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Daredevil Season 2 Nears the Halfway Point

Last week we covered the first three episodes of Daredevil’s second season. Characters returned, others were introduced, and there were some great fights. It was a terrific introduction promising a stellar season to come. This week we’re moving on to episodes 4 through 6, and things hardly slow down. Arcs end, others begin, and some evolve into something else entirely.

Let’s get to it.


punisher carousel

“Penny and Dime”

In many ways, “Penny and Dime” serves the function of a season finale. We learn Frank Castle’s back story. He is captured and the plotlines revolving around his freedom to this point resolve. We see the beginning of Matt and Karen’s relationship. Hell’s Kitchen is safe. In the words of Matt Murdock, “Vigilante days are done in this town.”

Most of the episode centers around concluding The Punisher’s killing spree from the first three episodes. No action occurs without reaction, and the very first Frank Castle massacre of the season leads to a manhunt by a group of affiliated Irish mobsters. The violence of their desperate search draws in the cops and Daredevil. Karen continues her investigations into Castle’s past using the information obtained from the DA’s assistant.

This episode is very much centered on the murderous vigilante, and it benefits greatly for that focus, producing an episode rivaled by very few in season 2.

“Penny and Dime” does a very intriguing and effective job of humanizing Frank Castle while simultaneously making the Punisher seem somehow more than human. The Irish hunting him do so desperately. When they find and capture him, he nearly walks through multiple shots from tasers. He buries a razorblade in his arm and uses it to free himself afterwards. He laughs when beaten and tortured. Karen’s investigation leads to a story from a nurse who treated the man the day his family was murdered, stating how Castle “refused to die” even after being taken off life support. It all makes the man seem more horror villain than human being.

(Our gun-toting friend takes quite a beating at the hands of the Irish. I mentioned in my first review how Daredevil can be unapologetically graphic, but even by its standards Castle’s torture feels a bit much. While demonstrating the anger and desperation of the Irish mobsters performing the torture, I would not argue with someone who calls it unnecessary.)

Alongside that is Frank sadly watching a carousel as he waits for the Irish to find him. His family home is untouched when Karen searches it. Children’s toys and happy family pictures lay around as if the family which once inhabited the house are out to dinner rather than dead. He only tells the Irish the location of money he has stolen when the dog he rescued is threatened. Eventually Daredevil comes to help him escape captivity, dragging him to nearby graveyard where we hear probably the best monologue of the season.

You knew the first time Castle said, “One batch, two batch, Penny and Dime” that it would relate back his children. That expectation did nothing to lessen his story of coming home from war and the children’s book he did not read to his daughter. Jon Bernthal absolutely nails the scene. You see the regret and discomfort as he lets spill about the last happy day of Frank Castle’s life. The inflection of his voice, the labored breaths, the bobbing of his throat, it all comes together to make you feel more for the man than every previous small moment combined.

So ends the Punisher arc which opened the second season. Daredevil turns Castle over to Officer Brett with the instructions to take credit for the arrest, a result of an earlier confrontation over the harm Daredevil causes. This even seems to offer a close to the vigilante question so prevalent through the early season. Matt, Foggy, and Karen get drinks at their favorite bar to celebrate. Matt and Karen walk home in the rain, and share a first kiss before agreeing on a date.

(Which, while sweet, is really cheesy. I enjoy Deborah Ann Woll’s job playing Karen, but the overblown sighs and moans were kind of annoying. Pretty sure Matt Murdock’s superpowers don’t include giving women orgasms when he touches their arm.)

It all feels so final. There are still 8 episodes to go, and as Matt enjoys a drink in his apartment you can’t help but wonder where it can go from here. Enter Elektra.


elektra

“Kinbaku”

“Kinbaku” is very much focused on the relationship between Elektra (Elodie Yung) and Matt Murdock, and does a pretty good job establishing why they are drawn to each other while also making clear why things did not work out. It opens to a flashback of the two meeting at a party, and the attraction between the two is immediately apparent.

(Playing in the background when Matt and Foggy crash this party: “The View” by Modest Mouse. Great band and a great song.)

Matt’s attraction is obvious. Elektra is beautiful, rich, mischievous, and perceptive. She figures out his abilities fairly quickly. Though he is not yet Daredevil, she understands the side of him which will one day don a costume and fight thugs in Hell’s Kitchen. The attraction is not alone. In Matt, Elektra finds someone who excites her in a way life does not and also understands her beyond her appearance. It’s a bit of the whole sexy, mysterious stranger cliché for both, but Yung and Charlie Cox make it work. Maybe if the two actors had less chemistry it would not have. That is not the case here.

(Too bad that chemistry didn’t make for a better sex scene. Elektra’s hair flipping might make Asami Sato proud, but I certainly expected more…aggressive lust considering the sex was continuation of a sparring session. Slow motion sensuality was kind of jarring and lame.)

That chemistry is no less tangible in their present day scenes. No matter how Matt tries to deny it, he is drawn to Elektra. He denies her plea to help with the Roxxon Corporation and then listens into the meeting from a nearby rooftop. The episode ends with him arriving at her suite just as Yakuza arrive. She fully understands her appeal to him, and not just in a way she can manipulate. These are just the first signs of how they show their true selves in ways they can’t around anyone else.

Matt’s struggles with this issue are very apparent in his date with Karen. At least at the start, it is horribly awkward, in large part because neither is honest with the other about how they spent their days. They cannot build a trust because of Matt’s inability to be honest. Karen appeals to Matt Murdock, but Elektra appeals to the Devil. It’s a personality struggle that continue all season. Side note: The Matt/Karen date turns out pretty sweet. Their goodnight kiss and talk was much better than the previous episode.

