The Russian that we love to hate ends up taking one for team Murdock in “Condemned.” We get our first Fisk/Murdock confrontation (via walkie talkie), get to see Urich working the case, and in my opinion, get the best Easter Egg of them all to this point.
The way the last episode ended, it looked like our Matt in black was screwed with the cops showing up. Until you remember, “Oh wait, Fisk owns a bunch of the cops.” Yep, these cops. As soon as he hears they’re to leave no witnesses, right as one handcuff clicks on, he takes them out no problem. This leads to him tossing a near-dead Vladimir over his shoulder and running around looking for a hideout as the cops wake up and call for more backup to start a man hunt. Men hunt?
He finds an old beat-up place and Matt and Vladimir share some banter. Mostly, he still thinks he killed his bro, so he’s a little harsh in whichever language he’s swearing at him in. “That sounds pretty bad, but I don’t speak asshole.” Matt tells him. He then tries to convince him that first, he didn’t kill his brother, and next, he thinks Fisk did so and they share a common enemy. Vladimir happens to be bleeding out, and he goes into shock and nearly dies. Good thing Claire is only a phone call away.
She’s very pissed about how he’s been a dick to her, but talks Matt though stabilizing him. He has to cauterize the wound to stop the bleeding and happens to find a flare in the abandoned mess. She tells him it’s not like the movies and he laughs and tells her it’s been a while since he’s seen a movie. Cute. Now burn baby burn. That’ll leave a mark.
In the hospital, Claire and the other staff are just a little occupied tending to all the victims of the explosions including Karen, a very injured Foggy, and Ms. Cardenas. Foggy is determined to go find Matt, but can barely move. “Hell of a first date.” He tells Karen. “I’ve had worse.” she responds.
A cop that’s not on Mr. Fisk’s payroll hears Vlady’s screams once the flare touches him and calls it in before going to check it out. The poor lone good cop in the show ends up in quite the clusterfuck. He gets beat down and tied up by the man in black. Matt gives him a chance to call of the cops on his walkie and tell them “nothing to see here,” but he doesn’t. So, he gets knocked the fuck out and now every cop is on the way. Not a good day for Mr. Murdock.
Ben Urich’s gears are turning and we get the first glimpse at “the wall.” He’s set up playing cards trying to make the ties and connections in the Union Allied scheme. Big question mark on the king (nice touch), and then there’s a joker card for the man in black. While some lines are connecting nicely, he’s not sure how to place those two.
Urich and the cops don’t have the friendliest of relationships from some of his past work in corruption exposés and we see it play out with two cops tied to Fisk. Wesley gets wind of this and passes it on to the man himself, who says he has ways of dealing with Urich. He has Wesley call in every media outlet he can think of to essentially create a hostage situation with live coverage to discredit whatever Urich eventually writes. Always a step ahead.
Vladimir comes to, starts saying his first of a few “This is not how I die.” lines, and has a great one about the hypocrisy of Matt not killing him, yet wanting him dead, but needing him alive for the information. He tells him he’s just like Fisk. The common theme returns. Matt tries to explain he’s different and Vlady tell him you’re a man, you’ll get there. Matt’s issue with killing is right from the comics, but it’s never been tackled as powerfully as it is in the series. More to come on this, I’m quite sure.
Once he realizes he did save his life, Vladimir tells Matt how Fisk owns most of the cops, some politicians, how he’s in with the heroin trade with the Chinese and he mentions the name Leslie Shumway. Clearly, Vlady knows Matt is leaning on every word and thinks he has his trust. So, now would be a great time for a headbutt.
For a recently reanimated corpse, Vlady’s fighting pretty well. They tussle a little, but not before falling through the floor of the shithole they’re in and dropping a few stories. Both are messed up from the fall. Once again, Vlady goes limp. Matt pounds the chest and brings him back again. It gets a little ridiculous at this point, (the “merely a flesh wound” from Monty Python and the Holy Grail comes to mind), but the relationship of these two enemies is so captivating, you want just a little bit more.
In the end, it was lucky they crashed through those floors because soon after the place is crawling with cops armed to the teeth. It doesn’t end well for the still tied up Officer Friendly as Fisk PD get to him first. Oh, and Friendly’s walkie also goes down with them, that’s important. As they come to, Matt can hear all the heartbeats and cop chatter, but he focuses his super duper ears on sounds below them and detects water. Tunnels or a sewer. He starts looking for a hole when the walkie comes on: “I’d like to speak with the man in the mask.”
Albeit via walkie, we get out first Daredevil/Kingpin — well, Murdock/Fisk — interaction. For the second time in the episode, we hear the we’re not so different idea this time from Fisk. “We’re nothing alike.” again from Murdock. He tells Matt he respects his conviction, but there’s no fairy tale happy ending for him. He tells him how the city has been blown to hell and there’s a masked man running around. It’s already set-up. But, he’ll make it all go away if he kills Vladimir for him. “Call the day a push.” Fisk tells him. The calmness in D’Onofrio’s Fisk again is bone chilling and he clearly has the upper hand, but Matt basically tells him to fuck off.
Always a step ahead, he gives Wesley a nod, and the game is increased a level. A sniper from the roof shoots one of the aforementioned dirty cops right in front of Urich and takes out a few others too. More on that later, but not only is the man in the mask now a terrorist, he’s also a cop killer. It’s like a Fox News wet dream and all the media Fisk assembled is playing the part. Matt is condemned. See that? Yeah, I was waiting with that one. A smaller, but still well planned and orchestrated movement in the Symphony of Destruction by Fisk and Wesley.
Vlady somehow gains the strength (okay, sure, he’s only died twice) to help Matt in black with the cover of sewer hole and they begin their journey to try to outrun the cop army. In the hospital Foggy and Claire see video of the man in black and headlines of a terrorist wreaking havoc on Hell’s Kitchen. Claire immediately calls Matt. This is where Matt comes to the realization of how deep of a hole he’s in and considers this may be the end. He and Claire have a bitter sweet moment. He apologizes, but says she was right and that for her safety, he can’t love her. Sigh. The roller coaster of action, drama, even the damn romance on this show: incredible.
As they’re moving through the tunnels with cops close behind, a couple cops catch up. Matt in black acrobatically disarms and takes them out and Vlady ends up with one of the cops’ machine guns on Matt. Great tension in this moment; what’s it going to be? Matt says we don’t have time for this, but Vlad tells him, this feels right; this is how he dies. Vlady gives him Owlsley’s name and says a great line: “Animals don’t stop fighting until one is dead.” He tells Matt to go.
Then, while singing a tune in Russian, he has his Scarface moment, and how could you not root for him? The Vladimir character easily could have been written off as a stereotypical goon in that first episode. Instead, he gets flashbacks, great depth, our sympathy, and goes out redeemed in a fucking blaze of glory. I’m running out of glasses to raise to DeKnight and crew.
Devil in the Details:
- WHIH News on the hostage scene. They’ve also appeared in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Iron Man, and The Incredible Hulk.
- Okay, the biggest and most important one to date: I’ll admit, I had to replay it (woohoo Netflix!), but did you catch that split second with the sniper as he’s setting up the gun?
- The bag? Yes: that is a playing card. If only there were a villain in Daredevil’s universe that never missed a shot, hits the bullseye every time if you will, that also has a thing for cards…