Daredevil: Stick

Posted on April 23, 2015


Skyler Gaertner and Scott Glenn in Netflix’s “Daredevil.” 


We can definitely add the casting of Scott Glenn in the role of Stick, Matt Murdock’s mentor and trainer, to the list of things this show got so right the creators should get a medal for it. This was a great call for several reasons, not least of which is that he so perfectly embodies the version of the character from the comics, and because he’s such an important figure in Matt’s history, a good and charismatic actor was needed for the role. But it also helped to have someone so entertaining and willing to really dig into the character because frankly, this whole episode hinged on Glenn’s performance. Otherwise, it didn’t have a whole lot going for it.

It wasn’t a terrible hour to sit through, but for the first time watching an episode of Daredevil, we felt every minute of that hour. Without Claire or Fisk in the story, it’s surprising how quickly it starts feeling directionless. We claim no insight into what the show plans for it’s recently confirmed second season, but this entire episode sure felt like it was taking a breather from the current storyline and setting the stage for the next one. Which is fine, because the world of Daredevil definitely needs some world- and mythology-building. With this episode, we not only got a further explanation for Matt’s abilities (as well as the tantalizing confirmation that they’re not unique), but we got to see the kind of training that gave him his near-superhuman fighting skills; the one thing his backstory lacked up until now. We can’t say every question about Matt has been answered, but enough of the blanks have been filled in to (hopefully) allow the Fisk storyline to progress to some kind of payoff, although of course, the Fisk vs. Murdock fight is practically never-ending in the comics. But with this episode, we learn that Murdock is caught up (whether he realizes it or not) in some much larger war for which Stick has plans for him, which tends to make the Fisk war sound like a preamble to something greater. And all of that is fine by us. Sounds great on paper. And we can’t reiterate enough that Glenn was a delight throughout and we can’t wait to see more of him. But the episode as a whole had the feel of a throat-clearing and the tone of a down-to-business “MEANWHILE…”

Meanwhile, in this week’s installment of The Adventures of Karen and Senor Foggy … nothing much happens except she finds out from Mrs. Cardenas that Foggy’s in love with her and winds up introducing him to Ben. It’s not that this didn’t feel like a progression – and even a natural one – but it did feel like a lot of narrative wheel-spinning. We only need so many scenes of Ben sternly telling Karen how serious this all is. It’s getting to the point where the foreshadowing hammer is starting to get a little loud. “Anything happens to you, that’s on me,” Ben tells her for the hundredth time. We realize he’s something of a grim and serious character, but even among this cast of darkly lit souls, Ben sometimes comes off as the most joyless of all. These scenes may have been a big part of why this episode felt a bit like wheel-spinning to us. The scenes with Stick were all mostly fun (especially the fight scenes), but as all the backstory and setting up of future stories was going on (the very definition of narrative place-setting), the Karen and Foggy scenes were the only chance to progress the current storyline and they failed to do so. Foggy likes Karen; Karen’s kind of ambivalent; Ben tells Karen this isn’t a game; Mrs. Cardenas slowly dribbles out information she probably should have revealed in her initial meeting with Nelson and Murdock.

We sound more negative than we mean to. This was entertaining and thematically tight, from Foggy’s baseball bat, which goes from striking out with Karen to saving her at just the right moment (and hopefully to get her to see the upside to Senor Foggy, if you know what we mean), to Stick’s completely hard-assed philosophy that material things make potential warriors soft, which he then demonstrates by trashing Murdock’s apartment in a classic “student becomes the master” showdown, to Matt’s softly pained references to Claire and the unspoken regrets you can hear in his voice. It’s about the price a hero and warrior has to pay for fighting the good fight, even though it’s not at all assured whether Stick’s fight can be called “good.” We get no real answers on this whole “Black Sky” thing or why he killed that kid, nor do we get any further explanation as to what his plans are for Matt. But with Claire gone, his apartment trashed, and Foggy openly talking about his hatred for the “Devil of Hell’s Kitchen,” as the papers are calling him, it feels more than ever like Stick is right and Matt is going to need to divest himself of everything close to him if he wants to win his war. But as he sits in the wreckage of his life and holds that ice cream wrapper bracelet Stick held on to for two decades, it’s not at all clear if he’ll be able to pay the price.

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[Still: tomandlorenzo.com]

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