Warning: Spoilers ahead!
The new season of Daredevil kicked off in somewhat grand fashion with a compelling episode that put an immediate spotlight on its antagonist, The Punisher. It wasn’t all that it could be though as that attention to Frank Castle meant that the other key characters fell by the wayside making for an incomplete narrative. All that changed as the showrunners upped their game with this second episode.
As stated above the main complaint that could be levelled at episode one of this second season was that Daredevil, along with Karen and Foggy, didn’t factor into proceedings as much as they should have. It was really all about setting up the unstoppable force of The Punisher. It did do a wonderful of building him up as you will see if you read the last review, or watch the first episode, but the hole left by the lack of everyone’s favourite legal team was all too noticeable.
This time around the balance between the four was much more even and it allowed for some meaningful developments and fun exchanges all around. Let’s start with Daredevil. The episode finds him in a bad state after being shot in the head by The Punisher at the end of episode one. If it weren’t for his protective mask he would have died. The upshot of all of this is that Matt intermittently loses his hearing. It makes for a moment that is terrifying not just for the character but also for the audience as the magnitude of that is lost on no one. Without his hearing he is effectively cut off from the world, no longer able to be Daredevil or to practice law. This crisis leads to perhaps the most interesting Daredevil scenes so far as he is reduced to sitting in the corner, helpless and alone. This kind of vulnerability is entirely new to him and fans and it leads to Punisher besting him once more at the end of this episode.
Before moving on the Punisher it is worth pointing out that this is now two big fights in as many episodes between him and Daredevil, that’s too much. The smart thing would have been to hold off on any future interactions between the two until much later in the series so that they might have more gravity to them. As it stands the creators may well have blown their load a little too early as it were.
Now, onto the man of the hour. Frank Castle was very effectively introduced as a highly skilled killer in the last episode and that theme was expanded upon here but with one important addition, his moral code was also brought to the forefront. In his most telling scene so far he went to a pawn store to purchase a police radio scanner. Now this very illegal activity was perfectly fine with him and he seemed to full intend to let the store proprietor live, that changed when the man offered him some child pornography. He responded to that by beating him to death with a baseball bat. There you have the complex psychology of Frank Castle, something that is further compounded at the end of the episode with the tentative way in which he treats Daredevil when he sees the man clearly in distress during their latest fight.
This really is the best way of portraying Punisher as he needs to have that balance between being a relentless mass murderer and a moral man with a vendetta against Hell’s Kitchen’s worst criminals. The audience is not meant to empathise with him, he is not supposed to be a likeable character but in a twisted way you are invited to agree with his mission whilst hating his tactics. In this way he is a lot like the equally compelling psychopath, Dexter.
Something that has been missing from the show for a little while now is the legal side of things. It’s odd that this should be so sparse as it is a key underpinning of the comic books. You still do not see Matt return to legal practice in this episode for obvious reasons but you do get to see Foggy and Karen do so and they are very impassioned in the role too. They both advocate essentially for the life of their client and go toe to toe with the DA in the process. Sure, it ends up being a double cross but they show more gumption in this episode than they did for the vast majority of the first season. Add to this the hints that all is not right with Karen and it makes for a potentially very compelling subplot. More time will be needed before it becomes clear if this is leading anywhere or not but it certainly has the makings of something worth tuning in for and allows for something other than the constant wars being fought by Daredevil and Punisher.
One theme that was touched on here, and isn’t brought up enough in other shows and movies, was the idea that all the madness currently descending on Hell’s Kitchen could be the fault of Daredevil himself. In Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns this idea is brought up as The Joker’s existence is shown to be inexorably linked to Batman’s. In that same vein, so too could The Punisher’s arrival to Daredevil’s. It is a thought that will most likely rock the often guilt ridden Matt Murdoch and one he is already shown to be vehemently rejecting. Hopefully there will be some more exploration of this idea going forwards as it is undeniably an interesting one.
This episode is a step up from the first as it furthers the stories of all of its characters. It wasn’t entirely perfect, the premature collision mentioned earlier could make for a lackluster rest of the season, but it certainly delivered on what fans expected from the series.
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