Daredevil: Condemned

Shoot me all you want, but Fury Road
is still better than Road Warrior.
"The moment you put on the mask... you got into cage with animals. Animals don't stop fighting. Not until one of them is dead."

'Condemned' told a familiar story of two adversaries (in this case a Russian gangster and masked vigilante) finding themselves in a dire situation where they are forced to work together in order to survive and eventually come to an understanding with one another, leading one to sacrifice their life so that the other might live. And it told it exceptionally well.

Now that we're almost halfway through the first season I feel confident at this point in proclaiming that Daredevil is not only Marvel's best TV series so far (sorry, Peggy) it is also the best superhero TV series on the planet right now (sorry, Barry) as well as the best action series (sorry, Person of Interest). Actually, superhero TV series isn't really the right way to describe this show. Like the best Daredevil comics, this show is at heart a crime drama with some subtle fantastical elements.

The best Daredevil comics were of course written by Frank Miller, whose work has been a major influence on this series. Ironically, this episode's plotline was more reminiscent of his work on Batman, especially his Year One mini-series with David Mazzucchelli (who also worked with Miller on the best Daredevil story, 'Born Again'). The third chapter of that series featured a sequence where Batman was cornered in an abandoned building by corrupt cops working for a local mobster who wanted him dead. That is exactly what happened here, except that the Caped Crusader wasn't dragging around an injured Russian gangster who hated his guts.

Matt and Vladimir actually made for an entertaining pair, and while they didn't exactly end up liking or even respecting each other, they did come to something of an understanding that their true enemy is Fisk. Vladimir gave Matt the information he would need to bring Fisk down, but also told him that it would not be enough. Fisk is just too powerful. If Matt wants to really take him down he will have to cross that moral line in the sand he has drawn.

Matt is naive if he really thinks he can bring Fisk to trial. Even if he were able to find something incriminating on him, what are the chances someone as powerful as Fisk would ever see the inside of a courtroom? This is a man who seems to have most of the police force in his pocket as well as people in the media. Lord knows how many D.A.s and judges he has, too. To misquote Edmund Blackadder, Fisk could be found next to a body, the knife in his hand, thirteen witnesses that had seen him stab the victim, and be screaming "I'm glad I killed the bastard" when the police arrived and his lawyer would not only be able to get him off, but get him knighted in the New Year's Honours list, and have the relatives of the victim pay to have the blood washed out of his jacket.

Killing Fisk may be the only guaranteed way to stop him, although it is one that Matt would prefer to avoid. Matt refuses to kill not only because, in his eyes, it would make him no different than the people he is fighting against, it is also a mortal sin, and one of the big ones, too. The commandments are pretty clear on this one - "Thou shalt NOT kill". No ifs, no buts, no small print, no hidden call charges, killing is a big no no. And that one comes directly from the almighty, although since Moses did smash the tablets before anyone else could get a good look at them I guess we'll have to take his word for it that they contained God's laws and not their recipe for the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich.

I said 'grilled', Aaron, not 'gilled'. Put that fish away.
If crime is a disease (and according to the poster for Cobra, it is), then Matt is at best a treatment, not a cure. He's been fighting the Russians for weeks and has barely made a dent. Every time he has knocked them down, they've just gotten back up. This is something both Jess and Josie brought up in the comments of my review for 'In the Blood'. By refusing to kill his enemies, is Matt doing more harm than good? Would Hell's Kitchen be better off if he went full Dexter on his enemies?

Let's say for a second that Matt was able to put his moral compass away and actually kill Fisk, what would that accomplish? Would Fisk's death bring an end to crime in Hell's Kitchen or simply create a power vacuum that would lead to further chaos and destruction? An organisation like Fisk's would not simply shrivel up and die along with its master. History has repeatedly shown us that when a powerful ruler falls without a clear successor who could maintain control, anarchy swiftly follows. Fisk's death would ultimately only make the situation in Hell's Kitchen worse, not better. Even if Matt were able to take down Fisk's entire operation at once, that would simply open the door for a new player to step in and take over.

Notes and Quotes

--Fisk's sniper had a deck of playing cards in his bag. This has lead many, including myself, to suspect that he could be Bullseye.

--This is the first episode where our protagonist and antagonist actually got to have a conversation with each other. As exciting as that was, I wish Matt and Fisk's first conversation hadn't been loaded with dialogue clich├ęs like "We are not too different, you and I".

--It wasn't very smart of those corrupt cops to execute those injured Russians with their service weapons. Just because your boss controls everything doesn't mean you have to be sloppy.

--Ben's boss really is an idiot.

--Fisk has no loyalty to his own minions. He didn't think twice about having one of his own corrupt cops shot to discredit Matt.

Claire: "It's not as easy as it looks in the movies, you know."
Matt: "I don't really go to the movies."

Matt: "You got the wrong guy. I don't kill people. Not even scumbags like you who deserve it."
Vladimir: "You dropped Semyon off roof. Put him in coma."
Matt: "Yeah... but he was still breathing, wasn't he?"

Karen: "Foggy, you're bleeding."
Foggy: "Huh? Oh, that explains it."
Karen: "Explains what?"
Foggy: "The stabbing pain in my side."

Wilson: "You and I have a lot in common."
Matt: "We're nothing alike."
Wilson: "That's what you'll tell yourself."
Matt: "You're feeding off this city... like a cancer."
Wilson: "I want to save this city, like you... only on a scale that matters."

Four out of four ultimate grilled cheese sandwiches.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.


Jess Lynde said...

While I appreciate the perspective on where Matt is coming from with his refusal to kill, for the most part that stance continues to seem incredibly foolish and naive to me. I literally laughed out loud when he suggested that he intended to see Fisk stand trial and put behind bars. That's nuts!

Then again ... it's no accident that this episode brought up the bookkeeper that ended up being Al Capone's downfall. Elliott Ness certainly came across as pretty damned crazy wanting to take down Al Capone via the legal system. (At least in the The Untouchables, the wonderful movie version of the tale, which I've watched more times than I should probably admit.) It cost him a hell of a lot, but he got his man. (Of course, not without having to kill a few guys along the way.) So maybe Matt isn't as delusional about "how to get" Fisk as he currently seems. Especially with the newspaper investigation in the mix. Or maybe his resistance to killing will finally be worn down in the end. We're still on the journey, after all.

Either way, it may all be for naught, as Mark says. There's always a new player ready to step up and take over in the criminal world (and superhero villain world). The more things change, the more they stay the same. If history and The Wire have taught me nothing else, it's that. :)

Josie Kafka said...

It is all in the game, Jess. :-)

Matt and Vladimir actually made for an entertaining pair, and while they didn't exactly end up liking or even respecting each other, they did come to something of an understanding that their true enemy is Fisk.

Having marathoned this, individual episodes are a bit foggy (unintentional pun.) But my immediate reaction to seeing your review pop up, Mark, was "Oh! That was awesome!" And it's mostly the Matt and Vladimir back and forth, although I did find Vladimir's end a bit convenient for the plot.

Billie Doux said...

Either I'm getting more accustomed to the series, or this was the best episode so far. I liked the back and forth between Matt and Vladimir. I think I'm finally getting into Matt as a character, and I'm finding Charlie Cox quite beautiful in motion. Although I'm still not enjoying all of the painful beatings and crunchings.