Contributor Editors Tara Bennett and Mike Avila are writing detailed recaps of each of Daredevil Season 2's 13 episodes. Mike is the lifelong Daredevil aficionado and expert, while Tara is the television junkie. From those perspectives, we’ll publish our reviews every two days.
We dig into some murky moral ground in Episode 2, "Dogs to a Gunfight," as Matt's altruistic need to help his neighbors in Hell's Kitchen gets muddied up with new comparisons of DD to the uber-violent vigilante codenamed The Punisher.
Tara: My absolute favorite beat in this episode is discovering along with Matt that him taking a deflected bullet to the noggin has created a major problem with his hearing. Matt's been almost strident in his nightly activities since his success in bringing Fisk down. The ringing and screeching in his head was an incredibly tangible reminder that he's not immortal, and how integral his sense of hearing is to everything he does. That his entire life mission could now be compromised, when a new threat is doing a lot of harm, is the kind of stakes that makes a show like this hum.
Mike: I thought this was a pretty key development. Matt’s taken an incredible amount of punishment since beginning his campaign as Daredevil, and this helped to underscore the fact that he’s not an Asgardian, he’s not a Super-Soldier, he’s not a man in a really cool iron suit. He’s a Man, and in this corner of the Marvel U, the beatings need to matter. I liked how they showed the impact of the bullet grazing his skull, how it affects his balance and equilibrium. It’s the first time the blind man has really felt...blind, in a very long time. Very interesting.
Tara: I also loved Foggy coming into his own going up against the smug DA and winning (to an extent). It's easy to mentally pigeon-hole Foggy as the sweaty, worried best friend of the show. Watching him assert his independent function in the story by retaining his protection of Grotto as a client, and schooling the DA on what she can legally do with him, was a huge win for him as a character.
Mike: It was good to see Foggy stand his ground and call Reyes’ bluff about the witness protection deal for Grotto. I agree, Tara, that Foggy can easily fall into the trap of being the ‘crack-wise & complain’ friend on the show. It’s why I haven’t completely bought into the character yet. But in this episode, the writers seem to be carving out his niche as the lawyer who actually practices the law, and does it quite well.
Tara: Karen presenting to Matt that DD has basically laid the welcome mat out for the Punisher was a very smart argument to set up and explore this season. Point of view is everything and Matt (and NYC) think he's a hero. But add a body count, and you're the Punisher. That's a fine line worthy of a season-long moral debate.
Mike: Analyzing Daredevil and his purpose seems to be the overarching theme to this season, judging by the references made in the first two episodes. As the escalation in Hell’s Kitchen continues, ‘Devil worshippers’ inspired by the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen have been proliferating, and police think this Punisher is the latest most dangerous example. As Karen points out, The Punisher doesn’t happen without Daredevil. He’s opened up the vigilante genie bottle, and who knows what else is coming out?
Matt’s arrogance is starting to show, too, and not in a good way. He thinks he’s the only one who can save the Kitchen and he pretty much dismisses Foggy rather rudely when Nelson suggests he heal and let the cops do their jobs. Besides, just how effective is Daredevil at stopping crime?? Like Turk told him in the first episode, even if he gets arrested, they both know he’ll be out in a month. Is that really making a dent in crime in any meaningful way? Exploring the vigilante aspect of superheroes is a hallmark of the comic book series. I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops on TV.
Tara: Last but not least, the Punisher's easing into the story is a smart way to define his own moral standards for who gets punished. The pawn store guy was as cliche as can be, but he certainly clarifies the Punisher's moral line in the sand. Selling boosted cop scanners or guns are OK. Child porn? Punishable by death. Got it.
Mike: I love the pawn shop scene! Castle’s laser focus is on full display here. Yes, he’s there to get the scanners to track his prey. But Frank is never too busy to rid the world of a scumbag peddling kiddie porn. Swing, batter, swing!
And I know this show has a long list of epic fight scenes, but that rainy rooftop slugfest deserves lots of love. It was brutal even by this show’s standards, with some excellent camera work and choreography. I also was struck by its sudden ending, with DD frozen in his tracks by the ringing in his ears.
Tara: The Grotto storyline was snoozy because let's face it, he's a thug. There's really no genuine sympathy for him trying to start over so the entire bait scenario didn't endear me to him, or make me worry for him. It also played out so arch, with the DA coming across so self-serving and one-note, that I didn't care about any aspect of that narrative.
Mike: Parts of this episode felt a bit paunchy. Almost as if the writing staff said, ‘let’s make this one about the supporting cast.’ One problem with the Netflix TV model is that sometimes the creators don’t feel the urgency to tighten things up as much in post-production, because they don’t work within the rigid framework that broadcast or even basic cable shows have. A small nitpick, to be sure, but a nit worth picking.
I also found it hard to believe that Foggy was able to outhustle the NYPD to find Matt shot on that rooftop, and that he was able to carry a guy in a costume down five flights of stairs and across several city blocks – in BROAD DAYLIGHT -- without someone spotting him.
