We’re now in the final stretch of episode reviews for the second season of Daredevil, and unfortunately these last four episodes are where, for me, the majority of this season’s problems lie. After a superb first third focused on The Punisher, and an equally strong middle section introducing Elektra and following the trial of Frank Castle, the season ends on a pair of storylines that should be the season’s strongest; but instead feel somewhat rushed, unfocused, and unfinished. Frank Castle on a mission to find out what really happened to his family and Daredevil finally getting involved in a direct confrontation with The Hand seem like surefire winners, but as we begin to see in Episode 10, The Man in the Box, this season doesn’t quite stick the landing. That’s not to say this episode doesn’t have plenty of strong elements going for it, but many of the problems I had with the rest of the season begin here. That said, if you haven’t seen at least all the way up to episode 10, now’s your chance to stop reading before we get into heavy spoilers.
The Man in the Box opens with the rescue of the children we saw last episode, who were being drained of their blood and used to incubate…something, for…reasons. That’s pretty much all we learn about these kids or The Hand’s purpose for them. That, and they seem to be brainwashed or possessed or controlled in some way to want to return to The Hand. Despite the story issues that these children bring, they’re one of the most striking visual elements of the show. Menacing or creepy children have become an overused trope in the horror genre, but when used well (like these kids are) you can easily understand why filmmakers are often quick to return to that well: it really works. Parts of the opening rescue scene of these kids are shot almost like a found-footage movie, with the only light source coming from police flashlights.
Still, as great as they are to look at, the creepy kids are a symptom of what becomes a major problem in these final episodes. Almost everything to do with The Hand isn’t explained enough to be satisfying, but is explained far too much to be considered a tease for a future season/series. The result feels like there were supposed to be a few more episodes to tie up the lose ends, but the writers just forgot and figured nobody would notice.
As we saw in the last episode, Frank Castle has escaped prison with the help of Wilson Fisk, and he seems to have changed his MO. Rather than the “one shot, one kill” philosophy he spoke about in an earlier episode, Frank doesn’t seem too concerned with collateral damage as he apparently shoots and kills DA Reyes, putting a bullet in Foggy’s arm in the process. Of course, as we find out later, Castle isn’t the one who killed the DA, but the people who did are happy to let him take the blame. Before getting shot, the DA is put in a position that we’ve never seen her: vulnerable and admitting her mistakes. She confesses that Frank’s family was killed in a police sting gone wrong, one that she’d ordered despite the risk to civilians. As ruthless and unlikable as Reyes was in the past several episodes, this scene does a fantastic job humanizing her. It accomplishes its goal so well that after just a few minutes, I actually cared when she died. That’s something Daredevil has consistently been able to do with just about all of their characters: whether they’re murderous sidekicks like Wesley, minor characters like Brett Mahoney or Mitchell Ellison, or lying political animals like Reyes, the characters in the Daredevil world always feel complex and layered, which means they always have the ability to surprise.
Speaking of surprises, one of the best and most surprising scenes in this episode comes when Matt investigates Castle’s escape…by visiting Kingpin in prison. It’s a tense scene that doesn’t exactly go well for Murdock, and ends with Fisk getting a few good hits on Matt, then threatening to destroy him and Foggy as soon as he’s out of prison. Not only was this scene great on its own, it also made a promise to viewers about what we should expect for the future of Daredevil: Kingpin is a threat that will never. go. away. And I think I can speak for just about everyone when I say: that’s fine with me.
The ending of the episode brings us back to the hospital where the kids from the beginning of the episode are being secretly treated by Claire Temple. Rosario Dawson is always a welcome presence in these episodes, and she has an especially fantastic scene with Matt on the roof. Matt’s become so focused on his mission as Daredevil that he won’t even take a minute to rest or go downstairs and visit Foggy. It isn’t that he doesn’t care–Matt’s constantly listening to Foggy’s room, making sure he’s okay–but he is struggling with a fundamental question that lies at the heart of many great superhero works: can a person balance two completely different identities? Can Matt Murdock, avocado at law co-exist with the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen?
The answer to that question doesn’t come this episode, but The Hand does. The episode ends with a clan of Hand ninjas preparing to assault the hospital and take the kids back to…wherever, ensuring binge watchers will watch one more episode, no matter how badly they need sleep.
3 creepy kids out of 5. This is a strong episode, but it lays the groundwork for things that wind up becoming big problems later on.
Even though MCUExchange had reported that Kingpin would make an appearance this season, I was extremely pleasantly surprised to find out just how big of a role that Fisk played this season.
Brett to Daredevil: “Just know that one day, I’m gonna tell you how to do your job.” I got some Commissioner Gordon/Batman vibes out of that moment.
The botched assassination attempt on Elektra didn’t grab me for some reason, but I was happy to see Elektra finally get her sais
Matt should have known that Vanessa is a bit of a raw nerve for Fisk. He could have asked Anatoly Ranskahov, but he’s suffering from a bad case of “head-crushed-in-car-door syndrome”
“Stop playing the loneliest little soldier and come downstairs.”- I’d watch an entire episode of Claire calling the various Defenders out on their shit.
Fisk’s parting words to Matt: “Let’s do this again sometime”