Tuesday, April 14, 2015

REVIEW: 'Daredevil' - Wilson Fisk Goes on a Date While Matt Battles the Russians to Save Claire in 'In the Blood'

Netflix's Daredevil - Episode 1.04 "In the Blood"

Two vicious Russian brothers working for Fisk strike back against Daredevil. Fisk moves to further consolidate his power in the criminal underworld.

Daredevil has done a remarkable job so far showing the human side of Wilson Fisk. Over the course of the last two episodes, he has received character shading that's not typical of your average Marvel villain. That really is to the show's benefit. The show is committed to showcasing the struggles of Wilson Fisk. How he operates as a human being and how that will effect the escalating war between him and Matt Murdock over the future of Hell's Kitchen. His presence has loomed large and menacingly over the show. He represents a real threat that is nefarious and calculating. And yet, the show is much more interested in seeing how the way he conducts business has effected his overall life.

Wilson Fisk has all of this power but that comes with all of this isolation. He is desperate for human connection and love. That's what makes his romance with art dealer Vanessa so captivating right away. He has grown so accustomed to controlling the criminal elements of the town that he has almost forgotten how to operate as a normal human being. He's nervous when he's trying to ask her out for dinner. That is endearing. Even though the audience knows what kind of a man he is professionally, it's still nice to see him trying to find love as well. Vincent D'Onofrio offers a somewhat understated performance. The threat that he poses is immediately clear in the way that Fisk carries himself. And yet, his charms and his nerves are very much on display as well when he's trying to make this personal connection with Vanessa. It's only after he offers his insight in regards to buying a woman is not a woman worth having that things start to shift in his dynamic with Vanessa. He's letting his associates take care of business. He is trying to take a step out from his lonely life. As their discussion of the painting he purchased from her in the last episode shows, Wilson Fisk is both a romantic and sad man. It's that kind of complexity that makes him a captivating character on the show.

And yet, it was also inevitable that sooner or later the audience would see the beast lying just beneath the surface. Wilson is so focused on making this dinner go smoothly. And then, his Russian business associate stumbles into the restaurant forcing Vanessa to see that he may not be as good a man as she initially thought. It's that one event that shifts their dynamic yet again. It's one that Wilson has almost no control over either. Vanessa obviously had her suspicions about the line of work Wilson was in. After she got confirmation, she has no idea how to feel about this man. That works for her character as well. She's scared of what he's capable of but still captivated by his charms.

Because all Wilson Fisk wants to do is make his city of Hell's Kitchen a better place to live. At dinner, he tells his story of growing up in the city wanting to move to somewhere more beautiful only for his wish to come true and realize that the city is a part of who he is. He desperately wants to make the community around him a better place. Thusly, his ideals are the same as Matt's. They just have a different vision for how to make those dreams a reality. Wilson aligns himself with the criminal elements of the community. He puts himself on top and doesn't care what kind of damage happens to the people around him. He wants security but that security also leads to loneliness. That's why he's in this mindset right now. That's way it is so brutal when he finally lets that terror out at episode's end. The Russian's fate was sealed the moment he stepped into the restaurant unafraid of Wilson Fisk. That was incredibly and personally disruptive to Wilson. The man had to pay for that. When they meet again, there's such a brutal animosity to the way that Wilson fights. It's all blunt anger that is incredibly effective by the physical size. That anger is violent and incredibly disturbed. If Vanessa knew that Wilson killed a man by slamming a door on his head until it was severed, she wouldn't want to see him ever again. And yet, she's not privy to that information. The audience is and it's still easy to understand his motivations. In the end, that is just incredible and delicate character work - even though he will now use it to start a gang war with the Russians.

The similarities between Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk are wonderfully on display in this episode - and likely will be the chief defining aspect of their relationship throughout the season. Much like Wilson, Matt is on his own personal journey to bring change to Hell's Kitchen. He is making a stand for the innocent victims. Sure, it's not great that both female leads have already been made victims of traumatic experiences. Claire is taken by the Russians in order for them to learn more about the man in black. And yet, it still remains an effective storytelling choice because of the complications it brings to Matt's grand internal conflict. Matt sees this mission as his own to bear. Following his rescue of Claire, he wants to take on all of that guilt for putting her into harm's way. She wisely is able to take that fear away from his mind. She accepts what happened to her as the consequence of choosing to rescue Matt from that dumpster in the second episode. She made the choice to become a part of Matt's mission. So, she has to accept that this terrifying risk is a part of that.

Matt doesn't want her to be afraid for her life. She is more scared now than ever before. But she understands that she is helping the fight for good. She believes in what Matt is doing and doesn't want the terrorizing threat of these criminals get in the way of her helping him when he needs it. This whole experience helps build more intimacy in their relationship. The bonds of friendship grow stronger because of it. Matt is able to trust her with his real name. She's a person who understands and respects his mission. She wants to be by his side. And now, he is letting her in. That could be even more dangerous later this season. But right now, it's also what is comforting to both Matt and Claire. They are no longer alone and that's a very powerful thread to build a dynamic on.

Some more thoughts:
  • "In the Blood" was written by Joe Pokaski and directed by Ken Girotti.
  • The show is even trying to build a more personal connection and understanding with the lesser criminals. Anatoly and Vladimir are the Russians causing all of these problems for both Wilson and Matt. But they have also overcome torture in order to make it to where they are right now. That was valuable insight that helped the audience understand their motivations.
  • There's a mentor-mentee dynamic to Ben and Karen's friendship that is fascinating. He is the wise veteran who knows just how dangerous this investigation can be while she is still so naive to the process. But hey, at least the firm finally got some office equipment.
  • Matt's latest fight with the Russians is wonderfully different from the previous fight sequences because it lives and breathes entirely by its mood and atmosphere. Matt effectively uses the shadows to attack Claire's captors in a way that should make all of them be very fearful of the shadows in the future.
  • Claire goes through so much emotion during her captivity by the Russians. She is afraid for her life and the pain the Russians are causing her. Then, she's powerful in knowing that Matt is there and capable of attacking. Then, she gets her vengeance by hitting the lead interrogator with a bat only to then realize the scope of all the trauma that has just happened to her.

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.