Elektra, Punisher, And Cringe Worthy Dialog
March 18th marked the highly anticipated return of the Marvel/Netflix hit Daredevil. Needless to say I binge watched it, and finished 13 episodes by Sunday night. As much as I'd like to review each episode individually, there are 13 of them and only 1 of me.
Season 2 was huge, in so many ways, but nothing was more anticipated than the introduction of two new characters, Elektra and The Punisher. Overall it was a magnificent season, so let's get into what worked here and what unfortunately did not.
Elodie is Electric as Elektra
Let's start with Elodie Yung's Elektra. As a character Elektra is a pivotal part of the Daredevil comic book mythos. Matt Murdock's on again off again girlfriend, who's allegiances are even more on and off than her relationship with Matt Murdock. The character was excellent and this is due in large part to Elodie Yung's portrayal, and her chemistry with Matt Murdock.
In the comics Elektra is as deadly as she is sexy and in the show she is no different, Elodie Yung oozes sexiness without ever being over the top. She's a deadly woman who hisses more than she speaks, and can turn from seductress to methodic killer at the drop of a hat. Her ruthlessness obviously proves a problem for Matt Murdock who is staunchly against killing, but Elektra is able to slither her way around his heart and... mind... and squeeze like a boa constrictor.
When it comes down to it Matt is a type of sociopath, the type who is always attracted to the most dangerous situations possible, and it doesn't get any more dangerous than a trained ninja who is seductive and intelligent enough to kill a man without lifting a finger. This is perfectly illustrated in the flashbacks to Matt and Elektra's first encounters when Matt is a young law student. Despite all his discipline and training he is completely sucked in by Elektra, and is more or less willing to go along with whatever she wants.
Not only does it show the power of Elektra but it also shows a very large weakness in Matt, who seems to lose all willpower around her. Throughout the course of the season we see Elektra pull Matt into her mission in New York, and him systematically blow off his work, and his friends in favor of prowling rooftops at night with Elektra. This comes into play when his relationship with Elektra basically torpedoes Nelson & Murdock during the Punisher case and all but destroys his relationship with Foggy.
Elektra and Matt are the quintessential example of a toxic relationship. The two involved love each other, but it hurts everybody around them. Fire meet gas tank. Elektra was also done so well in this show because there was no ham fisted sexiness. Her suit was extremely functional for what she was doing. She at no point was given the comic book costume which for the most part was completely fucking ridiculous.
Her sexiness came out in the way she behaved and the way she spoke, her body language and eyes, and in this version of Elektra, skimpy clothes need not apply.
Elektra was an awesome addition to the series as a whole, and hopefully she'll be a part of the show for a long time to come, although that may prove difficult.
The Best Punisher of All
So let's talk about the big man on campus, The Punisher. The Punisher was, hands down, the best new addition to the show. His arc was the strongest part of the second season.
The show did an excellent job with playing with our emotions when it came to Frank Castle/Punisher. They certainly wouldn't allow the viewer to support him for too long, before reminding us that he's actually a monster.
The Punisher has been a long time favorite of mine and I felt no film, of which there has been 3, has ever truly captured the character. Dolph Lundgren's Punisher was.......well........Dolph Lundgren's Punisher, that should say enough. Thomas Jane's Punisher was an out and out hero, far too soft to be the Punisher I remember from the comics. He constantly tip toed the line of morality and on many occasions nearly slipped into villainy. Not to mention Jane's Punisher took place in fucking Florida. Ray Stevenson's Punisher from Punisher: War Zone was comically violent to the point where he was shooting people out of mid air with rockets, and putting his fist through peoples noggins. Punisher: War Zone begins, laughter ensues.
This Frank Castle is the Punisher I remember from the comics. He is a ruthless and violent killer with zero remorse. He is a terminator to the point that, at the beginning of the season when gangs are being gunned down across Hell's Kitchen, it's believed that a new ruthless criminal organization is responsible for the murders. That's until it's revealed by one of the few victims he left alive, albeit hanging from a meat hook, that it was in fact one man, one extremely determined and highly skilled man.
It is no secret on this show that Frank Castle is a monster, but the show nearly does the impossible by showing you this boogeyman commit extreme acts of violence, yet the viewer always finds themselves, if not forgiving him, understanding him.
His killing spree is fueled by the brutal murder of his wife and two small children, which he describes to Daredevil in brutal detail during an exceptional monologue delivered by Jon Bernthal whilst sitting up against a gravestone.
His brutality is best displayed during a scene where he connects with Karen Page in a diner, and they pal around over cups of coffee while he gives her romantic advice. The scene is amazing for how quickly the mood shifts. Frank goes from giving Karen romantic advice to telling her to find a piece of metal in the kitchen, and hide under it, which she does and covers her mouth in horror as a firefight breaks out in the diner and she gets to listen to Frank stab one of his assailants to death. This is the audience.
We as the audience begin to feel for Frank. He obviously loved his wife and kids, then we are reminded that this man is a psychopathic murderer, so the show never let's us truly care, about Frank or truly hate him, and I imagine they did this to show us how Daredevil feels about him as well. Ambivalence is the only option.
