To start, if I had to pick the weakest episode of the 13 episode season of Daredevil, “Condemned” would be the one. While obviously still solid, this episode doesn’t have the choreography, dramatic beats, character moments, or ratcheted-up tension that could be found peppered throughout the series up until this point. Now, to be fair, this isn’t to say that the episode isn’t good — it is — but it just doesn’t reach the heights its predecessors established. This episode is, in a nutshell, “Daredevil: The Bottle Episode,” imprisoning Matt and the wounded Russian mafioso, Vladimir, in an abandoned warehouse together, fighting for their lives against Wilson Fisk and the corrupt members of the New York City Police Department currently on his payroll.
After handling a couple of corrupt cops, Murdock takes an extremely wounded Vladimir into an abandoned warehouse (and when I say wounded, I almost mean comically so, because by the end of the episode you’re wondering how Vladimir is even drawing breath after receiving numerous massive beatings, bullet wounds, and falling through about six hardwood floors). Madame Gao’s bombs have done their job, and Fisk’s cops are surveying the wreckage, killing anyone who they find left clinging to life. One of the things that I really dig about Daredevil is its sense of scale. Despite not having the stakes that say the Avengers has, or even Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to a lesser degree, seeing almost every aspect of the city bending to Fisk’s whims, with him playing puppet maste,r goes a long way to show just how insurmountable a task Murdock has in front of him. The Kingpin calling the shots from his ever-moving fleet through his right hand man, Wesley, is a perfect representation of a man who sacrifices everything to get everything. Fisk must always be on edge, looking for any viper in the grass that could threaten his throne, but it’s ultimately a throne that takes everything from him, leaving him empty.
Meanwhile, our background players are relegated to, well, the background, mostly eating up screen time and reacting to the events that are taking place in Hell’s Kitchen. Foggy realizes that he’s a bit more wounded that he had originally thought, while Karen grows slightly more attached to him in the process. Urich manages to be an ever-present monkeywrench in Fisk’s plans, and is a much more relevant part to this episode that the Foggy/Karen duo, displaying Kingpin’s control of the media on top of everything else. Changing a negative into a positive, Fisk, after discovering Urich is on the scene, unleashes a tidal wave of reporters, skewing the news to report that Daredevil is in fact responsible for the damage that has been taking place in the city, rather than himself or any of the other mafiosos. You almost had to chuckle at Murdock’s naivete when he tells Fisk that no one would ever believe him when Wilson holds this information over his head. A crazy masked vigilante assaulting police officers and blowing up buildings is pretty easy to buy in a world of aliens and thunder gods, Matt.
One big milestone in this episode is the first “meeting” of Kingpin and Daredevil, via walkie talkie. Overall, I felt that this scene didn’t have the dramatic heft and buildup that was required to finally see these two forces come in contact with one another. Amongst the growls and puffed chests, I didn’t feel like the two were able to really best show the strengths of their characters here. Matt’s impotence in being able to take the fight to Fisk could have been delved into a bit better than Murdock screaming and tossing the walkie talkie into the wall. Perhaps a bit more introspection would have added some necessary depth here, but ultimately it fell a bit flat for me. I think you can also attribute this to the inclusion of yet another betrayal from Vladimir creeping its way toward Matt.
For better or worse, this episode hinged on the ability to present the strained relationship between Matt and Vladimir, as the two battle-damaged warriors had to learn to rely on one another. However, to finally get to this point, we had to go through betrayal after betrayal from Vladimir, to the point that it got tiring seeing him reaching for a knife, or headbutting Matt, or cursing him out, or … there are so many it’s hard to keep track of. I felt like, when I was watching Vladimir ask Daredevil, “You think you’re different from me or Fisk?” we should be checking off standard cliches that happen in “dark” superhero fare. Matt even goes into his practice of not killing, which is a well we’ve gone back to one too many times in recent memory. Though Matt having to essentially keep Vladimir alive to learn more weaknesses about Fisk was a nice turn, I think this episode would have been better at being half its running time, by looking into different aspects of the situation.
Ultimately though, the episode did ratchet up some tension, and had good character work from Fisk, Urich, and Daredevil at times, so it made for a solid experience.
Episode Rating: ★★★ Good
The Collider Offices of Nelson and Murdock
– Man, that poor rookie cop really got the raw end of the deal, eh? In fact, most of the cops had no problem killing off more pepole to really tighten up the case against Daredevil that was being revealed to the public.
– Lot of rumors out there about the sniper that Fisk employs in this episode is in fact Daredevil’s insane nemesis, Bullseye. The playing card, and his aim, lend credence to this though it could just be wishful thinking. Bullseye, while not appearing in this first season, is practically a guarantee for the second.
– Matt’s back and forth with Claire was fun and light hearted, considering they were talking about saving the life of a man who nearly beat her to death in a previous episode. Before the show started, I had thought this first run would revolve around the budding relationship between Matt and Karen, so it’s nice to see the showrunners were able to take a different approach and offer something fresh up with this new outing.
– Fisk: “Letting the police do their jobs, that’s what I’m paying them for isn’t it?”
– Daredevil: “That sounds pretty bad, but I don’t speak asshole.”
– Urich: “Can I get a statement?”
Sullivan: “Yeah, the world’s a shitty place.”