Daredevil: Shadows in the Glass

You've got red on you. 
"My name is Wilson Fisk."

Two flashback episodes in a row. Isn't that a little excessive? Not when they are as good as this one.

One of the biggest problems with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one it has yet to overcome, is that its villains are routinely lacklustre. Loki aside, Marvel villains have an unfortunate tendency to be exceptionally one note, lacking any personality or sufficient motivation for their actions. These guys are simply bad people doing bad things because of reasons. Why did Jeff Bridges want to kill Tony Stark? No idea. Why did Lee Pace wants to destroy Xanadu? Your guess is as good as mine. Why did Christopher Eccleston want to plunge the universe into darkness? Err... to stop people asking him why he really left Doctor Who? This is something that has even extended to Marvel's television wing. As much as I love them both, neither Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. nor Agent Carter have been able to produce a truly compelling adversary for their respect heroes to face. Wait, what was that? Grant Ward? Get the fuck out of here. Fortunately, Daredevil has managed to buck this trend completely. In Wilson Fisk this series has not only given us Marvel's best TV villain so far, but also the best villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yes, even better than Loki (*ducks to avoid raging fans*).

Vincent D’Onofrio and the writers have managed to create a truly compelling character that you can feel sorry for one minute and then be absolutely terrified of the next. While Fisk is sometimes shown in a sympathetic light, it is not to the extent that you feel like you are expected to excuse his actions. He is not evil for evil’s sake. He is a man with a vision, and will go to any lengths to see that vision fulfilled. He sees his victims as acceptable losses and his allies as a necessary evils. Ultimately, Fisk believes that everything he has done he has done for the betterment of the city and its people. Like so many of the best villains, Fisk sees himself as the hero in his own story.

'Shadows in the Glass' is the first episode of the series to focus almost entirely on Fisk and tell us his side of the story. Wisely, it isn't the complete story. There is still so much of Fisk's past (such as how he was able to become the most powerful man in the New York underworld?) that still remains unknown. This episode was mainly concerned with his childhood in Hell's Kitchen in the 1970s and showing us how young Wilson took his first steps towards becoming the Kingpin. But before we got to that we were given a glimpse of adult Fisk's day to day life. His regular morning ritual shows us that he is a man who likes order and routine, a man who likes to be in control of all aspects of his life, because when he isn't in control, well, things get messy and people tend to lose their heads. That ferocious temper, like the cufflinks and hair loss, is the only thing Wilson shares with his father, Bill Fisk. Wilson may have a little more self control than his father, but that only makes it that much worse when his rage is finally unleashed.

In previous episodes we saw how Matt's two fathers, Jack and Stick, shaped him into the man he is today. This episode did the same for Wilson. Bill Fisk was your stereotypical man's man, a hot headed bully who only understood violence. He wanted his son to "be a man" and in Bill's head that meant kicking people while they are down, and getting his son to kick people while they are down. He lacked the drive and conviction needed to achieve his goals. He expected to be treated with respect, but did nothing to earn it. He was someone who just expected something for nothing, and always blamed others when he didn't get it. At the end of the day, he was nobody.

Wilson, however, is the exact opposite. He's a somebody, a man of great power and influence, who has worked tirelessly to be a nobody. After all, you can’t exactly convict someone who doesn't seem to exist. His decision to keep out of the limelight is likely influenced by what happened to his father. Bill plastered his face all over Hell's Kitchen to win the election and lost, becoming nothing more than a local laughing stock in the process. Which is why Wilson has mostly kept to the shadows so he will never become a joke like his father and avoid embarrassment. And we all know how much Fisk hates to be embarrassed, don't we, Anatoly? He's not saying anything on account of no longer having a mouth.