The only real disappointment with Punisher was that it took forever for him to connect with Matt and Elektra's story and their fight against The Hand. I truly wanted to see Punisher stand with Daredevil and Elektra in that final battle against a large group of ninjas. His brutal, special forces combat style would have been an interesting contrast to Daredevil and Elektra's more fancy martial arts style.
There's also a point towards the end where Punisher could have easily been an ace in the hole, and that is when Matt and Elektra assault The Hand warehouse in the finale. The Hand know Matt and Elektra are coming, but they have NO idea about the Punisher. It could have been a great surprise and a game changer in that final fight, instead he shows up at the very very last second and takes out 2 or 3 guys then leaves. Kinda disappointing.
So let's talk some story. The one thing that didn't really work for me this season was the split arc, first half was stopping Punisher and the second half was stopping The Hand. Now don't get me wrong, I love The Hand as an adversary. In fact me and a friend have constantly discussed how badly we want to see The Hand but they definitely needed their own season.
In season 1 the momentum was all going one direction, and that was towards a collision with Wilson Fisk/Kingpin. Season 2 didn't quite have that same focus and it often felt like some of The Hand stuff was rushed, because they spent so much time with Punisher. It often felt like the Punisher arc and The Hand arc belonged in different seasons. Usually 2 arcs start off separately and then converge down the road into one big blowout. These two tended to stay separate all the way up until the end.
I truly thought that the man Punisher was hunting, The Blacksmith, would have some connection to The Hand, and that would bring Punisher into the larger fight, turning him into an ally of Daredevil, and a big part of the season's end game. But it never happened. Punisher's part in the final fight against The Hand was more of a secondary assist, hopefully that changes going forward.
One of my favorite things was the 3 episode arc of Wilson Fisk, the antagonist from season 1. His few episodes showed that he is very much still in charge, very much still a player, and still very dangerous despite his incarceration.
It was nice to see that he didn't just disappear to rot away in a jail cell until he returns to the forefront. He's still using what cash he has left to pull strings and buy himself protection in prison. He was also able to deliver an ominous warning to Matt which obviously shows that he will be back, sooner rather than later and he'll be back in a big way, which should please everybody.
Alright, we've touched base with the big players in Hell's Kitchen, now let's talk about the little guys.
Foggy Nelson, poor Foggy. This poor bastard ends up paying the price for Matt's vigilante lifestyle. He often ends up hurt both physically and emotionally, and fucked out of a good life. this season shows that Foggy ends up hurt more than anybody else in Matt's life. His best friend lies to him constantly. Matt never shows up for work or trial, leaving Foggy to try and wing it the best he can. Overall, Matt just isn't a very good friend to Foggy, and I constantly feel bad for the guy.
This simple fact comes to a head throughout the back half of season 2, and results in a blowout that leaves Nelson & Murdock shattered. Foggy seems to be in a good place at the end of the season. Good on him.
Karen Page starts off just where we left her, working as the legal assistant at Nelson & Murdock. However, throughout the season her involvement in the Punisher arc pulls her towards a career in journalism , just like her mentor from season 1, Ben Urich.
This new career also creates some great scenes between her and Urich's old boss, Ellison. He seemed like kind of a dick in season 1 but is much more fleshed out in season 2, and their scenes together are fantastic. We had some hints at Karen's past, but nothing concrete, we do briefly see a file on her full of information collected by Ben Urich but we don't get too many answers. I'm excited for a light to be shed on that part of Karen's life.
WRITERS WHO WRITE BAD
The season did suffer from a writing problem. Daredevil got new writers for season 2 and it shows. The season was full of cringe worthy lines that were just made for the trailer. There were lines that no human would ever say in the real world, not without sounding like a douchebag, "Hell's Kitchen is about to explode!" or "I finally know what it feels like to be good.", who the fuck says shit like that? This isn't Z Nation. Next season cut the cheesiness and just get back to basics. Speak like real people.
The fight scenes were still fantastic. There was one that they was obviously trying to live up to season 1's hallway fight, albeit no single tracking shot. Cool it was but nothing beats the hallway fight..........yet.
Matt finally got a new suit. Needless to say the first season suit didn't translate all that well, and was not welcomed by fans. But Daredevil finally got a suit and more importantly a new mask, which is much more red, no black, and looks much better on camera, especially the eyes, thank god.
One thing that never worked for me was the lack of actual, concrete crossovers. Sure we get Claire Temple in Jessica Jones, and this season we get Jeri Hogarth on Daredevil, but to be honest, who gives a shit? It is only more frustrating to watch these tertiary characters tip toe around the universe, maybe mentioning Daredevil on Jessica Jones, or mentioning Jessica Jones on Daredevil.
I understood it in the first season but it's time for these two worlds to begin bleeding into one another. Maybe Jessica Jones storms out of Nelson & Murdock's office because she was forced to wait too long. Maybe Jeri Hogarth and Jessica Jones go up against Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson in court. Anything really. Have Matt nearly get drilled by Luke Cage on his motorcycle.
Do something. Stop insulating the main characters on this show. Nobody wants to see secondary characters crossing over.I get you're gearing up to bring them all together in The Defenders, but that's like saying I only see my friends on my birthday, we have tons of little encounters before the big bash. This feels like a legal decision, because it's certainly not artistic.
Anyway, that'll about do it for season 2 of Daredevil, it had a few hiccups but overall it was excellent, it begs to be binge watched, so get started. We'll see you guys soon.