Episode three shifts gears and focuses on the law firm of Nelson and Murdock. Seeking a couple of clean lawyers to do their dirty work, Wesley, right-hand man to a ‘mysterious’ criminal mastermind, reaches out to Foggy and Matt. The episode opens with a brutal fight scene, even for this series. A hit man attacks an apparent crime boss and murders him…snapping the bones out of his arm and smashing his head in with a bowling ball. It’s cringe inducing, but it sets up the high stakes and true guilt of the man that Nelson and Murdock go on to defend.
The episode title is explained at the end, in reference to a painting of shades of white.
“There’s an old children’s joke. You hold up a white piece of paper and ask ‘what’s this?’ A rabbit in a snowstorm.”
Matt finds himself lost—a rabbit in a snowstorm. He’s traveling through a world where everything blends together—right and wrong, good and evil—it’s all hidden. The blurry line between good and evil, as he references in his closing statement for the trial. By choosing to defend Healey, the obviously guilty hit man, Matt is compromising his and Foggy’s own mission and values. They don’t want to be in the business of defending the guilty. The money is appealing—and Foggy nearly takes the case despite his moral quandaries. But it isn’t until Matt decides that Healey can lead him to answers about who has hired them—someone who knew about Karen and Union Allied, despite Karen’s involvement never going past the police. Ultimately, he attempts to use the law for his own ends and fails. Matt’s closing arguments about the blurring of good and evil is a thinly veiled monologue of his own personal struggles with his choices as a vigilante.
Meanwhile, we are introduced to reporter Ben Urich. Vondie-Curtis Hall’s performance is one of the standouts of the series. He brings the perfect balance of cynicism, passion and weary-eyed wisdom, and razor sharp wit. The scene where he barters for an extension for his wife’s medical care, and only reveals the gift he brought as a thank you after he is able to negotiate a deal perfectly captures who Ben Urich is. “That would be cheating” he says, when asked why he didn’t open with the sandwich. He’s a little old fashioned, devilishly smart, and determined to do things his way. Even when his way goes against the grain, and he’s told to shut down his story for not being juicy enough to sell papers. Old fashioned reporting is dead and gone, his stereotypical TV newspaper editor declares. It’s a bit of a hackneyed scene when Urich gets chewed out about the dying newspaper business, but it sets up his character arc for the season. He’s out to prove to himself and to the world that he is still relevant. Ben is a veteran of the organized crime beat and has established relationships and connections with people in the criminal underworld. Our first glimpse of him is a conversation with a member of the old guard, who has decided to retire to Florida amid the changes going on in the Hell’s Kitchen empire. Rigoletto, a name mentioned in the first episode, and apparently the former kingpin of crime, has been knocked off. Ben’s old relationships don’t help him find any answers here, because the old rules of crime—just like the old rules of the newspaper biz— are gone. The city is changing. It’s a beautiful scene shot with the city skyline across the river as the two men discuss the city that once was.
It’s this new criminal underworld without rules, without the established, more respectable way of doing things, that Matt has launched himself into. (“It used to be that after you whacked a guy, you sent his wife flowers. Now, you send the wife with him.”) He’s found himself embroiled in something much bigger than him—machinations that obscure everything. By trying to narrow in on one aspect, Healey and his connection to the man who hired he and Foggy, Matt has failed to notice the larger picture. He’s found himself in a world without the clear moral distinctions—and he has failed to see the moral implications of his own doings. Is he doing more harm than good?
It’s a valid question, given what his physical confrontations lead to in this episode. Sure, he saves the blackmailed juror from getting her secrets exposed—and removes the corruption from the jury. But he also has risked the life of the man who revealed what they had on the woman. As the thug explains, the woman became his assignment because he responded to an anonymous assignment. And he could very easily be someone else’s next assignment for spilling. And true, Matt get’s Wilson Fisk’s name from Healey. But Healey is so terrified by what he’s done and the possible implications for the people he cares about that he impales himself through the head. “You should have just killed me. You coward.” Matt is rocked to his core, shocked by the lengths Healey has gone to. His already shallow, morally compromised victory is cut short.
During all of this, Karen is offered a large sum of money to never talk publicly about Union Allied again. Here, her stubborn streak appears for the first time. Unable to give up on figuring out why she was almost killed, she refuses to sign the deal and tracks down Daniel Fisher’s wife. When she finds out that Mrs. Fisher has already signed, she seeks out the man who broke the Union Allied story, Ben Urich. She doesn’t care what happens to her, or at least she is so angry that she can’t even consider the consequences. She just wants answers, and she wants everyone to know the truth.
