Monday, April 13, 2015

REVIEW: 'Daredevil' - Wilson Fisk Makes His Debut While Matt & Foggy Step into the Courtroom in 'Rabbit in a Snowstorm'

Netflix's Daredevil - Episode 1.03 "Rabbit in a Snowstorm"

Murdock and Foggy take on a mysterious wealthy client, but Murdock is convinced that there's more to the case than just the facts.

Daredevil has done a wonderful job easing into the introduction of Wilson Fisk as the season's big bad. Over the course of the first few episodes, the character's influence has been made known. He has far-reaching connections and is capable of scaring people into respect. Just the mention of his name is enough to intimidate people. His presence has been felt in these opening episodes even though the character hasn't physically been on the screen. That all changes at the end of "Rabbit in a Snowstorm."

The threat of Wilson Fisk has been looming over the show. His absence allowed the show to actually get some real weight in just how daunting and intimidating this man really is. He is the ruler of this new emerging criminal enterprise. It shouldn't come as a surprise that the episode that takes the violence of the show into more graphic detail is also the one to feature Fisk's screen debut. He has been built up as this criminal man capable of such unspeakable violence. So seeing a man get beaten to death with a bowling ball and then another stab himself in the eye with a metal gate spike is very much telling us the scope of business and violence that Fisk will bring to the show. The violence so far has largely centered on Daredevil and the intricate fight choreography as he attempts to protect the innocent of his community. That is still apparent in the episode's two fight scenes. But they also come to a more gruesome end that is going to push the show into darker places. And that's largely okay too. The violence on this show isn't meant to solely shock the audience. It has a purpose in showing just how much influence Fisk has over the criminal world.

And that's what makes it so humanizing when the first time the audience meets Fisk he's doing the exact opposite of handling business. He's a man to be afraid of. That is largely spoken in his outward appearance. But there's also a different side to him as well. One of loneliness. As he is staring at a piece of art, a woman approaches him to start a discussion about the art, the cost and the man interested in buying it. Fisk doesn't say a whole lot. But when he does open his mouth, it's for a profound statement. He feels alone when he looks at this artwork. That's the mental state that Fisk is in right now. He has been built up as this imposing and threatening man, but the show smartly digs deep into what that means for Fisk himself. The audience doesn't meet him as he's violently dealing with business. Instead he's introduced as a man living his life as one that's isolating despite the power he holds over the community. All of the work with Wilson Fisk is very impressive character work that was very deliberate. It was a very smart introduction that knew just how long to keep him off camera and when he should debut. Now that he has appeared on screen and Matt knows his name, things between them are likely going to get more intense.

All of that is good, but the rest of "Rabbit in a Snowstorm" isn't as exciting as the previous two episodes. It's all building towards the Fisk reveal which was a very necessary part of the season's structure. But getting there wasn't as interesting as the show is capable of being in its episodic stories. It's also important that we see how Matt and Foggy operate inside the courtroom. "Rabbit in a Snowstorm" shows them in that setting for the first time. The audience gets a glimpse into how their dynamic works on a professional level. There's a lot of good back-and-forth between Matt and Foggy. It seems that Matt holds almost all of the control in their relationship. He's the one who decides whether or not they'll take the case of a man murdering another man out of "self defense." At first, he's against it until he learns he can use it to better understand the new criminal players in town. That's very effective. And yet, everyone is also operating without all the facts. Matt knows that something is off about this case but he still offers a powerful closing argument for his client. Foggy is pushed to the background a little bit. His voice doesn't seem to carry a whole lot of weight. Yes, it's nice to see him as a lawyer as well but he often feels like he's playing second fiddle to Matt. That is slightly problematic.

Additionally, the hour also introduces another new character in journalist Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall), who wrote the article that exposed corruption at Union Allied earlier this season and is still hoping to dig deeper into the crime elements of the town. It's a very introductory storyline that showcases him in an industry that is dying around him - his editor is too much of a caricature to take seriously - while also trying to care for his sick wife. Curtis-Hall does an excellent job of playing his commitment to the job while trying to fulfill his urge to report on actual news stories. That's an effective character beat. But the story is largely set-up. So when Karen Page walks through his door at episode's end declaring there's more to the Union Allied story, the audience can know exactly how it will figure into the season's overall narrative.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Rabbit in a Snowstorm" was written by Marco Ramirez and directed by Adam Kane.
  • What are Karen's reasons for not telling Matt or Foggy what is going on with her and the disclosure agreement Union Allied wants her sign?
  • I'm already expecting Karen going back to the press will put her into harms way yet again. 
  • It was a very big risk for Fisk's associate to bring this case to Matt and Foggy in the first place. I understand that they want to keep their eyes on them and see how they operate. But in the end, it just allowed Matt to learn about Fisk's identity. It all works because they don't know that Matt is Daredevil. It just seemed, at times, to be too precarious a situation for the criminals who had obviously thought all of this out ahead of time.
  • Matt's priest is worried about him after his last confession. And yet, Matt doesn't want to share any of his internal turmoil over the good and the bad in his life and how irrelevant it may actually be.

As noted in previous reviews from this series, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments section, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.