So the title for this one, “World on Fire,” refers to three seconds of a terrible CG effect depicting “What Daredevil ‘sees’.” Kinda like the bad CG overlays from the Ben Affleck movie. If you don’t mind, I’d like to propose a different motif for this episode… night and day. Two halves of Daredevil’s life, two concurrently running plots, and one specific problem with the show.
Episode Title: World On Fire
Original Airdate: 4/10/2015
This episode is very cleanly divided (well, until the end) into “Daredevil punches Russians at night while Fisk makes moves” and “Foggy and Karen have happy fun legal adventures.” And both are unfortunately packed with filler, alongside Fisk’s compelling tale.
By night, Fisk has decided to cut the Russians out of his Legion of Doom, and is doing so by tricking them into thinking Daredevil killed Vladamir’s brother. (Why is it always “Vladamir”? That’s such a standard Russian Mob Guy Name. I’m partial to Oleksandr myself.) Fisk schemes and manipulates and tricks right up to the very end, when he takes decisive and explosive action against his former allies.
Oh, and Daredevil punches some guys. It doesn’t help much or get him anywhere. He has a very minor romance plot with Claire, who is concerned that he’s becoming the thing he hates — building on my questions last week about vigilante violence as a solution for nothing. But beyond that he doesn’t have a lot to do this time around. It’s all about Fisk bringing Vanessa into his world, and making his dream a reality. THAT story is simply excellent, and paints Fisk in some wonderful gray colors.
And by day…? Well, Foggy’s wacky and Karen’s flowers and sunshine and they’re taking on Foggy’s old law firm to fight some tenant eviction. It does bring a ray of sunshine and hope into the series, as well as some good comedy bits. But ultimately, it amounts to about as much as Daredevil punching guys, if not less. It’s filler, and I never like to see secondary characters assigned to meaningless filler. If you can’t give a character something important to do, if they can’t have their own story with just as much weight as the main story, why have the character at all?
So, overall, Fisk’s tale is wonderfully woven, but everything else is just so much fluff surrounding it. It’s an entertaining episode overall but I’d wished for more… or perhaps less. Trimming the fat would’ve helped a lot.
I will say one thing in Daredevil’s favor, though: It understands reasonable consequences and reasonable risks. Injuries accumulate. Evidence trails are formed. People make mistakes that others can draw conclusions from. And no one, not even Fisk, is completely protected from the natural chaos of life.
Here’s a prime example. Someone in a police interview room tries to sell out Fisk. The two cops interviewing him immediately stage a breakout and shoot the guy. Fisk has corrupt cops, oh no! But does he gloat about his all-encompassing control over the city, on learning of this? Nope! He’s worried. He’s worried because he can’t have every single cop on the take, and if the next person to sell him out talks to the wrong people, he knows he’s in trouble. That’s a realistic consequence and a risk he can’t 100% control.
Now, compare that against Gotham, on Fox. In Gotham, everybody is corrupt. Every. Body. The police are 100% on the take, criminals can basically do anything, and every single character aside from Bruce has some level of corruption to them. It’s a frankly absurd level of corruption, to the point of being… is using “comic book” as a pejorative unkind? Let’s say “cartoonish” instead. Outlandish. Extreme.
Daredevil is not cartoonish. Everybody is subject to the rational laws of the world, even Fisk, and mistakes can be costly. Every fight, every move, every scheme carries with it genuine risk for everybody involved; there are no “jobber matches,” nothing is predetermined aside from the meta-knowledge that the actors involved have contracts and will be sticking around for the duration.
While the show isn’t wholly consistent in its quality, while some material is simply there to pad out airtime and keep characters on a backburner… when Daredevil hits, it hits, and it defies lazy narrative trickery to keep its story going. Maybe this episode flailed around some, but the finale was indeed explosive; and in the last 20 seconds of this episode, Daredevil ran into another real-world consequence for his actions. And I can’t wait to see how THAT pans out.