At this point, the similarities between Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk both wanting to make their city a better place have been repeated a few times. Yep, they’re two sides of the same coin; we get it. Well, there’s another strong tie that binds; they both have serious daddy issues. Matt’s came earlier and now we get to see a big reason why Fisk is who he is. I mentioned there may have been a hint at potential childhood trauma on the fourth episode recap, and my, my; “hint” seems so wrong after this. In addition, Matt ends up in Karen and Foggy’s (and Ben’s) investigation, and Fisk’s grip on his empire starts loosening, creating tension among the consortium in “Shadows in the Glass.”
I love Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Suites. I’ve played most of Suite no. 1 in G Major, the Sarabande used to be my jam, but the Prelude is by far the most famous of all and it always makes me shiver with nostalgia and joy when I hear it. I had a goofy smile as it came on when Fisk begins his robotic OCD morning routine in his kimono — foreshadowing his ties to Asia?
A gourmet omellette and breakfast, passing his sea of suits, his collection of cuff links even though he seems to only pick one pair, all the while calmly sailing on Bach. All is well. Then as he finishes, a bloody little boy stares at him from the mirror.
Karen and Foggy are talking about the case — specifically about not telling Matt — not realizing that the dude with super hearing is almost in the office. They give in and let him in on the investigation and Matt is not (rather, he acts like he’s not) happy with the news and is concerned for his colleagues’ safety. He makes a rule that whatever they find, they will run through the legal system. We of course know he’s just protecting his crew and wants to leave the extra-legal activities to himself. He suggests they start digging through all of the various subsidiary companies’ assets to try to find any connections with Union Allied.
Fisk and Nobu are not doing so well. Nobu comes at him hard about the Black Sky fiasco and accuses him of disrespect. Wesley gets worked up at the disrespect to his bromance partner and tells Fisk he doesn’t like his tone. He tells Fisk while the Russians, Gao, and Owlsely all have their roles, he doesn’t understand where Nobu fits in. Fisk tells him: “He’s a necessary evil.” Another nudge at Fisk’s ties with Japan?
Later, we get a brief introduction to Mr. Potter the tailor working on a new suit for Leland Owlsley. A green suit that is made of special polymers creating kinetic energy, Potter tells him. Owlsley tells Fisk Potter’s a half idiot and Fisk hits back with “it’s the other half that counts.”
Next, he airs out his concerns too feeling the pressure of double crossing the Russians and tensions with Nobu. He tells Fisk that if he falls, the money falls with him.
Wesley enters and announces there has been a complication, and Leland’s impatience hits its peak with a few great one liners. It turns out that Detective Blake — the cop they own but also shot — came out of his coma. They were able to spin it that he was shot by the man in black. Owlsley is not convinced and is paranoid about what the cop could do to them and shouts: “Well let’s have a parade!” Fisk is not amused by the attitude, but tells him it will be handled and that he’ll put extra bodyguards on The Owl.
Fisk meets with the Detective Hoffman, Blake’s partner, and explains the importance of the situation and that he must deal with it. The cop tells him they’re tight and that he’s known him for 30 years. Fisk seems sympathetic and then responds by asking him how much each of those years is worth. Damn. He gets in to the room with his favorite hoagie, but once in, pulls out the hidden syringe and gives his amigo the kiss of death. While in the process, Matt in black appears and chokes his ass out. As the cop begins to die from the drug, Matt convinces him to take his last opportunity to do something right and give him something he can use before he dies.
Now we begin our flashbacks to Fisk as a boy and his family, including his father Bill, played by The Wire’s Domenick Lombardozzi. You’re making it too easy for me Marvel and Netflix; I’ve been dropping The Wire comparisons since recap one and you give me Detective Herc? Well, for a misogynist, child-abusing, piece of shit wife-beating deadbeat dad, he’s pretty good. And once again like in The Wire, he’s going to take some dirty money and have to pay some consequences. How could I not award him the Golden Broken Arm?
Well, familia Fisk is not the happiest of homes sometime in the ’70s. Bill’s a potty mouthed short fused jerk and is tired of being shit out of luck. Mom is treated like crap, but is very loving and protective of her little Willy, who her husband routinely puts down as fat and stupid. Papa Fisk decided outside of joining the mob, running for city council of Hell’s Kitchen is the next best way to become a made man because he saw his buddy make it big. However, he takes a loan from the mob and Mr. Rigoletto, but no big deal. Rigoletto is an avid supporter of the everyman of the neighborhood.
After he loses the election, we see Willy all beat up and he tells his folks a kid was knocking his dad’s signs down and calling his dad a loser so he confronted him and got beat up. Papa Fisk gets him up with some protest from Mama and tells Willy to lead him to the punk. They both confront the kid and he says he was just repeating what his dad said. Bill tells the kid the people couldn’t see what he could bring, a guy that “puts himself out there.” It really is a nod to Willy Loman, but instead of the insanity staying in his head, it goes to Bill’s fists.
