Daredevil‘s “World on Fire” began with Claire and Matt recovering from the the Russian assault that was brought to their doorsteps. It’s here that we’re made privy to the couple finally realizing that there is, in fact, a romantic relationship here, and Claire gets a better look into the world of Matt Murdock. Discovering that Murdock is by day a lawyer — while also allowing for a nice Batman/Iron Man reference in Claire thinking that all superheroes are secretly billionaires — she inquires about how Matt is able to “see.” In the series so far, the way that we’ve been able to experience Daredevil’s “radar sense” is through an emphasis on sounds, his surroundings, and some clever camera work, to give us a better idea of his powers. Here, we’re given a full on display of how Murdock perceives the world, and it’s a beautiful shot of Claire seemingly on fire. I think that limiting Matt’s radar sense was a brilliant choice on the part of the show runners, in so much as if we kept darting back and forth to the world as Daredevil sees it, it would take us out of the proceedings. The “radar sense,” displayed as it is, connects to the audience more than blurry, fire-like outlines could.
Meanwhile, Wilson Fisk arrives to meet with the rest of the heads of the New York City mafias to explain exactly what happened to one of the Russian brothers. These meetings are fantastic, as the tension is always simmering in the background. The Kingpin revealing that he decapitated Anatoly due to a “personal matter” puts the rest of the group on edge, and rightfully so — when might they be the next one to unknowingly irk Fisk? Attempting to kill two birds with one stone, Kingpin gets Vladimir to believe his brother was actually killed by Daredevil, to take some of the heat off him. Of the crime bosses, aside from Wilson, Madame Gao takes the cake for performances. Here we have this seemingly frail old woman, hanging with the most dangerous men in New York City, and through her performance, and the performances of those around her, we’re able to believe that she’s really the scariest of them all. She’s cordial, she’s polite, but you can tell that she is a viper in the grass, waiting for the right opportunity to strike. It’s an excellent portrayal, and I’m looking forward to see how she’s further incorporated into future episodes.
Speaking of Gao, her employees of choice are typically workers she blinds, and has dealing her drugs, and moving around town to handle her nefarious deals (as is the case in this episode with the Russians escorting one such man to their HQ). In one of the most innovative shots of the series, the blind man begins singing a haunting score, as the camera pans clockwise from the inside of the car to the outside, as Daredevil appears on the scene, only to disappear once again when the camera returns to where Matt landed. One of the strongest merits of the season, of which there are many, is the camerawork and the choreography. Innovative risks are taken in Daredevil, with the stunt work and fights being so expertly directed that you feel like you’re seeing something new, yet familiar. It’s a feat unto itself to see these scenes pulled off with precise timing, and it really lends to the “wow” factor whenever Matt starts pummeling some criminals. Matt manages to take down the Russians, even getting one arrested by the cops as the boys in the blue hit the scene.
Matt then uses his day job as a lawyer, as well as his friendship with Officer Mahoney, to head to the police station and check on the status of the captured Russian. The flunkie gives up the name of Wilson Fisk to broker a deal with the cops watching him, but it’s revealed that the cops are actually in the Kingpin’s pocket. After a funny back and forth between the officers regarding “whose turn is it to whack the stoolie,” one cop shoots the Russian, and Matt picks it up with his enhanced hearing. This scene was effective in showing Murdock just how deep the rabbit hole goes in terms of how much Fisk owns of the city, but I thought it could have been handled a little better. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I would have liked it to be a bit more serious and dark to really hammer home the point.
Meanwhile, Foggy and Karen take up the case of some tenants who are being evicted from their condos, also owned by Fisk. I think that this was definitely the weakest part of the episode, with the old tenant being played up a bit too much for laughs, and her coming across as a bit too much of a walking cliche in terms of her purpose to the story (Gee, I wonder if she dies later??) While I did enjoy Foggy returning to his old place of employment, and taking down his ex who is now an attorney there, I think that Foggy and Karen create something of a tonal shift in the show that is really hit or miss. There are times when the duo can bring you in with their quips and budding relationship, and then there will be beats when you’re looking at your watch, wondering when we’ll get back to the heavy hitters that are Murdock, Fisk, or Urich.
Speaking of Fisk, another strong point of the episode was the growing relationship between Vanessa and Wilson as the two ate dinner, overlooking the city. We’re given organic insights into each of their characters here, and though you may be wondering why Vanessa would ever fall for a man who is clearly a murderer, I think it strengthens her personality. Vanessa isn’t necessarily attracted to Wilson’s power, she’s attracted to him, so much so in fact that when she is thrown curveballs such as his job and his lifestyle, she takes it in stride. You can almost see the wheels turning in her head as she rationalizes whatever reasons Fisk gives her for the horrible atrocities he is committing. I feel like when the pair were overlooking the city as Gao’s suicide bombers take out Russian outposts, Kingpin could have said, “Well those buildings were evil!” and Vanessa would have convinced herself that they were! It’s a fascinating take on the typical “boy meets girl” story, as Vanessa knows from the outset of Wilson’s shady “9 to 5,” but looks past that in order to be with him. Had Vanessa not known, and Wilson’s dealings been used as a carrot on a string to be revealed later on in the series to add drama, it wouldn’t have worked as well as it does now.
The episode ends with Murdock unable to stop the assault on the Russians, but taking Vladimir captive, only to have guns drawn on him by New York’s finest. Now, while I thought this was the first episode that didn’t necessarily live to the high standards set up in prior outings, Daredevil is still hands-down the best show Marvel has produced, as well as just being some quality television.
Episode Rating: ★★★★ Very good
The Collider Offices of Nelson and Murdock
– Vanessa mentions a man wearing a white suit and ascot to Wilson during their dinner. This is of course a light jab at the outfit the Kingpin normally wears in the comics.
– In the police station, there’s a poster in the background that reads: “You don’t have to reveal your identity to stop violent crime.” This could potentially be a reference to Marvel’s big crossover, Captain America: Civil War which, in the comics, dealt heavily with the idea of secret identities.
– Claire: “You make breakfast for everyone you bring home?”
Matt: “Nah, just the ones who keep me alive.”
– Kingpin: “They are no longer a part of this organization since I removed Anatoly’s head with my car door.”
– Owlsley: “Crazy Russians. Masked Vigilantes. I’m getting my stun gun out of storage.”
– Turk: “Some big white guy, bald as shit.”