Review: “World on Fire” – Episode #5 of Marvel’s Daredevil

by | May 1, 2015 | Reviews of the Marvel Shows | 8 comments

Sorry for the delay, folks! I’m back now with this review for episode five, and will make sure to write my review for Daredevil #15 before the end of the weekend, along with another post if I have the time. I’ll pick back up with the individual episode Netflix reviews next week.


The episode begins on a somber note as Claire has a moment alone in Matt’s bathroom, obviously affected by the traumatic events of last episode. While she takes a shower, Matt cooks breakfast for her and then the two sit down together so that he can examine her injuries. She prods him for more details about how he does the things he does, and he explains (sort of…) how his senses work and the concept of his perceptions as a “world on fire” is introduced (more on this in a separate post). Matt kisses her, and invites her to stay so he can keep her safe, before heading off to work.

Matt and Claire have an intimate conversation, as seen in the fifth episode of Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix

Wesley enters Vladimir’s lair (hey, I like the word “lair”). Vladimir is on the phone and understandably worried about his brother. Wesley plays it cool, relying on his ice cold acting chops to pretend as if he has no idea what happened to Anatoly. Next, an associate comes in, informing Vladimir that they’ve found Anatoly’s body, which is brought in. On his brother’s body, Vladimir finds a piece of black fabric, obviously planted there to implicate “the man in the mask.”

In a garage, where Anatoly’s brain matter is being rinsed off Fisk’s car with a hose (isn’t that nice?), Fisk and Wesley meet with Madame Gao, Nobu and Leland Owlsley. They are not happy when they learn that Fisk has killed Anatoly over a “personal matter,” as it risks their operation. This is a great scene for Leland Owlsley who has a couple of really funny lines, and shows a rather shocking lack of respect for Fisk. He must really be essential to Fisk’s operation, or it’s difficult to see why he’d be allowed to keep his own head.

Next, we see one of Madame Gao’s blind workers riding in the back seat of a car. When the car stops and the two Russians in the front seat get out and enter a nearby building, Matt shows up in his black costume. When the Russians come back out he jumps them. More follow, and they shoot the guy in the back seat. The entire scene is really well choreographed and filmed, and this is definitely one of the more interesting fight scenes in the show, though it’s been getting much less buzz than the fight scene from episode two. When Matt starts pressuring one of the Russians for information on Vladimir, he learns that they think he killed his brother. The police show up and Matt escapes.

Mrs. Cardenas talks about her landlord Tully in the Nelson & Murdock conference room., from episode five of Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix

At the office, presumably the next morning, Karen and Foggy wrestle with their new office equipment when Matt shows up. Soon thereafter, they get a new client in the form of a Mrs. Cardenas who wants their help in fighting her very fishy landlord, a certain Mr. Tully. Karen and Matt show off their Spanish skills, and when Mrs. Cardenas leaves, Matt offers to go down to the precinct to get some of the paperwork and he suggests Foggy go meet with opposing counsel. To Foggy’s chagrin, Mr. Tully is represented by Landman & Zack, the firm where he and Matt used to intern and are now reviled after turning down the offer to stay. Matt then suggests that Foggy bring Karen with him.

Matt goes to the police station and talks to Sergeant Mahoney about getting whatever records might be available connected to Mrs. Cardenas’ case. While he sits down to wait, he overhears the two crooked cops Blake and Hoffman (whom we remember fondly from episode one) interrogate the Russian they brought in the previous evening, incidentally the same guy Matt tried to pressure into giving up Vladimir. After the suspect says he’s willing to give up Wilson Fisk in exchange for a deal, Blake and Hoffman stage an attack against them so that they can kill him in “self-defense.” Matt listens in shock, but is too late to realize just how bad things are about to go to be able to do anything about it. Shots are fired and the whole station gets up to respond.

