We've spent the bulk of "Daredevil" watching Wilson Fisk puppeteer the police, media and every other organization tied to Hell's Kitchen, so it's easy to forger that our eventual Kingpin wasn't always master of all he surveys.
One episode after we learned how Matt Murdock grew from a traumatized child into a force to be reckoned with in the Hell's Kitchen underworld, the series takes us deep into the history of its chief antagonist, showing us that the Wilson we know today was also formed long before he hit puberty.
"Shadows In The Glass" takes us back to the day's when "Mr. Fisk" went by Willie, a stammering overweight child who was a punching bag for his classmates and a shame to his all-too-proud and none-too-smart father (played by Dominic Lombardozzi of "The Wire").
The flashback scenes, intercut between conversations with Nobu, Leland and Madame Gao that show all is not well in the Fisk criminal empire, paint an interesting parallel between Wilson's origin story and Matt's. Stick and Bill Fisk are similar in some regards - both are brutal taskmasters, both have unwavering worldviews, and both lack anything resembling sympathy for the youngsters in their care.
Of course, Stick is a socially inept militant and Bill Fisk is an abusive bully with a corrosive personality, but the pain they visit upon their young charges will shape the men they are today. Matt's compulsion to fight for others is in part driven by the fact he knows fighting for no one will make him as lost as Stick. Wilson learned brutality from his father, even though he hopes to remain stoic about it to retain the humanity Bill Fisk lost chugging too many cheap beers all too long ago.
Just as "Stick" made sense of a lot of Matt's tics, "Shadows In The Glass" gives reason for the cracks in Fisk's normally smooth armor. We've seen Wilson devolve into child-like rage before (specifically when he killed Anatoly) and now we know where it comes from. He is reliving the moment where he killed his father over, and over again.
The moment will not leave him. It's the same reason he wakes up and sees that bloodied boy in the mirror every morning. Same reason he placed the "Rabbit In A Snow Storm" painting, which is really just the wall from his childhood home, over his bed.
But while he may be stuck in that moment mentally, the Wilson we see today can be guided out of it. With a helpful nudge from Vanessa and Wesley, (whose balance of sleaze to everyone else and caretaker to Wilson is growing more interesting by the week) he manages to avert a public relations nightmare and bring his "house in order" as Gao commanded just before it all came crashing down.
The moment where young Wilson kills his father might be the most gruesome and enthralling scene of this show to date, though "Shadows In The Glass" rests largely on those flashback moments. Matt doesn't do anything of note in the present day, and while Wilson's clashes with Gao and the always-entertaining Leland are amusing, D'Onofrio gets a little hammy as he grows enraged over his conspirators' countermeasures. I was starting to worry he was going to yell "I am not an animal!" while crying to Vanessa.
Still, another strong episode. But I'm a little concerned that, between this one and "Stick," we've now had two episodes in a row with semi-serious flaws after the smooth run of the season's first six episodes.
Random Thoughts Without Fear:
Journalist Pet Peeve: Urich was really going to write a story (and/or opinion column?) damning Fisk as the man behind all that ails Hell's Kitchen on the say-so of a vigilante/wanted terrorist? Yeah ... that's how libel suits happen.
Introducing Melvin Potter (aka the Gladiator) as the man behind Fisk's knife-proof suit (I'd been wondering why Anatoly's knife failed way back in "In The Blood."). Also, let's hope Leland trying on the green suit was just an Easter egg. This incarnation of Owlsly is fantastic, and he needs to not mutate into the actual "Owl" villain from the comics.
I am still not in love with Karen Page. I may be the only one. Is something wrong with me?