Although it was bookended by killer fight scenes, this episode was practically wall to wall exposition. Not that that's a bad thing when it's framed well and gives us a lot of backstory, as well as clues to what's coming up.
Matt and Elektra
The nature of vigilantism and Matt's struggle with the question of killing was still front and center. In the opener, Matt distracted Elektra by stopping her from killing one of the super annoying ninjas (Matt, you don't distract a fellow superhero during a fight) and as a result, she was seriously injured. Near the end, another super annoying ninja put an unexpected and somewhat shocking arrow through Matt, and even though Matt was appalled at the ninja's youth, Elektra matter-of-factly cut the kid's throat.
Honestly, everything that happened with Elektra in this episode felt like they were ticking off a list of negative female stereotypes. She turned from a super badass to a wounded damsel in distress. Then it turned out that she was always working for Stick, and didn't even have motivations of her own. In the flashbacks, Stick had sent her to seduce Matt and bring him back into the fold, and of course, now she loves Matt and wants to be with him because he's the only person in the world who believes she is good. Except that she's a killer. It's what she is.
Stick and the Hand
I enjoyed the bit with Stick neutralizing the blades and the poison or whatever with toilet bowl cleaner and baking soda, as well as jonesing for a cup of black tea. It reminded me of the Winchesters patching each other up with whiskey and dental floss. But then Stick launched into a whole long and weird story about the Far East and immortality and that Stick is the Chaste, the head of an army that fights the Hand. And there's this inactivated weapon called Black Sky, yadda yadda yadda. Matt thinks Stick is a psycho who just wants to use people, and he may have a point.
As well as Scott Glenn delivered a metric ton of exposition, and as much as I want the answers to what's going on, all of this Hand stuff was a bit much for me. Plus, the Hand ninjas are pissing me off. I hate how they keep showing up like cockroaches in a bad apartment, and that Matt has so much trouble tracking them. They're not people, they're plot devices.
And then let's top it off with the ultimate cliche -- Karen stopped by to talk with Matt about the trial, and couldn't help but notice that he had a gorgeous woman in his bed. So now it's all over between Matt and Karen. Come on, Karen. Matt wasn't actually in bed with Elektra, and what about the old guy in the next room?
The Punisher on trial
Clancy Brown, like Scott Glenn, is an exceptional actor who can deliver a lot of exposition and make you like it, and the backstory about Lieutenant Frank Castle and how he won the Navy Cross (and how Brown's character, Colonel Ray Schoonover, lost his arm) was exceptionally cool. Actually, it called for flashbacks, although showing the Punisher killing thirty more people might have gotten repetitive.
I'm going to echo our other Daredevil reviewers and say that I never cared for Jon Bernthal as Shane in The Walking Dead, but he rocks as the Punisher. He has presence, I believe him, and can't help but sort of like him. During Schoonover's testimony, Frank sat quietly, looking away, as if he couldn't bear to hear about the person he used to be. Dr. Lee testified that because of his brain injury, Frank is suffering from "sympathetic storming", a heightened and ongoing state of fight or flight, and yet Frank doesn't tremble or look wild-eyed; he mostly appears to be listening to what's going on in his own head. Smart and effective.
|Love the skull-like bruises.|
Maybe that was because like Elektra, Frank is a killer. He may have been forced to confess on the stand that he was guilty, that he loved killing the evil people that he took out, but it most certainly had the ring of truth. ("I'm smack-dab in the middle of my right goddam mind!") Matt cannot force either Elektra or Frank to become the model non-killing vigilante that Matt sees himself as, and what he thinks they should be.
Are Foggy and Karen completely done with Matt? I almost can't blame them, since Matt's heart is clearly in his extra-curricular activities, not practicing law. I'd hate to see Nelson and Murdoch end this way, though.
The big shocker at the end was that Frank had confessed because of Wilson Fisk. What does Fisk want from Frank? I don't know, but I would assume it has something to do with killing. Vincent D'Onofrio's name appeared at the end as a "special guest star" instead of in the opening credits. Way smart, because it would have spoiled the surprise.
-- Can I say how much I absolutely love the huge hole in the ground? During the opening fight, I was expecting one of the ninjas to go over the edge and scream all the way down, and it happened. Except that ninjas apparently don't scream, even when plummeting to their deaths.
-- The car chase through the narrow streets felt like an echo of the famous hallway fight in season one. I love the visuals on this show, the dense blacks with the mustard yellow highlights, the dirty teal shades in Matt's apartment, the corrugated plastic "waterfall" behind Matt's bed.
-- Who was the guy driving the car? Does he just wait around for days until Stick returns and needs him?
-- There was an old U.S. flag with 48 stars in the courtroom. Nice set decoration. The car they escaped in looked really old, too. This show often appears to be set in a different time when it isn't.
Schoonover: "The Lieutenant Frank Castle I know is a hero. A man who deserves our respect and our gratitude."
Karen: "Do you think that Frank is completely and totally mentally healthy?"
Foggy: "I think he's batshit."
Matt: "When we met, was it fate? Was it luck? Or was I a mission?"
Karen: (to Matt) "You're right. This city really needs heroes. But you're not one of them."
An excellent episode, even with its flaws. Three and a half out of four really huge and amusing holes in the ground,
Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction, and spends way too much time writing about it.