Review by Logan
“A Russian brother is dead; not just dead, but beheaded. A crime of passion, of rage. When the live brother’s anger comes down, who will be the one to pay?”
That sounds like the synopsis of a noir crime drama, set in the backdrop of the mob genre that was so popular in the 1970s. There’s a reason for that. The showrunners of Daredevil have said that they want to make the show essentially a crime drama. The interplay that we see is largely between mob bosses and this vigilante in a black mask, an uneasy battle between corruption, justice, and violence. And if anything is spelled out for us more in “World on Fire,” it’s corruption.
Granted, that’s not exactly a new theme for the show. We’ve seen hints that the police had been bought out by some faction of Wilson Fisk’s conglomerate, but now we see it explicitly. We knew that the Russians had forced Claire out of her apartment, but now we see her forced to live with a friend. On and on it goes. And more importantly, much more importantly, we see firsthand how Matt Murdock does, at times, feel a strong sense of helplessness and incapability, even being an essentially superpowered vigilante.
And the corruption here runs deep; very deep. So deep in fact that even the bad guys are double-crossing each other, with Fisk passing the murder of the Russian off on Daredevil, leading the “unpredictable” mobster to be left off-balance when he finally shows his hand. The other gang members go along with Fisk in this matter, leaving us as the audience with a somewhat chilling conclusion: even when Daredevil wins, is it only because he and Fisk happen to be on the same side at the moment?
But for all of the episode’s explorations of the corruption, it almost becomes lost in the drama, sacrificing message for finesse. That’s to be expected to a certain degree in a comic book-based show, but as was referenced earlier, this is meant to be more a crime drama than a superhero drama. It’s notably less colorful, less optimistic, and substantially more violent. And in this vein, by becoming too lost in the back-stabbing of the villains and focus on Wilson Fisk’s love life, we start to lose the steam that had been built up earlier in looking at the spiritual conflicts of our masked vigilante. This distraction becomes ever more pronounced as we descend into a subplot revolving around a poor Hispanic woman and her plight in being forced out of her apartment. It’s entertaining to see Karen try to remember Spanish and Foggy at his best as a lawyer, but it also, to some degree, detracts from the central story.
And so this is a good piece of a crime drama, showing how villainous villains really are, and how maybe bad really isn’t so attractive after all, but what the show needs at this point is a return to the show’s central character. We need more exposition on the spiritual conflicts of Daredevil, the struggles within himself, and how that relates to his faith. It’s not lost, not yet, but it is bordering on too much distraction.