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Netflix’s ‘Daredevil’ Season 1 Episode 5 Recap: “World on Fire”

Netflix’s Daredevil came out last Friday. My life hasn’t been the same since.

matt claire daredevil

“World on Fire”

In the opening scene, Daredevil expertly navigates its superhero baggage. “You’re not one of those billionaire playboys I hear so much about?” Dawson’s Claire Temple coos, and she could’ve been talking about anybody. But she’s not that lucky. Then she spells out the series’ logline playfully, “lawyer by day, vigilante by night. How does that work?” Really fucking well, it turns out.

Last episode, the not-Night Nurse-but kinda Night Nurse and Daredevil switched roles: Matt took her home and cleaned her up. The next morning, Claire wipes away the condensation and looks at her bruises in the bathroom mirror. It’s a simple, powerful and unapologetically artsy moment, one that would seem out of place in any other Marvel show or movie, but in Daredevil it’s just another beautiful moment.

Sure, we don’t need Claire to blurt, “you see so much,” to Matt, as he matter of fact-ly explains that he can hear her bones move, but it’s forgiven when we finally see what he sees, “a world on fire,” a red, constantly shifting impressionistic painting. Claire probably would hit people too if that’s all she saw. Matt asks her to stay with him until he knows she’s safe, “helluva a way to get a girl to move in,” Dawson making lines sing that would have doomed most actors. Then they kiss for the first time, Temple “wondering when you’d do that.”

Wesley meets with Vladimir, the last surviving Russian brother, wondering where Anatoly is. He doesn’t know his head has been hacked to goo by Wilson Fisk. In a ballsy maneuver, Wesley and Fisk have framed the man in the mask, bringing in his body, the MIB’s mask in his pocket as a calling card. That seems silly, but it works; Vladimir just needed an outlet for his rage and vengeance.

Meanwhile, Fisk meets with Madame Gao, Nobu (Peter Shinkoda) and Leland Owlsley, explaining the situation. That he “knew the Russians would have to removed.” They were too unpredictable. The promise of a greater share in the profits soothes most of their ire. Bob Gunton’s dry and sarcastic Leland Owlsley and Madame Gao’s over-the-top laughs make every scene with them a treat. Of course, every scene is a treat with Daredevil.

The fight choreography is exceptional, and beautiful, and “World on Fire” has another terrific moment to pair with the Hallway scene at the end of Episode 2. The Russians have captured a singing Chinese guy, and from his POV, we see Daredevil attack, in a swirling circular shot of the battle.

The cops eventually arrive, and the man in the mask escapes, leaving one Russian in the hands of Officer Blake (Chris Tardio) and Officer Huffman (Daryl Edwards). Unsurprisingly, Fisk also owns the cops in this city. When the two officers interrogate the kidnapped Russian, he squeals, saying Wilson Fisk’s name. After figuring out whose turn it is, one of the officers punches the other, and then kill the Russian for revealing their boss’ name.

Another front on the war comes to light this episode, with Elena Cardenas (Judith Delgado) walking into Nelson & Murdock. She and her neighbors are being forced out by (conspicuously absent) slumlord Armand Tully, who started construction on the building and then had their workers move out right in the middle due to BS fears for their safety, leaving the building in a mess. Daredevil doesn’t stoop to translating every language, or telling the audience everything that’s said, and it’s been a brilliant way to showcase Hell’s Kitchen’s melting pot of ethnicities. Cardenas is the MVP of this episode solely for calling our favorite sidekick “Senor Foggy,” the greatest nickname of all-time (and dangerously/hilariously close to the Mexican chain Senor Frogs).

daredevil foggy

Foggy and Karen go to the law firm that Nelson and Murdock interned at, and spurned to start their own firm. That would be L&Z (Landman & Zack), where they meet Marci (Amy Rutberg), a bitchy blonde that Foggy used to date. She pushes Foggy around, backed by the powerful leverage of her firm…until Foggy retaliates brilliantly, cutting her down to size, happy to bring them to court, knowing that he and his client, in fact, have the leverage. It’s probably the best moment Foggy has had on the show, and more fodder for Karen to realize that Foggy isn’t so easily jammed into the friend zone. Right?!

Foggy is a Boss this entire episode, visiting Ms. Cardenas and her apartment with Karen, and upon seeing the disaster zone, resolves to put on his plumber hat and help out. In way of thanks, Cardenas makes the two dinner, leaving them alone to eat it. Ms. Cardenas is the best wingman in Hell’s Kitchen, and even Karen can’t deny: this is a date.

A lot of love is in the air this episode and on this show, but it’s not necessarily for our main hero. Fisk meets Vanessa for a second date, and she explains she’s not into liars. Fisk promises he’ll be honest, that she can ask anything, and we know he means it. He loves this girl, and it gives us another wonderful layer to Vincent D’Onofrio’s performance, as Marvel has found their best villain in all the MCU after Loki. D’Onofrio portrays him as a socially challenged, shy man with a stilted, halting speech, suppressing his pent-up aggression like we would suppress a sneeze. The danger is never far from the surface.

Vanessa challenges Fisk, sharing sexual anecdotes to gauge his response and to shock him, and asking after Wesley and his organization (“he’s more than an assistant; he’s a friend”). I hope before the season ends we uncover Wesley’s backstory; Toby Leonard Moore’s measured performance has made his character as indispensable to the show as he is to Fisk. Vanessa has also brought a gun to the date

Turk Barrett pays Vlad a visit, revealing to him that he heard about an SUV with blood and brain spatter in a chop shop, “owned by a big bald white guy.” He claims that the Man in Black works for Fisk, and this is all Vlad needs to gear up for war. Vlad offers up a 1 million ante for the one who can find Fisk, and back at the restaurant, it appears that Fisk’s waiter wants that money.

Instead, Fisk was baiting Vlad all along, bringing the Russians into the danger zone. He and Vanessa watch as Fisk unleashes his next plan to “unlock the city’s potential,” to wash away the city’s ugliness and rebuild. The man-who-will-be Kingpin is a “man with a dream,” and in many ways, it’s not a bad one, or a faulty one. But his methods leave something to be desired if, you know, you have morals. His methods involve watching Hell’s Kitchen burn. To do so, he unleashes a bomb, set off by a blind Chinese man (with help from Madame Gao), destroying city blocks in the process.

Including hitting Ms. Cardenas’ apartment, and tragically interrupting Karen and Foggy’s date. Though, to be fair, it was veering into uncomfortable territory anyway. Foggy was talking up Matt’s prowess with women (he’s a “sexual Rain Man”), and Karen, clearly fascinated with Matt, lives out her fantasy with Foggy, having him touch her face, like how Matt does with women to “see them.” It’s going to be heartbreaking if Karen’s truly just leading Foggy along.

But the blast changes everything, Wilson and Vanessa looking on from a skyscraper, the “world on fire” below, seeing the world how Daredevil does.

You’d think putting Foggy and Karen in mortal peril and killing the entire Russian mob would be a satisfying cliffhanger. But no, this episode dollops on another with Daredevil coming for Vlad, who managed to survive the bomb, swapping fisticuffs. It doesn’t matter who wins; neither does, as the cops have them surrounded.