TV Review: Daredevil 1×05, 1×06 – “World on Fire” and “Condemned”

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(Editor’s note: For all of Netflix and Marvel’s Daredevil series, William will be joined by writer Liz Belsky as they review the show. We’ll be reviewing the episodes over the next couple of days, primarily in groups of two or three, except for the premiere and the finale which will be their own reviews).

William: Episode five (“World on Fire”) and episode six (“Condemned”) take what’s been happening on Daredevil and kicks things into overdrive. Many of the complaints I’ve seen from detractors online is that the show is a little slow (which I don’t disagree with), but that certainly dissolves with this pairing of episodes. Fisk begins to put his plan against Matt into action and it’s executed with fiery results, especially their first confrontation towards the end of “Condemned.” Liz, you’ve been a fan of these early episodes (maybe even more so than myself), so what did you think of the escalation in theses episodes?

Liz: Well, I’m not gonna lie: I’ve always liked a slow burn. That said, episodes five and six really do start to kick things up a notch, bringing in elements of mistaken identity, expanding on the organized crime players in Hell’s Kitchen, and finally giving us some exposition on how Matt views the world. The payoff: that scene between Matt and Fisk at the end of episode six. It’s basically the superhero equivalent of DeNiro and Pacino in Heat, right?

William: It’s rightfully epic, as Matt finally gets an idea of who he’s really fighting against here. Sure, the street thugs Matt went up against prior to this proved to be a very difficult challenge, but Fisk’s plan to 1) blow up large parts of Hell’s Kitchen and the 2) pin it to the man who will become Daredevil is a kind of a brilliant plan. After being off the board for so long, Fisk really comes out swinging here, establishing himself as someone that’s not afraid to do whatever it takes to see his plans through. Even if that includes executing a cop that he’s got on his very own payroll! Matt Murdock might be a man without fear, but Wilson Fisk is certainly an a heir to that title as well.

Liz: “World on Fire” continued to linger on the burgeoning relationship between Fisk and Vanessa, which is one of my personal favorite elements of the series thus far. Their dinner date plays out like a tango surrounded by knives, with Vanessa proving that she’s more than aware of Fisk’s capacity for ruthlessness. Vincent D’Onofrio and Ayelet Zurer play these scenes really effortlessly, and as someone who always ends up being most intrigued by the bad guy, this is actually a relationship I can root for.

I’d like to go back to something I brought up in one of my earlier reviews – that in much of the Marvel universe, mass deaths and violence are structured as impersonal, collateral damage to be had from living in a world and a city protected by an enormous green rage monster. But one thing I think this show does really well is bringing that kind of widespread violence down to a much more intimate and unsettling level. Spending just a few moments with the victims, such as Mrs. Cardenas and the blind guy who takes a head shot in the back of a taxi, makes the violence here feel like it matters. And it calls into question the viewer’s morality as well – are we that much better off rooting for a blind Catholic parkour ninja who can taste blood in the air, if he has no problem engaging in the same kind of sadistic behavior that makes us cringe when the mob does it? That’s the kind of black-and-grey morality I like in my TV.

William: You can understand why Vanessa would be drawn to a man like Fisk, even if she knows what game he’s playing at. He has this magnetic persona and I love watching D’Onofrio work. Fisk is already up there (and maybe even surpassed) Loki as my favorite MCU villain. And hell, Fisk isn’t even a villain so much as he is an anti-hero, as he has a very specific vision of how Hell’s Kitchen should be: “It’s not the mask, it’s your ideology – the lone man who thinks he can make a difference.” This works because how well defined both characters are already, despite Fisk being such a minor player in the first three episodes. But as you said, the show trades in such shades of grey. I think Daredevil such a welcome entry into the MCU for that very reason.I think the other part of the violence that works well in these two particular episodes is that characters we’ve already spent a few hours with are in the crossfire both literally (Urich) and not so literally (Foggy and Karen). The fact that Fisk got so close to people close to Matt so soon helped to raise the stakes in these episodes, as the noose tightens around Matt.

Liz: Good points all around. I think another aspect of what makes the drama so interesting here is the David-versus-Goliath aspect of Murdock and Fisk. Matt Murdock is a man, but Fisk is an ENTITY, and taking him down will eventually require more resources than just brute physical strength – resources that Matt, at this point, just doesn’t have.

I’ve avoided spoilers as to Karen’s eventual fate thus far, but even I can guess that it’s nothing good, judging by how comparatively calm her storyline has been as of yet. I’m slowly starting to warm up to her and Foggy as a duo, though I couldn’t help cringing at the line “I want you to touch my face.” Like, be more subtle, girl. Get it together.

William: I don’t know if subtlety is Daredevil’s strongest suit (“You’re blind, but you see so much” is still kind of awful), but the continued meet cute between Foggy and Karen at least gives the characters something to do and I appreciate that they’re largely sidelined in the sixth episode so we can see what’s going on with Matt and Fisk. I’m just not that invested in their storyline, especially when all the fireworks are taking place elsewhere.

Liz: True that. And with the fireworks picking up pace more and more, I’m on the edge of my seat. Fisk’s frame job places Matt squarely in the crosshairs, but asks for quite a bit of suspended disbelief in terms of the execution. I’ll follow you to the machinations Fisk used to dispose of the Russians, but pulling together such a huge scheme in the course of only a few minutes is a lot to swallow. The writing seems to be giving him a ton of power pretty early in the game – do I smell a bit of upheaval coming? In any case, I’m on board.

Quick thoughts:

– “You’re not one of those billionaire playboys I’ve heard about.” Heh. – LB

– I was hoping we might get a more specific Stark reference there, but I’m almost glad we didn’t. It’d be easy to overload the show with those kinds of references (something Agents of SHIELD has been a little guilty of). – WG

– “Subtlety? This from the guy taking heads off with car doors.” Double heh. – LB

– I got major Fight Club vibes from seeing Fisk and Vanessa watch the city explode. – WG

– Claire giving Matt phone instructions for cauterizing a wound was just awesomely gruesome. More of that, please. – LB

– Part of me wonders if the sniper that takes out the cops might be Bullseye. We know he was hired separately and that he’s got dangerous good aim, but we’ll see. – WG

What did you think of these episodes? Sound off in our comments below!

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