“A Cold Day in Hell’s Kitchen”
Written by Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez
Directed by Peter Hoar
Nobu has his people launch some kind of attack. Matt and Stick are lying low at Matt’s apartment, arguing about how Matt’s handling Elektra. Elektra is angstily standing on the roof. Matt joins her. He tries to convince her the Black Sky might just be nonsense. He wants to go nab Nobu and take his power away. At a fancy restaurant, Hogarth offers Foggy a job at her firm. A partner position. She wants someone else skilled at dealing with vigilantes on her team. Karen starts writing the article on Frank Castle. Well, no, she gets writer’s block and stalks off in frustration. Matt has Potter get Elektra some gear, and he gives Matt a new retractable billy club he designed specially. Frank goes to his house for the first time in two years. There is a small mountain of mail on the doormat. He goes to the shed, where he’s set up his pack of police radios. He spray-paints the white skull on his bulletproof vest.
Brett and some of his men have been beat up for info on Daredevil. Foggy calls Matt to warn him. Matt goes to talk to Brett (in costume). Brett’s mom was threatened. Whoever beat Brett up wanted records on anyone Daredevil had ever saved. Matt takes off running. There’s a bus full of people Matt has helped, including Karen, the crotchety old man from the beginning of the season, and, ironically, that arms dealer dude. The ninjas kidnapped all of them. Matt can use his new club as a grappling hook. Nice. He finds Karen’s apartment empty, but with distinctive sword slashes in the wall. The arms dealer has a tag on his ankle, but he deactivated it. The lady in charge slaps Karen and the old man tries to defend her, so she shoots him. Karen convinces the arms dealer to turn his tracker back on. Elektra helps Matt calm down so he can hear Karen and the other passengers. The cops who respond to the anklet are greeted with arrows to the chest. Matt can definitely hear that. The ninjas find the anklet and get very angry. They start cutting his foot off. In comes Matt! He knocks out the guards and sends everyone running for safety. Then Elektra joins his fight. She looks cool in her new duds. Nobu gets out his shoge hook, ready to fight them as they make their way to the roof. Brett and more reinforcements show up on the scene on time to get all the victims to safety, and Karen tells them what’s up. Brett has them light up the area like Christmas. Foggy shows up too. There are a few dozen ninjas for Elektra and Matt to fight. Matt kinda wants to go on the run with Elektra. She likes that plan.
Big fight on the roof. The ninja minions go down pretty easy. This is mostly a boss fight against Nobu. He kicks Matt’s mask off and gets him on the ropes, but Electra dives in the way and takes the killing blow. She thinks this means they can’t have their Black Sky now, so Matt’s won. She dies, happy to know what it feels like to be good, even if it hurts a lot. And then Frank shoots a bunch of the other ninjas so Matt has a clear shot at Nobu. He sends him flying off the roof. He probably survived. Freaking immortal ninjas. Yep, he survived. But here’s stick to chop his head off! Survive that, you uninteresting git! Matt and Stick bury Elektra. Matt thinks loving Elektra was worth it, and Stick admits he thinks Matt is tough. At Josie’s, Karen and Foggy discuss the disintegration of their trio. Foggy’s still Karen’s friend, though. Foggy closes out the Nelson & Murdock tab. Aww. Karen starts writing the story for real...on Christmas Eve, after Ellison gives her a stern pep talk about how she has to tell her story. So she writes one about how everyone [in Hell’s Kitchen is] a hero in their own way. This over Frank finding a mysterious CD behind the photo of his platoon, and blowing up his house and moving on, and Matt walking around town. Matt asks Karen to meet him at the office. He pulls his Daredevil helmet out of a bag and confesses he’s Daredevil. Credits! Wait, no. The Hand dug up Elektra’s body and stuck it in that giant urn thing.
