Daredevil: The Dark at the End of the Tunnel

"I'm already dead."

I'm going to go on the record and state that I've enjoyed this season more than the first one. The only thing that has really marred my enjoyment has been the lack of a credible villain. Fisk’s brief return only highlighted this problem.

I liked the Hand as villains in the comics. I've always loved the pulpy idea of a costumed crime fighter battling zombie Ninjas in New York. It's one of the things that attracted me to the Daredevil comics in the first place. But the show's version of the Hand just leaves me cold. While they can pose a credible threat, what with being zombie ninjas and all, when it comes to character and motivation the Hand are seriously lacking. I've had socks, grey ones at that, with more personality than Nobu. He's exactly the kind of generic rent-a-baddie you would expect to find in some bottom shelf  Steven Seagal flick. Maybe it wouldn’t have been such a bad thing if Elektra had accepted their offer. At least then the Hand would have an interesting leader and we might’ve got some actual answer to what they’re up to.

After almost two seasons we're still no closer to knowing what the Hand’s ultimate plan is. We also don’t know what that giant hole in the ground is for or how the cookie jar of doom fits in to all this. All we do know is that they are after something called a Black Sky and Elektra is it, but we still have no idea what the hell a Black Sky is and what the Hand plan to do with one. As a result, this "shocking twist" didn't quite pack the punch the writers were hoping it would.

I honestly thought that Stick was going to die in this episode. I really did. Six years of watching Lost has conditioned me to expect death whenever flashbacks are brought into play. Couple that with the fact he is Matt's mentor/father figure and as we all know mentor/father figures have as much chance of survival as any character played by Sean Bean.

And he would've deserved it because, let's face it, Stick is a dick. He finds these orphans, takes them in, trains them, gives them purpose, and then abandons them without so much as a second thought when they fail to live up to his standards. "Matty" and "Ellie" are just cannon fodder to him, pawns in his silly little war with the Hand. I don't think for a second Stick ever really cared about Elektra. He just wanted her to remain loyal to him so he could use the Hand's ultimate weapon against them. The minute she tried to break away he didn't hesitate to have her killed. After everything he's done, Matt and Elektra should've killed him together. But that didn't happen and I'm glad it didn't. Stick being struck down by his prized student is a little too Star Wars-ish. And, as much as I want the Hand to have a character with three dimensions in charge, I did not want to see Elektra give in to "her destiny" and become the Hand's ill-defined team mascot.

Elsewhere, Frank Castle wasn’t faring much better on the villain front. The Blacksmith, the shadowy underworld figure who has been pulling strings and is ultimately responsible for the murder of Frank’s entire family, turned out to be none other than Ray Schoonover.


Yeah, that’s what I thought. Ray Schoonover? That guy we saw for all of five minutes half a dozen episodes ago and who hasn’t been mentioned since? That guy whose only memorable quality is that he’s played by Clancy Brown? Him? He's the final level boss of Frank's entire story arc? I can’t help but find that reveal rather anticlimactic, not to mentioned far-fetched. Either this is some unbelievable coincidence or the shootout in the park was an overly elaborate scheme to take Frank out. Schoonover talking about Kandahar and "what Frank did" certainly implies that later.

While Matt was able to get through to Elektra and stop her from killing Stick, Karen wasn't able to do the same with Frank. It goes without saying that Karen’s fight to save Frank’s soul was always more about her than it was about him. She needed to believe that Frank was not a psycho killer and therefore, perhaps, she isn't one either. But Frank was a lost cause long before he came into her life. He wasn't wrong when he told Karen that he was already dead. Frank Castle never survived the shootout in the park. He died that day along with his entire family. What survived was not Frank Castle. It may have had his face, his name, his memories, but it wasn't him. Not really. It was a shadow of the man Frank Castle was. But now that shadow has no purpose. Frank's family have been avenged. It is finally over. So what now? I think the answer is obvious. He's going to go into hiding, change his identity, and open a shelter for lost animals. I mean, what else is he going to do?


Barring a last minute reconciliation in the finale, it really does look like Nelson and Murdock is closing its doors for good. And, to be perfectly frank, this is for the best. For everyone. Foggy is too good a lawyer to be shackled to a law firm and a partner who just isn’t as committed to the job as he is. Matt is completely unable to keep the two sides of his life separate. He's not some billionaire who can hire someone to run his company for him while he goes chasing bad guys across rooftops. He can't be Daredevil and a full time lawyer. They both know this and they've accepted it. I just hope that their friendship can survive all of this, even if their law firm doesn't.

Notes and Quotes

--It's great to see Elektra now fighting with her signature weapons.

--The shot of the burning drug boat was undoubtedly a reference to The Usual Suspects:


--There is something gruesomely poetic about Stick being tortured with sticks.

Elektra: “You've pushed everyone out of your life... and now you want to put the little you have left on protecting that broken old man?"

Matt: "Did you want me to convince you? Of what? This. Us. You know, giving Nelson and Murdock another shot?"
Foggy: "I was hoping you would. Relieved when you didn't. Last step was us both admitting it."

Three out of four ill-defined team mascots.
--
Mark Greig is guilty on all charges. More Mark Greig

4 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I so have to agree with what you wrote, Mark. I'm very tired of the ninjas showing up, and Elektra's backstory should have affected me more. Schoonover turning out to be the Blacksmith should have been obvious because it's Clancy Brown, but it felt contrived. I was going what? Really? (Loved the tumbleweeds. :)

Josie Kafka said...

All we do know is that they are after something called a Black Sky and Elektra is it, but we still have no idea what the hell a Black Sky is and what the Hand plan to do with one. As a result, this "shocking twist" didn't quite pack the punch the writers were hoping it would.

Yes!

Ray Schoonover? That guy we saw for all of five minutes half a dozen episodes ago and who hasn’t been mentioned since? That guy whose only memorable quality is that he’s played by Clancy Brown? Him?

Yes! Yes!

I'm glad you saw the Usual Suspects parallels, too. I couldn't stop seeing them!

Logan Cox said...

I have to agree about the villains this season, sans Fisk: Boooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrring. Nobu is neither menacing nor cool enough to play the role of the main bad guy; it makes me wish Elektra had just gone through with her Black Sky destiny. She's already proven she's not a good girl.

Also, I had the same reaction to Ray "Clancy Brown" Schoonover. Like, really? What a waste of Clancy Brown, who I know can play an excellent villain. I might have accepted this if they'd bothered explained it. You'd think after twelve episodes we might want to delve into Frank Castle's past a bit like we did Elektra. Why does she get a flashback but he doesn't?

That said, I love the scene in the tool shed. How he looks over all the tools and objects he could use to punish Schoonover, before deciding to just "one shot, one kill" him. Then he discovers the Blacksmith's secret weapsons arsenal and you see the gears turning in his head. The way the camera focuses on his itchy trigger finger. Awesome.

Marianna said...

Fun fact: the tunnel scene was filmed at Fort Totten in Bayside, NY!