Marvel’s Daredevil “Rabbit in a Snowstorm” Review (Episode 3) – Daredevil For the Defense

waterfront - Daredevil

The real test of a new show isn’t how well it begins, but how well it maintains. Often a show’s creator spends a lot of time massaging and nurturing the pilot episode, trying to make it the perfect representation of their vision as well as a guidepost for subsequent writers and directors to follow.

With a show as unique in tone and direction as Daredevil, this would have already been an important challenge, but it had the added complication of a new showrunner taking command of the ship after the original creator disembarked, leaving only a blueprint of the season and the first two scripts to work from. There was a very real chance that, come episode 3, Daredevil would become a completely different show.

As it happens, the episode is slightly different from the ones before it, but not in a way that feels like a decline in quality, nor a departure from what’s been established. In fact, the biggest difference seems more due to the change in directors rather than writers. What Phil Abraham did with the visuals in episodes 1 and 2 was impressive, from the dreamlike neon kaleidoscope of Matt’s apartment to the Michael Mann style rooftop cinematography in episode 2. It may have been a long shot to expect each episode to be such a visual feast, but the change is certainly felt.

The more stripped down visual approach of this episode’s director, Adam Kane, comes with its share of distinct imagery (the sprawling New York City waterfront being a big one), but I do hope we’ll get more varied, artistic approaches in coming episodes (and more experimentation like we saw with Episode 2’s hallway fight).

On the script side, writer Marco Ramirez picks up where Drew Goddard left off without a hitch, tackling one of the more interesting elements of DD‘s mythos — the courtroom drama — and introducing three more important cast members: news reporter Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis Hall), Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin (Vincent D’onofrio, finally on screen… for about a minute), and Vanessa (Ayelet Zurer, Mom of Steel!).

We also get more of my favorite loser, Turk Barrett (Rob Morgan), whose penchant for screwing up everything he touches provides the first good laugh of the episode, as well as the catalyst for everything that follows.

Not My First Rodeo
 

mister healy Daredevil

This episode finds Matt and Foggy approached by the somehow-not-insufferable Mister Wesley (personal assistant to He Who Must Not Be Named) to defend a hitman whose botched assassination opens the episode (it’s all Turk’s fault, and it’s hilarious). Matt at first wants nothing to do with their shady new client, but later agrees to take the case, hoping it will open pathways to learn who’s pulling the strings. Meanwhile, poor Foggy is left with his hands thrown up in a perpetual “WTF?!”

I really liked the hit man in this episode, Mr. Healy (played with pitch perfect affectation by Alex Morf). Considering it’s a relatively small role that, by typical network standards, would only require someone who could handle the fight scenes and nothing more, it’s a pleasant surprise when he becomes as enjoyable a character to watch as any of the main cast. He’s soft-spoken and unassuming, but it’s all an act that doesn’t reach as far as his cold, predatory eyes. He crosses wits with Nelson and Murdock as readily as he crosses fists with Daredevil at the end. And it’s during that final confrontation that he gets his most interesting character twist (before going the way of the dodo).

Throughout the entire episode, Mr. Healy is fearless. He’s not afraid of being arrested, he’s not afraid of being on trial, he’s not even afraid of losing the trial. When Matt and Foggy ask him if he’s worried about what it might mean if he’s convicted, he says “No,” with absolute, serene confidence, and then throws the same question back at them as an implicit threat. So, when Daredevil has to resort to stabby-time to coerce Healy into giving up the name of his employer, it’s not such a surprise (though it reinforces Matt’s willingness to use torture, which might have just been a desperate measure last episode).

Unable to resist, Healy says the name we’ve been waiting three episodes to hear — Wilson Fisk — and then proceeds to have a nervous breakdown. You almost might have expected Healy to be a sociopath of some sort considering how he’s handled himself throughout the episode, but in this moment, Healy expresses fear at what Fisk will do to not only him, but to everyone he’s ever cared about. Healy cares.

In fact, he cares so much that he’d rather kill himself (in the ickiest fashion available), right then and there, than give Fisk a chance to hurt him. It’s one of the more shocking plot turns in a show that is proving its willingness to Go There every episode, and it leaves a heavy question hanging in the air:

What kind of person is Wilson Fisk, that he can inspire such fear?