Karen and Foggy arrive at Landman & Zack where they have a meeting in the lobby with Foggy’s ex-girlfriend Marci Stahl, who is now part of the team of lawyers representing Tully. Her conversation with Foggy is quite entertaining and a gets some good character development out of Foggy.

Foggy and Karen at Landman & Zack's, talking to Marci Stahl, as seen in episode five of Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix

In a car somewhere (it’s always in a car, isn’t it) Wesley and Fisk discuss the situation with Blake and Hoffman, and their chatty-now-dead suspect. Wesley assures Fisk that internal affairs will take care of it, and that no one else heard what was being said in that room. Little do they know.

Foggy and Karen show up at Mrs. Cardenas place where they offer to help her with some repairs.
Detective Blake is attacked outside the precinct by Matt in the mask who confronts him about what was said in that interrogation room. Matt lets him go after he reveals that he doesn’t know where Vladimir is. Blake laughs at him when it becomes clear that Matt doesn’t know how it’s all connected. Blake’s phone buzzes and Matt picks it up before leaving the scene.

We’re on another date with Wilson Fisk and Vanessa, privately this time. She’s hesitant but willing to give him another shot. He promises to always be honest with her. Elsewhere, Vladimir is cleaning up his brother’s body when Turk stops by. Turk tells him about a car that came in covered in blood and brains, saying it belonged to some big white guy, then suggests that Fisk and the masked man are tight. Vladimir then offers one million to whoever can find Fisk and Turk takes off. At Mrs. Cardenas apartment, Foggy is done fixing the sink. She invites Foggy and Karen to stay for dinner, and the two call it a date.

At Matt’s place, Claire helps him check the phone he found. She finds four addresses in a text message, one of which fits the location of Troika restaurant where Matt went in the second episode. Matt concludes that the addresses are a list of locations where the Russians are. Matt and Claire have a frank discussion about what he does and his methods. After the intimate scene they had earlier in the episode, this appears to spell the beginning of the end for the two of them.

Claire helps Matt check what's in the phone he found on the crooked cop, as seen in Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix, episode five

Back at Wilson and Vanessa’s their date is going well. She talks openly about one of her past lovers. Fisk talks about his plans for the city. Vanessa has brought a gun and Wilson confronts her about it. She reveals that she knows he’s a dangerous man, but hands over her gun.

We quickly check in with Vladimir, still hovering over his brother’s body, who has been alerted to Fisk’s whereabouts, and see Matt in the mask listening above, before cutting to Karen and Foggy having dinner at Mrs. Cardenas apartment. Foggy is sharing stories about his and Matt’s college days. Foggy and Karen get into a weird discussion about blind face touching (I can imagine a lot of blind people squirming at this scene…).

We next cut to one of Madame Gao’s workers who is seen going to one of the Russians’ warehouses where people are clearly getting ready for war. Matt shows up at the scene and takes out the men in front. That’s when Madame Gao’s messenger turns into a suicide bomber. Matt is caught in the blast outside the building and so are Karen and Foggy, still at Mrs. Cardenas’ apartment where Foggy has his hands on Karen’s face.

On their date, Wilson and Vanessa watch the destruction outside their window. Fisk tells her that the targets of the attacks are the same group who took the young boy from his father (at the end of the first episode). The two leave together, Vanessa obviously happy to step onboard the Fisk train. Matt regains consciouness outside the blown-up warehouse. As he gets up, he hears the name Vladimir being spoken nearby.

Turk is taking a ride with Wesley (again with the doing business in cars), and we learn that Turk was playing the Russians all along, with Fisk’s side pulling the strings and directing his actions. Matt catches up to Vladimir and starts pounding some Russian ass just in time for the cops to show up. The episode ends with Matt standing with his back against the cops and his hands in the air.