The violence in this episode is brutal even by Daredevil’s standards. It stands out in comparison to what has come before, and even taking into consideration later episodes, it’s particularly graphic. At first it seems completely gratuitous. But thinking on it more, in the context of the episode, it’s mostly played in service of the story. The opening scene where we witness Healey’s hit very clearly sets up the stakes for the case Matt is about to take on, and the sheer brutality of the man he is to defend. And it displays just how dangerous and violent the world Matt has entered into is. When Healey impales himself we see it—because the creative team wants to emphasize the sheer shock of the moment. We are meant to feel the same way Matt does, completely taken off guard and rattled. Who is this man that has made a professional killer so terrified that he would rather skewer himself then let anyone know he revealed his employer’s name?
It’s this man we get our first glimpse of in the last moments of the episode, admiring a painting of overlaid shades of white. When asked by the art dealer what it makes him feel, he responds, “It makes me feel alone.” Does Fisk enjoy the idea of being alone in the midst of the stress of his criminal dealings? Or does the sensation of being alone leave him with too much time to contemplate what he is doing? Either way, it’s an unexpected way to introduce the show’s antagonist.
Like I said, the third episode is a change of pace and spends most of the time focusing on Matt and Foggy working a case. It helps to establish more firmly the world in which Matt operates and makes it different from the two episodes that came before. It really stresses that the legal system isn’t completely capable of delivering justice, and is at times as corrupt and morally gray as the crime Matt fights at night. There’s some validation in what he’s chosen to do. There’s so much story starting to happen in so many different places this episode and it makes for really engrossing viewing. I really appreciate the time the series is taking to put the pieces in place and establish the characters and the world they live in. Each episode so far has had forward momentum, but they’ve been very meticulous in giving breathing room for characters to talk to one another and let us know where they are coming from and the situations they find themselves faced with. And thankfully it’s never been a sloppy exposition dump or someone just giving a long monologue. It’s all felt very natural, like Foggy and Matt’s disagreement about whether or not to take Healey’s case. That informs character. Healey’s drastic actions also establish for the viewer the scope of Fisk’s brutality and power. It saves us time in future episodes needing to have Fisk be a broad characterization.
- Foggy: Was that a knock?
- Matt: Someone’s at the door.
- Foggy: Our door?
- “These questions [of good and evil] are vital ones because they tether us to each other…to humanity.” Like I said, the subtlety of Matt’s closing argument is nonexistent, but it’s so important in highlighting what Matt is facing both externally and internally.
- “OK for the record, that’s the first time you’ve ever said I was right. I hate it.”
- The door across the hall from Nelson and Murdock’s office is for a businesses called Atlas Investments. Atlas Comics was the name of the company that eventually became Marvel Comics in the 1950s. Before that, it was known as Timely Comics. Even the logo with the globe is a reference to the publisher.
- Ben Urich was created by Roger McKenzie and Gene Colan. McKenzie preceded Frank Miller on the Dardevil comics. Ben discovered Daredevil’s secret identity pretty quickly, but kept it under wraps. He eventually became a major supporting character in the Daredevil universe. Urich was especially important in Frank Miller and Brian Michael Bendis’ tenure on the book. He also crossed paths with Spider-Man from time to time, since they both worked at the Daily Bugle.
- Speaking of the Daily Bugle, it was some kind of nerd torture to see Ben working at a paper other than the one he is so associated with. But since the Sony deal was only brokered after Daredevil was already in production there was no way it could happen.
- Turk Barrett was, just as I hoped, the black guy who got beat up in the first episode. He appears again during this episode and states his name.Turk’s a small-time thug with allegiance to whoever is paying him the most or threatening him the most. Daredevil tends to use him for info. He was created by Roger McKenzie and Frank Miller.
- Wilson Fisk was originally a Spider-Man villain, created by Stan Lee and John Romita, Sr. He was a big time mob boss, but much more a classic comic book villain with laser canes and fantastical plots and devices. Frank Miller brought him over to the Daredevil books when he took over and made him so ingrained in the mythos that it soon was as if he was there all along. Kingpin became much more of a cold-blooded crime lord out of reach of the law, using a front as a legitimate business man. His interactions with Daredevil became an obsession. Kingpin has since become much more associated with Daredevil than Spider-Man in the intervening years and is considered DD’s archenemy. Though he still has interaction with Spidey and even the rest of the Marvel U from time to time.