Daredevil has already subverted a number of superhero movie conventions, but I have a feeling that when we’re looking back on the series, the big difference that will really stand out is Wilson Fisk. The series held off on revealing Daredevil’s archnemesis until the third episode, and even then, he wasn’t what we expected. (A lonely art aficionado?) And now that he’s appearing more prominently in the show, he’s not skewing any more conventional, and that’s a very good thing.
And while we’re on the subject of unexpected turns, the fact that this episode opens with a flashback to the Vladamir and Anatoly’s imprisoned past is a welcome surprise. Here we have a seemingly familiar archetype—the Russian mobsters—that would be completely dispensable in any other superhero movie. (To be fair to The Dark Knight, we do learn why the Chechen brings… dogs!) Instead, Daredevil devotes a cold open and an entire subplot to grounding Vladamir and Anatoly in reality and demonstrates a use for rib bones that you’ll probably never find on Etsy.
Back in the present, Matt is taking some punches, dolling out many more, and coming to Claire for some fixing. Since their little chat with the fake detective on the roof, Claire has been hiding out at a friend’s place, while Matt continues to tear down the Russians’ trafficking ring. It’s going pretty well, but he’s been taking more beatings than Claire is comfortable with. Part of the problem is that his outfit sucks, a clever nod to the fact that everyone knows the red suit is coming. Matt wants to stay nimble, however, so armor is ruled out—another possible reference, perhaps to Daredevil’s questionable fashion sense circa 1993. As a sign of his appreciation for all of the care she’s given him, Matt gifts Claire with a burner. (Are you listening, gentlemen?) She wants him to ease up, but it doesn’t seem likely since he’s hot on the trail of whoever this Wilson Fisk guy is.
Every step forward Matt makes is one in the other direction for Vladamir and Anatoly. The masked man’s antics have seriously messed up their drug distribution, which is in turn hurting Madame Gao, the manufacturer of the product. As a result, Wesley, Fisk’s right-hand man, has a few questions for the brothers. Namely, “Why can’t you just, like, kill this guy?” After all, he doesn’t have any flashy super powers like the Avengers, but he’s done enough with the abilities of blindness and punching to make Fisk wonder whether he should take the cab operation from the Russians. Disturbed by the proposition, the brothers suggest that they just need more time, but what they really need is to kill Daredevil and get some dirt on Fisk. They task their friend Piotr with the latter and go see their other buddy Semyon about the former. Semyon, as it would happen, is the real name of Matt and Claire’s fake detective. Vladamir and Anatoly do the comatose patient the kindness of waking him up prematurely with an epinephrine shot, and Semyon says that the girl is the key to finding the masked man.
Meanwhile, Karen and Ben Urich are proceeding with their side project of trying to figure out what the hell happened to her former employer, Union Allied. While Karen is raring to go, Ben is stuck on the Daredevil of it all. Her story just doesn’t make sense, and the liquidizing of Union Allied assets doesn’t strike him as all that odd. If they’re going to have any chance of taking the bad guys down, they need some real evidence, and Urich isn’t so sure he’s the man to find it. His days of raking the muck seem to be over until he appears at the Union Allied auction behind Karen. Trying to remain inconspicuous, he instructs her to buy something cheap and keep an eye on who isn’t bidding, but the auction doesn’t give them much besides some messed up office equipment from around the time Daredevil was wearing armor.
NEXT: The Kingpin fails to correctly operate a car door
Having followed Semyon’s tip and then torturing Claire’s neighbor Santino from there, the Russians have found Daredevil’s medical assistant. Lucky for her, she’s able to get off a phone call to Matt before they take her, leading to a great moment where Matt, dressed in street clothes, folds up his cane and takes off running to Claire. Of course, he finds the apartment ruined and no sign of Claire. The best he can do is track down Santino, which ends up being a good move, since the kid remembers the name on the cab that took Claire.
You know what would be a really unexpected move at this point? How about shifting to Fisk on a date with Vanessa, the gallery employee that he spoke with at the end of the previous episode? He wants to thank her for her help with the painting, which now hangs in his bedroom. It’s the last thing he sees at night. Fans of the comics will recall that Vanessa is the name of the Kingpin’s wife and the woman who eventually convinces him to give up his criminal ways (until her untimely “death”). But for now, Vanessa is just a woman, going out on a date with a very nervous, very powerful man, who feels inclined to give us and his companion some backstory. Fisk grew up in Hell’s Kitchen, but left the city entirely when he was still young. When he came of age, he returned with his sights set on fixing the neighborhood that he could feel inside him.
The nice thought finds a stark contrast in the next scene, when we see the Russians beating on Claire. There’s a powerful moment, though, shortly afterward, when she begins to laugh as the lights shut off unexpectedly. Daredevil is in the building! And you know what that means: punches. Matt punches a lot of guys in order to free Claire, but she is the one who delivers the final blows to the last Russian standing. While she’s not gravely injured, the whole experience did take a toll on Claire, who gets some t.l.c. from Matt for a change, but all is not well between the two. She needs to know that everything she’s going through for him is a part of something bigger, that Matt is working toward something specific. He doesn’t really know what that is besides trying to make the city a better place, but at least he tells her that his name is actually Matt, not Mike.
Karen and Ben meet to discuss the next step in their investigation, but the reporter has a problem with this being “their” project. He stopped by the auction, not because he was looking out for Karen, but because he was there for the story. Ben thinks it’s worth pursuing, but not with her help. He’s had some bad luck with his sources—one of whom is very likely his bed-ridden wife—running into trouble after the stories hit.
And Wilson proves Ben’s worries legitimate after Anatoly interrupts his date with Vanessa, which the Russian’s head will soon come to regret. Meeting the socially awkward crimelord later that evening, Anatoly gets a face-full of SUV door, until there’s no more face left. This makes it two episodes in a row that end with some spectacular violence. The move was one that Wesley didn’t see coming, and he warns his boss that it will start a war. “I’m counting on it,” Fisk tells him.
The structure of the fourth episode of Daredevil did something that I really didn’t expect to see from Marvel. With Matt’s and Fisk’s parallel stories, the show is showing us that we’re dealing with two men who want the same thing. They both want to fix Hell’s Kitchen, and they’re going about it in different ways. The surprising thing is, however, that their methods aren’t really that different. We spend minutes on end watching Daredevil pommel Russians without too much concern for their safety. Fisk is equally violent, but his outbursts are more concentrated. The show even gives both of them potential partners who are uncertain about whether a relationship is possible. The connection goes beyond being just a cute parallel, because by placing Matt next to someone as evil as Fisk, the series is showing us that it’s willing to be critical of Daredevil and his methods.