Mike: Good point, Tara. Grotto’s part in this tale didn’t do anything for me. He’s not some innocent bystander; he’s a criminal. I kept waiting for The Punisher to finally check him off his list. Foggy and Karen’s concern for him felt a bit too convenient for my tastes, too. I didn’t mind District Attorney Reyes and ADA Tower because I think the show needs to find a way to balance the fistfights with legal sparring.
Tara: I understand Karen wants to stand by her promises, but Grotto wasn't saving puppies. I also get Karen, Matt and Foggy side for hope and redemption, but pick your battles wisely, guys.
More disappointing to me was how dramatically Matt's hearing problem was introduced in the middle of the episode and then how it was almost forgotten until the last moments of the episode. I'm not a fan of convenient physical issues in any story, and if they were going to commit to Matt being completely disoriented and blatantly vulnerable in one deeply affecting moment and then have him act like it almost never happened in a fight scene that comes afterward, I'm not down with that. I can't lock onto the actual stakes of Matt's condition as a viewer so it's unreliable for me to be worried for him.
Mike: I disagree with how the tinnitus was handled. I liked that it re-appeared at the end, just as Matt and Castle were at a standstill. They established it well early on, and then brought it back at a key juncture.
Tara: Was it just me, or did Melvin Potter feel a lot more quirky last season? This season, he's coming off a lot more together, which might be the perk of Matt's protection, or just inconsistent performance. We'll see.
Mike: I love Melvin! Melvin Potter should be the costume guy for all the Marvel Netflix shows. Can you imagine what his Iron Fist outfit would look like? He might actually be able to pull off something close to Luke Cage’s original '70s getup.
Also, did you notice how Melvin is the one to point out that the bullet that nearly killed DD actually looks like a skillful warning shot? It helps answer the question of whether Castle was really trying to kill DD at the end of Episode 1. The Punisher, in the comics at least, has always avoided taking lethal action against the good guys who try to take him down. That was in question after that first episode, but Melvin’s explanation appears to have provided the answer.
THE COMIC BOOK CORNER:
Mike: Foggy did a nice name-drop for hardcore Marvel Zombies when he mentioned Killdozer as a possible code-name for Hell’s Kitchen’s newest vigilante. He’s an obscure villain who appeared back in 1990 in “Marvel Super-Heroes Vol. 2, issue #2.” (double fun fact: he was also the subject of a 1940s sci-fi story that was adapted into an issue of Marvel’s “Worlds Unknown” series in the 1970s.)
When Daredevil shows up at Melvin’s garage to repair his busted head gear, Melvin grabs a circular saw almost out of reflex. A nice callback to Melvin’s identity as ‘Gladiator’ in the comics, since buzzsaws were a key part of that character’s arsenal.
ADA Blake Tower is a longtime member of the civilian Marvel Comics Universe. I would be surprised to not see him take a more prominent role as The Defenders story unfolds.
D.A. Reyes is the latest thread in the connection of the MNU (Marvel Netflix Universe). She first appeared in the final episode of S1 of “Jessica Jones.” I like the subtle way they’re connecting these shows; they could easily have taken the heavy-handed approach with forced references. Jeph Loeb & Co. are doing a fine job of showing restraint and trusting the audience to pay attention and connect the dots.
Tara: For me, "Dogs to a Gunfight" was a mixed bag. Writers/showrunners Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez set the stage for some really interesting stories, like Matt's hearing/perception problems, but then sort of punted what they mean to Matt in the now. Yes, he's compromised at doing what he does at full power but we have no idea of what that means to Matt. I would have liked more fear or lack of prowess from Matt in that Punisher fight than we got. Otherwise, the Punisher is being woven into the fabric of the show at a great pace. We are making our own opinions based on his actions, and that leaves us ripe for some counter presentations of the Punisher's truth about his deeds and motives.
Mike: This episode was somewhat hit or miss with me, too. The moments that really popped mostly had to do with The Punisher, although a few moments with Matt were really interesting, because they help set up future developments (like the tension with Foggy and the fallout from the bullet to the head).
But that is also partly what I didn’t like about this chapter; it was a serviceable episode that peels back the curtain just a bit more on the overall story for the season, but spent too much time on the table setting. Foggy and Karen had some solid moments, but the romantic involvement between Matt and Karen isn’t resonating with me. The writers are working hard to isolate Matt; his dismissal of Foggy, who’s clearly concerned for the safety of his friend, was a bit too flippant. And frankly, it’s not making Mr. Murdock look very good, in the process. This bromance is in serious trouble, methinks.
The slow roll-out of The Punisher and his story, what he’s about and why he is who he is, is an absolute home run. He’s not just a bloodthirsty monster killing criminals; his warped code of justice is now coming into focus. He’s a complicated character who can be difficult to defend and justify. He also seems to be the motivating force for questions to be raised about what Daredevil does, and how he does it, that look to be a big part of this season.
I can’t say enough good things about the rooftop fight scene. I like that there wasn’t a clear-cut winner between the two. They’re well matched, almost perfect counterpoints to each other. It’s another indication of just how little – aside from a double-digit body count – separates Daredevil from The Punisher.
What did you think of "Dogs to a Gunfight"? Was that fight scene a new classic?