Matt is cornered by police and sticks his hands in the air, as seen in episode five of Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix

My thoughts

This was a very eventful episode and when I watched it again for this review, I ended up with screen shots of many more scenes than I would ever have room for in one post. The first scene with Matt and Claire is steaming hot, and it’s heartbreaking to see where they end up at the end of the episode. One thing that it’s interesting about when Claire, later, confronts Matt about what he’d said about hurting people because he enjoys it, is the contrast with Wilson Fisk who, on his date with Vanessa, claims the very opposite for his own motives:

“I have done things that I’m not proud of, Vanessa. I have hurt people, and I’m going to hurt more. It’s impossible to avoid for what I’m trying to do. But I take no pleasure in it. In… cruelty.”

While I’m not crazy about the character of Mrs. Cardenas – she’s sweet but seems like a bit of a caricature to me – I like what getting involved in her case does for Foggy’s character. Foggy’s meeting with his ex-girlfriend Marci Stahl also helps move Foggy along his path to enlightenment where he is reminded of the points Matt has been trying to make about what they should and shouldn’t be doing. He may long for elevators and free bagels, but he’s got a big heart, and this is becoming clearer even to himself.

Matt getting ready to go after the Russians, as seen in episode five of Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix

This episode marks the big turning point in Vanessa’s relationship with Wilson Fisk. On the one hand, she proves herself to be resourceful enough to bring protection to her date with this “dangerous man.” On the other hand, she clearly knows he’s dangerous. By the end of the evening, as the two of them watch Hell’s Kitchen go up in flames, she’s clearly committed herself to his plans. It may be because part of her is afraid, and she believes what he says about there being no safer place than at his side, but a big part of her is clearly sympathetic to what he’s doing. Or maybe she’s just sympathetic to him. A small but crucial difference if we are to understand all the women who write letters to incarcerated serial killers. Either way, all of D’Onofrio’s and Zurer’s scenes together are absolutely riveting to me. I never thought I’d get so invested in the villain side of things, but that obviously says a lot about the quality of this series.

Vanessa shows Wilson Fisk her gun, as seen in episode five of Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix

I also want to mention the other ways in which so much of what happens on this show is just downright creepy. The scene with the crooked cops staging an assassination of a prisoner is deeply disturbing in the way that just sends a jolt through your system. Then there are Madame Gao’s blind drug workers who also make appearances this episode. One of them is killed getting in the way of a bullet aimed for Matt – and we never really learn how Matt feels about this – and another is used to carry out a suicide mission. Regardless of whether the bomber is doing this willingly or is coerced into doing it, the whole thing is chilling.

Senses watch

I’ve mentioned the “world on fire” effect already, and that it will be the topic of a separate post, so I won’t go into the details of it here, except to say that there are a couple of things about it that I like, and a long list of things about it that I don’t. I wish they had left it out completely or done something very different to this.

There is another couple of nuggets in this issue that I do want to mention, though. One is the sound and visual effects when Matt examines Claire’s injuries the morning after her kidnapping. It’s a neat way to show us what Matt hears and what he’s concentrating on. He also doesn’t do anything that strains credulity to the point of breaking. The other scene is I really like is Matt listening in on the interrogation going on in a nearby room at the police station.

Matt listens to what's happening in a nearby interrogation room, as seen in Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix

I’ve mentioned in the past that, in my mind, Matt Murdock’s least realistic power is his ability to hear things over very great distances or through too many walls or floors. I’m generally pretty accepting of these kinds of scenes anyway, because strict “realism” is difficult, and probably not even desirable, to impose on a fictional superhero, but there have been cases that I think go unnecessarily far.

One such example is when Matt hears the White Tiger, Hector Ayala, cry in the basement of a building, many floors below, in the “Trial of the Century” story arc, by Brian Michael Bendis. Sounds lose energy when they come into contact with surfaces that absorb some of the sound, so I’m just going to have to assume Matt heard Hector’s crying through the ventilation system or something. 😉 However, the scene at the police station is fantastic enough to be cool, but not so exaggerated as to be completely absurd. They way it’s shot is very cool as well, where Matt realizes too late what’s about to happen and everything around hims slows down.

