Daredevil: A Cold Day in Hell's Kitchen

"Wherever you run, I run with you."

I’m starting to worry that this is going to be one of those shows that repeatedly falls at the last hurdle.

While not as much of a disappointment as season one’s finale, there was still a lot that was meh about ‘A Cold Day in Hell’s Kitchen’. The final rooftop battle fell completely flat. The way they were building it up it looked like Matt and Elektra were going to be facing a massive army of zombie ninjas, but by the time they actually got to the roof that army seemed to have dwindled down considerably, like a load of them had gone off for a coffee break or something. And don’t get me started on the actual fighting. Compared to all the other amazing action set pieces the series has produced so far, it was all just so formulaic and uninspired.

Because the Punisher and Hand arcs have been so removed from each other all season, Frank’s last minute intervention in the big battle felt somewhat intrusive. There really wasn’t any need for him to be there. He didn’t arrive until the fight was more or less over,  shot a total of two bad guys (which is the Punisher equivalent of giving someone a light shove) and then promptly left. Worse still, this was the first time we got to see Frank in the full Punisher costume. This should’ve been a big, iconic event, but because it was so fleeting, and hot on the heels of Elektra’s death, it felt more like forced fan service. Far more effective was Frank's return to his former home. Seeing him sit down at that empty table may be the most heartbreaking moment of the season.

Shows up 15 minutes late for the final battle with Starbucks assault weapons
I know this might be a divisive statement for me to make, but I love Matt and Elektra. I absolutely love ‘em. Their relationship has been my favourite part of this season, with Jon Bernthal's performance as Frank Castle a close second. I put this all down to the amazing chemistry between Charlie Cox and Élodie Yung. They are just elektric together (sorry, couldn't resist). Elektra may sometimes bring out the worst in Matt (which, if we're honest, is one of the reasons why he likes her) but Yung has always brought out the very best in Cox. Because this episode focused heavily on Matt and Elektra and their showdown with the Hand, all the other characters were pushed to the sidelines. Foggy scenes could be counted on one hand, while Karen was forced into the disappointing role of damsel in distress for the second episode in a row. You know, just once I’d love to watch a superhero series where the male hero’s female love interest is never ever taken hostage by the bad guys or placed in danger by extraordinary circumstances. Let’s obliterate this tiresome cliché once and for all.

Speaking of clichés that need to be shown the door, how lame was Elektra’s death?

As soon as Matt made his emotional “let’s run away together” speech I knew that one of them was going to die and that it was going to be Elektra (the show is called Daredevil, after all). I hoped and prayed I would be wrong and that somehow these two crazy kids (so wrong for each other and yet also so, so right) would beat the odds, defeat the army of Ninja assassins awaiting them, walk away from this fight intact, jump into a cab to the airport, and fly off to somewhere sexy together. It happened once before to another screwed up superhero couple I love, why couldn't it happen for this one? Frank Miller, that's why.

Miller's Elektra Saga is one of the most iconic comic storylines ever written and simply irresistible to anyone looking to adapt the source material. The 2003 movie tried to do the whole thing in one go and completely arsed it up. You’d think with more time and a proven understanding of the source material that the writers of this show would be able to get it right. You’d think. Leaving aside the fact that female characters dying in the arms of their male love interest is grossly overdone these days as it is, what really boils my blood about Elektra’s death is that the fatal blow isn't deliberate, it's accidental, and it is delivered by Nobu, the Hand's New York branch manager, rather than one of the world’s most dangerous assassins because they couldn't get Jason Statham to sign on. Elektra deserved an epic death, something worthy of song. Not this.

Matt “killing” Nobu felt like the writers having their cake and trying to eat it too. They wanted Elektra’s death to push Matt over the edge and do something he would never do, but when he does that to a man who can’t really die and is then “killed” by someone else, it feels like a cheat. Again, the writers recreated a famous moment from the comics in such a way that it had no impact whatsoever.

There was no last minute reconciliation for Nelson and Murdock and Page. The band, so happy and joyous at the start of the season, have all gone their separate ways. Foggy accepted an offer to work for Jeri Hogarth (which makes me super excited to see him interacting with Jessica Jones at some point). Karen is now working at the Bulletin full time and is expected to write articles despite zero journalism training or experience. And Matt? I'm not sure what Matt is doing but I'd bet the farm it involves broken bones.

Matt confessing his secret identity to Karen was a surprise because superheroes rarely ever tell their love interests the truth. Normally they stumble on it by accident, or the villain tells them, or the hero tells them only because they are injured and need their help. But a hero actually being open and honest? That is virtually unheard of. When the show does return, I hope it picks up where we left off. I don’t want to skip this scene. I want to see Karen’s reaction to this. Her hurt when she finds out that Foggy knew too. I want to hear Matt’s feeble attempt to explain his actions. I want to see the raw emotions.

Now it's time to talk about that coda. Did anyone really think Elektra would stay dead? I believe it was Chekhov who said that if you establish that your villains have the power to rise from the dead then you use it to bring back popular characters. So does this mean that Elektra is going to be evil now? We really won't know for certain until she finally emerges from that gigantic mystic cookie jar of doom. Whether this occurs in a potential season three or The Defenders miniseries remains to be seen.

Schrödinger's assassin
Notes and Quotes

--Where does Melvin get all the money to make Matt's toys? They can't be cheap.

