Season One, Episode Six — “Condemned”
By Jarrod Jones. “Condemned” is that special kind of episode, the placeholder, the one that deals solely in character development and nuance instead of propelling a series’ overall arc. It’s a fussy kind of episode, one that has a limited amount of time and space in which to maneuver, so there’s little room to muck about. We’ve seen this before (in episode two), but “Condemned” has a wholly sinister feeling attached to it. As the middle of the road for Daredevil‘s first season, it brings a futility to the notion that Wilson Fisk may be too much for one lone vigilante to handle. And when our broken hero finally gets to share words with the smirking villain, you can almost smell the brimstone. *shoves popcorn in mouth*
WHAT WORKED: “I thought it was time we spoke.” Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) is a man of understatement, but six episodes deep into Daredevil with nary a word exchanged between hero and villain? Kingpin, you ain’t jokin’. In the few short moments that it happened, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) and his unknown nemesis have a tête-à-tête via walkie-talkie that’s as riveting as any face-to-face could ever be. (Plus or minus a few run-of-the-mill superhero cliches.) And from that vantage, Fisk holds all the cards. “I want to save the city. Like you. Only on a scale that matters,” the Bald One says. When we’re standing amid the havoc and destruction the Kingpin has wrought, it’s hard to shake the thought that he may not be right, but he’s probably going to win just the same.
Matt and Vladimir Ranskahov (Nikolai Nikolaeff) are in a real pickle: they’re holed up inside an abandoned building, sitting ducks for a trap the Kingpin just sprung. And wouldn’tcha know it? They aren’t getting along. While this scenario — two sworn enemies forced to work together in order to survive — has been done to death (see: the season two finale of Arrow, that bit in Breaking Bad concerning a bell and a wheelchair, or that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Captain Picard points out the parallel to his predicament and The Epic of Gilgamesh), Daredevil toes the line by kicking dirt all over it. Whether Matt is trying to save Vladimir’s life, or Vladimir is trying to kill the shit out of Matt (three stories! ouch!), we’re invested for the duration. Too bad it didn’t work out for ol’ Vladimir. That guy had salt.
WHAT DIDN’T: While “Condemned” is a suitably tense episode for Matt Murdock, the rest of his supporting cast ends up twiddling their thumbs for the majority of it. Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) spend an evening in the hospital watching the Hell’s Kitchen fallout on television, while reporter Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall) stands around picking his nose with a crew of crooked cops while the bigger story happens inside. As much as the show is doing a fine job of furthering each character in the series individually, juggling them all at once is proving to be far trickier.
“That sounds pretty bad, but I don’t speak Asshole.” – Matt.
“Don’t let up, no matter how much he screams.” “Professional advice, or personal?” “Little of both.” – Claire and Matt.
“Problems… are only opportunities that haven’t presented themselves yet.” Fisk, doling out the bumper sticker wisdom.
“From the moment you put on the mask… you got into cage with the animals.” – Vladimir.
BEST MOMENT: That ending. One thing that Daredevil excels at is finishing hard, leaving the viewer simply panting for more. (You don’t know how hard it’s been watching this series one episode at a time.) And “Condemned” doesn’t disappoint: after dispatching two rogue SWAT officers, Vladimir has gotten his trembling, blood-soaked fingers on an assault rifle, and trains it on our boy Matt. But the bullets inside aren’t for our vigilante, as it becomes abundantly clear to Vladimir that he and his dark companion are on the same side. Vladimir knows he’s going to die very soon, but how he chooses to do it is entirely up to him. That tunnel? Vladimir’s own private Alamo.
EPISODE’S MVP: Matt Murdock. Charlie Cox’s Man Without Fear is an onscreen vigilante with a difference. He’s brutal, swift, and efficient when it comes to knocking scumbags the fuck out, but when it comes to comprehending the depth of evil he’s actually dealing with, Cox keeps showing us that his Murdock is a man still learning how to cope. Staying in a confined area for the entire episode while all of Hell has literally broken loose turns Cox into a pacing panther, only too ready and willing to strike. When Cox is this angry, you can almost feel the heat coming from his breath. Few actors are capable of such a thing, especially in this kind of genre fare.
– At first I couldn’t see any particular reason as to why Ben Urich would use playing cards to chart out his conspiracy board, until he placed the King of Hearts at the top with a pin. Sometimes the show’s subtlety breezes past us like a teasing wind, and sometimes it likes to punch us in the damn dick.
– I wonder how much time Vincent D’Onofrio had to spend inside that big black limo during this season.
– Oh, you can’t fool me, Daredevil. A masked sharpshooter, assembling a rifle with an ace of spades sitting in his knapsack… who do you think you’re kidding?
– So the warden from The Shawshank Redemption was the Owl all along? Why did it take me this long to figure that out? (Thought I kinda doubt that the 69 year-old Bob Gunton will be donning fangs and talons any time soon.)