- The end of Episode 11, The Path of the Righteous, was kind of a jaw-dropper with the unfortunate passing of James Wesley. He was a great character, Fisk's right-hand guy, and his mistake about keeping a loaded gun on the table was belief by his amazing bluff -- the guy didn't flinch telling Karen it was unloaded, he played it smooth until the end. His passing was a huge moment because he was a liaison in many ways between Fisk and the rest of the world (due to Fisk's social inadequacies) and also his most reliable and sensible follower. Would things have gone down in the finale the way they did if Wesley had still been around? Probably not. But there really wasn't a lot more we needed to know about Wesley, aside from what we've seen of him and what he admitted to Karen in this episode -- that he hated the city, hated Hell's Kitchen, but it didn't matter because Fisk loved it and he believed in Fisk and so he was in over the long haul.
- Which leads to one of the season's strengths... in the best episodes, at least: Fisk, Wesley, and others seemed like real people, not "villains." Fisk was a hero for the city who was willing to do dark things, and the show was best when his "villiany" was more ambiguous. Here we see him caring for Vanessa, and Wesley is tenderly and carefully protecting Fisk in HIS moments of weakness and is concerned about Vanessa as well. In this way, also, Fisk is serving as a foil for Matt, because Matt is the hero who ALSO does dark things to protect Hell's Kitchen; he and Fisk aren't that different, and so to remain matched we need them both to walk that edge. it's unfortunate that the last two episodes lose this distinction and kind of even "hit it on the nose" rather than just leaving it unstated and ambiguous.
- The end of Episode 12, the death of Ben Urich... I'm not sure why anyone thought that was a good call. I remembered one arc of the comic years ago, where Urich's hands were crushed (by Fisk?) and I was really hoping that was the way this would go. The reality is, the Kingpin has already been established as violent and capable of killing me with his fists, so killing Urich really did nothing to better flesh out or explain his character; meanwhile, Ben's life had just taken a really INTERESTING turn with his firing from his job, and there were many opportunities for his character to grow and expand in interesting ways.... but now he's dead. Not only was he one of the best acted characters on the show, but also a minority character, and that leads into the next point...
- The slow but persistent removal of effective characters of color / minorities. What the hell? Okay, Wesley is a rich classy white guy and so was Owsley, but Claire Temple has kind of been written out, and now Ben is dead, and the withdrawal of Gao (pretty fascinating character), the death of Nobu, etc... all these interesting major characters who are wiped out, and all the diversity of the cast kind of drops back to three white folks living in an area with racial diversity who are dealing with two rich white people (Kingpin and Vanessa). I'm more upset over the removal of Ben as a character, it seemed like a pointless misstep to me, but it's still odd to me.
- A minor issue with Owsley... I'm not even in the story, and I knew that was going to end badly. Why? Because when Kingpin gets emotional, he doesn't act rationally without Wesley around. Owsley buggered that; he told Kingpin he had been the one to hurt Vanessa and then tried to face-to-face steal half his fortune. Dork. Sadly, though, he was well acted (veteran actor), and it would have been interesting to see what might have happened if he had half the kingpin's fortune; however, his son might step in. Hopefully that happens.
- It's too bad the final fight was less interesting than some of the earlier ones.
- Don't mean to complain, there was some really strong writing in the pre-ending episodes. Really strong. I thought the Foggy vs Matt episode was just great, and hit all the right beats. (And Foggy finally became more nuanced.) Matt and Foggy have an interesting relationship: They're not gay, but it's definitely a bromance, and much of their friendship uses terminology far more common in romantic relationships. I really really liked the flashbacks.
- I mentioned before the portrayal of Fisk and how the series seems strongest when it muddies the line between good and evil in the hearts of each character. The more the show can avoid putting labels on folks, the better ... at least as far as the leads go. Matt and Kingpin are both most intriguing as characters with a positive vision for hell's kitchen but meanwhile wrestle with what kinds of activities are pursued in order to manifest that vision.
- Karen's strongly written and portrayed. She's a stubborn idealist who just thinks life should be a certain way, and when it's not, she just can't let it go. But she did something really bad when she lied to Ben to get him to find Fisk's mom, and she didn't even know the half of it -- that Ben would end up being killed over it, all while lying to protect her. In a way, she indirectly did murder him, although Ben's classy wife tries to exonerate her for the death. (Ben's decision to push through with the story, getting himself fired, was definitely a choice on his part; but it's still truth that he had cut himself loose to look after his wife, and Karen got him to that home through totally false pretenses.) I've known people like Karen in my life, good people but stubborn idealists who refuse to accept the grit of the world and sometimes it gets them in trouble / results in catastrophe; at the same time, it's a kind of moral anchor that forces conflict and sometimes works out for the better.
Those are some of the general thoughts I had finishing up the season.