Marvel’s Daredevil: Season 1 Episode 3 “Rabbit in a Snowstorm”
When Healy first shows up in this bowling alley, my first thought was to feel bad for him. I thought, “This poor idiot is gonna get his ass kicked.” Maybe I should have seen it coming, but I was genuinely surprised when he turned out to be Jet Li in a Ron Howard suit.
I was also pleasantly surprised to see the return of the human trafficker (there’s a string of words I don’t write often) from the first episode. Since I’m not in the habit of watching credits, I almost jumped out of my chair when he said his name – Turk Barrett. None other than Daredevil’s go-to underworld pigeon and comic relief during Frank Miller’s run (although he had a string of appearances before that featuring his inept schemes).
Anyway, what a brutal opening fight! Goddamn. From the grisly crunch of the broken arm with the bone poking out to the face-smashing with the bowling ball, it was a terrible mess of regular, but skilled, humans doing terrible things to each other. And though Daredevil doesn’t appear in this cold open, his spectre haunts the scene through Healy’s quick line to the cops: “I want a lawyer.” Oh-HO! I wonder who that will be?
Thus opens our third episode of Marvel’s Daredevil, a show with an IP so indescribably important that they put which comics giant owns it right in the title – just in case DC tries to claim later that they made the show. After a quick and pointless(?) talk between Matt and that same priest from the quick and pointless scene from the pilot, the show moves on to more interesting characters like…
…Ben Urich! This episode turns out to be a good spotlight for Miller’s supporting players. As per usual, the casting seems to have done a fantastic job. Vondie Curtis-Hall has a run-down look in his eyes that still glow with the embers of a journalist’s desire for truth. I also appreciate how modern his look is. Though Urich in the comics is not necessarily someone who couldn’t still exist, visual elements of the character – such as his oversize trench and thick, square glasses – are starting to make him look a little like an accountant hiding out in a crime noir film.
This episode also finds Karen in a spot of legal trouble, following that little slip of hers where she gave out confidential company information to a privately-owned newspaper. Although I love Karen and I appreciate that she decides to sort this out without running to the men in the show for help, I can’t say I was very engaged with this arc. It’s just not very interesting watching Karen politely argue with a corporate lawyer when we’re waiting to see a superhero use blind karate on a hit man who just used a bowling ball to crush his target’s face.
One fascinating aspect of this episode is we have the first point of contact between Fisk’s yuppie right hand and the Nelson & Murdock team, and he has never been skeevier. I mean, it’s weird enough he won’t give out Fisk’s name, but now he won’t give out his own name? Do they just take your name away when you sign up with this crime empire? Matt is as predictably frosty to the nameless yuppie’s offer as virtually any thinking person would be, and ends up tailing him by the sound of his ticking watch until he jumps in a convoy of SUVs.
So in this way, the two cash-strapped lawyers come to their first real case, defending an obvious murderer. Foggy (who looks more and more like a child pretending at being a grown-up the more he grows out his hair) has second thoughts despite his earlier eagerness to actually make some money, but Matt wants to get his fingers into the underworld and takes the case.
Seeing the two finally work their pipes in court is a lot of fun, although with no confidante to speak of, I’m sometimes confused as to what Matt is trying to accomplish. Ultimately, it seems he’s trying to “defend” his client with a very heavy wink to the jury. His closing argument is something like, “He’s a real jerk-face, maybe. He’s a real piece of work. But is he guilty? Sure, he’s a mean, grumpy, mean idiot. Sure. But not-innocent? Okay, yes, he’s a big, dumb, jerky-jerk jerkface with jerk on the side…”
Meanwhile, we have a development that immediately piqued my interest – Karen goes to Ben Urich for help in her struggle with her former company. I’m pretty excited about this potential team-up. This episode is giving me a lot of love for the “normals” of the show, and it’s great when a superhero show allows someone to be effective without wearing their underwear on the outside of their pants.
Despite Matt giving a great not-defense, Healy goes free, and it’s up to “the man in the black mask” to beat some justice out of him.
It’s a good fight scene, although it lacks the desperation and urgency of Daredevil’s earlier battle with Rance the assassin. However, I’m happy to interpret Matt’s easier victory here as evidence of his growing skill at kicking people.
And then, finally, Wilson Fisk makes his first appearance. Interestingly, we almost feel him before we see him, since the panicked Healy, after giving up his name, kills himself by throwing his face through a spike. I mean, it’s ridiculous shock-value stuff, but I had to remember to close my jaw so I guess it worked. Immediately after finally learning his name, we get our first look at the Kingpin, and it’s…a little underwhelming.
Vincent D’Onofrio doesn’t quite measure up to the impressive stature of the comics’ crime boss. Not that any human being could equal the four-color Kingpin’s gargantuan dimensions, but D’Onofrio doesn’t even look especially big among regular people. Perhaps a less professional wrestler-like appearance was a conscious decision of the showmakers?
Then there’s his voice. The Kingpin has traditionally been depicted with a deep, rolling set of pipes. From his low growl in the Spider-Man animated series of the ’90s to Michael Clarke Duncan’s deep, commanding tones in the 2003 Daredevil flick, Fisk’s thick voice has always commanded as much respect as his size. D’Onofrio’s harsh near-whisper doesn’t carry the same weight. Finally there’s his eyes. The alert, churning intelligence of Fisk doesn’t seem to be in them. This Fisk looks brutish and dull, like he popped some Ambien before stumbling into that art gallery.
I’m not sure what the show expected me to feel about him at this point, but this probably wasn’t it. I’m hoping there’s more to this iteration of Kingpin than meets-the-eye.
It’s a pretty low-key episode overall. Basically this plays out much, much more like a court drama than a superhero show. It was a little boring, but I’m also glad they’re executing on this thing like it’s an adult product. It takes more than R-rated scenes to make a program that is actually mature.
By the way, wasn’t everyone in the show up the entire night before? Except for a couple injuries that barely slow Matt down and Foggy off-handedly mentioning his hangover, it appears no one in Daredevil actually requires sleep.