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Daredevil’s episode six finally reached my expectations for the series, but “Shadows in the Glass” far exceeds them. Perhaps this is because we concentrate on Wilson Fisk rather than Matt Murdock. Charlie Cox has given Matt the perfect blend of tenacity and dangerous idealism, and his powers are always fun to explore. And obviously his fight sequences are more fun to watch than Fisk’s, which generally make me feel a bit sick. But he clearly doesn’t have a plan, not really. That means that other than kicking down doors and telling everyone he’s not bad! Fisk’s the bad one! he doesn’t have much purpose in this growing web of villainy he’s become enmeshed in. Perhaps because he’s taken so low in this episode, he’ll — but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 

Fisk is dealing with the fallout of Stick killing Black Sky last episode — Nobu threatens him, Leland rails against him for being a fool, and Madame Gao finds his home and comes over for tea. That last one is by far one of my favorite scenes ever, if only because Madame Gao finally gets to speak, both in English and in Mandarin, which, of course, Fisk does actually know. Dear Lord, this wonderful exchange:

'Madame Gao: I speak many languages.

''''Fisk: Which ones?

Madame Gao: All of them.

They all point out that he’s slipping, and Madame Gao articulates it: She knows where he lives because he’s become sloppy and emotional — “just like the Russians.” She puts the nail in the coffin: If he doesn’t sort things out soon, she will work with Nobu and Leland directly. So he tries to tie up loose ends, mainly by paying Detective Blake’s partner and best friend for the past 30 years to kill Blake, who’s in a coma. (Daryl Edwards does a great job here for the few scenes Detective Hoffman gets.)

Matt goes to Blake just as Hoffman poisons him, and apparently gets what he needs to go to Urich. See, Matt immediately found out about Foggy and Karen’s dealings with the reporter and scolds them for what they did. Even as he pushes away his friends, he follows their methods, giving Urich an interview and Wilson Fisk’s name. He even tells Urich that he’s not a killer, saying, “I keep telling people that.” Dude, you have no chill. Don’t go opening up about your insecurities as a superhero to a journalist! Even one as bad as Urich. Even Superman doesn’t do that.

He is in high contrast with Fisk this episode — he wakes up to his apartment still destroyed from last night’s fight with Stick. Meanwhile, Fisk’s modern apartment (those floor-to-ceiling windows, oh my) is more than immaculate, it’s pristine, and no wonder — he looks in his mirror and sees a little boy covered in blood.

We go back to the 1970s and see that, unlike the love and understanding Matt received from his father, Fisk’s father was a bully, abusive toward him and especially his mother. His rages mirror Fisk’s murderous rage toward Anatoly as he beats up a teenage boy for saying he’s a loser. But it’s not quite as deadly, nor as self-righteous, as Fisk is when he smashes his dad’s head in when the man beats his mother with a belt. (These scenes were emotionally gut-wrenching even as they were horrifying.) He relays this story to Vanessa, whom Wesley has brought over in his time of need. Vanessa (like his mother) is understanding and soothes him by telling him it’s not his fault. You can see why Fisk likes Vanessa; he’s respectful of women thanks to his beloved mother, who calmly sawed his father into pieces and put him into a bunch of trash bags. But that painting also clearly made a mark on him, reminding him of a very strange time in his past life during a new low point in his present life.

He has tears in his eyes even as he shows Vanessa his father’s cufflinks and asks if he’s a monster. For a gritty noir show, this series sure has a lot of dudes crying — but that’s just one of the few ways that Daredevil shows originality. Another is the emphasis on relationships; by letting Vanessa in — who has real chemistry with him this episode, finally — Fisk makes a true partner. When he tells her that people are working to destroy what he’s built up, she calmly replies, “Are you going to let them?”

And just as Urich attempts to write up his exposé on Fisk, he comes out of hiding, out of the darkness, thanks to Vanessa’s advice. The idea of a villain with a good PR campaign is relatively unexplored by Marvel, whose villains usually have a plan fueled by a skewed idea of reality, but no real confidantes or plan.

But now it’s Matt who has no confidantes and no plan, and is really suffering for it, as he realizes when he hears Fisk’s speech.