Charlie Cox and Rosario Dawson in “Daredevil” on Netflix
Hey, remember last time, when we said our nerves couldn’t take more than a couple consecutive episodes in one sitting because of the heavy sense of doom hanging over everything? Good times, people. Good times. Because this episode laughed in our faces by giving us the Brothers Ripariboff, a bloodied (but gloriously unbowed) Claire, and let’s see… what else? Oh, yes. A SLURPY FIVE-MINUTE DECAPITATION. Honestly, the explosion of violence almost felt cathartic; like we’d been waiting so long for something terrible to happen that we were a bit relieved when it did.
That’s weird, right? But this show, you guys. It fucks with your head. Like, for instance, we keep wondering why Wilson Fisk is the bad guy here. No, really.
Okay, yes. Decapitating someone with a car door pretty much automatically makes you a bad guy, and we get that he’s got his finger in a lot of criminal pies in order to fund his activities. But his activities – or his long-term plan is … real estate development. And sure, there are plenty of reasons to look down on unscrupulous real estate developers, but as supervillains go, it’s kind of a limp motivation. His Ultimate Solution appears to be to build high-rise condos. That’s not exactly on the level of world-conquering. Hell, it’s not even city conquering. When it comes to unscrupulous real estate developers, Manhattan is practically sinking under the collective weight of them. Wilson Fisk can get in line with the rest of them for his piece of the pie. Obviously, there’s more to the character and his plans than that (or at least we hope so), but despite the wonderful performance by Vincent D’Onofrio and the fantastic way they built up to the introduction of the character, they haven’t exactly made his motivations clear. It’s the one weak point in the story so far. We don’t expect Lex Luthor-style shenanigans, but we would think the thing our hero is fighting against should be something a little more stirring than gentrification.
Then again, we don’t exactly have a clear answer on why Matt does what he does either – or even what he plans to do. But it’s to the show’s credit that this actually come up in the dialogue this episode. “Tell me it was worth it.” Claire pleads with him after her abduction. “Tell me that you’ve got a plan. An end game? Anything?” Sheepishly, he reveals that all he wants is to make his city a better place, which is almost exactly the same wording Fisk used when discussing his goals with Vanessa. In fact, Matt’s entire conversation with Claire mirrors Fisk’s with Vanessa. In both cases, a woman tries to connect with a dangerous man and is met with either violence or the threat of it. We can understand why, for storytelling purposes, Fisk’s goals are meant to mirror Murdock’s, but it doesn’t quite scan. Murdock’s lack of a game plan is the whole point to his story, because we’re watching one 13-hour long origin story. We’re watching Matt become Daredevil. But Fisk is being presented to us as fully formed, with an extensive operation in place. We’ll wait and see on this one aspect, but right now it tends to take us out of the story a bit whenever it comes up.
Interestingly enough, for such a bloody, violent, male-oriented story, the women are easily some of the most interesting characters with the most complex motivations. We got to see all three women, Claire, Karen, and even Vanessa, exhibit bravery, moral certainty, and in the case of Vanessa, what appears to be a complicated attraction and curiosity, tempered by a strong sense of self. While it’s true that every woman is presented as a potential love interest to either of the main characters, we think it’s admirable that they’re all presented as complicated and interesting people in their own right. On the other hand, it could be argued that all three women did the same thing this episode: urged a man to stand up and take action. Claire’s “Feel my heart” speech stirred Matt to continue the good fight, even if it endangers other people. Karen’s “Whatever happened to that crusading reporter?” speech stirred Ben to stand up and do right by the people of Hell’s Kitchen. And Vanessa looked Wilson Fisk in the eye and said “I’m not entirely sure you’re good enough for me,” which stirred him to … go decapitate a Russian guy. Anyway, our point is, there are good and bad aspects to the way the women are portrayed here, but we appreciate that they’re all complicated and brave in their own way, even if they’re forced into somewhat subservient roles at times. But hey, they’re all a hell of sight better than Iris West or Laurel Lance, so we can’t complain too much.
In fact, it’s hard to complain at all, really, when a show is as smartly written, paced and performed as this one. Despite the muddy motivations, the story is sizzling and popping and moving along at just the right pace. In a very short period of time, we feel like we’ve gotten to know Matt, Claire, Foggy, and Karen fairly well. And we’ve seen enough of Ben, Fisk and Vanessa to be intrigued. Now, with Anatoly’s headless body on the way to Vladimir, Fisk has started an underworld war of some kind. Once again, we’re not at all sure of his reasons, but we sure are interested in how it turns out.
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