--The time frame of this season is very confusing. 'Bang' took place in the summer and yet it is Christmas time in this episode.

--In the space of only a few hours Karen has been taken hostage by two distinct sets of bad guys. That is some serious bad luck.

--What was on that CD? And far more importantly, who still uses CDs in this day and age? Get yourself a thumb drive, Frank.

--Nice cameo there by Carrie Anne Moss.


--Are the other writers at the Bulletin not annoyed that this novice has been given such a spacious office?

--Foggy settled the tab at Josie's. This really is the end of an era.

--If the Hand were after everyone that Daredevil has saved then why did they take Turk?

--Duct tape? Stick is a master ninja, did they think he would be restrained by duct tape?

Karen: "Angel or Devil, rich or poor, young or old, you live here. You didn't choose this town. It chose you. Because a hero isn't someone who lives above us, keeping us safe. A hero's not a God or an idea. A hero lives here on the street, among us, with us. Always here, but rarely recognized. Look in the mirror and see yourself for what you truly are. You're a New Yorker. You are a hero. This is your Hell's Kitchen. Welcome home."

Elektra: "How does it feel? Knowing that the kids you've trained are going to fight your war for you, while you sit here."
Stick: "Biggest mistake of your life, child."
Elektra: "Maybe. But it will be my mistake because this is my life."

Karen: "I came to New York thinking there was no way I could be lonely in a city of millions."

Stick: "Was it worth it?"
Matt: "What?"
Stick: "Loving her."
Matt: "You taught me to cut all my ties to humanity... to other people. I had only a few moments with her... amidst all the... noise, chaos, and the violence. We were together only for moments. That was all. Orchids. She likes orchids. And, yeah, Stick... it was worth it."

Two and a half out of four mystic cookie jars of doom.
--
Mark Greig is an ex-parrot, he has ceased to be. More Mark Greig

7 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I think you have a lot of good points here in your excellent review, Mark. They couldn't resist trotting out all of the cliches. Although it was still better than the first season finale, and I did like Punisher showing up to help out.

Congratulations to the Agents of DOUX Team Daredevil! We did it!

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

Very good review and touched on some of my problems with this season, which I consider significantly weaker than the first one.

Congratulations to the team! ;-) Now we wait for Game of Thrones.

Diogo said...

Now that the whole season is reviewed and there's no more spoilers tonne given away, I can say something that I've been thinking throughout the whole Elektra arc: they actually made her a step back in terms of portrayal of women in fiction than she was in the original comic. I never thought of Frank Miller as a feminist writer, but the funny thing is that, despite her revealing outfit (which was pure fan service) she actually had a lot more agency in the original comic, whereas her portrayal on the show feels more clichéd and 2-dimensional. She started dating Matt because she was genuinely attracted to him in college (not because she was sent on a mission by some master to contribute to Matt's story arc), she left Matt and became an assassin out of her own free will after they killed her father, (not because she was some inherently evil "black sky" trained from childhood), she joined the Hand (again, out of her own free will) first as a secret agent to prove her worth to the Chaste (but eventually got corrupted by them and went on to live as an assassin to people like Kingpin)... And as mentioned in the review, she got killed after an epic fight with one of the most deadly assassins in the world on purpose, not by accident.

Diogo said...

Also, here's an interesting article on how, despite doing a decent job representing women and black people, so far the MCU is not doing a very good job representing Asians: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/04/01/not-your-asian-ninja-how-the-marvel-cinematic-universe-keeps-failing-asian-americans.html

Lamounier said...

Diogo, the article raises interesting points, but I wish it mentioned Agents of Shield, where asian americans are very well represented.

Diogo said...

I'd say May's the only exception in the MCU, and she wasn't even supposed to be Asian in the original draft (they brought her along because they were impressed with the actress's performance). Other than that, in the show we have Sky's mother, who's just evil... And this is a bit of a touchy subject, but as an half-asian who grew up entirely in America and only recently became aware of her heritage, does Skye/Daisy "count"? Let's say she does, but even then Agents of Shield is the exception in the MCU, not the rule...

Logan Cox said...

It's a shame Daredevil can deliver such an engrossing, binge-worthy story and still drop the ball with a mostly mediocre ending. Not to say that this was terrible or anything, just predictable and not as exciting as what came before.

Also agreed, not enough Frank Castle as The Punisher. Though the scenes of him returning to his house were poignant. And if he didn't know Matt was "Red" before, he sure as hell does now. But I think he's known since Matt and the others started representing him.

I thought Matt flinging Nobu off the roof with his billy club was cool (though Matt's moral blind side when it comes to killing Nobu still irks me), and Stick cutting him down for what is hopefully the last time. I was, like, "Finally!"

Did they ever explain who that red-head with Nobu was? Or what happened to her?

My one major complaint would be the scene where Matt and Elektra are "cornered" before the big fight. The Hand is supposedly break down the door and they only have seconds to talk. So they have a whole cutesy, Casablanca conversation for maybe two minutes, during which I guess The Hand collectively decided, "This door's too difficult to break down, and there's probably no other way to get in there. Let's all just go stand over here on the other side of the roof."

I also didn't feel anything when Elektra died, and that's not right. Now if it had been Karen or Claire...

"I'm not sure what Matt is doing but I'd bet the farm it involves broken bones." Haha, exactly.