Marvel’s Daredevil “In the Blood” Review (Episode 4) – A Land of Riches

SuaveFisk Daredevil

HOLY… it… that… his head was…

So, in episode 4 of Netflix’s Daredevil, we are fully introduced to Vincent D’onofrio’s Wilson Fisk as he meets a nice lady, takes her out for dinner, and later decapitates a Russian gangster with a car door.

Meanwhile, Matt goes Full Batman on some foolish mofos who decided to mess with his new bestie, Claire; and Karen starts her own investigation into the dirty dealings of her former employers, aided by the grizzled wisdom of veteran reporter Ben Urich.

Also, Foggy’s mom wanted him to be a butcher.

Honestly, by this point, I feel like it’s redundant to point out how amazing this show continues to be, but it just keeps finding new ways to impress me — in this case, with its continuing ability to challenge audience expectations. For people, like myself, who have read the comics for years, expectations can be our worst enemy. We feel a sense of ownership over these characters; we know them as we know our own family members, and our warning sirens can go off in a heartbeat if we feel they’re being misrepresented.

It’s a deft hand that can change the nature of a character so completely, yet with such confidence that it fools stalwart fans into thinking it’s a perfect translation from page to screen. This is the case with Daredevil‘s take on Wilson Fisk. It points to moments from the comics, but uses them only as jumping off points to shape a character all its own.

His Greatest Enemy
 

When Frank Miller brought the Kingpin into the Daredevil universe in 1981’s Gang War storyline (he was originally a Spider-Man villain), Fisk was portrayed as a dignified businessman, a man of culture, who maintained the appearance of aloof authority until something perturbed him enough to get his hands dirty, at which point his enemies would learn just how fast and powerful he could be. He was an imposing figure, both as an intellectual and physical threat, which made him a great adversary for Daredevil, the perpetual underdog.

Wilson’s one weakness was his wife, Vanessa, a lovely woman who accepted her husband’s unsavory “past” and sought to rehabilitate him. Towards her, he was doting and gentle, hiding the more brutal side of himself, trying to be the man she wanted him to be.

The Daredevil show flips the script on both characters by using their burgeoning romance as the backdrop for their introduction to the series.

Instead of the ruthless crime lord we’ve only heard whispers, we’re introduced to a shy, soft-spoken, but intense man, whose first act on screen is to awkwardly ask out the woman on whom he’s been crushing. And instead of the blindly, obliviously devoted wife, we find in Vanessa an elegant, mischievous woman who finds herself intrigued by awkward charm of this mysterious man.

They’re basically… just two people. People with a sense of danger about them — and probably more money than most other people would see in a lifetime — but people all the same. There’s humanity in their courtship, and it allows us to forget the melodrama hiding just outside of frame, if only for a moment.

In Wilson’s case, it’s a complete reversal of what we’ve been expecting from him. Where’s the man whose name we do not speak? Where’s the monster a professional assassin would rather commit suicide than cross? Where is the boogie man?

Well… he’s coming.

But first I’d like to talk about the Ranskahov family eyebrows.

Princes of Moscow
 

familybrow Daredevil

Look at those things. How perfect was this casting? They have the family brow!

Anatoly and Vladimir get their time in the spotlight this episode, beginning with a flashback to their time in prison in Russia, where the two brothers dream of getting out and coming to America, the land of riches. Fast-forward to the Man in Black breaking up yet another of their criminal operations, sending them running for cover. This brings Wesley to their doorstep, mocking them for their inability to deal with one man in a mask before offering to have his Employer “help” by taking over their business.

Vladimir is defiant, speaking the boogie man’s name without fear (a subtle revenge against protocol-obsessed Wesley) and refusing his offer of assistance. The brothers then turn to their only remaining resource: their man Semyon, who’s been in a coma since DD tortured him and dropped him off a roof in episode 2. Injecting him with epinephrin to force him awake, they manage to get a key bit of information out of Semyon before he passes on, leading them to Daredevil’s nurse accomplice, Claire. She manages to get a call off to Matt’s special “not for booty calls” burner phone before being dragged away, and Matt sets out to find her.

The superhijinx in this episode are relatively light, with the most substantial screen time dedicated to the villains’ stories (which I am 100% okay with — a good script plus good actors will always equal entertainment). We do get some cool Daredevil moments, though, including the MOST superhero thing Matt Murdock has done since the show began: dropping his public blind man routine, tossing aside his walking stick, and racing down an alleyway before parkouring his way up to the rooftops.

He arrives at Claire’s place, winded and sweaty — another nice touch of realism that most action shows don’t usually bother with — but she’s already gone. With the help of her young neighbor Santino (another reprisal from episode 2) he locates where the evil Russians are hiding her.

(as an aside, has anyone else noticed the startling abundance of evil Russians we’ve seen in the Marvel cinematic universe so far? You’ve got this show, Iron Man 2, The Avengers, The Winter Soldier, Agent Carter, even The Incredible Hulk (Emil Blonsky is technically British in the movie, but it mentions he was born in Russia, so it counts). Considering most Marvel characters in existence were created at the height of cold war paranoia, I’m just going to call it an easter egg and give myself a No Prize.)