As much as I enjoyed the Punisher plotline, I find Matt’s lack of involvement in it for most of the crucial middle parts and its resolution to be very disappointing. One of this season’s themes is Matt’s struggles with the consequences of vigilantism, so why is he so uninvolved in the storyline of the man whose actions are tainting him because of their shared label? How did Matt not care enough to make sure of Frank’s fate after the boat explosion? Wouldn’t he have known what happened to him because of his sonar-like hearing, which the water would have amplified? And because he already knew the man Frank was threatening wasn’t the Blacksmith, wouldn’t he have realized that if Frank made it out alive, he would be immediately gunning for this dude? How much more amazing would the final fight have been if Matt had found a way to lure the Blacksmith to the same location as the Hand? He could’ve ended S2 with the brand new moral dilemma of how guilty he should feel for technically not killing anyone, but tricking two evil factions into largely wiping each other out, and then Elektra getting killed in the crossfire. Of course, this would have required the Blacksmith to have gotten more than twenty total minutes of screentime. It would’ve brought the story full circle, from a sting that went south and got a bunch of people killed by mistake to a setup that got a bunch of people killed on purpose. And then the two plots would’ve ended up connected, but not in a way that validated Matt spending so much time on Elektra and the Hand. In the end, I don’t think this season was bad, but it’s nowhere near as good as S1. It’s biggest problem is that one of Matt’s main conflicts is not one that’s conducive to coherent storytelling. He’s being pulled in so many directions that he ends up sleep deprived and struggling to make anything work. That’s a perfectly fine struggle to put a character through, but it’s just as difficult for the writers to balance all the resultant storylines as it is for the character. The writers didn’t succeed in overcoming that problem, so what could have been an excellent second chapter to Matt’s struggles as a Catholic lawyer vigilante instead became fragmented and lacked the poignancy or the genius of S1. I think part of the problem came from the creative team’s fully justified confidence that they’d get a S3 and beyond after how successful S1 was, so they wanted to try a story that wouldn’t wrap up as neatly as S1 did because they’ll have time to explore the rest in future seasons. I think they would’ve been better off continuing to treat each season as its own largely independent story with just a few hooks to what comes next, because unlike normal TV shows that air over the space of several months per season, Marvel Netflix is designed to be binge-watched with gaps of over a year between new seasons. They didn’t leave S2 completely open, but the war against the Hand has barely started, despite how much time it took up in S1.
Things I Liked
Things I Didn’t
It’s sweet that Matt is so supportive of Elektra, but the way it’s presented, it feels more like she’s the main character than he is. Him offering to run away with her doesn’t seem like something Matt would do. Especially not when Hell’s Kitchen, the city he loves so much, is apparently the heart of the Hand’s war. Whatever he feels for Elektra (and seriously, what does he feel for her? Is he just being supportive platonically, or does he want to get back together?), his ties to the city are stronger, so that big beautiful speech fell a little flat for me. I’d have preferred one about how doing the right thing is hard and painful and every day, but it’s what they have to do.
We’d better freaking get Karen’s backstory in S3, and we’d better also get Matt and/or Foggy learning what happened to Wesley. As to this season, I’m a little disappointed that Karen didn’t figure out for herself that Matt is Daredevil, considering that her whole arc culminated in her becoming a journalist and she’s had an uncanny knack for digging up the truth. Did she miss that Matt is Daredevil because she’s used to looking very closely at details and finding obscure connections rather than noticing something right in front of her?
I think Foggy joining Hogarth’s firm is less an ominous indicator of the turn his career is taking and more a hopeful sign that she might have taken everything she learned from Jessica Jones to heart and is now trying to make her firm something better. This does not seem like a move born purely out of cunning, unlike most of her moves in the other show. Calculated, yes, but to a good end, not just a selfish one. She knows she needs more honest lawyers on her team if she doesn’t want to just keep going with a career built on hollow ambition and a life devoid of meaningful connections to other humans.
Note: I know this is posting in late November, but I actually finished all these Marvel Netflix reviews way back in September so that I could review Luke Cage as I watched it for the first time, starting the day it came out. I did these reviews for Daredevil and Jessica Jones at the same time I was working on the Firefly and Dollhouse reviews, and I did multiple reviews a day so I'd be done in time for Luke Cage, then stashed all the reviews to be posted a day at a time. So here we go!
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.