The kid swings a bat that he blocks, and he immediately starts to unload on the kid. Willy is screaming for his dad to stop, but it seems to fuel him more. It’s not as violent as the other rougher scenes, but it’s equally hard to watch simply because a grown man is abusing a teen. He eventually grabs the bat, knocks him with it some, and then holds him down and tells Willy “it’s people like this that want to keep you down.” Followed by a demand to “kick him. Keep kicking him!” And the poor reluctant boy does.
But wait, there’s more! Mama asks Bill about the loan to Rigoletto he’s now behind on and that sets him off again and he tells her to get to the bedroom while he tells Willy to stare at the wall and think about what he wants to be “a king, not a pussy.” He adjusts his cuff links and proceeds to beat the hell out of his wife while Willy keeps staring at the wall. A trauma so deep, Fisk continues to play it out as part of his daily Bach routine each day when he awakes and stares at Vanessa’s “Rabbit in a Snowstorm.”
All of these Fisk flashbacks culminate with the birth of the monster. Yet another time Bill starts attacking his wife, Willy decides enough is enough, finds a hammer on the ground, and make’s his dad’s head the nail multiple times. We see our boy from the mirror as he repeats his dad’s line to “keep kicking him!” while the father’s blood flies.
Very sad and hard to watch and yet, is he not justified? Was it not self-defense and in defense of his mother? What would you do? Is Fisk truly the villain? Perhaps more an antihero? Do his origins and trials not seem like that of the usual hero’s origin story? How fucking amazing is it that a superhero show makes you even ponder these things?!
Even though Fisk rids the world of a monster and becomes another one (another common theme with Matt) as a consequence of these actions, we’re still left with strong feelings of empathy and sympathy for young and old Fisk. Incredible stuff from the production team. It’s a new game for the entire genre. Then, Mama gives Wilson the cuff links and tells him to get the saw. WTF? Whoa.
A new day and after finishing the routine, Wesley lets Fisk know Madame Gao wants a word and that she’s already on her way; an action already upsetting to Fisk since he normally controls the meetings. It starts light about tea, but quickly Gao jumps all over the chess board and has Fisk in check in no time. She calls him out saying she knows he speaks Mandarin and then hits him in English with “it takes a clever man to play the fool.” Fisk wonders how many languages she speaks and she tells him all languages. Interesting.
To keep the language party moving she goes after him in Japanese too, pressing him as to whether Nobu knows he speaks it or not.
She asks him how he thinks she figured out where he lives, one of his best kept secrets. No spells. She tells him he’s simply getting sloppy like the Russians. Fisk is quivering like the child he is, clearly outmatched and scared. She tells him to get the house in order or she’ll deal directly with Nobu and Owlsley. Too overcome by all the emotions of his dreams of childhood trauma and now being sent to a timeout by Gao, after she leaves, Fisk snaps and flips the table where they were sitting screaming. Issues.
Wesley appears unsummoned, which annoys him, but he tells him he doesn’t need to sometimes. Aww. He leads Vanessa in and after she reminds him to be honest with her. He tells her he’s afraid. He goes on to tell her the whole story of murdering his dad, being sent to the farm afterwards, and being paranoid that people want to expose him and destroy everything he’s built. There’s a moment where he yells “I’m not a monster!” and then D’Onofrio puts on this heart wrenching look and asks Vanessa, “Am I?”
After the flashbacks, you almost forget all the horrible stuff he’s done and I’ll admit; I teared up. D’Onofrio has yet another amazing performance tying the history of his childhood trauma into his character’s present mental health difficulties. Vanessa comforts him and tells him nobody is going to bring him down.
As Ben Urich is talking to his editor, he drops his phone, gets up, and Matt in black is there. He tells him they need to talk and Urich calls him the devil of Hell’s Kitchen. Matt explains he has been in the wrong places, but is trying to help which leads to his point of telling Ben they need to work together to expose Fisk. Of course, Urich has no clue who that is and Matt tells him he hides in the shadows. “Said the man in the mask,” says Urich.
Curious why the masked man chose him, Matt tells him because of his connections. Ben puts it together and tells him Karen is a good kid. Ben tells him they need reliable sources to drag Fisk to the light. Matt mentions Owlsley, the Wall Street guy as Ben knows him, and tells him that before Blake died, he gave up Fisk. He adds that once the city knows who he is, they’ll tear him apart.
The ending is a great layered piece with Urich’s excellent monologue of the piece he’s typing on top of Fisk and Vanessa waking up together and watching her break his zombie Bach routine ending with her picking out a lighter (on the way to white??) suit and different cuff links for him.
As he’s finished typing his report, Fisk pops up on TV and there’s a press conference with the big guy and his entourage talking about standing up to fear, not giving up on the dream, making citizens feel safe, and focusing on poverty and crime. He ends with: “My name is Wilson Fisk.”
Well played again Mr. Fisk. Again a step ahead. His entire exposé now useless, Ben clicks delete. Matt’s turn to throw a tantrum.
Devil in the Details:
- The green suit Potter begins for Owlsley is a nod to The Owl’s costume in the comics.
- Also, there’s a movie poster in the background of the shop that says “Battle of the Gladiators.”
- Hearing that Madame Gao speaks all languages and dabbles in magic is more confirmation of her tie-in to one of the Cities of Heaven in Iron Fist’s universe.