Wilson Fisk, welcome to my television screen. Please don't ever go away.
"In The Blood" is the first in a series of episodes that is about to prove how much of a thrill ride Netflix's "Daredevil" can and will be. The show chose, wisely, to start off small and slowly build up Matt Murdock as lawyer, hero and carrier of Catholic guilt, but the addition of the eventual Kingpin was like a starter's gun for the series.
About 10 years ago, at the end of the genuinely fantastic "Hardcore" story line by Brian Michael Bendis, Murdock chose to describe Fisk this way:
"He'll never quit. He's an animal. No. No, animals learn. He's a force of nature. A hurricane. A monsoon."
That just about sums up my feelings on "In The Blood," as Wilson Fisk, played by Vincent D'Onofrio, blows into town and institutes complete chaos, even though he spends most of the episode speaking in his shaky whisper and trying, with painful awkwardness, to seduce Vanessa the art dealer.
It's Fisk's frustration with the Russians that forces them to take a huge gamble, nearly killing their own man to find out Claire's location. This, of course, leads to Matt pulverizing half the Russian mob to rescue his favorite nurse. Feeling the walls close in, Anatoly decides to accept the future Kingpin's power grab and surrender the organization to him rather than endure his wrath.
And that gets him ... ya know, decapitated by car door.
Let's think about that for a second. Anatoly interrupted Wilson Fisk at dinner... so Fisk decapitated him. With. A. Car. Door.
This version of Fisk, not quite yet the brutal gangster of the comics, not quite the cartoonish mob lord he appears as in "Spider-Man" comics and other Marvel entities, is a spiritual cousin of Tony Soprano. He's a romantic. He has the occasional moral compass. But under his hulking gait, there's a childlike emotional structure, a tantrum that should be harmless except it's encompassed in this being with massive fists and larger influence.
Every time Wilson Fisk blinks, I'm afraid someone might die. And that, is some top-shelf villainy.
Wilson's debut, and the fight scene with Anatoly, are just so mind-numbingly brutal that it's almost easy to ignore the awesomeness that is the A-plot. Vladimir and Anatoly break Comic Book Commandment No. 3: Thou Shalt Not Kindap The Hero's Girl, Lest Thou Have A Vested Interest In Eating Through A Straw For The Next Six Months. And that leads to a pretty excellent sequence of fisticuffs at the Taxi headquarters.
Watching Matt sneak around the garage, taking down mobsters one by one and instilling terror in each one was an almost Batman-like move, one I took extra pleasure in watching given that I'm in love with Claire (or Rosario Dawson, or both) and wanted to see these guys hurt.
The show also artfully sidestepped what could have been a prototypical fight between Claire and Matt after the kidnapping. Claire, who would have had every right to snap on Matt after she was just kidnapped and tortured, actually encourages him to keep pursuing Fisk, while he doubts himself for getting her hurt. I'm glad to see Claire being drawn with this kind of depth early on, especially since it seems like the nurse will be Matty's first love interest.
And why is that? Because Karen Page is off playing junior detective with Ben Urich. I'm not sure how I feel about this incarnation of Karen yet (though Urich's mention of her past makes me think we're headed more toward the comic book version of Matt's great love sooner rather than later), bur Urich is pretty much the man so far. His appear/disappear routine at the auction was as cool as can be, but I also like the idea that this Urich is older, slowed a step and haunted by what his past scoops have done to the people who gave them to him.
The comic book version of Urich seemed almost too smart for his own good. This incarnation, that of a wounded older gunslinger, adds some nice touches to a longtime comic book standby.
Random thoughts without fear
I imagine the next candidates for decapitatation will be Wilson's security team. Nobody frisked Anatoly for a knife? I mean, yeah, I know Fisk isn't dying in Episode 4, but why did you let a Russian mobster in the car with a knife?
A comic book reference you might have missed: Wilson tells Welsey to have "Potter" order him a new suit. That's probably a reference to Melvin Potter. Is the Gladiator coming to Hell's Kitchen?
Foggy didn't have much to do here, but I'm stunned how much I've warmed to the character after the first two episodes. This guy knows, morally, that he doesn't want to work for a massive firm, but can we get this poor man some free bagels to reward his discipline?
I keep forgetting to do this, so we can just pause for a second and applaud the title sequence? An entire city built in blood, which is probably exactly how Matt and Wilson both see the neighborhood they're trying to save.
Follow @JamesQueallyLAT as he consolidates power in or around certain parts of Los Angeles, shaves his head and becomes the West Coast version of Wilson Fisk ... also for breaking news in the real world.