Daredevil, Episodes 7-9: “Semper Fidelis,” “Guilty as Sin,” “Seven Minutes in Heaven”
“This is who you are, Matthew.” ~ Elektra
“What if this is just me now?” ~ Frank
“Time isn’t going to change who I am, Foggy.” ~ Matt
“This is who I am. Do you still want me?” ~ Elektra
Work begins on the Frank Castle case and we have to say, the writing doesn’t quite do a good enough job explaining why the team is working so hard for what DA Reyes rightly calls a serial killer. It literally goes against everything they’ve established about these characters. A PTSD defense is floated and Frank scoffs at it because his problems “didn’t start on the battlefield.”
Elektra gets Matt to come with her and “interrogate” a professor hired by the Yakuza who has a taste for Korean hookers and cocaine. They get him to decrypt the Yakuza ledger which leads them to a railyard and another run in with the New Age Ninjas in their leather jackets and skinny ties.
Back at Matt’s apartment, he and Elektra do sexy wound care while they compare scars. “You’ve been busy, hunh?” “We both have.” Matt asks her why she never came back after she left him. “Because you don’t know what I know,” she tells him. He spends the night listening to her sleep, apparently forgetting about the court date.
Foggy winds up giving the opening statement because Matt was so late for court. He’s pissed at him. Matt takes Karen back to his apartment to work on the case. Somehow, it turns into an argument on the methods of Frank Castle. Matt comes down pretty hard on the wrongness of it. “Vengeance is not justice,” he intones. “Right or wrong, you can’t deny that it works,” she counters. “Do you really believe that?” Boner-killer. After that, he essentially throws her out. Of course he did so partially because Elektra was there and listening in.
The next day, The ME’s testimony winds up getting thrown out – including the admission that he’d falsified the autopsy reports – because Elektra tied him up and threatened him the night before. Foggy assumes DA Reyes had something to do with it, and Matt is forced to come clean to him, in a scene that lays out just how nuts his life has become while no one else was paying attention. “My debutante ex-girlfriend is back in town fighting the Yakuza and she was the one who threatened our witness.” Foggy is understandably very confused, but angry when he realized Matt lied to him again. “Stop acting like these things just happen to you!”
“I was only following your rules,” Elektra tells him later, when he angrily confronts her. “You don’t get what you want by day, you take it by force at night. This is who you are, Matthew.” She’s got a point. Then they find a massive hole in the ground and a bunch of ninjas attack them and Elektra almost kills one, but Matt distracts her and she gets badly wounded. Then Stick drops from the sky (almost literally), kills everyone, and gets Matt to high-tail it out of there for a high-speed ninja fight through the empty streets of Manhattan. We can accept holes to nowhere and roving bands of ninja assassins and a blind 80-year-old who can take on a dozen at a time, but after awhile, the terminally empty streets of New York start coming off a little silly.
Stick heals Elektra with toilet bowl cleaner and baking soda (no really) and reveals all: She’s been working for him as he fights a group of warlords known as The Hand because he’s a legendary warrior leading a group known as The Chaste and everyone’s looking for a weapon called Black Sky. Lots of nouns.
Foggy aces cross-examination with an expert witness who essentially gives his expert opinion that “Frank Castle has been through hell.” Later, Karen visits Frank to implore him to take the stand and he reveals his fears that even if he managed to exact vengeance on everyone responsible for his family’s death, he’s too far gone to ever find peace. Karen and Frank have a more intense and honest relationship than the schoolgirl crush she seems to have on Matt, who lies to her on the regular.
Matt pleads with Elektra to break with Stick (pun intended), stay by his side and fight The Hand in a non-lethal manner. She revealed she fell in love with him and he tearfully says he felt hollow when he thought he lost her. Seeya, Karen.
The next day Frank is no good on the stand (because a cop whispered “Think about what you want” in his ear) and Matt winds up giving a highly unlikely speech about how the city needs men like Frank. It was a very silly scene in a courtroom full of people holding up “FRANK IS A MURDERER” signs. But it was a nice speech. More about Matt than Frank, though (which is kind of Matt’s whole problem this season). Frank winds up imploding the whole case by ranting on the stand about how much he loves killing people. Foggy and Karen angrily turn on Matt and blame him for it, which isn’t entirely fair, but then again, he’s been such a dick to them that we can’t blame them.
