What happens to a King of Crime when he's in prison–and gets access to one of the best killers ever? Meanwhile, Matt rejects Elektra, investigates the Hand alone and seemingly abandons Nelson and Murdock.
The more I watch this season's Daredevil, the more I feel like I'm within the grip of some lovely, closing bag o' plots. I feel like everything this season was preparation for this episode and the coming together of many strings whose foundations were laid as long ago as last season. It was sixty minutes in heaven for me, with one minor sad note, but throughout excellent acting and storylines that just don't quit.
Karen and Foggy and Matt: Finding Themselves
If there's a theme in this episode connecting its two major storylines, it's about the need for heroes to resist corruption: whatever that may mean for the hero in question. Matt is rejecting Elektra for the sake of his own soul, and I think this is good for him. The cleaners at the beginning of the ep are an obvious metaphor for his cleaning up his life. Matt's issue has always been the rejection of violence as an end in itself; he uses violence with purpose to satisfy his cravings, but the devil in the Murdock boy will always want more. The tragedy of his love for Elektra is that she has no problem with casual violence. When you're in love with someone, it's very difficult to maintain your own values untainted, your own ideals. When you share a life, their thoughts and perspectives naturally leach over. He rejects Elektra, but the same logic makes him reject Foggy and Karen, and seemingly the very life he's trying to save by leaving Elektra. I'm not sure what the right solution would be for Matt, but I think he can't insist on his vigilante and his lawyer being the same person, then fight so hard to keep those lives apart.
Nelson and Murdock may be dying, strangled under the weight of Matt's vigilantism and Foggy's need for a brother, but its death throes have allowed Karen to burst free, like Athena from the head of a hungover god. Matt wants to make her a lawyer. Even Foggy notes that she's "eerily good" at this business. But Karen has worked so far as a secretary because that's the closest fit she can make. She doesn't care so much about the law and the rules and the loopholes. She cares about finding the truth about things. After following her instincts with Mitchell, discovering the truth about Frank's family's murder being at least in part a police operation, Mitchell offers her what looks like the beginning of a career in investigative reporting, and it feels like she's finally behind a desk that fits.
The minor sad note for me throughout the episode is actually Foggy. I feel he's taking the much injured friend thing too far (look! Your friend is covered in sexy wounds!), and while Karen and Matt both have things to turn to, it's not clear what's next for Nelson. I wonder if he's going to visit a certain hot blonde ex and start representing Jessica Jones.
Frank and Fisk. Call them Punch and Pound.
You have to admire and fear the genius–and savagery–of Wilson Fisk. He starts so innocently. At times he has this complete big-baby-you-need-to-humor-me air. He seems not to know where he is when he arrives at prison. He seems lost. He seems desperate to help Vanessa and desperate for help himself. He seems about to be put into a place where his bad decisions rule his life. It isn't until Frank arrives at the big box that we see how much of that is a mask. I don't think Fisk even cared about the stupid cufflinks he made such a show of dropping. In a few weeks Fisk puts together a team, has friends in the security guards, and enough pull to control access between different areas in the prison. He seems well on his way to literally being the most powerful person in the prison. There's a lot of imagery that winds up reversing throughout the episode - I even think the guards surrounding Fisk in the beginning are the ones he's corrupted by the end of the episode.
Frank's arrival at the prison parallels Fisk's, except the new novice is arriving in Fisk's world and getting offered Fisk's choices. One of my favorite themes of this part of the episode is how the writers develop these two characters. Fisk is all bullshit from the moment he arrives, covering up his underlying motives. Frank resists bullshit, calls it out, and looks for underlying motives. When Fisk finds out about the imprisoning of Castle, he doesn't lose an opportunity. He sets up his rival mob boss, Dutton, and aims Frank at him. Frank, to his credit, is not fooled by Fisk, and repeatedly manages to puncture Fisk's balloon of words. When Frank realizes he's going to be killed to cover up the murder of Dutton, we're treated to incredible acting, and then incredible fighting: Frank is first terrified, you can see it, then makes a decision to live, and screaming, runs to immediately take down two of Dutton's men–then the rest. When he's finally taken down by prison guards after defeating every single one of Dutton's boys and still remaining standing, surrounding by smoke, I was wide-eyed and breathing hard as any rabid football fan after a powerplay. Jon Bernthal pulls off every moment, whether he has the rich material of the writers to work with or just pulls on whatever inside strings make him turn into the Punisher.
Fisk and Frank mirror Matt and Elektra. Fisk is trying to corrupt Frank the way Matt worried Elektra was corrupting him. The process of resisting that corruption is what gives Matt and Frank their heroic qualities, the bit which enthralls us. They wind up physically fighting, and Fisk wins (it's always shocking when he turns to physical violence, maybe because of his wordy nature.) The final confrontation between the two shows just how powerful Fisk has become, makes me terrified for Matt and the city, sorry for Frank, who is forced into accepting the freedom provided by the hand of Fisk, and wondering just how long it will be till Frank tells Matt what Fisk has planned. Oh, and I felt crappy for Dutton, who has to sit there dying while listening to Fisk gloat.
The Face of the Hand is Dead, I tell you, Dead!
Matt's investigating into the Hand alone primarily has me wondering about the arrival of the mystical into Daredevil. Now we have people returning to life? I wasn't as excited by these scenes as I was by the rest of the episode, but they did a solid job showing us creepy bodies being sucked dry by extra-creepy blood tubes, giant ancient urns full of said blood, and resurrected ninjas with weapons that have been seen kicking Matt's leather-covered behind. The resurrected man wasn't as shocking as the return of Fisk last episode, but it's definitely kept me on edge.
I'm fairly certain this is the first use of the word Kingpin in the series? In the comics, Kingpin is Fisk's villainous nom de crime.
Does anyone else want to read Karen's file? The things this woman gets up to.
When Frank Castle leaves the prison, he's in garb and a haircut which strongly resembles his Punisher gear from the comics!
Dutton: You'll stop reading those eventually. It's best to accept that real life is what happens on the inside.
Fisk: Maybe your life, Mr. Dutton, not mine.
Elektra: The battle has begun. There's nothing we can do about it but fight.
Fisk: At first, I thought the tales about you were apocryphal. How could one man be capable of such... violence?
*frothing happily at the mouth* Seriously, this episodes changed the game for viewers in a big way. We started knowing about the Hand, but now we also know Fisk is still working on rising to power and revenge; Frank is back out of prison, and with a goal in his sights–and one of Matt's most skillful enemies is still alive. Five out of five shivs!