This article contains Daredevil spoilers

A minion nears his powerful master with good news. Spider-Man has gone, leaving the city unprotected. “This means the time has come to proceed with my master plan!” he responds, before explaining his plot to consolidate power. 

These types of pronouncements aren’t uncommon among supervillains, many of whom have menaced the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Everyone from Kaecilius in Doctor Strange to Thanos across the Infinity Saga has launched a major battle to destroy their enemies and conquer the world. 

But the guy we’re talking about here has no such lofty intentions. As 1967’s Amazing Spider-Man #50 demonstrates, Wilson Fisk endeavors to be no more than the Kingpin of Crime, the mastermind behind all of the illegal activities in New York City. And those limited ambitions make Fisk’s return to the MCU so monumental. Vincent D’Onofrio will reprise his role as Wilson Fisk in Echo, his first full appearance in the franchise since a cameo in Hawkeye, marking a much-needed positive change for the beleaguered MCU. 

The Coming of the Kingpin

Even as the MCU rose to its dominant place in popular culture, critics and fans launched two knocks against it. Many complained about the lack of good baddies in the shared universe, lamenting the lackluster screen presence of Whiplash and Abomination. At the same time, critics complained that too many Marvel movies climaxed with a giant blue light in the sky, the films’ colossal stakes undermining the tension. 

Those same complaints couldn’t be leveled against the Daredevil series that launched on Netflix in 2015. While Daredevil eventually did get caught up in world-ending nonsense involving the Hand, especially in the series’ second season and the ill-fated crossover Defenders, Kingpin’s power plays stayed securely within the limitations of New York City. Heck, in the first season, Fisk really only wanted control of Hell’s Kitchen, an area disrupted by the Battle of New York in The Avengers

Instead of diminishing his importance, Wilson Fisk’s focus on a small area of the city made him a more immediate threat. Take the end of the first season’s penultimate episode, in which Fisk visits the apartment of reporter Ben Urich (Curtis Vonde-Hall). The scene begins with the recently-fired Urich entering his apartment, letting the sorrow and resignation set in as he begins to work on a blog. No sooner does Urich start typing, a voice speaks from the shadows. Fisk has been in his apartment. 

Episode director Euros Lyn lets the scene play out slowly, with Fisk working through his emotions while Urich steels himself against what he assumes is just another thug with an empty threat. Darkness engulfs almost the entirety of Fisk’s face and body, accentuating the character’s inner turmoil. When Fisk finally strikes and strangles Urich, it’s legitimately terrifying, not just because he’s killing off a beloved character from the comics, but because Fisk feels so powerful. It results in the death of just one man, but it’s a man we care about, even more than the thousands threatened when Sokovia lifts into the air in Avengers: Age of Ultron or when Dar-Ben threatens the population of Aldana in The Marvels

The Passion of Wilson Fisk

The effectiveness of Fisk as a character comes from D’Onofrio’s performance. Fisk has always been a tricky character to bring to life. Although John Romita drew Wilson Fisk as an intimidating and stocky man for his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #50, many who followed often portrayed him as either just overweight or buff. We see this in the giant human wall in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Michael Clarke Duncan’s muscleman in Daredevil, or even the slightly stocky businessman played by John Rhys-Davies in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk

While the actual sizes vary from performer to performer, almost all of them portray Fisk as a man obsessed with his own power. Spider-Verse’s Liev Schreiber shows hints of vulnerability when he sees versions of his wife Vanessa and son Richard from different universes, but he most often emphasizes the sneer and swagger of the character. Meanwhile, Duncan flashes a menacing smile when the Man Without Fear enters his office in Daredevil, ready to do hand-to-hand combat with the masked hero. 

With D’Onofrio, Fisk becomes something different. Ever the physical chameleon, D’Onofrio bulks up to make his Fisk an imposing figure. But he also brings the character’s internal struggle to the fore, showing viewers how the hulking criminal suffers from arrested development. Even the slightest inconvenience forces him to crease his face and frustration and turn down the corners of his mouth with disappointment. His breathing intensifies as if he’s steeling himself for a titanic struggle. 

The power of D’Onofrio’s emotional take on Fisk is on full display during his attack on Urich. Initially, he tries to match Urich’s calm, taking deep breaths as he explains his rationale for the visit. But he cannot control himself and eventually emotion overtakes him, to the point that he’s crying when he talks about Urich visiting his mother. Those tears well up in Fisk’s eyes as lunges forward at Urich, attacking him with a sound that’s someplace between a roar and a sob. 

In short, D’Onofrio’s Fisk is a giant baby man, a villain whose emotional outbursts only make him more frightening.  

The Kingpin of MCU Crime

Fisk’s full arrival in the MCU comes at a time when the franchise really needs a big bad. Despite his relatively few appearances in the Infinity Saga, the departure of Thanos after Avengers: Endgame left a major hole for fans. Marvel tried to fill that hole with Kang the Conqueror, initially slated to be the big bad of the Multiverse Saga, building to Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars. But after Kang performer Jonathan Majors’s recent conviction, Marvel has dropped the actor and removed the subtitle The Kang Dynasty from the next Avengers film. 

Wilson Fisk will not be the next Kang or Thanos. Unlike the other much-anticipated villain Dr. Doom, Fisk’s control over a fairly small part of the world does not drive him to become god-like. 

However, that limited ambition should not be confused with a lack of relevance. While Thor and Captain America and Captain Marvel can deal with universal threats like Thanos and Kang, street-level heroes like Echo and Daredevil need a major villain on their level. In fact, the MCU has struggled to make Spider-Man and especially Hawkeye feel relevant in cosmic battles, something that would not be a problem with Fisk as the major bad guy. And if a recent ScreenRant interview with Echo producer Brad Winderbaum is to be believed, that’s exactly what Fisk will become.

As he has shown time and again, in every form of media, Fisk knows how to construct a master plan, making him a great big bad, no matter how small his area of interest. 

The post Marvel Needs Kingpin’s Echo Return Now More Than Ever appeared first on Den of Geek.

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