(anyway)

Full Batman
 

DisArm Daredevil

When Matt comes to the rescue, Claire has already put up a valiant effort against the brutal interrogation methods by the Russians. Just as they begin terrorizing her with a baseball bat, demanding she tell them the masked man’s name, the lights go out. They hear a few thuds, some screams, and Claire lets out a low, eerie laugh before delivering the best line of the episode: “You want to know his name? Ask him yourself.”

(so cool)

And then Matt opens up a can of Owning the Night on their asses, complete with attacking from the shadows, picking off thugs one by one, and an omnipresent voice telling the last kidnapper what will happen to his hands if he doesn’t put that gun down. The show has fully embraced its tone and subject matter here, and it knows all the right buttons to press.

Claire gets the last shot in (as she should), beaming her tormenter across the head with his own baseball bat while Matt has him incapacitated, and the ordeal is over. Claire is safe. The Ranskahovs are defeated — again. It’s time for the brothers to accept Wesley’s offer. Vladimir sends Anatoly, the diplomat of the duo, to kowtow to Fisk, knowing he’s too much of a hot head to do it himself.

Unfortunately, Anatoly’s timing is wrong, and he accidentally interrupts Wilson’s dinner date with Vanessa. So, Wilson has Wesley drive him to a remote spot outside the city, where Wilson proceeds to beat him to death with his bare hands — and one car door.

You Embarrassed Me
 

MonsterFisk Daredevil

Earlier, I spoke about expectations and how the show manages to avoid them at every turn.

If you were to ask me, in the first ten minutes of the episode, which brother would be dead at the hands of Wilson Fisk by the end, the answer would have been, “Vladimir.” Because Vladimir is the only character so far who has shown not a single ounce of fear at Fisk’s reputation. Vlad sees the whole “We don’t say his name” thing for the psychological power play that it is, and he’s not having any of it. It’s classic foreshadowing for him dying spectacular fashion, all to reinforce that, “No, really, you should be afraid of Wilson Fisk.”

But then we’re shown Wilson, the timid suitor, and he’s not very scary. Plus, Vlad finally has enough sense to cooperate with Fisk, and better yet, he sends his far more diplomatic brother to negotiate, so things are looking up! But, when Anatoly foolishly stumbles into the restaurant to have a word with Mr. Fisk, you get that sinking feeling. Even though Anatoly’s dialogue in the first scene in the episode foreshadows his early departure, you don’t really want him to die. Sure, he’s a scumbag, but he’s also Gideon Emery! You like the Ranskahov brothers! You want things to go well for them.

Things go very much not well.

At last, we get to see the monster everyone is so afraid of. And he IS scary. Rather than a deliberate, controlled execution, Fisk’s attack on Anatoly is more akin to a tantrum… thrown by a giant, insanely strong baby who would rather head-butt you into submission than have a calm discussion about tact in social situations.

It’s a brutal, shocking, unnerving display of violence from someone who until only recently seemed so reserved and unassuming. It certainly cements D’Onofrio’s take on the character. Wilson Fisk is, indeed, “a child and a monster.”

(and is it my imagination, or do I detect a hint of Game of Thrones‘ Thenn horns in the Fisk music post-tantrum?)

Costume Watch
 

parkourmatt Daredevil

Well, there is something cool about a dude in red glasses and a business suit doing parkour… but other than that, it’s all hints and foreshadowing in this episode.

While Claire is patching Matt up at the start of the episode, she tells him, “You really need to get some kind of body armor.” To which he replies that it’d slow him down too much… but you just know this is the spark that will eventually end with him in the classic red suit.

And where would he, a blind man of modest fashion sense, get such a suit?

Easter Egg Hunt:
 

Ben and Karen Daredevil

– The first clue to Daredevil’s red suit comes during the episode’s climactic (and decidedly one-sided) fight, when Anatoly pulls a knife on Fisk during his assault. The knife slashes through the fabric of Fisk’s jacket, but glances off of what appears to be a very fine chain mesh in the lining. After the deed is done, Fisk asks Wesley to “Tell Mr. Potter I’ll need a new suit.”

I won’t go into too much detail about who Mr. Potter is, as I suspect we’ll be introduced to him before long, but suffice it to say this is a name from the comics, and in the comics he is no stranger to the creation of costumes of the “super” variety.

– Ben and Karen spend this episode dancing around the idea of teaming up to investigate Union Allied. At first, Ben is hesitant to take on the story, telling Karen that stories like this need credible sources, and he did some digging into her past… the rest is left unsaid, but it’s obvious something he found there has led him to believe she wouldn’t be considered a credible source. But what could that be?

I hate to be a tease, but this is another case of foreshadowing for what I expect will come to light later in the series, so I won’t spoil it here. I will say that, in the comics, Karen Page has had a rough life, and she’s made some mistakes, and one of those mistakes is the trigger for what is widely considered the best Daredevil story ever told, Born Again, by Frank Miller (surprising no one) and David Mazzucchelli (learn this name, remember this name, seek out this name). I leave the choice of investigating further up to you.

I do find it interesting that, perhaps as foreshadowing for the MCU version of Born Again, they’re working some of Karen’s shady experiences into her pre-show history. Very interested in seeing how this is handled in the future.

That’s all she wrote for this week, folks!

Next week the fit hits the shan as Matt is thrust into “A World On Fire.”

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