However, they are still very different people with very different morals. This is made clear when Elektra brings Matt to the home of the man who killed her father. We see Elektra’s darker side for the first time as she gets visibly excited watching Matt beat on this man as he is tied to a chair. Take note; there is a reason for this beyond “femme fatale.” Elektra has her own secrets and motivations to come later.

The episode ends just before the previously mentioned Yakuza make their way to Elektra, and Matt cannot escape either Elektra or his Daredevil alter ego, no matter how he says he wants to. This split between the public Matt Murdock and the private is a driving plot line through the rest of the season.

Also occurring in this episode is the setup for Foggy and Karen’s next moves. Foggy meets with his lawyer friend and occasional lover Marcy, who now works at Jeri Hogarth’s law firm, and is told about District Attorney Reyes’s mayoral ambitions. These ambitions are meant to be built upon Frank Castle and a campaign against vigilantes in general (including a one Ms. Jessica Jones, who Marcy specifically names). This strikes me as a potential subplot for the eventual Defenders series where Daredevil, Jessica, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist will team up.

Meanwhile, Karen returns to the New York Bulletin to continue digging into Frank’s past. At this point there is no benefit or good reason to do so, no matter how Karen insists; this is purely a personal venture for her. Editor-in-Chief Mitchell Ellison is reluctant to allow her access to the Bulletin’s resources, but also admiring of her drive. She does find further information about Castle which will come into play moving forward.

Solid episode that does a good job setting up things to come.


daredevil party

“Regrets Only”

Where “Kinbaku” introduced the idea of Matt Murdock and Daredevil being unable to coexist, “Regrets Only” is where this split starts taking full hold of the story. There are two very different stories being told throughout this episode. It makes for a somewhat jarring difference in tone, but that’s kind of the point. Matt is trying to live separate lives that can’t coexist.

We open with more great music courtesy of “Date with the Night” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs during the arrival of the Yakuza from last episode’s end. So begins one half of this episode’s story, dedicated to Matt and Elektra’s investigations into the Yakuza, as they beat the hell out of these people. Their actions mainly serve as an entertaining info dump. We learn that the “Yakuza” are not actually Yakuza. We learn they are involved in something so secret it is coded in a ledger that doesn’t bother coding the trafficking of drugs, guns, or people. We get to see Matt and Elektra have fun at a party in the process. It’s goes how you expect and is fun to watch.

(I love their eventual escape, as they “pose” as two drunks that wandered off to screw each other. Pretty obvious they were barely faking.) However, this all comes after the episode’s other major story, where Nelson & Murdock agree to represent Frank Castle. A highly doctored version of Karen’s statement from the night Frank attacks the hospital is brought to her by Castle’s ill-equipped public defender, who makes it clear Reyes is not just trying to put Castle away. She wants him dead. Matt and Karen convince Foggy to go see the hospitalized vigilante in hopes of working out a plea deal not involving the death penalty. However, before the actual work begins Matt is whisked away to help Elektra.

No matter how Matt seems to fights it, he does not want to escape Elektra or his Daredevil side. He puts up token resistance to Elektra’s idea of teaming up before agreeing. He gives off the impression that he doesn’t want to leave the hospital to help her with the Yakuza. He sets up all kinds of rules for the partnership. All the while it is clear he can’t resist helping. He wants to do things the lawful way, as evident by his insistence upon helping Castle. He also has the side that wants to go out and kick the crap out of the bad guys.

This leaves Foggy and Karen to hammer out the plea deal alone, mostly resulting in alone time for Frank and Karen. They talk about everything Karen has discovered and about the DA’s efforts to cover up the truth, with even the report about the murders of Frank’s family falsified. They play really well off each other, and Jon Bernthal continues to steal the show with his performance.

(This was also the part where I began to wish more was done to humanize Reyes. I get the need for a legal antagonist for Nelson & Murdock and not just for Daredevil, but it feels like a wasted opportunity. She comes across like a damn terminator more than a human being.)

Foggy’s work on a deal is all for naught when Frank pleads not guilty. Nelson & Murdock is now defending Castle in a high-profile trial and a furious Foggy waits for Matt back at his apartment to tell him it begins in a week. Matt clearly wants to help. With everything he is committed to, though, how can he possibly accomplish that?

Overall this was a good week for season 2, if not quite so good as the first week. The Castle trial is highly intriguing, as are the mysteries surrounding the group Matt and Elektra are chasing. This week is also the start of the biggest issue moving forward. I like Elektra. I like the chemistry between her and Matt. As a comic fan I did enjoy the whole story to come with them. However, there’s no doubt that the stuff with the Punisher is the better television. As this split between the two storylines continues (especially in episodes 8 and 9 to be covered next week), the difference in quality makes for a somewhat divisive season.

That being said, it is still good television overall. Whatever the problems with the plot, the characters never fail to keep me engaged.

“Penny and Dime”: A

“Kinbaku”: B

“Regrets Only”: B-

  • Officer Brett is now Detective Brett in “Regrets Only” due to the Punisher arrest. This is exactly what Matt was hoping for at the end of “Penny and Dime.”
  • It’s still funny how Hell’s Kitchen functions like its own city rather than a small part of New York City.
  • “Not to go all tinfoil hat, but…” Karen is clearly a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire.
  • Karen’s snark of the week in response to the public defender’s bragging about championing women because of a single domestic abuse case: “Thanks, from all of us.”

All images courtesy of Marvel and Netflix

Bo
Written By

Bo relaxes after long days of staring at computers by staring at computers some more, and feels slightly guilty over his love for Villanelle.

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