Daredevil: Penny and Dime

“I don’t know what you are. But I know you ain’t him.”

The first time I watched this episode, I didn’t care for it. I like it more now, but I’m not sure I love this season as much as I did the first one.

Why not? I suppose it comes down to a lack of nuance. This season’s baddies have been abstract concepts visually articulated through stereotypes: A few guys on meathooks make up the Cartel. (Well, that’s what everyone calls them. And each time they do, I ask myself “Which cartel?”) The Dogs of Hell were all surly, hairy bikers. The Irish drink Jameson all the time, usually while talking about being Irish. I miss Vladimir, the snarky Russian from last season, and Madame Gao, who deserves her own spinoff. Foggy misses them too: he complains that he “get[s] all the bad guys confused these days.”

Except for the Punisher. I really like the Punisher. Jon Bernthal is basically blowing me away. I didn’t love him in The Walking Dead and couldn’t make it through Mob City, but now I’m a convert. Between last week’s Daredevil vs. Punisher rooftop interrogation and this week’s Irish vs. Punisher torture scene, Frank Castle is exactly the type of broody moodiness I expect from a violent antagonist/antihero who kills people but won’t let any harm come to a dog.

The backstory surrounding the Punisher is a bit less to my liking. Don’t get me wrong: I love Karen’s investigator mode; she’s turned into Kalinda from The Good Wife. The scene of Frank’s house was heartbreaking. His civilian life looks so full, so lovely. And it all disintegrated, leaving behind nothing more than a man with a will to do violence. (Foreshadowing question: will the same thing happen to Matt someday as he tries to build a full life for himself, too?)

But the “It goes all the way to the top!” conspiracy surrounding Frank’s backstory results in a bit more exposition than I would prefer. The info-dumps, like the characterization, feels like it could be handled more gracefully. Last season had plenty of scenes of two people talking, but those conversations were complicated, emotional, and thematically resonant. This season’s conversations feel like an echo of past greatness.

Having said that, Sergeant Brett got some great lines tonight that boiled down to this season’s theme: thanks to Daredevil’s vigilantism, any random guy with a dark past and a scowl can play judge, jury, and executioner. Thanks to Daredevil’s attempts to make the world a better place, the world has become a darker one.

The final conversation between Daredevil and the Punisher was the most interesting. Or maybe I should say the conversation between Daredevil and Frank, since the Punisher persona receded once they escaped the Irish. Frank is defined mostly by what he no longer has: the family that meant everything, the daughter he can’t read a bedtime rhyme to, the meaning he lacks.

His monologue in the graveyard was mostly about coming home (for just a day? Or what felt like just a day?) from deployment with barely enough time to realize the beauty of what he was coming home to. And then it was gone. To be that vulnerable, to have everything taken away, and then to get caught up in a conspiracy—it’s not a justification for the Punisher’s actions, but it’s a darn good set of reasons.

Pairing those revelations—of Frank's past and all that he has lost—with Matt really starting to flirt with Karen and finding Elektra in his apartment…well, as Foggy pointed out, happiness isn't always a good thing for a Catholic boy. Especially not one with a dark past and a scowl.

Josie’s Bar:

• Father Lantom: “Nothing shines up a halo faster than death.”

• Rory the Irishman: “The Irish may not have invented revenge, but we sure as hell took some time perfecting it.” I wonder if Irish gangsters really spend all their time talking about being Irish like they do in movies and TV shows.

• Frank: “I kept thinking God was gonna pull the rug out from under us. That’s his kind of funny, you know.”

• I know who Melvin Potter’s Betsy is in the comics. But I sort of want her existence in this show to be a surprise. Like, she’s a teddy bear. Or a sparrow that helps Potter get dressed in the morning.

• I think this episode is the first mention of the official name of the Hell’s Kitchen Irish gangsters: the “Kitchen Irish.” The first time I heard it, I thought it was one of those outmoded insults, like “lace-curtain Irish” or “shanty Irish.” Guess not!

• What happened to the dog?!

Three out of four Kitchen Irish.

Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

12 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Yes! What happened to the dog??? I expected the little guy to be running around in the cemetery while Frank did his long soliloquy about his family as his motivation while the words "born" and "died" were highlighted on the tombstone behind him.

Foggy seemed to be okay with Matt and Karen as a couple. Except how does Electra fit in? This is when it's great to be a comic virgin. I have absolutely no idea what's coming. And I have no idea who Betsy is.

