Monday, April 20, 2015

REVIEW: 'Daredevil' - Wilson Fisk Deals with the Trauma of His Past While Stepping Out of the Shadows in 'Shadows in the Glass'

Netflix's Daredevil - Episode 1.08 "Shadows in the Glass"

While Murdock, Foggy and Karen's mission becomes clearer, Fisk's world spins further out of control in his battle for Hell's Kitchen.

Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk have many similarities - and that includes the revelation in "Shadows in the Glass" that they both have daddy issues. While the season did a phenomenal job showing Matt's relationship with his father, the same cannot be said for Wilson. His backstory is fully on display throughout this episode and how the events of the past shaped him into who he is today even though he is still struggling with all of that trauma. And yet, it feels all too familiar. It's a generic story about being raised by an abusive father until he can't take it any longer and kills him. It's a story that does hold weight in the present-day story. Vincent D'Onofrio sells the hell out of how much his past is still effecting his current psyche. And yet, it's all told in the most hammy way possible. That hasn't really been a part of the character before. But now, it's looking like that will be on display more in the future as Wilson Fisk becomes more of a traditional villain in a Marvel Studios project.

So much of this episode is about Wilson Fisk and fleshing out the details of his past. And yet, those details all feel rushed. The flashbacks themselves are only a handful of scenes which means that Wilson's father, Bill, is an aggressive and abusive parent who blames his family for all of his problems instantly. Matt and Jack Murdock had a nice push-and-pull in their dynamic. The show showed the audience how and why they both needed each other and how Jack's death sent Matt on this journey in the first place. It's a less nuanced story for Wilson. Killing his father does have a profound effect on him. The hour makes it so by showing how every morning for Wilson includes the routine of waking up from a nightmare, looking at the "Rabbit in a Snowstorm" painting to calm down, making himself an omelet and picking out his wardrobe for the day. It's a routine that shows the loneliness of the character that has been frequently talked about this season. He has all this wealth around him but he is still struggling with his inner emotions and trauma.

Even though Wilson has been effectively playing the game from the shadows, his business operation isn't as stable as it originally appeared. Wilson did a phenomenal job at getting Hell's Kitchen to turn against the man in the mask. He made it so that Matt was the villain of the story to the people of his town. And yet, that's simply not enough because Matt is still causing problems for his operation. Killing the Russians was a big move fueled by emotion. The other players have taken notice and are worried about their futures. Nobu is largely just upset about losing the package that arrived at the docks in the last episode. Leland just gets in another handful of wonderful one-liners. It's up to Madame Gao to establish the severity of the situation. She makes her presence known to Wilson. She is to be feared just as much as he is. That was an effective storytelling beat because it gives Wilson someone to share the screen with as an equal. He fears her and what she is capable of doing.

Loosing control is terrifying to Wilson. He hates being alone. And yet, that is the life he has created for himself. Even when he does lose control, he doesn't want anyone to see it and think differently of him. He needs to command respect and intimidation. That is the role he has to play in this operation. But things are slowly becoming too chaotic for him to handle. He doesn't perceive himself to be a cruel man. He'll just use cruelty and violence when he needs to. He believes he has an honorable reason in trying to make his city a better place. He won't be effected by all this change. He's living in a gorgeous and upscale apartment. But he does want control. And that is spiraling too far away from him. The only person who can pull him back together is Vanessa.

Vanessa learns the specifics of his past just like the audience does. She hears about what he did to his father and how he and his mother covered it up. She is still willing to stand up his side. She fully understands the truth and is still willing to make him a better man. That complexity is powerful. And yet, it is still just her reacting to what he does. He helps bring about change for him. He still wakes up from nightmares. But now, he is no longer alone in bed. She is there by his side to share breakfast with him and pick out his outfit. Even though Madame Gao broke him down, Vanessa built him back up. He is no longer going to be working out of the shadows. He is able to ride the momentum against the man in the mask to his benefit by stepping into the limelight as the advocate that Hell's Kitchen desperately needs.

To the heros of the story, it's yet another crushing blow to saving the city and exposing the truth behind Union Allied. Matt, Karen, Foggy and Ben are working tirelessly to get the actual story out there. They all become aware of Karen and Ben's relationship and her pursuit deeper into the story. It then promptly points out the hypocrisy in Matt saying things need to be handled the legal way while he's also running through the streets trying to beat information out of people. He knows that everything leads back to Fisk and that he'll do anything to cover up his involvement in this destruction. Every time Matt thinks he has found hope, it's ripped away from him. He's able to share everything he knows with Ben about Wilson Fisk. Ben is ready to post a slanderous piece calling Wilson out for operating in the shadows. And yet, all of it is made pointless by the concluding twist of Wilson stepping out as "the savior of Hell's Kitchen." It makes the battle more daunting for the protagonists - but not exactly in a way that makes their side of the story as compelling in the specifics of this episode.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Shadows in the Glass" was written by Steven S. DeKnight and directed by Stephen Surjik.
  • Wilson still manages to take care of his business by arranging for the partner of the detective who was shot to kill him once he wakes up from his coma.
  • So much of the bonding between Matt, Karen and Foggy has happened offscreen. Either the other two need to become aware of what all Matt has been doing outside of work. Or they all need to be a part of a low-stakes scene just featuring them hanging out with no pressure in regards to the future of the city.
  • Why does Wilson have all those cufflinks if he wears the same pair every day? Just to give Vanessa options later on?
  • The Hell's Kitchen of Wilson's past seems to have more character and atmospheric ambition than the Hell's Kitchen of the present.
  • The "Rabbit in a Snowstorm" painting worked so well as an abstract concept of Wilson's loneliness. It no longer holds that same value because now it's just a physical representation of the wall Wilson was forced to look at while his father was hurting his mother with his belt.

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.