'Daredevil' recap: 'World on Fire'
War comes to Hell's Kitchen, but it ends rather quickly.
After an uncomfortably intimate introduction to Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk, which drew a parallel between his crusade to save Hell’s Kitchen and Matt’s, Daredevil takes the connection one step further by showing both men attempting the same task. The Russians have become a nuisance for both the Kingpin and Daredevil, but who is the more effective cleaner of the streets? The answer, or the one that this episode offers up, is very surprising.
At Matt’s apartment, Claire is still on the mend, both physically and emotionally, from her brush with the Russian mafia. Thankfully, there’s a superpowered, blind lawyer that’s there to help in both regards. Next on Matt’s list of things to reveal to his new crush, after telling her his real name in the previous episode, is his profession. Yes, he’s a lawyer by day, but he can still smell torn sutures, hear hairline fractures, and see a world that’s made of fire. So he has a pretty solid back-up plan if the law thing doesn’t pan out. He also appears to be at least a moderately successful kisser as he lays the long-awaited smooch on Claire. “I was wondering if you were ever going to do that,” she says. So were we, Claire. So were we.
And like everybody does post-first kiss, Matt shares his intentions of taking down the local crime lord, but there is a small wrinkle his in plan. Anatoly, now very much missing his head, turns up, and his bro Vladimir isn’t too pleased about it, or about the black mask that just so happened to be found with the body. With the set-up, Fisk doubles Vladimir’s focus on finding the masked man, all the while he and his syndicate plan the eventual ousting of the Russians from the circle. The brothers (or what’s left of them) have become too unreliable as sources of income and as distributors of Madame Gao’s drugs, so they’re out. But not quite yet. Fisk tells the group that he’s going to move on Vladimir when the time is right, and until then, everything has to stay the same. As the group dismisses, Nobu, the representative of the Japanese criminal element in Hell’s Kitchen, leaves Fisk with an ominous warning, saying “Remember your promise to me and to those I speak for.” Who does he speak for?!
While the crime bosses scheme and scheme, Daredevil continues to punch and punch. His latest punching victims are a couple of Russian dudes who are escorting a blind Chinese illegal to Madame Gao. When they leave the boy alone in the cab, we’re treated to an excellent camera move, not unlike one recently seen in It Follows. The camera simply rotates within the car, and we see Matt’s approach. The technique actually makes Daredevil a frightening figure, since we don’t know where he’ll be when the camera comes back around. The ensuing fight catches the blind kid in the crossfire and reveals to Matt that Vladimir is calling for his head.
But it’s not like Matt is the only employee at Nelson & Murdock with problems. Karen can’t get the fax machine to work, and Foggy is only the second handsomest partner at the firm. But hey, at least there’s a new client! Police Officer Brett’s mom has sent one of her friends their way, and she needs some help with her apartment. Her landlord, the powerful Armond of House Tully, wants to kick her and the other tenants out of their rent-controlled building, and he’s resorted to such brutish tactics as cutting off utilities and sending in thugs to bust the place up with sledgehammers. Well, that’s not going to happen anymore. Not with Karen and Foggy and Matt on the case! The former two head down to meet with Tully’s lawyer and Foggy’s former beau, while Matt goes to the police. There’s something refreshing about how much time this series gives to Matt and the other characters helping normal people. It’s something that we really don’t see in comic book films, and it’s Marvel fulfilling its promise of street-level heroes. Does Foggy and Karen fixing that lady’s apartment and telling a snooty lawyer how it is help Matt bring down Kingpin? No, but it’s a nice character moment that reminds us of the point of heroes, both super and everyday.
NEXT: That guy really shouldn’t have said his name
Granted, we get plenty of the super when Matt overhears two detectives interrogating Piotr. Well, they’re not interrogating him so much as they’re staging a struggle and then murdering him for revealing the Kingpin’s name. When Matt attacks the one detective, he demands to know where Vladimir is, and he wants to know the connection between Fisk and the cab company. The cop says if those are the questions that he’s asking, he’s pretty clueless. To fix that, Matt takes the detective’s phone, which has—as Claire informs him—a list of locations, one of which is the restaurant where he found the captive boy in episode 2. The revelation leads to a very important moment in Matt and Claire’s budding relationship. His hunt has gone too far, and Claire fears that he’s turning into exactly the thing he’s fighting. That Claire. She’s a smart girl.
Meanwhile, Fisk is enacting his own plan to clean up the city. He’s just going about it in a completely different fashion. After a rather “embarrassing” first date with Vanessa, the Kingpin invites her out again, and they hit all of the usual small talk topics, such as “What kind of gun is that that you have in your purse?” Vanessa admits that, yes, she knows that Fisk is a dangerous man, but that risk isn’t enough to entirely scare her away. She wants a reason to hang around and see where things go. In response, Fisk swears that he takes no pleasure in the violence he perpetrates, that it’s all part of some necessary purge Hell’s Kitchen must make before he can fix the city. “It needs to die before it can be reborn,” he tells her.
Matt gets an intimate look at the purge when he tracks down Vladimir to one of the addresses listed in the phone. What he doesn’t know is that inside, the Russians have an army of men ready to take Fisk out. Vladimir knows that the Kingpin played at the very least a conspiratorial role in the murder of Anatoly, and now he wants his revenge. The Russian’s scheme hits a minor bump in the road, however, when one of Madame Gao’s blind workers delivers a bomb right to him. The blast takes out most of Vladimir’s men, but more importantly, it interrupts Karen and Foggy’s “Please touch my face moment.” (So is she into Matt?) The explosion knocks a door on top of Matt, but it barely touches Vladimir, who stumbles out of the rubble. When Matt comes to, he finds the Russian he’s been looking for, but the police bust up the party before it gets going, leaving Fisk and Vanessa left to look over all that he has accomplished.
The episode ends in a particularly dark place and alludes to many surprising things about Matt’s and Fisk’s parallel journeys. Claire warning Matt and his subsequent failure to take Vladimir without being caught by the police are two big examples of Daredevil ultimately failing. This is timed concurrently with Fisk’s biggest coup to date. In the fight to clean up Hell’s Kitchen, Fisk is doing a much better job than Matt, and that is a statement that I’ve never seen in a superhero show or movie.