Didn’t you hear? The Cold War’s back in style. If you need a burly, manly, sadistic badass the first place to turn to is the great frozen state of Russia. Today, the two obligatory unhinged gangsters from the east are the focus of many beatings, and learn firsthand the durability of a good American-made SUV!
Episode Title: In the Blood
Original Airdate: 4/10/2015
The bad guys of Daredevil are a pleasingly pan-ethnic smorgasbord of evil. You’ve got your corporate tycoons, your Chinese triads, your Japanese yakuza, and of course the Russian mob. It’s a winning strategy for not demonizing any one culture to have ALL of them part of your Legion of Doom, it seems, a tactic that worked in the Dark Knight and now works here. And the first step on that Ladder of Doom is the Russians, as they go after Daredevil through the only contact they know of… that nice nurse who kept him from bleeding out two episodes ago.
While this does lead to yet another Damsel in Distress, it also leads to a nice “silent predator in the dark” fight, where Daredevil takes on a few dozen guys with semiautomatic weaponry by playing ninja. It makes sense; he’s a highly visible predator when dealing with unarmed thugs, but against fully armed thugs in a wide open space, knocking out the lights and using his blindness as an advantage is a classic Zatoichi style technique. It’s a well shot scene, with good lighting work despite so much dark at play, and excellent audio as usual.
This also leads the story to examine one issue… is Daredevil’s propensity for vigilante mayhem actually doing any good? As we saw last time, even when he wins a bareknuckle boxing match against the forces of evil, it doesn’t solve much of anything and only complicates the issue. Also there’s his tendency to use Jack Bauer-esque interrogations, up to and including stabbin’ dudes to get them to talk. (And, contrary to reality, it always works.) Some guy he drops off a roof into a dumpster? Yeah, that guy’s in a coma now. Clearly Matt should’ve watched Mythbusters.
(Actually, how many times has Batman repeatedly haymakered people right in the skull? Just one of those can easily kill a man outright. Yes yes, he’s Batman, he’s a ninja, he’s super good at controlling himself and being precise, but… c’mon. Nobody can know every random biological factor which could slide a punch from “concussion-inducing and possibly maiming” right into “fatal.” If anything, props to Daredevil for showing fights as brutal, with long-lasting health consequences for all involved.)
Claire calls his methods into question, as does Matt himself… but ultimately Claire decides the few individuals he’s saved along the way make it worthwhile. Me, I’m not sure. I’ve actually written a book myself about vigilante justice, mob rule, and doxxing as the disempowered people’s weapon of choice. I’d really like to see more study of this from Daredevil, rather than bringing up the issue and then dismissing it by saying “Well, he saved a kid, right?” It’s not a question of results, it’s a question of methodology. You can’t fist all your problems away.
Meanwhile, Karen and Ben’s Excellent Adventure continues, as Ben tries to sway Karen from following him on this journalistic journey. Which basically means that subplot stalls out for a full episode. I’m getting concerned that their story is going to be the boring part of every episode… the audience knows what lies at the end of their investigation (“It’s Fisk!”), Matt knows what lies at the end of their investigation (“Seriously, it’s Fisk!”) and watching the secondary characters very gradually figure out this non-secret could grow tiresome. Hopefully there are more wrinkles to uncover that will loop it around into new mysteries.
Finally, there’s the matter of Fisk himself. We get to see him trying to separate his personal life from his work life, as he shows a gentle and humane side towards Vanessa the art dealer, a woman he’s trying to romance. We also get a peek into what he’s planning… the gentrification of Hell’s Kitchen. He knows the city is a hotbed of crime, unsafe at any speed, and apparently wants to tear it down and remake it into something better. In his own way, he’s noble and good… but like Daredevil, his methods are questionable. He’s ruthless, he’s cruel, and when he doesn’t get his way he introduces people to one of the world’s finest works of automotive engineering the hard way. All in all, it’s an intriguing storyline, and I hope more parallels are drawn between his quest and Daredevil’s quest.
Aside from the Karen/Ben content, which is dull at best, this was a strong episode which asked some good hard questions about what’s going on. Whether or not the answers will satisfy in the long term remains to be seen, but adding Fisk into the mix offers a tantalizing glimpse at conflicts yet to come. And hey, who DOESN’T like ninjas yanking gunmen into the shadows? See you next week.