The fourth episode of Daredevil shifts its focus away from Matt Murdock, and his war on crime in Hell's Kitchen, in order to spend some time with the show's cast of villains - giving the audience an opportunity to get to know the people that Matt is fighting. This is something that I always love to see in this type of show. Whether the point is to humanise the villains, so that the audience can better understand them and their motivation, or simply to show us how evil they really are, any time spent fleshing out the villains is appreciated it. Given the level of complexity that Daredevil has already achieved, though, it probably shouldn't come as any surprise that this episode seems to go for the former, rather than the later.
First, we have the Russian brothers, Vladimir and Anatoly (Nikolai Nikolaeff and Gideon Emery, respectively) who, it turns out, spent time together in a Siberian prison before managing to escape. This opening scene does a remarkable job of showing off both the brutality that they were forced to endure, and the level of ruthless ingenuity they were forced to display in order to escape. Honestly, you have to respect the level of creative exhibited in coming up with the idea of making shivs out of the rib bones of a dead comrade - just as you have to respect the level of determination it would take to actually put an idea like that into practise. Now, though, the Russian brothers are growing increasingly desperate - finding themselves under constant attack from the masked vigilante out to destroy their human trafficking operations. Fortunately (or, unfortunately, depending on your point of view), though, their efforts to track down this vigilante eventually leads them to Claire (Rosario Dawson), the nurse who previously helped Matt. They immediately set out to kidnap her, in order to learn more about their enemy - and, Matt is forced to launch a desperate rescue mission.
Then, there's Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio), himself - the mysterious figure behind much of the crime in Hell's Kitchen, who we met briefly at the end of the previous episode. Once again, though, instead of the dangerous criminal master-mind we were led to expect, we are shown something else entirely. Fisk, as he appears here, comes across more as an awkward, almost shy, and very definitely lonely man as he cautiously pursues a romantic relationship with Vanessa (Ayelet Zurer), the curator of the art gallery that he met in the previous episode.
In both cases, the time spent developing these villainous figures only serves to strengthen the episodes, and the series as a whole. And, it definitely serves to make them into much more complex, and well-rounded, figures. The clear devotion that Vladimir and Anatoly display toward each other, and their determination to overcome any adversity together, would be admirable if not for the horrible things that each is also willing to do to just about anything else. They are violent men, who commit horrible crimes - but, they is a very genuine bond of brotherly love, there. Also, if it weren't for that act of brutal violence committed by Wilson Fisk toward the end of the episode, it would have been very possible to end the episode feeling genuine sympathy for a clearly damaged, and very fragile, man. Even with that act of violence, it might still be possible to end the episode with conflicted feelings about him - thanks, in large part, to Vincent D'Onofrio's performance.
Also, for any fans of Marvel's broader universe who have been wondering how, and where, this series fits - there is an entertaining little reference to a 'man in an iron suit' and a 'man with a magic hammer'. This is only the second time that the broader universe has been referenced (following an indirect mention of the Chitauri invasion at the end of The Avengers, in the first episode). It also fairly effectively establishes the 'street-level' view of everything of the broader cinematic universe - one where Iron Man and Thor are distant figures who are mostly irrelevant to the daily lives of the people who live in Hell's Kitchen. To them, Russian thugs and a masked vigilante are clearly a much more immediate concern.