Season Two, Episode Four, Five, Six — “Penny and Dime”, “Kinbaku” and “Regrets Only”
By Jarrod Jones. If we’re to accept that the second season of Daredevil has a five-act structure — and considering how the last six episodes have gone this is precisely what it feels like — then the first act (episodes one through four) was a resounding dud. It was a shocking thing indeed to watch a show so notoriously well-crafted slum it in the painfully obvious tropes of lesser tv, and it was an even greater bummer to see that those episodes sat on the shoulders of Jon Bernthal’s Punisher. (He deserves so much better.) But if episodes four through six (or: our second act) are any indication, Daredevil is gonna have one hell of a third act. Maybe even a fourth. Or, at least, that’s what I’m hoping.
“Penny and Dime”, an origin story for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Frank Castle, was a continuation of everything I actively disliked about the first three episodes of this season. It was dour to the point of becoming camp, it lingered on sequences past the point of being okay (Frank’s doe-eyed soliloquy at the end of the episode clocked in at nearly seven minutes, and whoo — was it grueling), and the dialogue felt as though it was written by a tenth-grade drama student.
If it feels like I’m being too severe, consider how jarring it was for me to witness Daredevil finally hitting its stride entirely without The Punisher, which was the biggest selling point of this far-too rapidly produced second season (at least, for me). Once the show got out of The Punisher’s stranglehold, it breathed deep its first gasps of free air, provided by Elodie Yung’s Elektra. And it’s entirely appropriate that a woman named Elektra could come along and give this show the jolt of energy it so desperately needed. The following two episodes felt like a breeze precisely because of her.
WHAT WORKED: In a word, Elektra. The way she slurps out of the bottom of her glass, the way she says the words “Devil of Hell’s Kitchen” just a bit too loudly in mixed company… Elodie Yung gives Elektra spirit, and she gives the character a definite presence that goes beyond the mayhem of which she is entirely capable. On a show that’s known for taking itself a touch too seriously, Yung’s presence is definitely a welcome one.
I am so glad we haven’t been put through the arduous task of watching Frank Castle’s family die once more. Unlike other comic book adaptations that just can’t let go of the tragedy that creates a hero, Daredevil is adopting a “tell, don’t show” approach to The Punisher’s anguished origins. If only Bruce Wayne had it this good.
WHAT DIDN’T: There is nothing more I want for Daredevil than to see it provide a definitive take on Frank Castle. As it stands, Jon Bernthal is the best Punisher we could ever possibly hope for, but considering the three feature films that preceded this series, that’s not a quantum leap — because The Punisher is now nestled in the cradle of Marvel Studios, Bernthal has become the superior Castle by default. As a matter of fact, this entire season of Daredevil feels as though it’s correcting past sins made against Marvel’s characters by lesser studios. (Anyone remember Elektra? Punisher: War Zone? Ben Affleck’s Daredevil?) And while you have to admire the hell out of this ambition, that should not be the primary purpose of Frank Castle and Elektra Natchios on this show. And for poor Frank, that’s exactly what it feels like.
For instance, the first four episodes of Daredevil dwell upon a central theme that feels far more meta than it should: “How fuckin’ awesome is The Punisher, amirite?” Here, Jon Bernthal is given quite the uneviable task, which is to give Frank Castle the pathos and nuance the character was never afforded in previous adaptations. So obviously Daredevil dips into the well of famous Punisher lore, primarily that of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s famed run. Which would be totally fine, but the show goes out of its way to make sure that Bernthal makes a splash as the newest vigilante of Hell’s Kitchen, that it forgets to implement the restraint the first season of Daredevil is so well known for. This season has already improved by pumping on the brakes. Hopefully this development continues.
Episode Six —
“Lemme tell you what gonna happen now. You’re gonna finish your food, you’re gonna leave the waitress the biggest tip she’s ever seen, then you’re gonna get up and leave. You’re gonna book yourself on the first available flight out of New York, and get on it. Go back to whatever spa, or resort, or five-star hotel you just came from, and stay out of my city.” – Matt, to Elektra.
“Why are you fancy?” – Foggy, to Matt.
BEST MOMENT: Matt meets Samantha. I mentioned in my recap of the first three episodes of this season that Samantha Reyes’ antagonism was a painfully obvious one, but with this gorgeous sequence — where Matt Murdock finally does some legal work for his prospective client, Frank Castle, to the chagrin of the District Attorney — Reyes’ full potential as a season heavy finally came to light. How Samantha and Matt hurl legalese at each other was just as elegant and stunning as any fancy footwork Ol’ Hornhead could ever show us. When Daredevil gets smart, it gets sassy, and sassy is just how I like Daredevil.
EPISODES’ MVP: Elektra Natchios. Elektra plays too much. That would be enough to make her intriguing, but there’s a danger to it too — her playful attitude is definitely going to get either her or Matt hurt later on. Her very presence, coupled with her ability to manipulate our Man Without Fear, provides exactly the sort of peril Daredevil was missing in this season’s first batch of episodes. We know The Hand is coming. We know The Hand is angry. And we know The Hand wants Elektra. It’s going to be an intriguing thing to see how they come for her, especially now that she has Matt wrapped around her little finger.
– And with the name-drop heard ’round the world, it is revealed that Marci Stahl works for Jeri Hogarth. Good luck “scrutinizing” Jessica, Marci.
– Look closely when Karen visits the New York Bulletin bullpen… you’ll spot the requisite Avengers Easter Egg (“Attack on New York”), but you’ll also see the framed headline “Cybertek Settles”, which ties the Netflix Marvel series to the ABC Marvel series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Cybertek is the company that developed Deathlok, and if you didn’t know that, yes — Deathlok exists in the MCU.)
– Elektra Natchios (yes, that is her real name) first appeared in Daredevil #168 back in 1981.
– I haven’t seen such a pleasurable joyride in a red sportscar since… well… since the last time Elektra and Matt did that.
– Matt and Elektra evade a building full of security. Said building’s name is “Yakatomi”. John McClane evaded a building full of terrorists. Said building’s name was “Nakatomi”. Hmm…
– “Who said I was Yakuza?” asks the man with a cigar box full of fingers on his desk. Methinks The Hand is finally about to play their… um, nevermind.
– This is where I generally post the “Next Time, On…” clip, but Netflix don’t play that way. So have this thing.
7.5 out of 10
Next: “Semper Fidelis”, “Guilty As Sin”, “Seven Minutes in Heaven”, soon.
Before: “Bang”, “Dogs to a Gunfight” and “New York’s Finest”, here.