also how, before leaving, DD ties up the hapless priest with some blankets.

Why on earth did he do that? Usually you tie up baddies so that the police can take them away when they come. But in this case, the priest wasn't doing anything of evidently illegal. He was entering an apartment of his property!

* Now I want extra points for the cacophonic alliteration.


Gloria said...

Yes, the "catholic guilt" thing is rather puzzling to me, too.

I mean... if I had been born a Pastafarian instead of a Catholic... I wouldn't feel any kind of guilt?

Christine said...

While I agree that the "Daredevil taking a nap in a confessional" is a rather strange plot device, I'm a little confused by a couple of other things. Isn't the man who ordered the woman's death the same guy who confessed to DD? He's not a priest, right?

As for DD not noticing him coming in, I don't get that out of that scene at all. As soon as it's obvious that the guy is entering the apartment DD is in, he reacts and is right there immediately. It doesn't mean he doesn't know there someone in the hall. The whole problem with hearing so much is that you have to decide which of it is important. In those kinds of buildings you'd have people coming and going all the time, and he would not expect someone to enter the particular apartment he is in since it's the home of someone who just died. Just saying... ;)

Francesco said...

Well, by re-reading I noticed it is also possible that this person was just a religious nut.
And looking better at it, maybe that's actually how Brubaker and Parks conceived it. But if that's the case, then certainly some elements are misleading, like DD calling him "confessor" (where he should've called him "penitent"), or saying he was celebrating a midnight mass (a layman isn't allowed to do that, in catholicism), or this person confessing without interacting with any priest, not even for the absolution (this was actually what made me discard the possibility that he was a layman).

Be as it may, the uselessness and triteness of that all still stands. Just substitute "priest" with "observant catholic".