Things take some ugly turns in “World on Fire,” the fifth episode of Netflix’ Daredevil series. It opens in the aftermath of Claire’s beating. She checks her bruises and wounds, and cleans herself up as best she can. She and Matt end up talking about his powers, how they work, how he sees the world with his gifts. His sort of almost vision is shown, and it really does kind of look like the title, “A World on Fire.” Claire makes a joke that, if that’s all she saw, she might want to punch things, too. They also talk about the strangeness of lawyer by day, vigilante by night. Claire makes a joke about not getting the “rich, playboy” type of hero she has heard about, which could be reference to Iron Man, a subtle joke about DC’s Batman, or just a general funny line. She passes along the name “Vladimir” that she heard while she was a prisoner.
Speaking of the Russians, Wesley pays a call on them for Fisk. Everyone wonders where the missing Anatoly is, although of course Wesley knows. Wesley is there when word comes in that they have found Anatoly’s headless body, with Daredevil’s black mask on it. Now, this is a classic trope, framing a hero for something he didn’t do, but really, how dumb ARE the Russians? First of all, why would he leave such an obvious thing with the body? Secondly, what do they think happened? Daredevil killed Anatoly, somehow or other taking his head off, which isn’t easy, and then left his mask there and walked away with his face, that he’s worked so hard to hide, showing? It’s a minor complaint, and emotional Russians falling for it I somewhat get, but still…
Wesley next attends a meeting of Fisk’s odd little UN of criminals. Gao is displeased to learn of Anatoly’s death, especially since she wasn’t consulted. Fisk assures them all that he has taken steps to ensure the Russians will blame the masked man, and that the Russians’ share in their ongoing enterprise will be split equally among them. It’s interesting that while Fisk is fairly dismissive of most of his group, he goes to great lengths to stay on Gao’s good side. I’m betting there’s more to her than “little old Chinese lady,” and Fisk knows it. It’s also interesting to note how many languages Wesley speaks: English, Chinese, Russian, and Japanese at the least. Smart man, Wesley.
Fisk is good at making plans and anticipating people. The Russians are driving around and hunting Daredevil, focusing all their energy and attention on that. Daredevil ends up fighting some of them in another great action sequence. He pulls off a particularly neat trick with a magazine he yanked out one of their guns. The Russian he ends up interrogating is terrified, begging him not to cut his head off. Daredevil is confused and surprised by this, and then takes off as the cops show up.
In another nice bit of tying episodes together, Karen is having problems with the equipment she bought for the office at the auction. Matt walks in and asks if anyone heard anything about a guy on the streets getting his head cut off. I wonder which was more shocking to him- hearing that it happened, or that he was being blamed for it?
Then we see that rare creature on the series– an actual client for the firm. Elena Cardenas is a nice old lady who is friends with the mother of Sgt. Mahoney, the cop Foggy keeps bribing with cigars. Cardenas’ building is being trashed under the guise of “repairs” to drive the tenants out of their rent-controlled apartments. Nelson and Murdock of course take the case that they likely won’t be paid for. I really am sort of wondering how they’re affording the rent for the office, let alone their own places and food and such.
The lawyers for the shady landlord, Tully, end up being Lanman and Zac; the high-power law firm that Matt and Foggy interned at and left. There’s a great scene of Foggy telling off his ex, who still works there. It’s easy to dismiss Foggy as comic relief, but he’s actually a damn good lawyer, and this shows some of that off.
As Foggy and Karen go to the law firm (and make jokes about sharks), Matt goes to the police station to talk to Mahoney. While Sgt. Mahoney is understandably not always happy to see either Matt or Foggy, he does know about this case and is willing to help. While he’s there, Matt overhears two of the crooked cops talking to a suspect. The cops have some amusing, if dark, banter before they end up killing the suspect/witness for saying Fisk’s name. Matt is shocked, but there’s nothing he can do.