Wilson was able to escape his father with a well placed blow to the head. He may find it more difficult to escape his current parents - Leland and Madame Goa. Both of them talk to Wilson like he is a child, scolding him for not focusing on work enough, nagging him about the man in black, and disapproving of the girl he dates. I'm not surprised he finally lost it and threw a massive temper tantrum, ruining his nice table in the process. What was Goa thinking, telling Wilson who he could date? Never tell a boy you disapprove of their girlfriend because it will bring them closer together. That is like one of first rules of parenting. Now they are closer than ever. Which is a problem for both Wilson's enemies and allies. Thanks to Vanessa, Wilson now has legitimacy and a public persona -- kindly philanthropist -- to hide behind. Even if Matt does decide to kill him he won't be seen as a vigilante taking down a vicious crime boss, but as a criminal murdering the saviour of the city. And what of Fisk's allies, who see Vanessa as a distraction? What will Madame Goa think of this latest development? Nothing good, I can imagine.


Notes and Quotes

--According to Nobu there is more than one Black Sky, but they are extremely rare and difficult to find.

--I feel for Charlie Cox and Vondie Curtis-Hall. It can’t have been pleasant having to shoot that scene in all that rain.

--The piece of music Fisk listened to each morning was the prelude to Bach's Cello Suite No. 1. in G major, one of my favourite pieces of classical music. And the song in the flashback to Fisk's childhood was 'Brown Sugar' by The Rolling Stones, because it isn't a 70s flashback without the Rolling Stones.

--We got our first look at the man who makes Fisk's suits, Melvin Potter, better known to comic readers as Gladiator.

--I'm really enjoying the relationship between Fisk and Wesley and hope we learn more about how it started in future episodes.

--I love that Karen refuses to just let this go. It may be stubborn, possibly even a little arrogant, but she is determined to see this through to the end, to make these bastards pay, and stop them from hurting anyone else, even if it means risking her own life.

Foggy: "This is pointless, Matt. We should be out on the streets, cracking names and taking skulls."
Karen: "I think you have that backwards."
Foggy: "Not the way I do it."

Wilson: "But if Detective Blake chooses to speak out of turn... the result would be... unpleasant, for you and for me."
Hoffman: "Out of turn? You shot him."
Wesley: "Technically, we paid someone else to shoot him."

Four out of four fancy omelettes.
--
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.

3 comments:

Diogo said...

You know, I always thought of Fisk as a 13 year old boy in the (large) body of a grown man. But it hadn't occurred to me to think of Gao and Leeland as his father/mother figures. I love that idea!

Jess Lynde said...

My favorite aspect of this one was the way they constantly mirrored Fisk and Matt throughout the episode. We saw both of them getting out of bed, but on opposite sides; Fisk’s wall of white nothing vs. Matt seeing nothing; the parallels in their morning routines; Fisk’s ever-so-orderly living space vs. Matt’s spartan and completely trashed one; the cuff link/ice cream bracelet totems from father figures; paralleling Fisk throwing the table in anger with Matt throwing the computer in frustration. And probably others that I didn’t write down and can’t remember now.

All the parallels made me wonder what it might mean for where the story would take Matt. If Fisk is Matt’s dark mirror, does he need to stay true to his "no kill, try to get him with the legal system" stance to take down his nemesis? Or will he finally have to cross over into the killing zone?

On another note, the husband and I totally agree with sunbunny's point from a few episodes ago re: Vanessa. What the hell is her deal? After watching this episode we had a whole puzzled conversation about why she would be staying with Fisk after all she has seen and all he has revealed. WTF? Is she just drawn to power? Or danger? Or both? Does she think he's a wounded animal and she can make him a better man? Because she's starting to seem just as crazy as he is.

Billie Doux said...

I liked this episode a lot more than I thought I would from reading the description. Like Jess, I really liked all of the Matt and Fisk home life parallels, as well as the reversal -- Fisk lost his temper in the beginning, and Matt at the end. Two sides of the same cufflink, I guess.

Vanessa must have an ulterior motive, because what she is doing makes no sense. A personal need for revenge against Fisk? Is she an undercover agent for some government organization or for Madame Gao? (I love Madame Gao.)