Terrific review, Josie. :)

WADEZILLA13 said...

I watched this one last night and I was blown away (no pun intended); like the three episodes before it, I thought this one was EXCEPTIONAL. To finally see a fully realized Punisher - from shotgun blasts to the face(!) to pitch perfect outpourings of emotion over his past - onscreen has me giddy. Okay, he won't be FULLY realized until he's sporting the skull, but otherwise Bernthal is killing it (okay that pun was intended) thus far, making him a perfect addition to an already stellar cast.

It baffles me when people say they don't think this season is up to par with first; I'm a big TWD and SPN fan, but I think Daredevil has become, in my opinion, the best thing going on TV today.

Kakashi Sensei said...

Yeah, season 2 is not quite as good as season 1, but still good enough! The graveyard soliloquy gave me goosebumps. Became a Bernthal fan right then and there

Logan Cox said...

I can't believe they showed Rory's face getting blown apart by that shotgun blast. Gnarly.

Gotta say, I've been a fan of Jon Bernthal's since The Walking Dead. As good as he was on that show, I thought he was the perfect choice to play Punisher. So far he's proving me right.

For a few seconds, I thought the scene at the cemetery was going on a little too long. But there were tears rolling down my face by the end of it.

"You're not a pussy after all." If only Frank wasn't unconscious at the end of last episode. He would have figured this out about Matt a lot sooner.

Patrick said...

I'm still not sure if I think Season 2 is as good as Season 1, but it's certainly up to the general standard set by Season 1, which I think might be the single finest piece of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

When I first watched this episode, I was a bit surprised that Punisher was captured this early into the season, but he was out there probably as long as he should've been before his story got repetitive("Oh look, he's killed MORE mobsters"). Having him captured and put on trial still allows the other characters to have the moral debate about him & what he's done.

It was great seeing the priest back, even for a little while. I think that's the biggest thing that might keep Season 1 better than Season 2 for me, Matt's self-examination & the conversations with the priest that led to. Matt being more certain of himself and his role as Daredevil certainly makes for more "fun" television, but not necessarily more "interesting" television.

J.D. Balthazar said...

I loved the Graveyard scene. I'm finally on board with Bernthal as the Punisher, what a great performance. I think the point of the episode is that the crime families and such are kind of background players. They aren't the main villains, because this season doesn't seem to be about a big bad. It's about the fallout from a big bad being taken out. Or at least that's what I'm gathering from these first four episodes. Plus the consequences of Matt putting on the mask. Of course in the MCU he is just one among many, but that's kind of irrelevant.

Nice review!

Does anyone else thing that the new mask is like a hundred times better than his first one?

Billie Doux said...

The new mask is definitely better than the first one, but I still don't like it. It makes Matt look sarcastic, somehow.

Onanymous said...

It's strange, Tony Curran does psychopathic disturbingly well and yet I think of him as Vincent van Gogh every time I see him.

I have no idea how it relates to the comics, but I prefer the mask that doesn't show his eyes. There was something very unnerving about it that is lost in the new mask.

Docnaz said...

Awesome. I watched it twice tonight. I cried twice through Frank's graveyard monologue. Having a teen daughter who still has me tell her "the story of Three Bears with the description" made this really hit home. I hated Shane on The Walking Dead, but Frank kicks ass and is awesome..

Docnaz said...

And 4 episodes in I say Season 2 beats Season 1. Not as good as Jessica Jones...yet.

jenallday said...

It's almost unfortunate that this show does such a great job on the characters, cause I'm in love with them all and I can't quit it. But it is way beyond the line of how much violence I can handle so I watch it always ready to turn my head when things start getting yucky and it works well enough even if some bits of fight scenes I'm completely unaware of until I read a review.

This tactic failed completely when I was so excited to see Tony Curran, who is always going to be Van Gogh in my eyes, so excited that I was unprepared for his... striking entrance. Van Gogh is not as nice in the Marvel Universe as he is in the Whoniverse!

Marianna said...

I was also surprised that The Punisher was caught so early in the season, but I wouldn't be surprised if he escapes later on as his story is definitely incomplete.

Karen, that's a rookie mistake going for the mysterious guy over the funny guy, especially the mysterious guy with unexplained injuries. Whatever, Foggy is too good for her anyway. =)