Since this is a corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe where characters say things like “shit” and “dickhead” a lot, we have no problem opening our review by saying this is the episode where the shit really hit the fan. After spending the previous five episodes espousing their views and philosophies to the respective potential love interests in their lives, Murdock and Fisk reveal themselves to each other. Or put more accurately, Fisk reveals himself to Murdock, deems him insignificant, and all but dismantles him by remote control.
The theme, if there was one, was consequences – and both Vladimir and Murdock felt a truckload of them get dumped on their heads. In fact, if Fisk made any mistake at all – and let’s face it, it’s hard to find anything wrong with such a flawlessly executed plan, aside from how morally revolting it is, of course – it’s that he dismantled Murdock and everything he stood for within earshot of Vladimir, thereby turning him into an ally to Matt. Vladimir would have been content to die without ever giving Matt the tiniest bit of help, but after seeing how much Fisk detests Murdock (albeit in a begrudgingly respectful way) he not only gave him all the information he needed to figure out Fisk’s operation, he surrendered his life to allow Matt to escape. We tend to think this indicates the major flaw in Kingpin’s (Can’t we start calling him that now? It seems fitting.) schemes: he truly doesn’t understand people. The only personal and emotional information he’s revealed to Vanessa is how lonely he is. And Vincent D’Onofrio’s halting, guttural delivery lays bare a man who almost literally finds it painful to have to interact with others. At the very least, he seems to find it a chore half the time. While he may be a brilliant and totally immoral mastermind (and we think this episode emphatically moved him from the “unscrupulous real estate developer” category all the way up to the “supervillain genius” one), he doesn’t get the ways in which people forge bonds and how those bonds can help unravel even the most meticulously planned schemes.
At least we hope so, because more than ever, it feels like Murdock has an entire team of backup heroes who’ve got his back, whether they know it or not. There was very much a sense of all the various threads of the story being pulled tighter than ever, making the neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen seem like a tiny patch of land where a major war was being fought. Murdock was on the phone with Claire, who was at the same hospital as Foggy, Karen and Mrs. Cardenas, while outside, Ben Urich’s suspicions grow and Blake gets sacrificed to Fisk’s boundless ambition. It feels like we’re at the point where Murdock has to start bringing his people together if he wants to win this thing. They’re all committed to the same goal. At the very least, it seems like Foggy and Karen are mere minutes away from figuring out the truth. Matt can’t disappear during every major crisis and not have suspicions arise, even if he does have the greatest cover story of all time – his blindness.
But it wasn’t just about the consequences, it was about the truth as well. It says something about the enormous ego hidden under the halting delivery that Fisk not only felt the need to contact Murdock before pulling off what would have been a surgically precise execution, but he felt the need to lay out all his own beliefs and desires, while making sure to tell Matt that everything he believes in and is working for will ultimately come to nothing. “Your part in this drama has come to an end,” he tells him. “This city will burn you in effigy.” It’s not just that he wants to destroy Murdock, he wants to make sure he knows how utterly insignificant he finds him while he does so. And while Fisk was revealing his more psychopathic side (as well as the fact that he clearly considers Murdock a significant threat), Matt revealed probably a bit too much of himself as well. This was, after all, the classic hero/villain “You and I are not so unalike, Mr. Bond” discussion, underscoring once again the idea that obsessive and destructive behavior in pursuit of a goal, whether that goal is exploitive and criminal or altruistic and heroic, tends to start looking the same the further you pull out. And it’s always a conversation that benefits the villain because it flatters him to be compared to a hero but it angers a hero to be called a villain. “I’m not trying to be a hero,” Matt says defensively, when Fisk sneeringly calls him one. “I’m just a guy who got fed up with men like you and decided to do something about it.”
Which, of course, sounds exactly like something a hero would say.
Then again, it also sounds exactly like something Wilson Fisk would say.
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