Daredevil: Kinbaku

"We need to be done with the crazy, guys. We need normal!"

The last episode I reviewed was a slow introduction to Frank Castle. Somehow I got the episode that acts as a slow introduction to Elektra Natchios. We've seen one personification of Matt Murdock's inner conflict this season. Now let's take a look at the other.

Just when we thought Matt and Karen were finally gonna hit it off with no worries, in drops Elektra. And with her comes a whole new set of problems, complete with anxiety and emotional baggage.

The exploration of Matt Murdock's dark side seems to be a big thing this season. We've been aware of it for awhile, but now it's starting to get shoved in his face so much that the man can barely think straight. With the Punisher, he saw a version of himself that gave into the grief of losing a loved one, the desperation that made them monstrous to monsters. With Elektra, he sees the part of himself that might actually be there: the part that enjoys the violence and the chaos. That rapturous smile Matt sometimes gets when he fights whole groups of men as Daredevil makes a lot more sense now that we've seen Elektra. The two even wear the same colors.

As deeply as she's embedded herself in Matt's heart and mind, he doesn't want to have anything to do with her. It's interesting to see two different versions of Matt dealing with the singular character of Elektra, his past self positively addicted to her while his present self is hostile, getting uncharacteristically flustered every time she's on his mind.

The two best parts of this episode centered around, I guess you could say, two first dates. First there is Matt and Elektra's first date, their meeting at a ballroom party. The way the two become intrigued by each other by casually seeing through their mutual facades. But even more than that, I loved Matt's first date with Karen. It starts out kind of awkward, neither of them seem to know what to order at the fancy restaurant, Karen is distracted by her investigation into the Punisher's past, and Matt is distracted by Elektra's threatening presence. It gets better once they ditch the place for somewhere with "cheap stuff." The rest of their date is very sweet, even a little magical. It ends with Matt and Karen sharing another passionate kiss. But Matt refuses to come up to her place because he doesn't want to ruin things by going too fast. This may have been a mistake, since Matt's mind immediately returns to Elektra, compelling him to go confront her at her place.

For those unfamiliar with the source material, Elektra is originally a sort of ninja assassin created by Frank Miller. She is Daredevil's most famous love interest, next to Karen Page and Black Widow. Here, she's very problematic for someone as principled as Matt. He must have found it refreshing when he was younger, this dangerous girl who talks the talk, walks the walk, steals expensive cars, sees right through his cute blind man routine, and can even best him in martial arts. She was the first girl he could truly relate to. She must burn especially bright to stand out in Matt's "world on fire" view of the world.

Too bad she had to ruin their awesome good boy/bad girl relationship by taking it too far and trying to pressure Matt into killing the man who ordered his father's murder. This may have been the impetus for Matt's no-kill policy when it comes to crime-fighting. Elektra clearly doesn't have that problem. She's also clearly got a lot of issues. Her present scenario had her conducting a little corporate espionage on the Roxxon Corporation, who hold a large amount of her late father's money. By the end of the episode, they seem to have caught on to this and send the Yakuza after her.

And Elektra, seemingly omniscient thanks to her power, wealth and physical skill-set, has caught on to the fact that Matt is Daredevil. This confirms, at least in her mind, that Matt knows he has that "glorious darkness" within him and has found a way to channel it. She thinks he's finally ready to be the man she wanted him to be ten years ago. Is she right?

Bits and Pieces:

* Kinbaku means to "bind tightly". It's a form of Japanese erotic bondage. Has there been a more fitting title yet?

* Karen basically confirms her theory that Reyes and others are trying to cover up Frank Castle's history in order to paint him as an irredeemable psychopath. She and Ben Urich's old boss Ellison discover a hardcopy with information on the tragedy that befell the Castles. Frank and his family were caught in the middle of a shooting war between three gangs, the Mexican Cartel, the Dogs of Hell and the Kitchen Irish.

