Daredevil episode 4 viewing notes: In The Blood

Vincent D'Onofrio really nails this interpretation of Kingpin in Daredevil's fourth episode. Here are James' viewing notes...

With the whole series of Daredevil now available on Netflix, the race is on to reach the ending before someone spoils it for you. But that presents us with a problem. How do we approach reviews? It’s not much use speculating about the future of the series when it’s available at a moment’s notice, but watching the whole thing in one go for a single review is impractical for anyone with a day job and personal relationships to maintain – to say nothing of how difficult it is to critically appraise 12 hours of television if you don’t savour the instalments properly.

That’s why, instead of traditional reviews, we’re trying something new. An episode-by-episode unpicking of the show, looking at its techniques, characters and use of the source material. Call them annotations, call them show notes, call them whatever you like – but hopefully it’ll offer you a kind of Daredevil coverage you can’t get anywhere else. All we ask is that if you’ve seen future episodes that confirm, contradict or otherwise twist things we talk about in this piece, please don’t put spoilers anywhere in the comments!

Episode Recap

The episode opens 3 years ago in a Russian prison as a pair of brothers – the Russian crooks from episode 1 – plot their escape to America while fashioning shivs from the ribs of their dead cellmate. Back in the present day, Matt beats the hell out of the Russian gang and then receives medical treatment from Claire, who is still hiding out after the events of episode 2. Matt gives her a burner so they can stay in touch, while elsewhere the Russians are informed by Wesley that their failure to stop “the masked vigilante” means the Kingpin has “offered” to take over part of their operation. To restore their credibility they try to track Matt down by finding and kidnapping Claire. She manages to alert Matt using her phone. Elsewhere, Karen goes to Ben Urich and the pair eventually agree to work together to investigate Allied-Union, and the Kingpin takes Vanessa on a date. After Murdock rescues Claire and humiliates the Russians one of the brothers makes a scene, interrupting the Kingpin’s date to agree to his terms. The Kingpin cuts the date short, but Vanessa appears to have been scared off. This angers the Kingpin, so he brutally murders the Russian.

Episode Notes

So, that thing from last episode I didn’t want to mention? It’s basically confirmed here. Vanessa (Ayelet Zurer) is the woman who will presumably become the Kingpin’s wife, Vanessa Fisk. At various points in the comics she’s been everything from a moderating influence on Fisk to a crime boss in her own right, but she’s always formidable and the Kingpin genuinely loves her, which gives his character some interesting pathos. She first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #70. I’d be surprised if she doesn’t appear again after this introduction, but it’s safe to say she’s not immediately comfortable with crime as a lifestyle choice. Unusual, for an art dealer.

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Wesley also makes the immortal reference in this episode, mocking the Russians for being beaten by one guy who doesn’t even have an iron suit or a magic hammer. Now, I don’t really need to spell out what he’s referencing here, but to be honest I didn’t like these sort of references in Agents Of SHIELD, and that goes for here too. Connecting the battle of New York with real estate corruption is a fantastic use of MCU continuity which works within the reality of the show, but throwaway, in-jokey references to the Avengers lack verisimilitude.

My reasoning is that if you allow your characters to talk about superheroes as if they’re a fact of everyday life, you raise the question of why anyone can have a conversation without it coming up. One imagines that just the confirmation that alien life exists would radically alter most people’s world view. And where is the new church of Thor? It’s odd enough that Claire hasn’t said to Matt “So do you think you’re a superhero? Do you have superpowers?” but it’s believable as long as the show doesn’t remind us that superheroes are a thing people are thinking about just so the viewers can go “He said Thor!”

Now, with that minor rant out of the way…

At one point, Urich tries to get Karen to back off chasing Allied-Union by undermining her credibility as a source. He references her “past activities”. This is interesting because it appears to have taken an event from later in the comics run and shuffle it well back into the character’s past, before she ever met Matt. Again, I won’t discuss the specifics because it’s probably going to be a plot point in the future and I’ll discuss them then, but I find it interesting (if not unexpected) that they’re running with the “reformed” Karen Page as the initial version.

The scene where Matt rescues Claire isn’t quite as good as the corridor fight scene from Ep 2, but I do like how Matt basically goes full Batman in it, taking out thugs one-by-one in the dark while taunting them. Daredevil has a lot in common with Batman, so it’s not a surprise to see a scene like this come up. Matt and Claire have great chemistry, which is a surprise. I was fully expecting Karen Page to be at the centre of a Foggy-Claire-Matt love triangle like in the early comics, but it seems like they’re going a different way with it.

And man, if I thought the violence was bad in the last episode, this final scene might take the crown (along with the other parts of the head). Don’t get in the way of the Kingpin and his woman, is the lesson I’ve learnt here. I like the contrast, though. All the fine art and fine wine and fine clothing in the world can’t disguise the fact that the Kingpin is really just a thug with anger management issues. D’Onofrio nails that interpretation.

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After that scene, there’s a very small reference to an established Marvel character here when the Kingpin suggests that he’ll need to replace his torn suit from “Mr. Potter”. I’m pretty sure that’s Melvin Potter, aka the Gladiator – a reformed criminal who designs superheroes costumes and who first appeared (as a crook) in Daredevil (1963) #18. Given that we know Murdock will eventually upgrade to a “real” Daredevil costume, it’s safe to say Melvin will turn up in person eventually.

Read James’ viewing notes for episode 3, Rabbit In A Snowstorm, here.

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