The Good: Good performances, Good plot development
The Bad: Not much in the way of character development
The Basics: The first contact between Wilson Fisk and Matt Murdock occurs in "Condemned" and the episode plays as a chess match during Hell's Kitchen's most violent night.
How do you make an episode after you hit the peak in a season of television? In the wake of "World On Fire" (reviewed here!), Daredevil had to wrestle with that and their answer was "Condemned." Instead of a big episode full of movement, "Condemned" takes Daredevil in a dark, quieter direction that belabors resolving the deep pit Matt Murdock was tossed in at the climax of the prior episode.
"Condemned" opens in the last second of the prior episode with Matt Murdock in his black vigilante about to be arrested by the police in Hell's Kitchen. After being cuffed, Murdock manages to break out of police custody and as news breaks about the explosions throughout Hell's Kitchen, Ben Urich realizes that the destruction is mob related. While Murdock interrogates Vladimir, Foggy Nelson and Karen Page bring Cardenas to the hospital. When a new officer walks in on Murdock and Vladimir, Murdock ends up surrounded by the police and the media while he tries to get information on how Fisk runs everything in Hell's Kitchen.
After a tousle with Vladimir, Murdock finds a way out when he is contacted by Fisk. Fisk frames Murdock for the bombings and a subsequent shooting of police officers that he orchestrates.
"Condemned" does a good job of embodying Wilson Fisk as a man with a plan, who is forced to adapt to ever-changing circumstances. Fisk is not the Kingpin yet and when he is forced to admit that Vladimir's survival means complications for him with Gao. Fisk owes Gao a debt and he openly acknowledges he needed her help to take out Vladimir and the Russians in Hell's Kitchen. That makes for a deeper adversary than most "villain of the week" enemies on something like Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D..
One of the wonderful aspects of "Condemned" is that the depth and nature of Murdock's ethics is revealed. Vladimir accuses him of murder and Murdock makes a point of telling the Russian that he does not kill and he won't even kill Vladimir. The high-minded ethics come up when Murdock needs Claire's help in stabilizing Vladimir and the fact that he is up-front with her about the fact that he is using her to save the man who had her tortured in "In The Blood" (reviewed here!). Murdock does not try to hide the truth from her and he lets her choose to do the right thing.
Another intriguing aspect of "Condemned" is how far ahead Urich is of the protagonist. In the course of the episode, Murdock learns most of the connections that Urich has made based on his interrogation of Vladimir, but Urich's investigative reporting puts him ahead of Murdock's interrogation methods.
"Condemned" has small character moments and is otherwise very plot-driven. The episode deals almost exclusively with repercussions of the prior episode and then advancing the characters to a new position for the next episode. It is like a chase episode without much in the way of distance or movement. Interrogation episodes are tough to do for television to do other than a plot-based episode, though Star Trek Deep Space Nine made a perfect episode with "Duet" (reviewed here!) by making an interrogation episode into something much bigger thematically. "Condemned" manages to keep the episode engaging, despite there not being a lot of movement by spreading the plot threads out and making the episode feel like the various sides are making slow moves on a board.
Charlie Cox is good as Matt Murdock and the ultimate challenge he faces in "Condemned" is to make Murdock's small moves in the episode seem significant. Murdock is near the limits of his endurance in "Condemned" and Cox plays him masked the entire episode. His whole posture changes to that of a beaten man and it is only in the final moment of the episode when he has the information he needs that Cox reverts to a more powerful stride.
"Condemned" is a very basic episode of television; it's not bad, but it is plot-heavy and it is not exactly going to make Daredevil fans. Instead, it plays as a crime procedural episode where the serialized plotline requires the protagonist get something to take forward into the next episode that is essential and the rest of the episode just has the characters getting out of the crap situation they found themselves in before. In other words, "Condemned" is an average-at-best episode of television.
For other works with Deborah Ann Woll, be sure to check out my reviews of:
[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Daredevil - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season of the Man Without Fear here!
See how this episode stacks up against other television episode and movie reviews from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, please visit my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page where the reviews are organized from best to worst!
© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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