If my notes are anything to go by, I can’t say that I was terribly enthusiastic for an entire episode focused on Wilson Fisk. Fisk is easily the most interesting villain the Marvel Universe has given us so far (depending on just how much you love Loki). It’s nice to see a villain that’s humanized and fleshed out, given motives and relationships, but the episode would have benefitted from time being delegated more evenly between hero and villain. Vincent D’Onofrio has (for the most part) given an electric performance as Fisk and that at least kept my attention for most of the episode.
Undoubtedly, Fisk had a traumatic childhood and one that both ended too soon and that plagued him his entire life. His father was abusive, mostly to his wife and Fisk had to stand and watch as his mother took beatings from a loveless and egotistical man. He puts up with it until it begins to eat at him more and more and during a particularly violent moment, Fisk takes a hammer to back of his father’s head and kills him. His mother’s solution is to cut him up into pieces and to make nightly walks to the river, dropping in a piece a night at the time.
Despite Fisk’s absolute loathing of his father he also has some warped respect for the man, even if he doesn’t acknowledge it. Wearing his fathers wrist cuffs is more of a token of regret, wearing his demons on his sleeve to remind him of where he comes from. Even the way he carries himself in a political landscape is likened to his father. It’s Vanessa that slowly is allowing him to be more than the boy he see’s in the mirror. I’d love to think there’s more to Vanessa than simply being Fisk’s girlfriend and with the way she’s reacting to his plights I’d like to think my hopes are right.
It’s fitting that the episode that brings Fisk’s past into the highlight is the same one where team Nelson and Murdock begin to strongly try and take him down. Matt is thankfully brought into the fold rather quickly but opposes the means in which Karen and Foggy are approaching it. They’re sneaking around and trying to gather evidence through whispers but Matt knows that to be safe they need to do it through the legal system. Their investigating ties in with Fisk trying to kill Blake-the corrupt detective who Fisk shot to incriminate Daredevil-by using his partner to do it. Daredevil isn’t quick enough to put an end to it and he’s then the prime suspect for the murder.
Fisk, meanwhile, is having better love in gaining Madame Gao’s support, a character who thus remains one of the most intriguing with little to no information on her at all. For a show so bereft of female characters and with two already being victimized it would be nice to see more of Madame Gao’s influence which is so strong that even Fisk is intimidated by her.
Matt and Ben get there Batman and Commissioner Gordon moment even if I like Daredevil’s version better (sorry Batman fans). Matt gives him as much evidence as he was able to find as the Daredevil to give him, helping them gain momentum in their search to bring Fisk down.
Always a step ahead though Fisk manages to come out on top by announcing himself to the public as a figurehead who wants to make Hells Kitchen a better place. This in turn is damning to Matt who is now the man still lurking in the shadows, framed for multiple deaths. Fisk is declaring “the devil of Hells Kitchen” public enemy number one.
If anything this episode grants us the perfect mirror images of Fisk and Matt and while both of them have similarities, it’s the lessons from their fathers that taught them the most. Both ended up dead and both left their mark on their young and impressionable sons. Fisk was taught that to overcome adversity he must be the literal bigger man and fight back and once his target is down to kick them and then to keep kicking so that they never stand in their way again. Fear and physical dominance is what Fisk learned. Matt on the other hand was raised by a father who never wanted him to fight, who wanted him to succeed with his intelligence rather than his fists. Matt learned that he might get knocked down-a lot-but to never get knocked out and keep his ground. Fisk had a father who was cruel; Matt had a father that adored him. Pride got the best of both. Even the way two characters hold themselves likens itself to their upbring. In Fisk’s fits of rages he reverts back to childlike tantrums, his face curled inwards, shouting and quickly turning violent. He’s a child in an adults body. He still sees the boy who murdered his father, dead eyed and covered in blood and so do we. Matt on the other hand walks like his father, like a boxer, his shoulders hunched, back straight and alert for trouble. Fisk’s stance is ready to attack and Matt’s is ready to defend.