Elektra kicks Stick out. “You can’t change who you are.” says Stick and notes that she hasn’t told Matt yet what she is, whatever that is. She tells Matt that he’s the only person in the world who believes she’s good. Then a Ninja attacks! Right in Matt’s apartment! He’s just a kid but Elektra slits his throat. “This is who I am,” she says, awash in blood. And then, nervously: “Do you still want me?” Matt, you’ve still got Karen’s number, right?
Frank goes to jail and meets the one person there who could cause the most havoc from the situation: Wilson Fisk himself. He comes back into the story at just the right time, because nine episodes into the season, we don’t really have a foe for Matt to fight. All this talk of such vague concepts as The Hand, The Chaste and Black Sky is difficult for a viewer to engage with. Faceless ninjas are cool, but only for so long.
In flashback, we see Wilson do exactly what we would have expected him to do: take control of the prison through manipulation and violence. As soon as we’re introduced to Dutton, the “I run this joint” dude, it was an inevitability that he’d be dead by the end of the episode. Nothing in Fisk’s tale surprised us, but it was still darkly pleasurable to watch unfold; to see a man with no power at all seize power for himself in such a definitive way.
Back at Matt’s apartment, after the cleaners have disposed of the dead teenage ninja, Matt notes that Elektra enjoys killing and that he can’t spend his time trying to make her something she’s not just as she can’t spend her time doing the same to him. They break up, and Elelktra tells him The Hand will decimate the city.
Foggy confronts Matt over the ruins of their careers and friendships but it goes worse than he planned as Matt essentially closes Nelson & Murdock for good. “I’m done apologizing for who I am,” he says. Despite the fact that Foggy is absolutely right about how badly Matt’s been acting lately toward his friends and how self-destructive his life comes across, we couldn’t help but cheer Matt a little for that line.
Foggy tries to get Karen to let go of the whole thing, but she won’t, which is of a piece with how this show tends to define heroism. It’s being true to your self, sure, but it’s also about never stopping in your pursuit of justice. The show doesn’t always do a great job of explaining why Karen is the way she is, but her retort to Foggy about how she just wants to uncover something true in her life because she’s drowning in so many lies and conspiracies made a lot of sense to us. She winds up talking to Ellison at The Bulletin and winds up with what loos like a job as an investigative reporter, which would have made Ben Urich happy, if she hadn’t caused his death through recklessness last season. Through digging and persistence, she eventually comes to find out that the John Doe from the carousel massacre was an undercover cop.
Back at the prison, before Frank kills him, Dutton reveals that the carousel massacre was part of a sting operation to land a shadowy figure known as The Blacksmith. More nouns. Eventually, they’re going to run out of cool ones and Matt will wind up fighting The Fork or The Lightbulb. Anyway, the whole thing with Dutton was a setup and Frank winds up having to kill at least a dozen inmates (jacking his kill count to at least 50 by now) in the most bloody scene in the entire series. Later, in solitary, Fisk comes in and beats the shit out of him before arranging to set him free (because he runs the prison completely now) to go find The Blacksmith and deliver unto him The Bullet To The Head.
Also, Matt finds a basement full of people having their blood drained from them and Nobu the dead ninja master from last season is back. “You’re dead,” says Matt, with a flair for the obvious. “There is no such thing,” he replies.
As you can see, there was a shit-ton of plot in these three episodes, which is why we wound up writing a more or less straight recap. But as the quotes at the top of this post highlight, there’s a strong through-line tying all of these various plot points together. Everyone in this story right now is either discovering who they really are (Foggy is a better attorney than he realized, Karen is obsessed with truth and justice), railing against who they really are (Matt can decry violence all he wants, but Elektra knows the truth of him) or coming to terms with who they really are (Elektra and Frank are almost literally baptized in blood as they embrace their true nature).
The “heroes don’t kill” argument can get awfully tedious at times, partially because this is well-covered ground in this type of story and we’re not sure anything new is being said, and partially because it’s kind of a hard argument to make when entire armies of master killers are coming after you constantly. The season is suffering terribly from not having a main villain or even a clear story to follow. There’s something about heroin and immortality, but it’s all getting buried under the avalanche of nouns.
In addition, the show has taken a slight veer off into the fantastic. The stories have been fairly street-level in tone up until now, but with all the ninjas and the holes to the center of the earth and the talk of immortality, it’s taking a turn toward the mystical. We don’t necessarily object to that, but we’re a bit wary as to whether or not they can make this work in the long run. Matt Murdock fighting ninjas is cool. Matt Murdock fighting MAGIC ninjas might just get a little silly.