* You guys thought Charlie Cox's accent was confusing, but I honestly am not sure what Elodie Jung is going for. Elektra is supposed to be Greek. Sometimes she sounds British, other other times American, and there's occasionally a Latin twang like the way she says "Matthew". I don't know what it is, but, nevertheless, she sounds as sexy as she looks.

* This episode introduces the Roxxon Energy Corporation, if they hadn't been introduced already. It's a petroleum corporation and one of the world's most powerful conglomerates in the Marvel Universe, sort of like Evil Corp from Mr. Robot.

* The Yakatomi Building? Is that a nod to the Nakatomi Building from Die Hard?

* Loved Elektra waving a butcher's knife around in front of Matt's face with not a care in the world as they "played house."

* Foggy's old flame Marcie is now working for the law firm representing Jessica Jones. I think it's the same firm Carrie Ann Moss is in charge of. Marcie's impression of Daredevil was amusing, calling him "the horny one."

* The threat of DA Reyes is still looming over the penniless Nelson & Murdock. Marcie told Foggy that Reyes is aiming for the mayor's office on an anti-vigilante platform. Great.

* The Yakuza are back, though, Elektra hints that they were never really gone.

* I loved the single-shot scene where Matt leaves Karen at the end of their wonderful date and gets bogged down right away by the darkness of New York. And the memory of Elektra.

Quotes:

Elektra: At least your furniture has improved.
Matt: I kind of liked my old futon.
Elektra: I liked breaking it in! Nice place. Too bad about the clothes, though.

Elektra: I knew it!
Matt: You knew... what?
Elektra: I thought you said you were blind?
Matt: No, you said I was blind.
Elektra: So you can see?
Matt: It's complicated.
Cue the sexy fight.

Ellison: All of the servers were wiped in the Incident. Decades just gone, so, uh, we keep hardcopies of everything now.
That would suck even for a small newspaper. Interesting to see how the Avengers and other superhero antics affect the world of journalism.

Matt: I think it's illegal, driving under the influence of blindness.
Elektra: You're the future lawyer.

Karen: I wish you could see this place.
Matt: I can, if you describe it to me.
Karen: My favorite part is the ceiling. So, it's literally dripping with thousands of lights. They're shaped like chili peppers, which sounds really tacky, but it's not. It's... magic.
This was beautiful. Also I love Deborah Ann Woll.

I'm still not sure where this season is going, unlike last season. I'd be lying, though, if I said I wasn't just as invested and enthralled by what I'm seeing. Three out of four chili pepper lightbulbs.

7 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I'm not sure how I feel about Elektra. If we're supposed to like her, it didn't work with me. Why does she love to break things? Why is her costume just like Matt's? :)

As a librarian, I have to say that the archive scene made me shudder. Seriously, that wouldn't happen. Big newspapers need access to old stuff all the time, and actual paper that old is already crumbling which is why they're on microfilm and/or have been digitized. Companies make backups of digital files, too. Okay, I'll shut up now.

Terrific review, Logan. I loved the chili pepper lights in that restaurant, too. And the little mention of Jessica Jones.

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

While I wouldn't say that this season of Daredevil is a bad one, I must say that for me, the writers have completely massacred the Elektra/Matt backstory. The original version had her as a sweet girl and the first girl Matt aggressively pursued. Then she and her father were taken hostage and Matt, trying to save them, screwed up and her father died. Elektra never forgave him and they drifted apart.

This Elektra is a generic "femme fatale" who tries to make Matt "give in to his darkness." This is classical, biblical misogyny - as in original-sin stuff - and it's a bit amusing how many people gobble it up as her being a "strong woman" and the show being "Feminist". This version tries to make Matt kill his father's murderer and... leaves him when he doesn't?! Of course, in the original version Matthew actually scares him to death.

This ranks up there with the most bone-headed rewrites I've ever seen. It's stupid on so many levels, not the least being that it places Matt completely in the right and Elektra completely in the wrong, as opposed to the original backstory where you could at least empathize with Elektra's decision and her grief over her father's death.

You know a show is out on thin ice when they have a character going on about the "glorious darkness within you." That's way more cartoonish than the source material.

