Writer: Drew Goddard
Director: Adam Kane
Rabbit in a Snow Storm is the first episode to be somewhat problematic. By now audiences will be more than aware of the adult themes of this Marvel/Netflix series. Though Daredevil occupies space in the MCU it does not share a colour palette with Avengers, Iron Man or even Captain America. It is a darker realm, one so heavily shaded that what you don’t see is just as important as what you do; which leads us on to the rabbit in the aforementioned snow storm (it’s almost as if I plan these things).
Central to the thematic of this episode is the idea of concealment. Anonymity even. The episode title is taken from a white painting hanging in Vanessa Marianna’s (Ayelet Zurer) gallery. This is not only the first location in which we meet Wilson Fisk but one of the few places in which Wilson feels both secure and vulnerable (there’ll be more on that later).
The superhero genre is one engulfed in anonymity. For a hero to reveal his/her identity they must be certain of two this. The first, can I trust this person? The second, can this person handle themselves? It is the second question which is the more difficult to answer. The reveal makes them a “target” for those who wish to deliver harm, albeit by proxy, to the hero and is often rather selfish and un-heroic. I mention this to foreground one of the key supporting characters, not just of this episode but of the Daredevil world, Ben Urich.
In Daredevil #164 Exposé Urich’s research leads him to Hell’s Kitchen, the legend of Jack Murdock and several clues that point to the identity of Horn Head. Writing up the story for his Editor J. J. Jameson, he’s set to make a splash like no other. Querying whether revealing the identity of DD is good for the city, or good for him Urich decides to destroy the article and keep NYC safe. He is a reporter with ethics, a moral code and an understanding of confidentiality and anonymity.
Vondie Curtis-Hall (as Ben Urich), like his comic book alternative, is a man that places bravery, dignity and self-sacrifice above many other pragmatic attributes. We learn that it was he who brought down the Italian Mob in New York (though that void would be filled by the Russians). Yet he is not without pragmatism. When told by his Editor (not JJJ, but rather Ellison) to shelve the story he’s wanting to pursue and write a fluff piece about subway trains maybe coming to Hell’s Kitchen and what colour their lines should be he initially resists, only to fold. VCH plays conflicted really well. He can bend his conviction without making him look like a man without one. His true conviction runs deeper and won’t be bought off or broken by being forced to write fluff to earn scratch. Though there are many character traits that differ between the core text and the Netflix Urich, his tenacity, dedication and honesty has not shifted. Hall plays him true, like a beaten down old gumshoe who is a little rough around the edges but has honest as heck.
The theme of confidentiality reoccurs several times over in this episode, which we’ll touch on in order to demonstrate the premeditated nature of the central themes, values even that are integral not just to Daredevil –the TV series but to Daredevil –the character. Matt’s link to the Catholic Church is further strengthened after his initial confessional scene (1.01) by this idea of confidentiality. Daredevil has confidentiality in his actions by wearing a mask. Matt could have it in speaking of his actions to his parish priest; which raises those questions again. 1. Can I trust him. 2. Can he protect himself? Similarly, Karen has an issue of confidentiality when her former employers (and would-be murderers) attempt to get her to sign a confidentiality agreement. Hell’s Kitchen (and New York) as a whole is worth a lot of money to the people rebuilding it in their own image and it is this tall, menacing shadow that Goddard casts perfectly across almost every scene in all three episodes thus far.
There are, amazingly, some problems. It comes in the last area of confidentiality. The attorney-client privilege. Having brutally murdered a man for Wilson Fisk, in order to gain favour with the Russians, John Healy’s (Alex Morf) case is taken on by Nelson & Murdock because Matt thinks it might be key to getting close to whatever and whoever is running things in New York. He’s right, and it’s beneficial for him as he finally gets a name before Healy exits stage left minus one eyeball but from Fisk’s vantage point it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Is having Wesley point out he knows who Karen Page is a shot across their bow? Is it a warning? And what about Healy? Was the very public execution of Prohashka a well-placed piece of Gangland theater or an act of ill-temper? It’s another hugely enjoyable episode and the minor issues with it don’t retract from the enjoyment felt from watching it; it just seemed a little less sound than the perfectly plotted pilot and it’s impressively minimalist follow-up.