Daredevil: World on Fire

Posted on April 20, 2015

Daredevil-Season-1-Episode-5-Television-Review-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLOCharlie Cox and Rosario Dawson in “Daredevil” on Netflix

Love is in the air in Hell’s Kitchen. Unfortunately, it’s a particularly hellish version of Hell’s Kitchen, so all the love in the air tends to be either twisted, doomed, or punished.

Happy times!

No, really. One of the things we dreaded about this series was the depressing sense of grimness and doom that came across in all the trailers. And while we’ve mentioned that we sometimes need to take a break from the show before moving onto the next episode, that has more to do with the wire-tight tension of every episode; not because we find it all depressing. We mention this because as the show progresses, we find ourselves more and more impressed with the balancing act it’s pulling off; a tightrope walk between darkness and light. And have you noticed that with each successive episode, there’s slightly more time spent in the light than in the darkness?

But let’s not get too optimistic too soon. This episode opens on a deeply wounded Claire, shuffling her way through Matt’s apartment in tremendous pain. Part of what makes this story so brutal at times is that it doesn’t shy away from the cost of violence. People get bloodied and they stay bloodied for a while.And to the credit of both actors, scenes like this one, full of bandages and blood and mentions of broken bones, somehow come across sexy and even romantic. Claire moves (as Matt did after she found him in that dumpster) like a person whose body is screaming in pain. This allows for a near-perfect mirroring of their first scene together, with him tending to her wounds just as she tended to his. In fact, there’s some rather significant mirroring of the entire Claire/Matt relationship found in the exchanges between Vanessa and Fisk, but we’ll get to that in a second.

After telling her he can smell the copper in her blood, she asks him to explain his abilities to her. Again, it says something about the confidence behind this show that the creators waited until the 5th episode to even explain what the hero can do. He mentions a lot of stuff the average audience member probably figured out already; stuff about temperature changes and vibrations and air density. But the really interesting part came when she asked him to explain how the world looks to him and we got the first glimpse of the world through Matt’s “eyes;” a world on fire. Claire astutely notes that she’d probably go around hitting things all the time too if that’s how the world looked to her. Matt laughs the line off, but it’s of a piece with the hellish symbolism of the show, from the name of the character to the name of the neighborhood he’s fighting for. Matt Murdock quite literally feels like he’s in hell and is trying to fix it. A devil in hell trying to make things better. Is that heroic or just stupid? In that moment, Claire thought it was the former, but she didn’t think that way for long. Later in the same episode, when Matt is rather blithe about the need to beat up cops in order to do what he does, Claire starts backing away, saying she’s not sure she can love a man who’s so willing to become what he hates. “I need to be the man this city needs,” he tells her; a response that pretty much ends their nascent romance right then and there.

Compare this to Fisk and Vanessa’s second date. Much like the scenes with Claire and Matt, it’s two people who are highly attracted to each other, poking at each other’s wounds to see how they react; to see if they can actually find a way to fit the other person in their life.”I take no pleasure in cruelty,” Fisk says, perfectly echoing Matt’s bluff about enjoying hurting people; a bluff that Claire said she had to believe was untrue. Unlike Claire, however, Vanessa isn’t particularly squeamish about what Fisk is doing or what he plans on doing. Sure, she brought a gun to a dinner date with him, but she happily surrendered it and muttered her grim approval when he told her the explosions in the distance were his work. He has become the man this city needs, just as Matt has. And unlike Claire, she’s enthralled by his power and his highly specific form of morality.There’s something a little, well, disturbing about watching a clearly intelligent woman make clearly terrible decisions, but we admit we find their relationship to be fascinating. Besides, we’re not sure Vanessa’s operating on the same moral scale we are.

And the final couple in the all-love, all the time episode of Daredevil is Foggy and Karen. At least we think they’re a couple. Karen kinda sorta thought they were on a date in Mrs. Cardenas’ apartment, but within seconds, they were both on the floor and bloodied, so maybe we have yet to see their first decent sit-down as a couple. Still, like the earlier couple scenes, they each prodded each other a little, sometimes literally, trying to “see” who the other person is and whether there’s a place for them in their life. Karen is turning into a crusader for the downtrodden and a foe of injustice, so we tend to think her lingering feelings about Matt diminished when she saw Foggy go up against a “meatgrinder in a pencil skirt” with the killer burn, “”I will absolutely dismantle you, from the top of your salon blowout, to the bottom of your overpriced pumps,” demonstrating to us (and more importantly, to Karen) that under the sitcom character buffoonery is a shrewd and sharp lawyer. Later, he literally rolled up his shirtsleeves to fix an old lady’s problems, demonstrating that under the whining about all the money he’s not making, Foggy’s as heroic and altruistic as Matt, Claire and Karen. Still, it’s obviously not quite resolved. Karen keeps wanting to know what Matt thinks of her, and Matt, after kissing Claire, still flirted with Karen by telling her he likes hearing her voice. It’s to the show’s credit that a classic “Which guy will she pick?” storyline is being presented in such a subtle manner, leaving every possibility open and not making any of the people involved look flighty or manipulative (Looking at you, Iris West).

But really, we hope she picks Señor Foggy. And besides, what did Matt whisper when he was beating the crap out of Vladimir at the very end of the episode, just before the cops showed up? “This one’s for Claire.”

Love. It’s positively blooming all over Hell’s Kitchen. And by “blooming,” we of course mean “exploding in a spray of blood.”

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[Still: tomandlorenzo.com]

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