The actress is phenomenal. Her personal chemistry with Charlie is more-than-passable. It's just the writing of their relationship that's a train wreck.

Logan Cox said...

Billie, I don't think we're supposed to like her; she seems like a bad influence on Matt. Unless she's just screwing with him for a giggle. Also, after seeing the way the Bulletin was operated and the shit Ben Urich had to put up with last season, I'm not that surprised the paper isn't more up to date. It's not entirely believable, but then neither are superheroes fighting aliens in downtown NYC, unfortunately.

Thomas, to be fair, they already tried a somewhat faithful telling of Matt/Elektra in the 2003 Daredevil film. Besides me, most people were not pleased. The show seems to be doing its own thing with her and Punisher, like they did with Kingpin, and still seem to be doing with Daredevil. While the femme fatale contrasting Karen's good girl is as old as Betty and Veronica, it might not be entirely pointless. Nor would I call it either misogynist or feminist; though, considering Elektra is a Frank Miller creation, it wouldn't surprise me if her origins weren't already rooted in some oblivious misogyny. It's just kind of a cliche really. Not that I mind a good cliche or two.

I don't entirely disagree on the original sin stuff. Elektra is clearly symbolic of Matt's lust for danger and violence as much as Frank Castle is a symbol of his vengeful wrath. The "darkness" in Matt Murdock is, I think, one of the big themes of this season, if not the whole show. Matt has made a big deal of the fact that fighting is in his blood and that he's "got the devil in him."

I should note that I haven't read superhero comics in a long time (and I've only read a little Daredevil), so that might be why I'm not as invested in the show's faithfulness to the source material.

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

Yes, I feel like I have to point out, I'm by no means a canon fanatic. If I were, I couldn't very well review Gotham, or at least, I couldn't review it favorably. It's just that I think the Netflix version is a marked letdown from the source material, even if the source material admittedly was rather simplistic.

The comic Daredevil/Elektra relationship had a very "special" feel. Elektra was in fact very much the antithesis of a femme fatale in that for her, her sexuality and romantic feelings were a leftover from her old self and something she viewed as a vulnerability. That character would never have made sexually charged jokes. She never, ever flirted with Matthew.

Patrick said...

Just as an aside, the Roxxon Corporation was mentioned in Season One, and was also featured in Agent Carter. I won't mention its role in Agent Carter in case folks haven't watched it yet, but it's mentioned very early on. In Season One of Daredevil, it's mentioned in the flashbacks of Matt & Foggy as interns. Their firm was representing Roxxon against a man who'd become ill, and the case helped Matt decide that he & Foggy should venture out on their own.

:end comic-nerd

Docnaz said...

Comic canon aside, I thought this was great. Start to finish. The contrast of Elekra and Karen was riveting. The imagery was amazing. Is that restaurant just a set design, or is there really a place that beautiful? The caviar, expensive "sounding" car and beautifully appointed home gave off a wonderfully luxurious vibe. I certainly thinking the writing is moving the story forward. I hear where you are coming from Thomas. I live with a 20 yo son who refuses to believe in a world outside canon ( I am trying to phrase this in a way that is not offensive). He won't even watch Gotham because of ... well I am not sure how to classify it, ...the way online fanboys criticizes it for straying from the comic book portrayal even though he has not watche it. I think those of us who have not read the comics can enjoy it more thoroughly

By the way Thomas, thanks for picking up the coverage of Gotham. It is much appreciated.

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

Docnaz, it's more a case of not being married to one specific comic canon - in the case of Daredevil, it's almost always the Elektra Saga Miller version. Most people who criticize Daredevil or Gotham from a canon standpoint aren't actually very familiar with the source material and do not whine about it from a dramatic standpoint. This is especially true when it comes to Batman which has dozens of "canons". They're just angry that the show isn't like that movie they saw ten years ago or so.

If you have no experience with the comics you'll be fine. If you have a lot of experience you'll be fine. It's the half-educated know-it-alls filling the message boards of the internet who are at the head of the crusade.