Wilson Fisk may have gotten all the attention in Daredevil, but his personal assistant James Wesley is the one who has finally provided Marvel with an antagonist worthy of its heroes. I’ve always thought that a villain with no principles is like a parasite without a host, and Toby Leonard Moore’s sinister, loyal, eloquent man-in-the nice-suit has lots of virtues. In fact, he’s so damn virtuous I sometimes forget who the villain is supposed to be.
James Wesley is the true hero of the Daredevil series.
Just so you know where I’m coming from, I’m a law student. Like many products of a more cynical generation I’m deeply suspicious of blind idealism. James Wesley embodies the more modern ideal of negotiating with the powers that are to build a better tomorrow through intelligent compromise and hard work. He provides a better role model for young people who want to improve their world.
James Wesley is all about bringing people together. He shows great cultural understanding and speaks many languages, using his knowledge as a professional tool to build networks and improve the community. He brings Japanese, Russian and Chinese immigrant leaders together with corporate America to help rebuild Hell’s Kitchen. And in case you aren’t well versed in history, it’s no small feat to get Chinese, Japanese, and Russian leaders to work together (start with the Wikipedia page for WWII).
Wesley has a far better strategy than beating up poor immigrants at night. Those ‘criminals’ Daredevil spends so much time fighting are probably just victims of the income gap and the lack of opportunity that leads to a life of crime. Daredevil is symbolic of misplaced blind idealism, attacking the symptoms rather than the cause. James Wesley is about solving the big issues, not battling petty crime.
Just as important as his actions are James Wesley’s ethics. We don’t live in a black and white world, but rather a world in which everyone deserves an advocate. It’s the very foundation of our legal system, and why it’s unethical for Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson to suggest that they only want to represent ‘good people’, most of which happen to be beautiful women. ‘Bad people’, even large ugly bald men, still deserve advocacy and justice. We need people like James Wesley, who serve with utmost loyalty and trustworthiness, to make sure everyone has their side of the story heard.
James Wesley is a loyal, virtuous, and eloquent professional, the best on-screen representation of the type since Keyser Söze’s lawyer Kobayashi in The Usual Suspects. You still may not think him a hero, or you may not want to root for the slick, calm man in the suit. Maybe you just don’t like his habit of killing people that stand in his way. But like him or not, you have to admit that when a hero has an antagonist with some decent qualities, it makes the whole story a lot more interesting.