Just as viewers were beginning to think, “You know what? Along with the obviously fantastic Charlie Cox, Vincent D’Onofrio is the best damn part of this show,” Daredevil delivers a Wilson Fisk-centric episode that lives up to the bizarre and fascinating performance that the actor has given so far and compounds it, giving a backstory to the madness that never feels obligatory. Not only do we know what makes this guy tick now, he’s scarier because of it.
The episode opens with what is probably the best cold open of the series so far. Fisk awakes from a nightmare and immediately looks to the painting that he bought from Vanessa. While the picture is indeed the first thing he sees every morning, there’s a feeling that Fisk has to stare at the painting. From there, he has a fairly basic morning routine: making eggs, choosing a suit and cuff links, seeing a bloody reflection of his adolescent self in the mirror. Now unless you’re the emotionally damaged lord of crime in Hell’s Kitchen, that last thing should have caught you by surprise. (I wonder if anyone watched this episode and thought, “Yeah, of course you see a bloody child in your mirror. Who doesn’t?”) The secrets behind that image are what drive this episode forward.
When Matt wakes up the morning after his tussle with Stick, his outside isn’t that far off from Fisk’s inside. Things don’t get any better when he overhears his two coworkers discussing whether he should be clued into their extracurricular investigative activities. When he forces Foggy and Karen to fess up, Matt disapproves of them putting themselves in danger, especially when their methods aren’t, by the strictest definitions, legal. The only way that they can continue their investigations with Ben is if they do so through the law, you know, like Matt does at night in his black costume. Karen and Foggy aren’t completely in love with the idea, but they agree.
Meanwhile, things are decidedly less harmonious over at Team Crime. Nobu is pissed that Stick killed the Black Sky because apparently Black Skies are very difficult to find. I have a feeling we’ll learn more about that later. The Japanese crime boss blames Fisk for the child’s death, since it was the Kingpin who promised protection. Fisk is quick to specify that he promised no police activity at the docks and on the highway, but Nobu isn’t buying it. Is Fisk losing his godlike grip on the criminal underworld of Hell’s Kitchen? If so, it might have something to do with that bloody kid.
Not that anyone expected otherwise, but that visage is indeed Fisk as a young boy. And we see that version of Fisk in his element, the Hell’s Kitchen of the 1960s, where he lives with his mom and
Herc from The Wire his dad. Back then, young Wilson spent his days helping the old man campaign for a spot on the city council, trying some of his dad’s beer, and not fully understanding the ramifications of his father taking a loan out from the local crime boss, Rigoletto, the man Fisk would one day defeat.
Back in the present day, Wesley interrupts a call that his boss is having with Vanessa to inform him that Blake, the dirty cop they had shot in order to frame Daredevil, is out of his coma and ready to talk. With beefed up security guarding the detective from the masked man, it will be difficult for Fisk to get any of his friends into the room to take out Blake before he gives up the Kingpin, but it won’t be impossible. The route he and Wesley decide on is to bring Blake’s partner Hoffman into the fold, but the cops are more than just coworkers. Hoffman tells Fisk that he and Blake grew up together, to which the Kingpin responds, “How much are each of those years worth to you, in round figures?” That’s cold, but the argument works, as Hoffman arrives at the hospital with Blake’s favorite sandwich, meatballs with an extra helping of poison-filled syringe. Unfortunately for the cop laid up in the hospital bed, Matt arrives a little too late to stop Hoffman from delivering the lethal injection.
NEXT: Bill Fisk teaches his son about conflict resolution… with kicks.
Though Matt is able to escape through the window before the rest of the NYPD busts in, Hoffman is able to spin the story so that it appears that the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen stopped by to finish the job he started. That’s not good enough for Leland though. He’s also worried about Fisk’s slipping grip on the city, and probably for a good reason, as we’re treated to another glimpse of the Kingpin’s troubled childhood. Some point after Bill Fisk lost his city council election, Wilson tries to stop a kid named Bernie from taking down his “loser” dad’s signs. Papa Fisk doesn’t take too kindly to the insult, so he takes a bat unkindly to Bernie’s head and invites Wilson to join in on the beat down. “Kick him,” he tells his son.
The next time we see Fisk, he’s waking up in bed, suggesting that these memories are still very much a part of his day, and there are nods to that fact as we see him eat and dress in the same fashion and once again apply his father’s cuff links. The morning is identical to the previous until Madame Gao arrives with almost no warning. Based on how the other members of their group talk about her, Madame Gao pulls the most weight because of her drug supply, and she’s an imposing presence, even for Fisk. Having only ever spoken through Wesley as a translator, she reveals that she can speak every language, and more than that, she knows that Fisk speaks both her and Nobu’s native tongues. She fears that the Kingpin has become sloppy and emotional in his dealings, and she informs him that she can work directly with Nobu and Owlsley if that continues to be the case. This greatly angers Fisk, but does he really have to take it out on that poor table? What did it do besides faithfully support his many egg-centric meals?
The outbursts tells Wesley that he’ll need some outside help to smooth things over, so he brings Vanessa directly to Fisk. She is a calming presence for him, but he still holds back about what is fueling this drive to fix his city, until we finally get Wilson Fisk’s real origin story.
As Bill Fisk prepares to go out one evening, he instructs his son to stare at the wall—a portion of which bares a striking resemblance to the painting he obsesses over—until he returns. He’s going to speak with Rigoletto about the money he owes, and his wife is predictably worried about what the outcome will be. When the confrontation between his parents turns violent, Wilson stares at the wall, ignoring the cries of his mother until he can no longer take it. He grabs a hammer from the table and strikes his father with it in the back of his head. And that’s pretty bad, but it only gets worse when mom says, “Get the saw.”
The longer that Daredevil goes on, the more I get the feeling that the most remarkable thing about Marvel’s first Netflix series is that it’s the first time that the superhero house has put a truly complex villain on the screen. What they’re doing here with Fisk is not only more nuanced than what they’re doing with Matt, but it’s plainly more interesting. Marvel Studios deserves a lot of credit for putting heroes first, instead of getting caught up with a baddie of the week, but that has come at the cost of the villains for the most part. That’s certainly not a problem here, especially considering the turn that Fisk takes in this episode.
Inspired by Foggy and Karen’s noble crusade, Matt tracks down Ben Urich and gives him the one name he’s missing. This is their big moment, the one where they can finally drag Fisk out into the light and let the city tear him apart, but there’s a teeny tiny problem. Fisk does it himself, with the help of Vanessa, and casts himself as the city’s savior.
Don’t you hate when that happens?