Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find all of my Daredevil reviews here.
If the first 4 episodes of Daredevil Season 2 were the “Punisher arc”, then the next 4 to 5 episodes can be classified as the “Elektra arc”. That’s not to say that the Punisher vanished entirely—in fact, the trial of Frank Castle was an integral part of these episodes as well.
One unfortunate side effect is that this batch of episodes felt more splintered, with two main plots running in parallel but largely unconnected. But the good news is that each of those individual story threads was very, very good. And though there was a worry among some that this season would feel cluttered with too much going on, to me it balanced all of those elements without feeling overstuffed.
One of the staples of Daredevil comics has been his complicated love life. True to the source material, as soon as Matt and Karen began dating on the show, who should appear but his former love, Elektra.
I don’t want to use comic book accuracy as the standard against which I judge adaptations, but I really must note how faithful Daredevil has been to its source material. Just as a lot of Season 1 felt like “The Man Without Fear” come to life, Elektra in this arc might as well have jumped right off the page. Her characterization was very true to her comic book origins, and a far cry from the overused femme fatale trope that she could have easily been pigeonholed into. Her adventurous thrill-seeking, her chemistry with Matt, their many similarities and important differences, and the darkness gnawing at her soul… much like Jon Bernthal is to the Punisher, Elodie Yung simply is Elektra.
As a result, her scenes were a delight to watch. The flashbacks emphasized her importance in Matt’s past (and thanks to her being namedropped back in Season 1, felt very organic and pre-planned rather than shoehorned) and ended with the death of Roscoe Sweeney, the man who had Matt’s father killed. That was a nice way to loop back to Matt’s childhood and address a loose end that didn’t need to be tied up but was satisfying anyway. And in the present, Elektra was as playfully unpredictable as I had hoped, injecting herself into Matt’s life and leaving it in disarray.
The actual plotline was also well executed, featuring a slow reveal of an enemy that began with the Roxxon corporation, which then became the Yakuza, before finally being revealed as the Hand. Along the way were several entertaining Daredevil/Elektra team-ups, including a fun heist-style episode and a few strong fight scenes in which they paired up against either the Yakuza or the Hand.
So, the Hand. Another staple of Daredevil comics, which made it so cool to see them in live action. One thing I loved about the Hand storyline is that it, too, tied back to Season 1. Everything from Nobu’s plans, those mysterious blueprints, and the tenement Wilson Fisk was acquiring for him, to Stick’s role and the mysterious Black Sky. All of those seeds, many of them forgotten, paid off. Thus it was natural for Scott Glenn to return as Stick in episode 8 (yay!). To tell us all about “the war” between the Hand and the Chaste. Again, I just love it when shows consciously set up storylines ahead of time. It shows purpose and direction, speaks to interconnectivity between seasons, and makes plot threads feel natural when they occur.
Stick’s return coincided with Elektra getting injured, resulting in an episode that had her at her most vulnerable state. Gone was the playful air of mystery, leaving only her very real connection to Matt. Which made their interactions in that episode very sweet, especially as she told him that he was the only person who ever believed she could be good. Her rejection of Stick and the Chaste was a strong moment for her character, a short glimmer of hope that was immediately snuffed out when she succumbed to the darkness yet again at the end of that episode. She’s a very fascinating character and I’m curious as to where they take her.
The Hand conspiracy culminated in Daredevil’s discovery of “the Farm”. I’m not sure what’s happening there, but oh look, Nobu’s back! Clearly, Stick wasn’t kidding about resurrection. Again, this was a move that felt planned ahead of time, as even after Nobu died last year, it was mentioned that “his people” had reclaimed his body for… something. So it was great to have that thread picked up. And it’s funny that episode 9 of both seasons has so far featured a duel between Daredevil and Nobu.
Elektra’s interference caused Matt to be separated from Foggy and Karen most of the time, which was important seeing as Nelson and Murdock had taken Frank Castle on as a client. I hesitate to call this a subplot since it was so prominent, not to mention very good.
Frank establishing a rapport with Karen, including that very touching scene in the hospital. That great “not guilty” scene, as Frank chose to go to trial in hope of exposing DA Reyes’s coverup and learning what happened to his family. Foggy stepping up yet again in Matt’s absence, leading to another, even bigger rift between the two. Karen following in Ben Urich’s footsteps and yet again showing investigative initiative (which I thought was a great development and an excellent way to fill the void left by Ben’s death last year). It was all very strong material. And it led to episode 9, which saw the awesome return of Wilson Fisk.
Like pretty much all Daredevil viewers, I love Wilson Fisk. So to have him back, even for one episode, and especially for such a great episode, was heaven. Watching him slowly use his resourcefulness to take control even when confined to prison was perfect. The way he brought in Frank and manipulated him to do his dirty work was brilliant. And after Frank survived the ambush, arranging to have him released so the Punisher could do what he does best and take out the competition ahead of Fisk’s own eventual release? That was a genius conclusion to an intense scene. It may have been for one episode, but Fisk was written and utilized perfectly. The use of the word “kingpin” was just the cherry on top.
Speaking of the ambush, that was one hell of a gripping action scene, as Frank fought about a dozen inmates who had it in for him with nothing but a shiv, his fists, and whatever tools he could find. And the sight of him standing victorious and drenched in blood was haunting.
In fact, Fisk’s use here was another example of why I don’t feel like this season is overstuffed, despite juggling so many elements. He was there for a limited time, and his introduction very organically and cleverly branched out of and tied into the Punisher storyline. We needed to see what he’d been up to, where he is now, and what’s in store for him in the future. Just as Season 1 introduced threads for Season 2 to pick up, Fisk’s brief appearance acted as a similar setup for future seasons.
Really the only problem here is that the two main storylines were disjointed. This was addressed in the show in the form of Matt not being there for Foggy and the ensuing argument, but I do hope everything gets tied together in the next 4 episodes. Because right now, all the pieces are set. All that’s left is the climax.