Episode 11 of Daredevil picks up right where the last episode left off: The Hand’s assault on the hospital. A clan of ninjas attacking a building full of helpless people is a recipe for a great action scene, and it doesn’t disappoint. While not necessarily the most impressive choreography of the season, the scale of this opening scene definitely make it one of the more interesting fights. When Claire gets thrown out of a window and Daredevil rescues her, it’s one of the most “superhero-y” moves we’ve ever seen him do. That said, I feel like the scene is robbed of some of its potential impact because we still don’t know exactly why these kids are so important. We never learn why they’re so integral to The Hand’s plans, and why letting them escape is such a big failure for DD.
As always, Rosario Dawson is excellent this episode, and her scene with Matt as she once again calls him out on his shit is a much needed reality check for him. In large part thanks to Dawson’s performance, Claire is a wonderful spin on a necessary but often annoying character in the superhero genre. In a world where superheroes exist and ninjas attack New York, it’s helpful to put one or two “normal” people in the midst of everything so the audience has someone they can relate to. At worst, this character becomes a helpless annoyance like the cinematic version of an escort mission. But at its best, this character is Claire Temple: a normal person with absolutely no experience dealing with all this weird stuff, but who nonetheless reacts and tries to make a difference, proving that anyone can be a hero.
Speaking of excellent characters in this episode, the scenes between Karen and Frank are some of the best of the series. If Punisher gets his own spin-off (and Marvel, if you’re reading, he really needs to) then I sincerely hope Karen makes at least a brief appearance. Jon Bernthal and Deborah Ann Woll have such phenomenal chemistry that you almost have to wonder why she’s with Matt. Every other portrayal of the Punisher we’ve seen in the past has been the strong, silent, brooding action hero type. It’s a fine take on the character, but I vastly prefer Bernthal‘s unhinged and emotionally unstable version of Frank Castle. In the diner, even though I knew that Frank Castle would never hurt Karen or the waitress, there was still some small part of me that felt like he could. That’s the power of Bernthal‘s performance: he’s someone that just constantly radiates a sense of danger. And of course, when he does get dangerous later on, it’s immensely satisfying. But blood and violence are easy to get right for someone like The Punisher. It’s much harder to capture the emotional pain he lives with constantly because of the loss of his family, and the conversation he has with Karen about her feelings for Matt completely sell everything that Frank is feeling.
My biggest complaint episode comes from pretty much any scene that takes place at the Hospital. The assault at the beginning was nice, but like I said, felt like we were missing a piece of the puzzle as to why we should care. And that turns out to be a theme for the rest of the episode. We see that one of the Hand soldiers killed in the assault (by Claire, no less) already had scars from a previous autopsy, implying that he’s been dead before. Now, we’ve already heard from Stick and Nobu that The Hand have the ability to bring people back to life, but we don’t know anything about how it’s done or how often they do it. Are we to believe that The Hand is an army of dead men? If so, that’s pretty badass, but they never actually tell us that. I’m fine with leaving things implied, and I’m not asking for the show to beat us over the head with every plot point, but Claire’s demand for an investigation into what the hell is happening, and the weird insistence of the Hospital to cover it up, seemed like a whole lot of set-up for payoff that never comes. Sure, Claire leaving her job as a nurse was an important progression of her character in the overall Defenders universe, but there’s obviously more to the story here and we never get answers that are satisfying. I’m sure that we will eventually, whether it’s in Daredevil season 3, or Iron Fist, or even The Defenders, but I just wish we’d gotten a little more in this season so all these threads don’t seem so forgotten.
After Daredevil and Punisher both learn the info they need to find The Blacksmith (The Punisher through his usual methods, and Daredevil through a conversation with the excellent Madame Gao), they both wind up in the same boat, both figuratively and literally. Literally, they’re on a cargo ship where they believe Blacksmith is and trying to fight him and his men before Frank blows the entire thing up. Figuratively, it’s nice to see Punisher and Daredevil on the same side again in action for the first time since Episode 4, however brief it is. The highlight of the episode for me came when Daredevil proposed a team-up to take Blacksmith down, offering that maybe, just this once, he could do things Frank’s way. Punisher’s response that you can’t cross that line “just once” and then go back struck me as almost self-sacrificial. As he pushed Daredevil off the boat so he could blow it up, it seemed as though he was trying to save Matt’s soul by getting him as far away from his own influence as possible. It may be an odd thing to say about a scene that involved lots of heroin and explosions, but it was touching.
Finally, the episode ends with Stick preparing for his eventual confrontation with Elektra, which was set up in the last episode. This is where the end of this season really falls flat for me: as much as I liked Elektra when she was first introduced, her story in these final 5 episodes is really kind of boring, and considering it’s the one that drives the season finale, that’s not a great sign. But of course, I’m getting ahead of myself. As for episode 11, there was enough great stuff to outweigh most of my problems.
3.5 cups of black coffee out of 5. “Ma’am, can I ask you do you guys always serve Bullshit here, or is that just her?”
Claire telling Matt, “You’re in over your head. There’s no shame in that.” gives me a strong feeling that she’ll be the one to ultimately bring the Defenders together. It’s not like any of them would ask for help themselves.
Marci’s offer to float Foggy’s name around to other law firms is pretty exciting. Here’s hoping we see more of him in Jessica Jones season 2.
And speaking of Marci, am I the only one who actually finds her dynamic with Foggy kind of cute? She doesn’t seem nearly as evil as last season.
We’re led to believe that Punisher dies in this episode, but I don’t think that’s fooling anyone (except maybe the NYPD). Like Nobu said about death: “There’s no such thing.”