(Accessible) gadget watch

None, except human text message checker Claire. Joking aside, this is one of the reasons it makes sense for this character in particular to have a trusted – and sighted! – confidante. These kinds of moments are not uncommon in the comic either these days, but for decades writers seemed to make sure to not put Daredevil into any situation where something he couldn’t sense would end up being a key piece of the plot.

Another little detail is all the different ways Matt has marked his jars to tell them apart, clearly visible in the kitchen scene. You might argue that having a killer nose would be helpful in this regard, but I can still see enough of a point in this practice to not reduce to just being “for show.”

Easter egg watch

Some people have pointed out that the poster seen in the area where Matt is sitting at the police station might be alluding to Marvel’s Civil War event (soon the focal point of a movie near you, i.e. Captain America: Civil War). The poster reads: “You don’t have to reveal your identity to help stop violent crime.”

On her date with Wilson Fisk, Vanessa talks about a prince she used to date who wore white suits and ascot ties, which is what Wilson Fisk is often seen wearing in the comics.


Claire: “Lawyer by day, vigilante by night. How does that work?”
Matt: “I’ll let you know when I figure it out.”

Matt: ” I wear a mask and beat on people. I doesn’t exactly mesh with police policy.”

Fisk (about the Russians): “They were too unpredictable.”
Leland Owlsley: “This from a guy taking heads off with a car door?”

Karen: “It feels like a place in a movie where you buy a clone. Or maybe a robot baby. Or a clone of a robot baby.”

Claire: “I just don’t think I can let myself fall in love with someone who is so damn close to becoming what he hates.”

Star player

Hm, this is getting harder and harder, especially in an episode where everyone had some strong scenes. Can I give it to Claire again? I think I will, for her willingness to actually call Matt out and decide for herself that he’s about to cross a line to a place where she doesn’t want to follow. You have to respect that.


  1. Ellen Fleischer

    I love Foggy in this one. From the way he puts aside his nervousness and tears Marci a new one to his own brand of heroism, going to check for bombing victims in the building without hesitation and (yes, adrenaline can suppress/minimize pain, but I’m just going to include this anyway) not even realizing he’s been injured until the crisis is past and, while he’s not exactly stoic, he doesn’t panic either. For me, this is where he starts to demonstrate that he’s more than Matt’s comic relief-y sidekick.

  2. Broomstick

    One of the smartest and strongest things about Claire is that she decides NOT to get romantically involved with Matt despite the attraction between the two of them. I really like that. It would have been so easy to go for the cliche of the two of them having something between them, but this makes the storyline different from the typical. I also like that Claire decides on this early and is very articulate about her reasons. It’s simple – she knows better than to get too close to someone courting risk the way Matt does.

    While i found the visual effect of the “world on fire” senses thing aesthetically beautiful I had problems with it. I’m looking forward to the post devoted to the good points and bad points of it.

    The blood and brains being washed off the SUV is brutal but realistic. Unfortunately, I have seen some pretty gory things in real life (among others, a train accident involving… um… stuff being washed off the train cars) and it’s one of the scenes in the series that really had an emotional punch for me due to past experiences in my life. While I think the violence and gore is appropriate to the story and setting it verges on “I don’t want to see this” for me. Is that good or bad? I’m undecided. It certainly shows the sort of monsters and evil Matt is contending with.

  3. Elizabeth

    I also was impressed by Claire’s ability to look out for her emotional wellbeing and step away from a potential relationship. You almost never see that on TV or movies. Although they got closer in this episode, in prior episodes he seemed to only want to interact with her for medical reasons. (“Memorize this phone number in case I need stitching up later.”)

    I really liked the scene where she and Matt discuss his powers, how a cracked rib sounds, and his view of the world. I found the image from his perspective a bit creepy, but I really like how they included his sense of touch as feeding into that view (an idea I suggested on a previous post). I was listening to a podcast recently where someone who worked on the show listed other scenes they’d planned to use that effect in but either ran out of time or it would have distracted from the scene. I’m glad they used it sparingly.

