Until now, Matt Murdock was convinced he was fighting a man. But "Condemned" reveals that his nemesis, Wilson Fisk, is far more than a single being.
Fisk is not the head of any one particular snake, instead he embodies all of incorporated corruption in Hell's Kitchen.
Murdock's only weapons are his fists. Fisk fights with institutions he has tainted. The police. TV stations. Money. Various mobs. Murdock may be trying to protect the city, but Fisk's tentacles run so deep he can basically club Murdock with the very institutions he seeks to save.
While the breadth of Fisk's abilities gets a little out of hand in "Condemned" (we'll get back to that), it does give Charlie Cox the chance to show us a different side to Murdock. Our hero is desperate and overwhelmed, struggling to even comprehend what he's facing.
Murdock seems delusional. He's spent the past few hours seeing Fisk act as a de-facto commanding officer over the NYPD. So why does he believe there's a chance Fisk would be convicted at trial? He's too idealistic, too married to the idea that he's the hero, to even realize the opportunities that come his way.
Murdock's desperation makes for an engaging and painful watch, but his forced allegiance with Vladimir is equally magnetic. Whether it's Matt's game of "Operation" with Claire's help by phone, or Vladimir's sneak attack as he baits Matt in close with the information he wants, the bi-play between the two was enthralling. Their crackling dialogue could have easily been my favorite part of the episode ... if not for that radio call.
Our first verbal clash between Fisk and Murdock is powerful because of its one-sidedness. Murdock is completely outmatched by this man, for now. Fisk sees himself as the hero of this story. He's holding all the cards, with an arrogance that seems cutting to the viewer as he dismisses Matt's every comment and insult. He knows he's winning. Murdock may be the one who can read people's heartbeats, yet it's Fisk — without even asking a question — who can tell that Matt hasn't gotten any information out of Vladimir.
If there's one drawback of this episode, it's the immediacy of Fisk's frame job. I can suspend disbelief as to the sheer number of police officers, maybe even journalists, that Fisk has on the payroll. But here's where I struggle: How did he cobble together the tape, enough high-level cops on the take to act as sources to enough questionable reporters, and manage to get NY1 to blame the "Man in the Mask" for the bombings and the police murders in the span of about, well, 30 seconds? It's kind of insane.
I was able to swallow the manipulations Fisk used to take out the Russians in "World on Fire," but I'm a little hesitant to believe Fisk holds all the strings this early in his criminal career.
Random thoughts without fear:
Hey, we have a newspaper reporter character! Let's do that thing where TV crews show up and someone makes a joke about how he's obsolete. Kind of a dated reference, and also, low blow on a personal level.
Murdock's decision to push Claire away (now that he's been branded a terrorist and is very likely to be shot and killed by the cops tonight) makes much more sense here than it did last episode. That erosion was still too quick in "World on Fire."
Foggy's a pretty brave dude here, but his doomed affection for Karen is getting harder and harder to watch.