Hot on the heels of last week’s explosive episode, Daredevil follows up with its best episode yet. Halfway through the series, it seems the show has finally found its footing. Episode writer Douglas Petrie doesn’t flinch at choosing between setting up longterm storylines or delivering strong emotional beats. Instead, he just does both.
It’s disappointing that this is Scott Glenn’s only episode, but I’d rather have him be great and sparse than abundant and mediocre. Much like Vladimir in the last episode, Stick arrives to challenge and berate Matt’s ideals. Daredevil’s “no killing” rule serves as most of their contemporary disagreements. Knowing that this would likely be a flashback episode, I was hoping this episode would go into Matt’s ideals and motivations, but Matt’s nonviolence is now incredibly conspicuous. The show really needs to establish why Matt doesn’t use guns/blades/arrows, and why he leaves his enemies alive.
It’s hard to agree with Stick without knowing his motivations explicitly, but this episode drops some pretty strong hints. The villainous Nobu, played by Peter Shinkoda, almost certainly works for The Hand, an international league of criminal ninjas headquartered in Japan. Stick likely works for Chaste, a group of more altruistic ninjas opposing them. But as you can see in this episode, Chaste might be “good guys,” but they’re not necessarily “good” guys. Despite torturing a man, Daredevil still left him alive. Stick dismembers a man for information, and beheads him when he’s fulfilled his purpose. Matt and his mentor come to blows after Matt stops Stick’s assassination of a young child. It’s the best fight scene since the second episode’s Oldboy homage.
This episode handles the flashbacks a lot better than the first two episodes. The flashbacks to Stick’s training inform and influence the way Matt behaves in the present day. Ultimately, flashback Stick is a bit more sympathetic than contemporary Stick. Even though he’s a hardass, Stick’s a bit of an optimist. His monologue about how lucky Matt is to survive the car crash is an excellent moment. It’s exactly how I feel about Captain America: in The Avengers, he’s so bitter and isolated and alone, but he should really be dead. That’s generally why I hate when superheroes complain about their tragic origins: in real life, if you’re bit by an irradiated spider, you don’t get superpowers, you get cancer.
The “paper bracelet” is a little hoary, especially the notion that Stick kept it for twenty years. Is everything Matt does, his whole war on crime, all because Stick rejected him when he was younger? Does Matt not use knives because Stick left the day before they were set to start? How many daddy issues does Matt need?
The episode’s C-plot is thankfully brief. Karen is still investigating UAC, hoping that Mrs. Cardenas will offer a new opening. But Foggy stalks her at the end of the episode, and even though he (sorta) saves her from a couple of thugs, he’s still kind of a creep for following her. If nothing else, it leads to the great scene where Urich, Karen and Foggy go over Urich’s board as they try to piece together the crime hierarchy in Hell’s Kitchen. But to be honest, I can’t help but think the last two episodes are so strong because of how little Foggy/Karen/Urich they feature. I love Karen, but she’s investigating a mystery we already know the answer to.
Though Fisk is this season’s Big Bad, The Hand are being positioned as a much more dangerous force, someone for Fisk to fear just as much as Matt. Stick was absolutely lying to Matt when he said he killed Black Sky, especially since he only told his boss that the child is “no longer a threat.” Halfway through Daredevil, the show has set up a lot of threads that can’t be resolved in six episodes. Might Daredevil be setting up the villains for The Defenders?
4.5 Meditation Naps out of 5. It makes you stronger, more focused, heals wounds, reduces sleepiness, makes you snore a little…
Stick says that Matt has “gifts.” Like, he’s on the same list of gifted so prominently featured this season on Agents of SHIELD?
Young Matt sensing the old man’s impending mortality actually has a basis in medical science: there’s a screening process that uses dogs to sniff out cancer.
I was really hoping that the New York Bulletin frontpage would date the series, but sadly there is no month or year here. I’d really like to know when this series takes place.
If I had to guess, Stick’s mysterious master is probably Master Izo. He’s a seemingly immortal martial artist, and founded the Chaste hundreds of years ago.
I was a little wrong in my last episode’s review: Matt is left defending Daredevil since Foggy is so vociferously attacking him.
This is the third episode where someone berates Matt for not knowing anything. Damn, guys, he’s trying to learn, give him a break.
It’s a good thing Leland got his stun gun out of storage.