Season One, Episode Seven & Eight — “Stick”, “Shadows in the Glass”
By Jarrod Jones. It’s a strange feeling that comes with watching the one-two punch that is Daredevil‘s seventh and eighth episodes. On one hand, they both further the mythos set forth by this pretty damned great series, and on the other, well, only one of them is any good. Yeah, “Stick” was easily the weakest entry set forth by the Marvel/Netflix behemoth, but there was profoundly great news to come in the form of “Shadows in the Mirror”. (Despite that buster-ass title.) Even with the first appearance of veteran actor Scott Glenn as Matt Murdock’s aged mentor, Stick, “Stick” kinda stunk. (Though it did beg the question: if two blind men fight in a huge apartment, do they really need the lights on?) “Shadows in the Mirror” gave us a better understanding of the man who would be king. (And further justified the use of the hashtag, #TeamVanessa.)
WHAT WORKED: We spend an awful lot of time with Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) in episode eight, even getting so close as to see what kind of morning person the Kingpin actually is. His repression breakfast, cooked while wearing a particularly beautiful depression kimono, is a gorgeous, meditative sequence that makes us empathize with this rat bastard way more than we should. We also see what use his recently-purchased painting provides him, which is pure, unfiltered tranquility. And focus.
Going back in time to unearth whatever the hell it is Wilson Fisk is repressing shows just how much cash Marvel threw Netflix’s way. “Shadows in the Mirror” gave us a pretty convincing trip back in time, when open windows on a summer night in Hell’s Kitchen might reveal a scumbag taking a belt to his battered wife. The mild attention to period detail was certainly a nice touch, and its use of a Rolling Stones tune to establish mood was a deliberate nod to the earlier work of Martin Scorsese. (And just as likely, his later work. Marty loves him some Stones.)
How Fisk got to Sgt. Mahoney (Royce Johnson) is a beautiful example of just how cold blooded and ruthless the Kingpin can be. “Y’see, he’s more than my partner. He’s my friend. For thirty… thirty-five years,” Mahoney says with a trembling lip. “How much are each of those years to you… in round figures?” is all Fisk has to say before this hardened NYC cop lets the tears spill down his cheeks. In Fisk’s world, no man is beyond defeat. Anyone got a blanket?
WHAT DIDN’T: Stick. Yeah, Scott Glenn is fine actor to cast if jaw-clenching is what you need, but Stick’s hard-ass tutelage bordered on parody as Glenn attempted to filter the script’s more laughable Frank Miller sensibilities. “Smart don’t come out of books, kid,” he growls to poor Skylar Gaertner’s Matt Murdock, who can’t eat an ice cream cone without the dusty codger swooshing his white cane in his face. I get what the show’s attempting to do — infuse more of Miller’s Daredevil work into the show — but the approach is either half-assed, misguided, or worse, both.
Poor Karen. Poor Ben. Their shh-shh whisper talks on the docks are enough to make anyone’s eyes gloss over, what with Karen’s “Union Allied is crooked, Ben!” set on repeat since episode one. I know that Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) and Ben are trying to build a case against Wilson Fisk, and even though they don’t know quite how powerful their opponent truly is, this little subplot is nowhere near as intriguing as watching Murdock punch his way to the truth.
More Union Allied bullshit follows in episode eight, but this time it’s between Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall), the Man Without Fear (Charlie Cox), and about three hundred gallons of rainwater. Why these two men couldn’t take this conversation to a more sheltered location (like, say, the car sitting right next to them) only causes the scene to stroll around the cross streets of Silly and Absurd. Charlie Cox’s Irish lilt starts to filter through his gutteral utterances as he projects over the din of the ceaseless deluge, and Curtis-Hall’s eyes do everything they can to stay open as the water threatens to flush them shut. It’s an unfortunately awkward sequence that needed more gravity than what was offered.
“Whole world around you, Matty, and it’s friggin’ huge. And all you need are the guts to let it in.” – Stick.
“For every expose I had published, there were a dozen that didn’t pan out.” – Ben Urich, foreshadowing.
“I’ve learned a lot since you’ve been gone.” “Like what?” “You’re a dick.” – Matt and Stick, conversing.
“You shot him!” – Sgt. Brett Mahoney. “Technically, we paid someone else to shoot him.” – Wesley.
“It is the clever man who plays the fool. And a foolish woman who does not recognize it.” – Madame
“Get the saw.” – Mother Fisk.
Episode Seven — The fight. Matt’s been taking it on the chin from Stick for nearly twenty years, whether the stodgy ol’ fucker was around or not. Now it’s time for some payback, and Murdock has some new tricks to teach his former mentor. The editing in this sequence cuts fast, keeping Scott Glenn’s stunt double firmly in the shadows, while peppering shots of Glenn giving Charlie Cox what for throughout. It’s a great sequence, and a source of catharsis for those of us who were just fed up with Stick’s bullshit for the last forty minutes.
Episode Eight — That ending. Listening to Ben Urich — a reporter who once meant a good goddamn — begin the lines to an expose meant to dethrone the Kingpin of Crime as the episode mirrors his ideas with the reflection of Fisk putting himself together in his appropriately understated power suit is a chilling indictment of the sentimentality behind the desire to topple those who hold us down. What follows all but confirms it, as Urich deletes the story that should have brought Fisk into the public light. Blame Vanessa (Ayelet Zurer), who makes damned sure that Wilson Fisk puts his house in order. Never challenge a man imbued with the love of an incredible woman.
Episode Eight — Wilson Fisk. Once again, Vincent D’Onfrio’s gentle, but no less monstrous, giant is the villain this show rightfully deserves. Almost fifty days since the show premiered, I somehow still don’t know what’s to come between Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock and D’Onofrio’s Fisk. But the way this show is propping up both men, especially the Kingpin of Crime, odds are it’s bound to be astounding.
– “Well, what about the mother? She dead?” “Well, no, but… that’s another story.” This little exchange between Stick and the nun tasked with caring for young Matt is more than enough to prove that Sister Maggie is hanging around in the periphery somewhere. Maybe in season two.
– I’m more than positive I saw my girlfriend’s eyebrow raise when it was revealed that Matt sleeps in satin sheets.
– I’m also pretty sure Stick is chasing the Hand this episode, though the show’s writers seem to be too afraid to say it aloud.
– That piece that accompanies Fisk’s mornings is paradoxically Bach’s “Unaccompanied Cello Suite no. 1 in G major – Prelude“. In related news, it’s now officially my shower music.
– If Fisk’s tailor seems familiar to you, it’s because he’s Melvin Potter, superhero costume designer extraordinaire and the supervillain Gladiator. No, not that one.
– “Hey, I know how to speak Chinese too, guys.” – Wesley, being useless.