The crew of the Ghost has been through a lot in their two seasons of existence. There has been discovery and triumph, victories and the forging of a family. There has also been tragedy and loss, frustration and shattered hope.
This week’s episode, Legacy, was well and truly heartbreaking.
I won’t go into the details of why as I’m sure not all of you who watch have yet had the opportunity and for the purposes of this piece, the why isn’t all that important. What is important? Ezra’s pain and Kanan’s remarkable, and powerful, response.
Kanan and Ezra’s relationship has had its… bumps. They’re both stubborn and opinionated. Kanan fears he isn’t a worthy master and Ezra doesn’t think he’ll ever live up to the expectations he believes Kanan has of him. Each cares deeply for the other but, at least thus far, they’ve mostly expressed it in a “boys will be boys,” teasing, fighting, and leaping into danger to save one another as needs arise sort of way.
This week is different.
In Legacy, Ezra is broken. Utterly and completely broken and, for the first time in a very long time as young as his years. Unable to hide behind his Loth-rat swagger, he collapses against his mentor, his surrogate father, and he sobs.
Without hesitation, Kanan puts his arms around Ezra and holds him. He doesn’t tell Ezra to man up or swear revenge on his behalf. He doesn’t offer false platitudes or crack a joke. He says nothing, he does nothing, but offer absolute, unquestioning, unquestionable love.
Why is this remarkable? Because Kanan is a man and that isn’t what men are supposed to do, is it? Not cowboy Jedi who have survived torture at the hands of the Imperial Inquisitor nor the boy who falls and scrapes his knee at the park. Men are expected to be strong, to shove it all deep, to forget it’s even there. They’re expected to solve problems and forge ahead.
By his gesture, Kanan is telling Ezra that he doesn’t have to do any of those things. He is expressing his own emotions, his love for the child he’s effectively adopted, by being exactly what Ezra needs and in so doing, encouraging Ezra to express, unfiltered, everything he is feeling.
How does the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen and Foggy factor in? What could that pair possibly have to do with the master and padawan in a galaxy far, far away?
My favorite episode of Netflix’s Daredevil was Nelson v. Murdoch, the episode immediately following Matt’s battle with Nobu. Foggy, unable to contact Matt, goes to his apartment and finds a masked man bleeding out on the floor. He removes the mask and discovers the Devil is his best friend.
And Foggy is pissed.
Anyone who knows me will tell you this is an odd choice for “Shiri’s Favorite Episode” because there is virtually no combat in it and my most favorite thing about Daredevil, beyond impeccable casting and general enjoyment, was the fight choreography. I babbled about it for hours. I felt the same unfettered joy in watching it I did the first time I watched the hall of mirrors scene in Enter the Dragon. And before you go thinking I’m weird, it isn’t the violence I enjoy; it’s the absolute control the fighters have over their bodies, the incredible things the human body can do (even if it’s being assisted by harnesses and wires). I miss my body doing those things (concussion, long story) and watching fight sequences like the ones in Daredevil is next best.
So why is my pick of the run the episode with the least fighting?
Short version: it kicked me in exactly the same feels as Legacy.
Very rarely in media, do we see men express deep emotion. Those who do are labeled “girly” (which is its own issue) or “wussy,” or worst of all, “pussies” (let’s refer back to who has the babies in this species and from whence they come, shall we?). Leaving aside for a moment that that’s utter crap, and moving within the current social framework, is there any among you who would call Matt Murdoch a wuss? No? Didn’t think so. And while Foggy may not be on the same level physically, he’s crazy smart and he is a shark of a lawyer. He even hits people with baseball bats when needs arise.
Fact: Foggy wouldn’t be nearly as angry as he is if he didn’t love Matt. Fact: Matt wouldn’t try so desperately to explain himself if he didn’t love Foggy.
Fact: by the end of the episode, both of them are crying.
I’ve heard grown men tell young boys that “real men” don’t cry. I have wanted to slap those grown men hard, but truth be told, their opinion is the prevailing one. In Nelson v. Murdoch, however, we have two grown men, both strong and powerful in their own ways, one of them just having survived a battle with a freakin’ ninja, and they are crying. Foggy is crying because he has been so badly hurt by his best friend and Matt is crying because he can’t bear the thought of having hurt, and worse yet losing, his best friend.
My point is that we’re all so focused on how women are portrayed in the media, we sometimes forget our boys.
I am certainly guilty of this at times though I am trying to be more conscious. I want so badly for my daughter to understand that being a princess is great, but it isn’t her only option I sometimes forget my son is sitting on the other side of me looking for his own examples, his own models. Do I always encourage him to be himself? Absolutely. Am I aware he’s a sensitive kid, shy at times, very conscious of even kind scrutiny (his teacher told us at his conference that he raises his hand all the time and then pulls back from actually answering once the eyes are on him). Yes, I am.
But I forget that, even when he was as young as two, people were telling him he needed to toughen up.
No. No, he doesn’t. Men and boys have the same emotions as women and girls; we’re all human after all. But while it’s acceptable for the females of the species to express them, at least to some extent, the males are goaded into being stoic and dry eyed. Labeled unkindly if they show emotion by touching a shoulder or with a hug, no matter how badly the other person (especially if that other person is male) needs it.
They have so few examples of other options.
We need to give them more options.
Our sons need Kanan and Ezra. They need Matt and Foggy. And no, I’m not advocating showing Daredevil to your six-year-old. I am advocating pointing these examples out to them. To their fathers. To the other men in their lives. And to the women as well because our expectations (women, generally, not us specifically), our standards, aren’t all that far off, are they? Most of us (again, not us specifically) have the same knee jerk to a crying teenaged boy as a guy would.
We need to give our sons the right to feel. The right to express those feelings safely. We need to accept it and encourage it.
And maybe, maybe next time we demand a more well-rounded, complete, female character from one of our fandoms, we should demand a more well-rounded, complete, male character as well.
UP NEXT: Sam Wilson, Captain America (for real this time)
addendum: It dawned while I was walking the boy to the bus stop this morning that the above are also key in Vincent and the Doctor being my all-time, favorite episode of Doctor Who despite it featuring Eleven rather than Ten (I adored Matt Smith, but David Tennant will always be my Doctor, even in the post-Kilgrave era).