Ohhh boy. While my esteemed colleagues have done a wonderful job reviewing the first two-thirds of this season of Daredevil, I can’t tell you how excited I am that I get to be the one to review the final five, especially this episode in particular. First, some general thoughts on the series thus far: some critics have complained that the second season of Daredevil lacks a central villain, and the void left by Wilson Fisk’s absence weakens the show. While I don’t think this is necessarily an unfair criticism, I do think there’s a better way of looking at the season.
To me, Daredevil season 2 seems to be an experiment by Marvel in the formula they use for the Netflix series. While the first season of Daredevil and especially Jessica Jones are essentially 13-hour movies telling a single story with only minor subplots and diversions, the second season of Daredevil is an attempt to break that mold. Instead of telling a single story, season 2 is telling three distinct but interconnected tales. Episodes 1-4 are all about the threat of The Punisher, and end with Frank’s arrest. Episodes 5-8 are about the trial of Frank Castle as well as the introduction of Elektra, and end with Frank being sent to prison. Episodes 9-13, then, make up the final part of this “trilogy”, and focus on Frank’s escape and his quest for closure, as well as Daredevil and Elektra’s battle against The Hand.
As a whole, this final chapter was my least favorite of the three in the season. In fact, almost every single one of my problems with the season come from these final five episodes, and I’m sure I’ll talk more about them in my reviews of episodes 10-13. However, none of those complaints can be applied to episode 9, because it, in short, was fucking awesome. I mean, wow. I’ll get into details in a minute, but in case you (like me) finished the season the day after it came out and need a refresher of what this episode contained, allow me to list some of the things that happened in this episode:
- Wilson Fisk becoming “Kingpin”
- Kingpin and The Punisher agreeing to a team-up
- Kingpin double crossing the Punisher and trying to kill him
- The Punisher absolutely destroying 8 prisoners in a close-quarters fight
- The Punisher fighting Kingpin, and getting the absolute shit kicked out of him
- The Punisher escaping from prison
- Matt and Elektra having a heartbreaking break-up scene
- Matt and Foggy having a heartbreaking break-up scene
- Our first real clues about Karen’s past
- The return of Nobu
Yeah, all of that happened in a single episode. From that list, it should be fairly obvious that all of the best stuff of this episode of Daredevil took place entirely without Daredevil. Don’t get me wrong, Matt hunting down “The Farm” and Karen taking Ben Urich’s old office were all great elements, but there’s just no way anything that happened in the rest of this episode could have topped the interactions between Wilson Fisk and Frank Castle in prison. What’s interesting is that this episode shows just how much Fisk’s character has changed since we saw him in season one. Season one Fisk might have actually gotten along with The Punisher. He believed he was making his city a better place and removing the filth from it, but he had ugly methods of doing it. That Fisk isn’t too different from Frank Castle. However, the Kingpin we see in season 2 has evolved–and perhaps become more honest about his true intentions. Fisk wants power, and he’s playing the long game to get it. The Punisher is a useful tool for getting that power, at least in the short-term. Long-term, Kingpin and Punisher will almost certainly have some (very satisfying to watch) conflicts with each other, but nonetheless by the end of this episode, the two have worked together for mutual benefit. Franks is free and Fisk is, well, the Kingpin of the prison.
As for the titular character of the show, Matt begins the episode in not-so-great shape after being shot with a poisoned arrow from a Hand ninja. Elektra cares for him with the same whiskey/toilet bowl cleaner/baking soda concoction that saved her own life just a day or two before, and then the two say a fond farewell (for now). Likewise, Foggy and Matt dissolve their law firm and their friendship in this episode, a scene which pulled at more heartstrings than Matt’s goodbye to Elektra did. By the end of this episode, Matt is truly alone after pushing everyone away form him so he could focus on being Daredevil. This leads to a darker and more lonesome final fight of the episode, as he isn’t accompanied by Elektra or going after Frank. His mission leads him to “The Farm,” a place where several children are having their blood trained for purposes unknown by The Hand. A short fight later, and Matt rescues the kids and learns that Nobu–who was last seen being very much on fire–is still somehow alive.
All in all, this episode makes for one of the best hours of television a Daredevil fan could ever hope for.
5 Prison Fights out of 5. “I don’t help shitbag has-been mob bosses.”
Every line of dialogue between The Punisher and Kingpin is fantastic. My personal favorite: Frank: “Next time I see you, only one of us walks away.” Fisk:”Yes, of course, I’m counting on it.”
The reveal that Frank’s family wasn’t only killed in a gang shooting, but a police sting gone bad is pretty brutal, and adds a new layer to Frank’s revenge. Killing criminals is one thing, but if Punisher started killing cops, would he be harder to root for?
The kids’ blood getting drained at the farm is all sorts of creepy, but even after finishing the season I’m not quite 100% clear on what the purpose of it was. There are a lot of unanswered questions about the mystic elements of this show, so here’s hoping Iron Fist offers some answers.
The end of the Avocados at law seriously might be one of the most heartbreaking things to ever happen in the MCU.