Unlike most Netflix series, where the episodes kind of blend into each other, each episode of Daredevil mostly stands as a distinct chapter, with each storyline having a resolution, even if the resolution is “wait’ll you see what comes next.” Daredevil is also a bit more ponderous than typical superhero fare. Unlike Agents of SHIELD’s cliffhanger at the commercial breaks, Daredevil reserves its most nail-biting moments for the finales. This makes the rest of the episode more reserved and thoughtful, slowly examining characters and sliding pieces into place.
This episode gives us our first real look at Wilson Fisk, and Vincent D’Onofrio makes him a delightful weirdo. Fisk exudes a forced bravado, but frequently drops his voice into a husky growl. The episode uses a first date to give us his backstory, or at least the backstory that he tells the world. Fisk presents himself as a philosophical man, someone trying to improve the city around him. But D’Onofrio leaves Fisk’s emotions with the barest restraint: at any time, he’s on the verge of breaking into tears or breaking someone’s bones. D’Onofrio imbues Fisk with an intense loneliness and isolation, creating a man who views other people almost as an entirely different species.
Ultimately, Fisk is a faker. He swirls the wine before tasting it, but grabs the glass by the bowl before admitting he doesn’t know much about wine. He orders a dessert mostly enjoyed at children’s birthday parties. He wants to avoid confrontation, but brutally murders a man for an incredibly small offense. He talks fondly of gentrifying Hell’s Kitchen the same night he decapitating a man with a car door. Fisk wants to be a coldhearted gangster, and an urbane sophisticate, but he’s not really either. He’s a man who barely has a grasp on his emotions, with an ego as fragile as china.
Unfortunately, Into the Blood has a pretty weak A-story. Claire is kidnapped by Russian gangsters, and Matt has to track her down. Matt and Claire’s relationship is deepened but there’s not a whole lot new here. Matt is untroubled by his vicious violence, while Claire remains a little dubious. The episode ends with Matt telling her his real name, but at that point they were already in his apartment, so the cat’s out of the bag (too bad Claire is allergic to cats).
Perhaps the best moment of the A-story is when Claire asks Matt if he has a plan or an end game, and he blithely responds, “I’m just trying to make my city a better place. That’s all.” It was a great chance for some ambiguity about Matt’s motivations, but Claire starts defending him against himself and the moment is lost. I can’t help but wonder if Claire was wrong: maybe Matt really does like the violence. If he doesn’t know what his goal is, then what is he working toward? Just that night? Is he a man out for the thrill of the hunt?
Karen is rapidly becoming one of my favorite characters on the show. When meeting with Ben Urich, she raises a killer point, that there has to be a liquid trail of all Union Construction’s physical assets. She’s undeterred when Ben shooes her away, going to the auction in person. I appreciate Ben’s reveal that he was trying to get Karen to safety, but goddamn I hope future episodes stop pussyfooting around whether Karen & Ben should investigate UAC and finally just do it. I get the feeling that ultimately, it will be their investigation to actually bring Fisk’s empire into the light. By the time AKA Jessica Jones debuts, Marvel will already have a fantastic, hard-nosed detective in their Netflix universe.
The episode also devotes a lot of time to Russian gangsters Anatoly and Vladimir. They’re the most well-defined “street” villains so far, and there’s a delightful moment where they revive a comatose thug to get information about Daredevil, ultimately leading to that thug’s death. Unfortunately Anatoly makes the mistake of ruining Fisk’s date, meaning that he’d be safer in a Russian prison. It will be interesting seeing Fisk and Vladimir come to blows, since both men are emotional hotheads.
Daredevil 1×04 is mostly wheel-spinning, setting up longer plotlines while doing little to further individual character’s story arcs. I’m hoping the next episodes ramps up the confrontation a little more than this one. I hope soon, Fisk and Daredevil actually get some facetime, and that we can finally put a name to the Man in Black. After all, it would be nice for the Daredevil TV show to actually say the word “Daredevil” soon, right?
4 Human Ribs out of 5. I know the car door is the big takeaway for this episode, but those rib shanks are the grossest things I’ve seen in weeks.
Fisk’s number two man finally gets a name: Wesley. He also gets the line of the episode: “I know how much your people delight in extolling the amount of pain they can endure, but maybe next time you can try ducking?” (I know, I know, you like the “magic hammer” line more.)
Karen drinks decaf. These days she’s probably feeling wired enough without caffeine.
What’s up with Fisk’s cufflinks?
There’s a great moment where Claire throws Matt a shirt and he doesn’t turn his head.
Karen likes rubbing her age in Ben’s face. Ben “brought down the Italian Mob back when I was in diapers.” She bought “office equipment… nearly as old as I am.” I get the feeling she’s just a few scenes away from, “You’re getting too old for this shit.”
The cross-cutting between Cox and his parkour stunt double is seamless. Great action overall this episode. It’s probably really easy for Matt to find the circuit breaker to the garage; I bet he hears electricity through the wall.
I hope the split suit means Wilson is not fat at all, that he just wears armored business suits. I hope one day he takes off his shirt and Marvel “Skinny Steves” D’Onofrio, sticking his gigantic bowling ball head on a tiny little body.
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