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Claire Temple: The Best Thing Ever To Happen To Daredevil
She's nobody's victim but she takes care of everyone's victims, all while cutting through Matt's ongoing crises of conscience.
Claire Temple has been killing it in her all-too-infrequent appearances on Daredevil, but Episode 10 -- "The Man In The Box" -- is where she really shines.
Her ex and Crusty Detective dump five weird, emaciated sick people on her, all, "Please keep them from dying, and by the way, this totally has to be done in secret because of reasons I won't tell you"? Claire rolls with it, at one point digging money out of her own pocket to get ice-cold canned drinks out of a vending machine to help lower the patients' temperatures. She acts to save lives first; she'll iron out the fine points later. In Claire's own words: "One headache at a time."
And who is her biggest headache? Her ex-boyfriend. Matt and Claire have been done for a while. We know she's the one who did the dumping because she was able to see that the line between "Dude who beats up people because of reasons" and "Dude who beats up people because of justice" exists only in Matt's head. In this episode, she makes it plain that she has no patience for Matt's usual song and dance:
Claire: What's the story?
Matt: It's complicated.
Claire: It always is with you. [Cue an expression that Alexy Ovchinin just entered in the "Epic Eye Rolls of Earth" log kept aboard the International Space Station."]
And that's the story of how Matt tells Claire about immortal ninjas who are apparently using skinny people as a blood farm, and by the way, those ninjas may still want to kill both the blood-farm crop and the people giving them aid. It takes Claire a millisecond to realize that not only has Matt decided to put her job in jeopardy, he's put her life on the line, without her consent or approval, because he apparently thinks it's okay to do that to people.
Claire: I really have not missed you at all.
And then, because Claire is someone with a profound respect for human life first and foremost, she agrees to keep watching over the desperately ill people, and even handles her ridiculous ex's own most recent batch of owies. Claire suffers no fools, but she's not spiteful.
Claire is so necessary to this show, for several reasons. First, she shows that there's more than one way to be a hero in Hell's Kitchen. Claire shows up and does her damn job, night after night, trying to keep dumb and self-destructive people alive. And why is she doing that job night after night? Because she helped Jessica Jones break Luke Cage out of a hospital and there were consequences for putting the patient before the protocol, that's why. Claire is basically the Marvel Cinematic Universe's walking Exhibit A in "people who read the essay 'Civil Disobedience' and understood that it meant living with the consequences of their actions."
Second, Claire has no time for fools. This is alluded to in an earlier episode when she sets Foggy straight on who dumped whom in the time between the end of Season 1 and the beginning of Season 2. You know -- right after she reminded some gangbanger that he was the big dummy who lost three fingers in one night, not her? Claire will not hesitate to tell someone when they are being dumb, and she really lays it out for Matt in this episode:
Matt: I dragged [Foggy] into this mess.
Claire: Maybe. Maybe...or maybe you need to think about climbing down off that cross of yours and spend some time with us normal people for a change.
Matt should thank her for even bothering to speak to him, much less ask him to hang out. Then there's some more agonizing on Matt's part about how he should single-handedly bring down an ancient and well-supplied occult organization on his own, so Claire has to write another reality check.
Claire: Hey, uh, St. Matthew? Enough with the hair shirt already...you're not the only person in Hell's Kitchen who gives a shit about what's going on here.
And then what that doesn't sink in:
Matt: I'm done with the law. I'm done with friends. At best, they're a distraction. At worst, I put them in jeopardy. From now on, I need to focus.
Claire: You may feel like you're a ship lost at sea, but if you isolate like this, then you really will be. You're cutting off your own anchor. And every minute that you spend, standing [and] hiding in this suit of armor, the more separate you become from the very things that you want to protect.
Naturally, Matt's response to this is to go brood at the edge of a rooftop. To her immense credit, Claire does not try to push him over and end everyone's troubles.
Third, Claire shows that "appreciates Matt Murdock on a purely aesthetic level" is not incompatible with "emotionally healthy woman who can set and enforce boundaries." It's super-easy to look at Daredevil's comics run and conclude that, indeed, Matt Murdock is the worst possible boyfriend: the women who date him tend to end up dead, diseased, kidnapped, drug-addicted, mentally ill, and/or archvillains. Compared to Matt's comic-book girlfriends, Elektra, Karen, and Claire have had it easy. But still, even in this nascent TV universe, there's mounting evidence that dating Matt Murdock is a terrible idea. Let's look at the three women Matt's romanced:
- Elektra, whose idea of a good time begins with felony-level activity and ratchets up from there. She reacted to being dumped by leaving the city and beginning a decade-long global killing spree. Elektra may have father issues (see also: Stick; see also-also: the very name of the character); definitely has honesty issues (see also-also-also: Stick).
- Karen, who is apparently more than willing to be romanced by her boss when she thinks he's only a mostly-functioning alcoholic, but draws the line when she thinks he's a philandering mostly-functioning alcoholic. After their romance sputters, she decides it's a good idea to throw her sympathies in with Frank Castle, a devoted family man whose recent and unexpected surfeit of free time have led him to pick up the hobby of spree-killing. Karen may have murder issues (see also: Wesley from Season 1), definitely has honesty issues (see also: her bassackwards descent into a life of journalism).
- Claire, who still patches up the jackball Murdock even after he makes her life difficult.
I am going to take Claire as proof that Matt Murdock is not 100% awful for women he's smooched.
Finally, this show needs Claire for the same reason it needs Foggy: someone has to show that, sometimes, the most effective thing you can do to make the world a better place is simply show up and do your job.
We've seen Foggy breaking out the lawyer-fu this season, and we've seen Claire breaking out the nurse-fu time and again; it's notable that this episode ends with her reacting to the victims-turned-killers-turned-zombie-types' lethal actions by immediately minimizing as much risk as she can to other people. Claire's core principle is to offer mercy to the wounded, regardless of who they are. We need that kind of quiet, principled conviction on this show, especially as the hero of the show is struggling with a crisis of conscience. Here's to Claire, who still provides what wounded people need, whether it's a cold compress for a high fever or a listening ear for someone who could actually stand to listen to her advice.