Our latest Daredevil episode begins with the past of one side of the New York City mob, the Russians, as they recall their experience in a Gulag. If you thought the level of violence would calm down following the previous episode, you’re in for a rude awakening as the Ranskahov brothers begin their escape attempt by ripping the bones out of one of their fellow, now deceased, prisoners. It’s a gruesome scene that just goes to reinforce that, though we may be in the same world as that of The Avengers; we’re a long way from the typical Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. fare here.
In the present, the Russian duo is dealing with a certain masked vigilante throwing a monkey wrench into their plans. As one brother gets thrown onto the roof of the car, the other makes for a daring escape with his fallen brother, and Matt returns to Rosario Dawson’s Night Nurse to patch up his wounds.
Dawson and Cox play off one another quite well. The romantic tension seems organic, while the two also have to struggle with the fact that their relationship is quite hectic to say the least. Claire is even able to make a jab at his costume choice, which of course will be rectified when Matt does eventually don the more traditional red costume of the comics. Later on in the episode, when Claire is eventually kidnapped by the Russians and tortured, it goes a long way to see that she doesn’t immediately write off Murdock as being responsible for her having been brought into this new world of mafiosos and masked vigilantes. She recognizes the danger, but at the end of the day, realizes that what Daredevil brings to the table is something that her city desperately needs moving forward. Now you could make the argument that she’s patching up Matt because she’s growing quite fond of him, but I like to think it’s a little from both Column A and Column B. Her subsequent rescue attempt from the Russians is another brutal, but well choreographed, fight scene.
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the biggest character of this episode, both figuratively and literally: Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin of Crime. This episode gives us our first real look into Fisk as a character, and what makes the head of the New York crime family tick. I love D’Onofrio’s portrayal of the Kingpin here. Keep in mind, in the comics, Wilson Fisk is a powerhouse and is the epitome of stoic. He’s quite emotionless, but when he does lose his cool, boy does he ever lose it. To be fair, that is retained to a certain degree in the Netflix series—the short fuse especially—but more is added and I think the character is made all the better for it. D’Onofrio’s Fisk is an introvert, hardly able to relate to anyone around him. He’s almost always twitchy and just seems to be in a never-ending state of being uncomfortable in his own skin. It adds a level of vulnerability to the character that we hadn’t seen before.
This show is as much about Wilson Fisk as it is about Matt Murdock and this episode does a great job of really pushing that forward. Fisk taking Vanessa out for a night on the town, renting out an entire restaurant for the two helped show his level of stature, but was cemented when the frazzled Russian brother, Anatoly, barges onto the scene. Asking for forgiveness from Fisk after failing to kill Daredevil, nearly the entire restaurant stands up and draws guns on the Russian, clearly under Fisk’s employ. This is the first real big red flag to Vanessa that Fisk isn’t entirely everything he claims to be, which will be explored later on. Wilson asks for his right hand man, Wesley, to kindly escort Anatoly to an a waiting car where he will meet with him later. From this exchange, you’re thinking that while Fisk may be a tad bit peeved, ultimately, the two will resolve any differences they may have had peacefully. Of course, you’re wrong.
In the most brutal segment of the series to date, Fisk tears Anatoly out of the car and begins pounding on him with a ferocity that seems unexpected considering D’Onofrio’s portrayal of Wilson to this point. He brutally tears into the Russian and finishes him off by repeatedly slamming his head into a car door, to the point of actually decapitating him! It’s a horrifying scene that goes a long way to show who the audience is dealing with here in Wilson Fisk.
I had heard some complaints from various outlets that D’Onofrio wasn’t “big enough” to portray Wilson Fisk (and really, not many people are), but I would think that this crescendo would put any of those fears to bed as Kingpin’s onslaught on Anatoly is the sort of rage and terror you would think to see from a feral dog. What made this all the more interesting wasn’t that Kingpin was angry that the Ranskahov brothers weren’t able to bring down Daredevil, but rather that Anatoly had the unmitigated gall to simply interrupt a dinner date with a woman that Fisk hardly knew. Layers upon layers here and a perfect introduction to the Kingpin.
Meanwhile, amidst Daredevil and Kingpin hijinx, Karen Page and Ben Urich begin to bond with one another, figuring out angles on how to connect United Allied with the seedy underbelly of New York City. While not as strong as the Murdock and Fisk outings, we still get good stuff here from both Urich and Page, figuring out how to not only bring down the shady organization but also how to get along with one another. It’s a relationship we’ve seen a thousand times over in media—the eager young rookie overstepping their bounds in front of the world weary veteran—but it does its job here. I would rather see some character development given to this unlikely duo then none at all.
Another excellent outing from the inaugural Marvel/Netflix partnership, and a fantastic introduction into the character of the Kingpin.
Grade: ★★★★★ Excellent
The Collider Offices of Nelson and Murdock:
– Fisk mentions getting his suit repaired at one point by a “Mr. Potter”. In the comics, Melvin Potter is the sometimes supervillain named, “The Gladiator” Something of a nutcase who believes himself to be an actual Roman Gladiator from the times of Julius Caesar who looks like a strange combination of Iron Man and the Man in the Iron Mask.
– Urich briefly touches upon Karen Page’s shady past, which, in the books, involves the world of hardcore drug use and pornography. Page is a tragic character and this tragedy eventually spells quite the downfall for Matt Murdock in more ways than one. It will be interesting to see if they incorporate this into the show moving forward.
– Fisk: “A woman that can be bought isn’t worth having.”
– Fisk: “YOU EMBARRASSED ME IN FRONT OF HER!”