    I was wondering what your reaction would be on the face feeling scene. As much of a sucker I am for those types of scenes in other shows (yes, unrealistic and sappy, but it is a quick and easy way to show intimacy between characters), it was pretty awkward here because you just know she’s thinking of Matt not Foggy.

    Did you notice Matt saying he likes Karen’s voice when she offered to let him translate (since his Spanish skills were better than hers)? That links nicely with a throwaway line in an upcoming flashback. 😉

    This is also the episode where the picture of Stan Lee should be on the wall in the police station, but I haven’t stopped to look for it yet. I keep getting distracted by the plot.

    By the way, I re-watched the first episode and one of Madame Gao’s blind drug mules is walking by in the background behind the policeman when he accepts the cigars from Foggy. I previously missed it. (Don’t ask how many times.)

  4. Broomstick

    I’m glad they were sparing of the “world on fire” effect, you don’t want to over use that one.

    One of the ways this character is set apart, both in the video and the printed page, is that he doesn’t understand his surroundings in the same way or as quickly as we do. We saw that in “The Cut Man” when he wakes up in Claire’s apartment. Sure, any of us would be disoriented waking up in a strange place but Matt is more so, and it takes him longer to become oriented. He can perceive his surroundings sufficiently to avoid crashing into walls but not enough to distinguish the kitchen from the front door.

    One way I’d like to see the “world on fire” effect used is a time when he’s waking up, disoriented, and trying to sort out all the various impressions he’s getting. Unfortunately, the visual medium doesn’t allow for direct experience of scent and touch (although the notion of adding scratch-n-sniff to a comic book has a certain appeal as a way of adding to the experience… except for the aromas of all those back alleys, dumpsters, and sewers DD seems to wind up in) but “seeing” from Matt’s viewpoint, a mish-mash of sensory impressions he has to sort out and interpret, could really add to the whole character.

  5. Christine Hanefalk

    Hey guys! Thanks for commenting. 🙂 Yes, I’m finally starting to work my way through responding to all the comments now. And I don’t mean for that to sound like work – it’s not! – but holy crap, April was busy. A really good kind of busy to be sure, but still.

    I totally agree with you on both Foggy and Claire. Foggy really rose to the occasion this episode, and demonstrated why he should be in business with Matt rather than work at Landman & Zack, even with the free bagels!

    I also agree about Claire. Much has been made about her being a victim, but this shows why she’s not just a throwaway love-interest but a strong character in her own right.

    About the “world on fire,” I’m currently writing a post about that, but yes, I agree completely about him not interpreting the world the same way we do. I see it as an upside down thing, where the relative importance of his senses follows a completely different order than ours do. Things that would stand out to a sighted person don’t really show up on his radar (no pun intended), just as he notices things that we don’t.

  6. Broomstick

    Christine, I can’t thank you enough for this site, I wish I had discovered this years ago. Don’t worry about the pacing – I’d rather wait longer for another excellent post by you than have more quantity and less quality.

    For anyone wanting first-hand information on how the blind perceive the world I’d suggest they check out the Tommy Edison Experience on YouTube or Hulu – I’m pretty sure you’ve made reference to him, Christine, so I assume you’re familiar with him, I’m throwing this out more for other people. While he first came to fame as the Blind Film Critic he’s made quite a few videos about being a blind person and how blind people do the same things as sighted people.

  7. Elizabeth

    Thank you for the suggestion Broomstick. The videos were interesting & funny.

  8. rachael

    Don’t you think the “world on fire” scene looks a little identical to the 3 panels in Bendis’ Lowlife? That scene when Mila visits Matt in his office to thank him for saving her and Matt goes “She’s destroying me with jasmine… but in a good way”.


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