Daredevil: In the Blood

"You embarrassed me. You embarrassed me in front of her."

I guess the moral of the story is don't ever, EVER, under any circumstances, ruin Wilson Fisk's date.

This episode introduced us to two very different Wilson Fisks. The first, and the one we spend the majority of the episode with, is Wilson Fisk the romantic. This Wilson Fisk was like a gentle giant, all awkward and nervous, even a little shy. As the date with Vanessa went on we began to see that behind that shy exterior he was funny and charming, even, dare I say it, a little sweet. And he and Vanessa make such a lovely couple, thanks to the great chemistry between Vincent D'Onofrio and Ayelet Zurer.

Obviously the writers placed so much emphasis on Fisk's softer side so that his actions at the end of the episode would be all the more shocking. They needn't have bothered because pulverising a guy's head with a freakin' car door is shocking enough. Woah! I mean...woah. I knew they were probably going to show us Fisk's ruthless side by the end of the episode, but I wasn't expecting anything like that.

This is the Wilson Fisk we've not been hearing about. And with good reason. This Wilson Fisk is a creature of uncontrolled rage. Anatoly came to him to beg for his help, to grovel on his knees at the feet of Hell Kitchen's unofficial king(pin). But he chose the exact wrong moment to do it, ruining Fisk's date and embarrassing him in front of Vanessa. For that he got his head turned into mush. No wonder Healey chose to ram his head into a metal spike. If this is what Fisk will do to those who want to be his allies, imagine what he'd do to his enemies or those who betray him.

It was decent of the writers to flesh out Anatoly before his gruesome death so he wasn't just a generic Russian gangster by showing us him and his brother in their Siberian prison days, where they were making shivs out of poor Alexi's ribs (they obviously stress the importance of recycling in Russian prisons). It was also great how they, and all the non-English speaking characters, were speaking their native language whenever they were alone with each other, rather than speaking English simply for the audience's benefit.

I really like what the show is doing with Karen and how it seems to be avoiding treating her as just a love interest. Yes, Foggy is obviously besotted with her and it is clear she is attracted to Matt, but that is something that is being kept firmly in the background for the time being. Right now Karen feels like she is the lead character in her own show, not just a supporting player in someone else's. She has a storyline all of her own that has nothing to do with who she is or isn't dating. A storyline that is driven by her actions and decisions and isn't just some irrelevant filler to keep her busy until they need her to have some "will they/won't they" tension with Matt or get kidnapped by the bad guys.

Sadly, the same cannot be said of Claire. Everything the show isn't doing with Karen it seems to be doing with Claire. This is only her second episode and already she's being Lois Lane'd. Yes, the rescue sequence itself was pretty good, but can't we have a superhero drama where the bad guys don't try to get to the hero through the girl he is dating? Especially when it relies on a pretty big contrivance for it to happen. Why was Santino standing in Claire's doorway with a big sign over his head reading "I obviously know something, torture me"? It was a blatant example of characters doing dumb shit because the plot required it.


Notes and Quotes

--After Anatoly slashes Fisk's amazingly armoured suit he tells Wesley to contact "Mr. Potter" about getting him a new one. This is likely a reference to Melvin Potter, a character from the comics who is a reformed villain named Gladiator.

--Before the Russians came calling, Claire and Matt were getting seriously flirty (I saw what you were doing with your hand there, Matthew, you smoothie).

--Wesley referenced both Thor and Iron Man, reminding us that this show, despite its gritty tone and brutal violence, still takes place in the same universe as Norse space gods and flying tin men.

Claire: "You really need to get some kind of body armour or something."
Matt: "It would slow me down too much."

Fisk: "A woman that can be bought... isn't worth having."

Wesley: "They say the past is etched in stone, but it isn't. It's smoke trapped in a closed room, swirling, changing, buffeted by the passing of years and wishful thinking. But even though our perception of it changes, one thing remains constant: the past can never be completely erased, it lingers like the scent of burning wood."

Karen: "Well, I did some digging, too. I read every big story with your byline. The VA kickbacks, toxic runoff, the Teachers Union scandal. Hell, you pretty much brought down the Italian mob back when I was in diapers. Whatever happened to that reporter, Mr. Urich?"
Ben: "He got old. And a hell of a lot less stupid."