“It makes me feel alone.”
 

alone daredevil

Vincent Dinofrio has said, of his portrayal of Wilson Fisk, “He’s a child, and he’s a monster.” The monster part is easy enough to believe — we’ve spent close to three hours learning to fear this man; fearing him because the people we should be afraid of, fear him. He’s attained a sort of boogieman status. But when we finally do meet him, in the closing moments of the episode, his mannerisms are that of a lost child. Suddenly, Wilson Fisk becomes the most intriguing character on the show; it’s no wonder Vanessa looks at him with such curiosity.

He gets five words, but in that moment they feel like the most powerful five words ever spoken. Such is the talent of Vincent D’onofrio, and the complexity of his Kingpin.

We are in for a treat.

More to the Story
 

when karen met ben daredevil

The rest of the episode follows the slowly intersecting storylines of Karen and Ben. Vondie Curtis Hall as Ben Urich is one of the most unexpected and inspired bits of casting to come out of the MCU. He is the picture of experience, calm, and integrity — in other words, he IS Ben Urich. We meet him as he is meeting with a retired mafioso-turned-informant. The ex-mobster shows a fondness and respect for Ben, mentioning how, when he went to prison, “Every newspaper in town dragged my name through the shit, but you were the only one who did it without mentioning my kids.” It’s a brilliant introduction for Ben, because it reveals an aspect of him that will no doubt become important in the future: his sense of right and wrong, his ability to see shades of gray, and his willing to engage with them if it serves a greater good.

Meanwhile, Karen Page has been offered a large sum of money by her former employer to stay quiet in the wake of her whistleblowing venture in episode 1. It’s all very official and very legal, but she knows a pay off when she sees one, and she’s not willing to take it. Here we see the spark that got Karen into trouble in the first place. She refuses to let the bad guys win. She first approaches the wife of her murdered co-worker, seeking a kindred spirit, someone who will share the burden and help her fight. The wife also sees the corporation for what it is, but she has kids to think about, so has chosen to accept her own payoff. She advises Karen to do the same, “if you have anyone you care about.”

But Karen is stubborn. In the end, she turns to the only other person she can think of who might be willing to help… the reporter who wrote the article at the end of the first episode: Ben Urich.

I love how they’ve worked the slow death of the newspaper industry and the rise of blogging into Ben’s story. You really get a sense that he’s a veteran of a fading medium, and it feels like he’s just about to succumb to that circumstance when Karen walks into his office, confirming everything he’s suspected; that he’s wanted to write about if only his editor would let him. You get the sense that these two are going to be an important duo as the series goes forward (even though the geek in me is really anticipating his first encounter with DD).

Easter Egg Hunt:
 

meet deuce daredevil

– “You need a dog.” We can pretend he’s your seeing eye dog, only really he’ll be a retired police dog and he’ll help you fight crime and you can name him Deuce the Devil Dog! But then I’ll lose Deuce in a card game to Deadpool’s best friend/arms dealer Weasel and he’ll be given as a gift to Deadpool’s roommate/prisoner Blind Al, and she’ll hate him, but love him also, and eventually they’ll hobble off into the sunset together never to be seen again.

That’s what you were going to say, right? Right, Foggy?

– “I just wanted to throw a few balls.” This one may be a longshot, or it may be pure genius. In the Marvel comics, brothers Elton and Alvin Healy are members of a super team of deadly jugglers known as the Death-Throws. Elton is the supervillain Oddball — Alvin is the supervillain Tenpin.

Oddball… and Tenpin… last name, Healy. And all John Healy wanted to do at the bowling alley was throw a few balls.

Gets better. Remember how John’s all scared at the end of the episode because Fisk will not only kill him but anybody he’s ever cared about? Who would a stone-cold lowlife like Healy ever care about?

A couple brothers, maybe?

I can’t even begin to imagine how they’d make a couple of psychotic jugglers work within the tone of this series… but it’s fun to think about.

Next review plants us firmly “In the Blood” with episode 4.

Until then!

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