Daredevil is very much about Daredevil, but it’s also about the person on the other side. Wilson Fisk is a powerful presence both in Hell’s Kitchen and in the show, but his character’s been running in the backdrop to Matt’s, not unexpectedly. “Shadows in the Glass” takes the interesting route of putting Matt on the backburner and letting Fisk, and his operations, take his place at the episode’s center. Though Matt learns about Karen and Foggy’s activities and turns to Urich for help, this episode belongs to Fisk, whose sleep is haunted by nightmares of his childhood. He awakens from his nightmares to “Rabbit in a Snowstorm”, cooking an early morning breakfast and picking out a suit. His routine, playing out to Bach, concludes with Fisk seeing a younger, blood spattered version of himself.
There’s little to be called original about the flashbacks to Fisk’s relationship with his father Bill (Domenick Lombardozzi), an aspiring politician who turns on his family with the slightest bruising of his fragile ego. It’s easy to track how the scenario will play itself out, with Fisk taking a hammer to the back of his father’s head, his first taste at violence coming as Bill encourages him to beat a schoolyard bully who repeated his father’s declaration that Bill Fisk is a “loser”. The single episode format limits the development of the relationship, when Daredevil‘s proven itself much more proficient in building up connections over time. The nuances and contradictions in the relationship, like Fisk’s mingled admiration and wariness of his father, even in the present day, are lost in the episode’s necessity to pour all the information out quickly.
Marlene Fisk is more interesting, even with her abbreviated screentime. She has little to do until Bill’s murder, after which she commands that Fisk “get the saw”. And she saws Bill’s body into pieces that can be carried in trash bags down to the river until there are none left. There’s little indication of what happens to her after this, but I’d really like to know. Daredevil doesn’t have many female characters, though the ones they have could have strong storylines if the show cared to do them. Claire’s disappeared since she and Matt called off their romance, at least a portion of Karen’s screentime every episode has to revolve around her helplessness, even as she’s the engine behind the Union Allied/Fisk investigation. Like other superhero (or any) show, this one is more comfortable with women as victims. Vanessa hasn’t yet fallen into this category, but I don’t doubt that she will sooner or later. I’d even wager that she’ll end up intimidated by Daredevil himself, especially now that she’s publicly allied herself with Fisk.
“Shadows in the Glass” has Fisk at his lowest, lashing out at Wesley and only tempering himself when Vanessa arrives. But it also has him at his highest, his determination to take Hell’s Kitchen to new heights (after sinking it to new lows), playing out with him announcing himself publicly. Making himself Hell’s Kitchen savior and decrying “the devil of Hell’s Kitchen” saves him the trouble of having to contend with the work of Urich, penning an article on Fisk’s activities that he has to trash now that no one would believe a word of it. It may also help Fisk out in the eyes of the merry band of bad guys, who begin to express dissatisfaction with Fisk’s leadership.
Nobu’s in a rage after Black Sky to Stick (after Fisk promised protection), Leland wants a guarantee of his own protection after his run-in with Daredevil, and Gao pays a surprise visit to Fisk’s apartment to talk to him about his shifting priorities. Gao is easily one of the best parts of the show, and is the only female character who hasn’t yet been slotted into a category of victim, love interest and/or both. This episode adds plenty about her character even in the short conversation she has with Fisk. That she shows up to his apartment is notable enough, and she explains her knowledge with Fisk being distracted. Add that to her revelation that she not only speaks English but all languages and her casual dismissal of Wesley, and what’s not to like? That she’s running a drug trade and exploiting her blind workers, even sending them out as suicide bombers, of course. Their conversation adds an interesting element to her relationship with Fisk, and further highlights the professional courtesy and respect that pervades his relationships with them, another something he learned from his father.
Part of what makes Fisk so interesting is his ability to build personal relationships with others, which define him as more than just a villain. He’s a bad guy, yes, but to at least a few people (like Wesley and Vanessa) he’s a good one. Wesley feels comfortable defying Fisk’s orders and bringing Vanessa around to calm him, and we know how vital Vanessa is to Fisk’s narrative. She’s the one who he tells the story of his father to, and though she’s disturbed by it, she’s the one who inspires him to make the announcement. And she joins in on Fisk’s morning routine. The nightmares don’t leave him, but he’s not alone with them anymore. He awakens to Vanessa, makes her breakfast, and she selects the suit and cufflinks he wears the next day. Daredevil‘s done a good job building up their relationship, though I’d appreciate a window to Vanessa’s feelings toward him, to the point where I’m actually happy for Fisk.
The show hasn’t done as fine a job emphasizing the bonds between Matt, Foggy and Karen. There’s supposed to be a strong bond there, at least one strong enough to have Karen questioning whether or not she wants to bring Matt into the fold on her investigation into Union Allied. She’s certain Matt won’t take it well, and though she’s right about it, I question how she’d even know that. The most in depth conversation the two had was when Karen was staying at his apartment in the pilot, and since then Karen’s spent more time with Foggy, which has at least served to provide a basis for her trusting him (and Foggy’s crush on her that will never go anywhere). Foggy and Matt have the benefit of a past relationship, and there’s enough there to believe that their distance now is only due to Matt’s other activities. This isn’t the case with them as a trio. There has to be more at Nelson & Murdock than the show just telling us they’re all so close. We have to actually see it.
- Hoffman: “Out of turn? You shot him.”
- Fisk: “Is it taken care of?”
Wesley: “Yes but there was a complication.”
Leland: “Well there’s a word I’m hearing more and more.” Leland is also a lot of fun.
- Gao: “Nobu isn’t very happy with you”.
Fisk: “That man is never happy with anyone.”
- Blake’s shooting was his punishment for not letting those addresses be compromised, and now he’s been offed by his own partner and friend. What a way to go.
- But why does Fisk have so many cufflinks if he only wears the one pair anyway?