Saturday, April 11, 2015

Recovering Momentum: "In The Blood" Makes Daredevil Must-Watch!

The Good: Great acting, Decent plot progression, Good characterization/development
The Bad: A bit more plot-heavy than character-driven
The Basics: "In The Blood" finally gives good coverage to Wilson Fisk and Ben Urich has a proper start to his arc . . . with the help of Karen Page.

As a show gets off the ground, it is natural for there to be "growing pains" and some episodes are naturally going to be better than others. With Daredevil, the burden coming into the first season's fourth episode "In The Blood" is recovering from a much shakier third episode. "Rabbit In The Snow" (reviewed here!) might have finally revealed Wilson Fisk, but the episode was largely a legal procedural episode and a dud.

Fortunately, as Daredevil moves into more of a crime drama with "In The Blood," it gets good again. While "In The Blood" delightfully references Iron Man and Thor, it manages to recapture a gritty, realistic street-driven view of a war on crime from a vigilante's point of view. If "Rabbit In The Snow" was like a bad episode of The Practice, "In The Blood" is the superhero retelling of The Godfather. The irony in "In The Blood" is that this episode has a strong A and B plot . . . with Matt Murdock (Daredevil) occupying a far less-compelling C plot!

Eight years ago in a Siberian prison, Anatoly and Vladimir engineer an escape using the bones of one of their dead comrades. Flashing forward to Hell's Kitchen, where Daredevil helps to dispatch members of the Russian mob. He visits Claire Temple afterward to get patched up yet again. Murdock is honest with Temple and tells her that he is looking for Wilson Fisk. Visiting the Russian mob component of Fisk's operation, Wesley defines how Fisk is reorganizing the business interests in Hell's Kitchen.

While Fisk is consolidating his control over his minions, Karen Page gets in touch with Ben Urich again and tries to push him to investigate the company she used to work for (which is one of Fisk's holdings). Desperate to get information about Daredevil - who is hampering their operations - Anatoly and Vladimir wake up their wounded lackey, which leads the pair to Claire Temple's apartment. While Matt Murdock chases after the captured Claire, Karen Page tries to chase the leads to the dissolved company she worked for. Flagged off by Ben, Page retreats to work with him smarter while Matt rescues Claire.

"In The Blood" is a compelling crime drama. The episode is tight and challenging; when it is not acting as a process story for both the investigative reporting plotline and the methodology for assembling a criminal enterprise, it is entertaining and darkly realistic. Claire getting captured is horrifying, especially when she honestly knows nothing about how to find Matt Murdock or who he is and the Russians try to torture her for information. Rosario Dawson makes it tough to watch Claire after she is captured . . . though it is hard not to cheer when she picks up a baseball bat!

While Vondie Curtis-Hall's Ben Urich was introduced in "Rabbit In A Snow Storm," it is in "In The Blood" where he becomes vital and interesting. Curtis-Hall is strong and smart as Urich. In his two biggest scenes, he perfectly embodies experience and professionalism. He is the voice of reason and caution in "In The Blood" and that aspect of realism gives the episode credibility in a way very few superhero stories manage to achieve.

"In The Blood" is also the episode where Vincent D'Onofrio earns his paycheck as Wilson Fisk. Fisk has been slowly introduced as a powerful man who is well-insulated. But if Daredevil is going to bother hiring a big name for the big villain, that it has taken four episodes before he is properly introduced is a bit of a gamble. In "In The Blood," D'Onofrio does an amazing job of embodying both power and human vulnerability. Before anything monstrous is shown regarding the Kingpin, D'Onofrio is able to wonderfully portray humble, nervous ticks that make Wilson Fisk more of a relatable character. D'Onofrio does what is essential for anyone creating a villain; he starts with him as a person with goals, ambitions and a personality that is relatable.

The balance of smart realism and well-paced violence makes for an entertaining hour of television largely because the strength of the performances. The interplay between Deborah Ann Woll and Vondie Curtis-Hall, Vincent D'Onofrio and Ayelet Zurer (Vanessa), D'Onofrio and Toby Leonard Moore, and Charlie Cox and Rosario Dawson makes what could be a boring drama flow and be incredibly watchable. After a shaky episode, "In The Blood" makes Daredevil viewers desperate for the next episode!

For other works with Vincent D'Onofrio, be sure to check out my reviews of:
The Judge
The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman
The Cell
The Thirteenth Floor
The Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3
"The Subway" - Homicide: Life On The Street
Men In Black

[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!


For other television episode and movie reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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