The first four episodes of Daredevil effectively laid the groundwork for this series and showed fans exactly what they could expect of the level and quality of this show. The next four episodes continue to live up to those expectations and then some.
Episode five, “World on Fire” picks up not long after the previous episode, with Claire still staying at Matt’s apartment after her abduction by the Russians. During this early scene in Matt’s apartment he and Claire share a brief kiss and all the Claire/Matt shippers sigh in relief. However, as the episode continues it starts to look like this might already be the peak of their relationship.
This episode is the first and (SPOILER ALERT) only time we’re given a glimpse of how Matt “sees” the world around him. I think this is actually a good decision. We don’t need to see what Matt sees in order to understand how he does it. Constantly switching to this point of view would only be distracting. Instead, I much prefer the way they focus in on him as he’s listening, and the shots with the people he’s questioning reflected in his glasses are very good.
At Nelson and Murdock the guys take on the case of an elderly woman being bullied into giving up her rent-controlled apartment. Meanwhile Matt decides it’s time to do something about the Russians. Fisk has his own plans for the Russians, however. He and Wesley lead Vladimir to believe it was the Vigilante who killed Anatoly so Vladimir will go after the man in the mask – two birds with one stone, so to speak. However, things don’t go well for the Russians as Fisk blows up all four of their buildings.
Matt, who had tracked Vladimir to the warehouse, chases him from the building only to run into cops arriving on the scene. The episode ends with Matt about to be arrested by the police. Thank goodness I could immediately move on to the next episode and didn’t actually have to wait for the conclusion to this cliffhanger.
Episode six “Condemned” starts with Matt being handcuffed, though as soon as the cops reveal themselves to be dirty he fights back and escapes with Vladimir. Matt hides out in a vacant building not far from the center of the action and tries to stabilize Vladimir so he can get information from him. Fisk, meanwhile, is setting the Vigilante up to take the fall for the explosions as well as several cops he has snipers shoot.
This episode shows how even the most hardened criminals have a concept of loyalty and family. Vladimir realizes Fisk has betrayed him, and gives Matt an important piece of information in his mission against Fisk – Owsley’s name. Then Vladimir stays behind in the building to fight the cops coming for them while Matt escapes. I really appreciate that the bad guys in this series are not merely one-dimensional.
Episode seven, “Stick” delves a little more into Matt’s history and how he learned to control his sense and fight. Through flashbacks we learn that shortly after his father’s death the nuns at the orphanage didn’t know how to help Matt and his growing senses, so they contacted a man known only as “Stick” to help him. Stick trains Matt until the boy starts showing too much attachment, then disappears. In the present Stick has returned to ask for Matt’s help in tracking a weapon known as “Black Sky.” The weapon ends up being a young boy and Matt will not allow Stick to kill him. However, once separated Stick finds the boy and kills him to prevent the Yakuza from getting him. Matt and Stick fight through their differences – nearly destroying all Matt’s furniture – before Stick leaves.
I really enjoyed this episode, and the background it gave, but it left us with a lot of unanswered questions. We’re never told exactly who or what Black Sky was, and an ominous scene at the end of the episode suggests Stick has more plans for Matt. Who is the guy Stick is talking to, and what door is going to open? And why does Stick look exactly the same in the flashbacks from 20 years ago as he does in the present?
Episode eight, “Shadows in the Glass” is a fascinating character study of Wilson Fisk. At New York Comic Con Vincent D’onofrio describe Fisk as a child and a monster, and that characterization has proven extremely accurate. Like a child Fisk seeks love and acceptance, which he finds with Vanessa, but he is also very much a monster, as was shown when he murders Anatoly in episode four.
In this episode we get to see flashbacks of Fisk as a young boy, living with his abusive father until Fisk snaps and kills his father with a hammer. As Fisk relates this story to Vanessa we get a glimpse of how Fisk views himself – not as someone who is cruel for the sake of cruelty, but in order to accomplish a goal. He truly believes he is doing what needs to be done in order to make the city a better place.
This episode also shows how Fisk is a creature of habit. Twice we see him wake up and go through the exact same morning routine – which includes staring at the painting he had purchased from Vanessa’s gallery. The flashbacks reveal that this painting reminds Fisk of the night he murdered his father. Later in the episode we see the impact Vanessa is having in his life as he forces him to break those habits. She chooses a lighter gray suit for him, and forces him to wear cufflinks other than those which belonged to his father.
It would be easy for these episodes in the middle of the series to lag, or lose momentum, but this never happens. I think this is one of the benefits to the format of the series. By releasing the entire series at once on Netflix, the entire show was planned out in detail so that every episode advances the overall arc of the season – there are no standalone or throwaway episodes. Also, most viewers will be binge watching the series, therefore there is no need to remind us of what has been happening so far, no recapping exposition, just forward movement, as Charlie Cox himself pointed out at New York Comic Con.
I keep waiting for this series to have just one episode that seems lackluster or less interesting than the rest, but so far that has not happened and I’m starting to think it never will.