Three out of four shivs made from some poor sod's ribs.
---
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am loving the show even if I have to close my eyes for 1/2 of it. That car door scene was brutal - and I only listened to it!!

Sooze

Onanymous said...

I agree. I'm really enjoying the show so far, but I actively had to look away during the car door scene.

JRS said...

The car door scene was terrible - but Wilson Fisk is one of the best criminals I've seen in a dog's age. And Victor D'Onofrio... I start to understand why they call him the Human Chameleon. Completely overwhelming and insidious at the same time.

Jess Lynde said...

So, is Matt purposely not killing the guys he's going up against because he's wrestling with the morality and such? (Has he killed anyone yet? Some of those guys in the hall fight, maybe?) I'm just wondering, because they're showing him going up against such bad guys that it seems ridiculous that he's not just taking them out. None of what happened to Claire would have happened if Matt had just finished things with the guy on the roof back in Ep. 2, instead of merely putting him in a coma. I think he needs to stop visiting the priest, take a trip to the nearest psychic, and have himself a good chat with Mike Ehrmantraut's ghost about "half measures." It's not enough to just be a masked man who beats up bad men. You have to be prepared to go all the way.

I guess that's the journey we're on with him --- we're still taking this one at a one-a-week pace, so this ep is as far as I've seen --- but seeing how bad all these guys are, and knowing that Matt knows how bad they are, I can't help feeling like he comes across as a bit of a dolt for not already being at the "kill so other people don't get killed" point.

Josie Kafka said...

Jess, it's an interesting moral quandary.

Matt's brand of superheroism seems to dictate that physical brutality is fine as long as it doesn't end in death. Extreme injury and permanent disability are okay.

And so is leaving the bad guys to fight another day. "Preventative violence" (copyright Josie, or possibly Dick Cheney) seems to have a clock of about 24 hours; after that, his time runs out and he must let God sort out the rest.

But, if we're getting all moral about it, is leaving a bad guy alive just as bad as doing bad things? It tacitly permits the baddie to do more bad things. The justice system solves this conundrum with prison: allegedly rehabilitative, but more about keeping criminals off the streets. Vigilantes don't have that option.

So Matt must be relying on a notion of free will and self-determination. He won't take a life because it's a sin, and ipso facto it's a sin because that life has the potential to be good. So leaving people alive is an inherently optimistic strategy, and likely a foolhardy one, from a crime-fighting perspective.*


*Not that I'm arguing in favor of him becoming a serial killer of bad guys.

Diogo said...

" I'm just wondering, because they're showing him going up against such bad guys that it seems ridiculous that he's not just taking them out. "

But wouldn't that possibly allow even nastier people to come in and fill the resulting power vacuum? To quote Terry Pratchett (just replace "dictator" with "head of a crime organization":
"Shoot the dictator and prevent the war? But the dictator is merely the tip of the whole festering boil of social pus from which dictators emerge; shoot him and there'll be another one along in a minute. Shoot him too? Why not shoot everyone and invade Poland?”
Dismantling a crime organization isn't as simple as just shooting its leaders, which is why Matt also uses the law.

Jess Lynde said...

A valid point, Diogo. But in this episode, I wasn't necessarily thinking about Matt taking out the man at the top. I was thinking mostly about the underling he put in a coma instead of killing. If Matt had killed that one guy, he certainly wouldn't have stopped the criminal activities, but he would have eliminated the person that could tell his conspirators about "the girl." And that would have spared Claire and her upstairs neighbor friend what happened to them in this episode. Don't leave the clear threat alive, so that it can come bite you or someone you care about in the ass on another day. A smaller victory on an individual scale.

That said, I did really appreciate Josie's perspective on the issue. I've been keeping it in mind as I watch subsequent episodes. I doubt I would take the same moral stance as Matt (were I in this situation --- The Walking Dead is starting to really influence my perspective on acceptable moral choices in fictional hellscapes), but I like having more insight into his mindset as his journey unfolds.

Josie Kafka said...

Jess, I think it helps to bear in mind the importance of Catholicism to think through Matt's actions and why he chooses to do what he does:

--People are sinners with redemption-potential. According to Catholicism, that redemption requires both faith and good works, with the emphasis on the good works. (Nested within that idea is Matt putting his violent tendencies to work. Violence is a sin that he simultaneously redeems by enacting it on bad guys. But to enact violence to the point of it being a mortal sin--murder--then suddenly it's not a good work. It's just more sin.)

