On first viewing, having our first full glimpse at Wilson Fisk being based around an awkward first date seemed a very strange way to introduce his character. But then I realized, even though this is our first time getting to watch Fisk, we already know he’s brutal and dangerous, and behind just about everything Matt has faced so far. The benefit of the first three episodes taking their time to set up this complex world is that when we are first introduced to Fisk, we already have a preconceived notion of who he’s going to be. So to watch him walk in to the art gallery again and fumble over his words to try and win a date with this beautiful woman is to defy our expectations.
Here’s what we know about Fisk before this episode: He runs a vast criminal network. He has kept the various factions in line through fear and probably money. People are so intimidated by him that even saying his name is reason enough to impale oneself on a spike. As the episode goes on, the more human side of this mysterious mastermind comes to light. He is enamored of a beautiful woman. He apparently does not have much experience with dating and is genuinely intimidated to be approaching Vanessa. He is very passionate.
Vincent D’Onforio’s Fisk is hard to pin down because his performance has so many layers and is all over the place. This is by design, and I don’t mean it as a knock. I think it’s very clear that this Wilson Fisk is in many ways at war with himself like Matt Murdock is…He isn’t yet sure who he is, or how to do what he has to do, or whether or not he truly accepts himself for what he has chosen to do. It’s fascinating to watch Fisk change inflection and personality from moment to moment. Just listening to Wilson Fisk speak it’s clear that there’s more to him than any one side. There’s the terse, sinister whisper, the commanding affected voice of a business man or man of high society. Then there’s the howls and growls of rage that break through. In his final scene with Vanessa in this episode there’s a clear sense of fury bubbling right below the surface with every syllable.
We already know that Fisk is capable of great violence. By choosing to portray a more vulnerable and romantic side for our introduction to him as a person offers a glimpse of something different. The show reels us into this man’s life and let’s our guard down to forget the reputation and to see Fisk as just a man with a passion for changing his city. Which makes the final scene where he completely loses control and lets the animal rage out all the more frightening. Is the suit all a game? Is he just a thug, or an animal trying to dress himself up in his father’s old cufflinks? Is the apparent infatuation with Vanessa an act, or genuine emotion? There’s no way of telling in this episode, and it makes for fascinating viewing. From moment to moment Fisk seems to be a different person.
At dinner, Fisk gets a chance to drop some exposition of his own, explaining that he always dreamt of moving somewhere far away from Hell’s Kitchen. But after being sent away he realized “this city was a part of me…it was in my blood. I would do anything to make it a better place.”
Cut to Matt Murdock telling Claire Temple that he’s “just trying to make my city a better place.”
The episode’s title comes from Wilson Fisk’s statement. The city and its fate are at the core of both his and Matt Murdock’s actions. More than any other superhero screen adaptation except for maybe Batman, Daredevil’s setting is a central component of its character and story. It informs everything about who Matt is, and who Wilson is. They both see the danger and crime and pain that Hell’s Kitchen caused and continues to cause for so many and take matters into their own hands.
For the first time, Matt’s actions have caused collateral damage and Claire Temple is kidnapped and tortured for information on the man in the mask. He eventually rescues her but fears whether or not he’s making a difference, or if maybe he’s making things worse. He has no plan, no endgame. All he has to go on is trying to make the city a better place.
We get to see a different kind of action from Matt in this episode. He utilizes his blindness by blacking out the warehouse and sneaking up on the Russians when they can’t see. Very different from what came before, and it shows a different element of Matt’s ability. It’s a unique advantage he has and I’m glad the show made the decision to explore that.
Foggy sits out most of this episode, although we do get our first chance to hear his infamous story about how he could have been a butcher with his own shop. But Ben Urich and Karen Page begin their working relationship, Karen desperate to see justice done, to reclaim her peace of mind. This storyline is only beginning so there’s not a ton to write about there, but man, Vondie Curtis-Hall is such a joy to watch. It’s this story that really sells the “crime drama” angle of the show. We also get the first hint that there’s more to Karen than we’ve seen… Ben calls into question Karen’s credibility as a source because of her “past activities.”
The episode also gives us some insight into the Russian mob leaders, brothers Vladimir and Anatoly. After a couple episodes with the two as just generic enforcers, we are offered the chance to actually see them as humans and brothers watching out for one another. It opens with a scene of the two in prison, and we watch them scramble to hold onto everything they’ve fought to put together in New York after escaping. “I promised myself if we ever got free we’d never lose what we had again…especially not to pride,” Anatoly tells Vladimir. And that’s what all the story threads circle around. The length people go to protect what is theirs, what is in their blood.
- I was a bit troubled by what they chose to do here with Claire Temple. That’s both major female characters so far heavily victimized. I guess the Daredevil comics have a poor track record themselves, so it’s true to the source material, but I still think it’s pretty backwards and lazy storytelling for a show made in 2015. Hoping they avoid the crutch in the recently announced season 2.
- Ayelet Zurer’s Vanessa is fascinating… Even after seeing the whole season I haven’t been able to get a read on her. What possessed her to go on a date with the super creepy seeming Wilson Fisk? What doe she see in him?
- I appreciate the authenticity of characters in NYC speaking Spanish rather than everyone just speaking English.
- Man the cinematography in this show is beautiful…Fantastic lighting. The diner scene between Ben and Karen in the beginning looked especially vibrant for some reason.
- Age of Ultron came out this weekend and it was really, really good! Check out Steve’s review on the site; I agree with pretty much everything he said.
- In the comics, Vanessa Fisk is introduced as Wilson’s wife several issues after Kingpin’s first appearance. She doesn’t approve of Fisk’s criminal business and eventually convinces him to leave criminal life behind…for a little while at least. It’s an assassination attempt on Vanessa that brings Fisk and Daredevil’s path on a collision course in Frank Miller’s seminal run on the title.
- The “Mr. Potter” Fisk mentions is a character named Melvin Potter…but I’ll give a rundown on him later.
- I didn’t notice any other Easter Eggs this episode, but I’m sure I missed at least one or two. Anyone else find some?