There are a lot of quick scene shifts for the next bit. Foggy and Karen go to help fix up Mrs. Cardenas’ place. Foggy is actually quite the handyman. Hey, a lawyer who can fix sinks? How is he still single? Meanwhile, Daredevil goes after Hoffman, one of the detectives that killed the suspect. It’s a nasty fight. Daredevil isn’t above fighting dirty, and he seems to have a particular dislike of dirty cops. Me, too, so I applaud the scene, which gives Daredevil a few more clues about Fisk.
Also out and about, Fisk and Vanessa have a very weird date that involves wine, guns, and promises of honesty, as well as his father’s cufflinks. I’ve been mulling over their relationship, and here’s what I think. When you get down to it, the love interests that fall for the hero, even though he or she lead a very dangerous life, don’t make a lot of sense at times. I think this is the dark, flip side of that.
Turk, a thug we’ve seen several times, goes to Vladimir. He tells Vlad about a friend of his who works in a chop shop, and the very bloody car he saw. Turk doesn’t know who it belongs to, but says it’s some “big bald white dude.” Things get lost in translation, and Vlad comes away from this believing Daredevil works for Fisk.
While Matt’s senses compensate for a lot of stuff, they have limitations. Matt brings his captured phone from Hoffman back to Claire, and asks her to read the texts to him. Radar sense is nice, but it doesn’t do much for pixels on a screen. After some more debating about Matt’s methods, Claire says she’s not sure she can fall in love with a man who does what he does. He agrees, she shouldn’t. I swear, most of the masked heroes have this “I must be alone” complex.
Karen and Foggy are sort of on a date. I say sort of, because the woman spends a lot of time asking Foggy about Matt. Me, I’d be annoyed if someone was doing that on a date with me. “Hey, thanks for buying me drinks, but tell me more about your friend.” It’s rude, if nothing else.
Things get really nasty from this point on. Daredevil is out beating up Russians, which he’s good at, when he hears them planning to go after Fisk. Before he can try and figure out a way to take advantage of this split in the enemy ranks, Fisk strikes preemptively. He sends some of Gao’s blind workers to the Russians’ various places, and blows them all to hell. Well, them and the surrounding buildings.
The explosions interrupt Foggy and Karen’s night out, as shockwaves and shrapnel do tend to put a damper on things. Vanessa and Fisk watch the fires burn from the windows, and Fisk tells her that the “men who kidnapped a boy in front of his father,” will no longer infect the city. Sure, but there were a lot of folks who got caught up in that had nothing to do with it, something Fisk, and more disturbingly, Vanessa, don’t seem to care about. I think she’s got issues, Vanessa. I’d wonder if she was sociopathic, but she does seem to care for Fisk.
Turk the thug meets up with Wesley, and offers a report with some surprising details for the audience. Fisk and Wesley are slick operators, you have to give them that. Vlad survived the explosions, and staggers out into the streets. Daredevil is right behind, and they have another fight. Daredevil is beating the hell out of Vlad when the cops show up and draw their weapons on them. I guess DD was either too focused on beating Vlad or his senses were scrambled by the blast. It’s a nice cliffhanger to leave things on.
What I liked: As I’ve been saying, the fight choreography is stellar on this series. Foggy has several good scenes, and it’s always nice when a supporting character is allowed to do useful things. Fisk is a very smart foe, and he’s a formidable adversary for Daredevil. They are also doing a nice, subtle job of giving Gao some mystique. The camera work on this show is consistently really good.
What I didn’t: Cardenas, while nice enough, seems to be a walking stereotype/plot device. Karen’s interest in Matt seems odd, and badly timed if nothing else. And while I can sort of understand the Vanessa/Fisk connection, there’s something wrong with the woman if she’s on a second date and going, “Oh, you blow up buildings? Ok. More wine, please.”
The series continues to be really impressive. There are a few nitpicks along the way, but overall it’s one the best hero adaptations out there, certainly up to the quality of the Marvel movies, and surpassing Agents of SHIELD in my opinion. I’ll give this one a 3.5 out of 5.