--The world is fallen but has redemption-potential. It ain't Eden and judgement is pending, but it's what we've got and there's still the potential for good to happen within the postlapsarian context.

--Therefore, we must do what we can even if we can't do everything. Or, as they say on Angel "[Even if] nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do."

Jess Lynde said...

Thanks again for the additional insight, Josie. I'm not from a Catholic background, and it helps to have some guidance on the teachings that shaped Matt's perspective.

I'm certainly curious to see if the arc of the story is one that allows him to hold to his beliefs, or if it is driving towards him having to turn from them. Will it force him to accept killing as a necessary evil to accomplish his goals? Or will it grant him victory while remaining "virtuous" per his code? If he holds to his refusal to kill, and that choice costs someone close to him his or her life, how will that affect his mindset? Will he still feel he did the right thing, trusting in the will of God? Will he feel he did all he could do, if someone he allowed to live then kills an innocent or someone he loves?

I'm not looking for answers to those questions yet --- I'm only part way through the season. They are just aspects of the series that I'm finding intriguing and am looking forward to the show continuing to explore (hopefully).

Mark Greig said...

I really love the discussions these reviews have been generating. I just wish I wasn't so mentally drained from writing them to participate more.

Josie Kafka said...

Jess, rewatching this episode, I kept thinking of your comments. (Even though I didn't consciously realize the comments I was thinking of were on this review.) And as I thought of your comments, I morphed them into you asking "How can Matt justify his violence?" (which is totally not what your comments here are about).

And so, as I watched the episode, I started to look for evidence to explain how Matt would justify his violence, and how the show justifies it, and I found a doozy: mentions of being "kings."

--The old Italian mafioso who had a conversation with Ben a few episodes back referred to himself as a "king."

--In the prison scene, the Russian brothers talked about moving to America to become "kings."

--Fisk (spoiler?!) is known as "Kingpin." (Or he's getting there.)

So that's part of the show's justification for Matt's violence: the bad guys fight to rule; Matt fights to prevent misrule.

Now, what I've done, by misremembering your comments so much, might seem like it's a pretty good case for the actions you're advocating for: Matt killing henchmen so they stop henching.

But I think the "kings" designation implies a binary: kings/henchmen. Matt doesn't kill henchmen because that's all they are. They hench. They don't rule. And, in this world, they don't even seem to want to rule. (At least, we don't see scenes of scheming henchmen.) Their deaths would be expedient, but necessity is not the mother of morality.

But it leaves a window open, I think, for killing of those who want to be king, since that would be a serious blow to the abstract misrule Matt is trying to prevent. (Although it sounds, per Diogo, like Terry Prachett would disagree.)

And--just in case anyone thinks I'm advocating for mass slaughter--I'd like to clarify that I'm trying to figure out what the show is saying, not what's actually the correct thing to do in these circumstances.

Josie Kafka said...

Comment Two:

Wesley says that "the past can never be completely erased, it lingers like the scent of burning wood." But the episode as a whole emphasizes something more specific: how objects and people have resonances far beyond data or abstractions.

--Ben and Karen talk about "numbers on a page" (a representation of funds") vs. the chattel of doing business (the "literal brick and mortar").

--Anatoly's begging wasn't the problem, as Mark pointed out. It was his body being there, at that moment, that caused a problem for Fisk.

--Santino just standing in the doorway with a "Hi, I'm naive" sign on his chest works the same way. (Bad timing, kid.)

--And even the comatose Russian baddie comes back to haunt Matt and Claire. Not the abstract idea, but the specific person; the emphasis was very much on his body, too. (I loved the very casual brotherly "Was that epinephrine?" line.)

That's kind of interesting, as all of those examples suggest that whatever you want to remain hidden will always come back to bite you. Literally bite you, not just a gnawing abstract guilt like having "red in your ledger" (as Black Widow would say).

Billie Doux said...

Fascinating comment thread, everyone. On top of a terrific review, Mark.

I had to leave the room during the car door scene. But I really do understand why they did it. Fisk is a gentle giant and altruistic art lover, and so unspeakably brutal that the guy in the previous episode committed suicide in a perfectly impossible way. He's Bad Horse but with opposable thumbs.

I actually liked Claire's rescue. Although she probably shouldn't have warned everyone when the lights went out. The element of surprise, Claire. Seriously.