Sunday, March 20, 2016

REVIEW: 'Daredevil' - Matt Struggles with His Senses While Foggy Goes Up Against the D.A. in 'Dogs to a Gunfight'

Netflix's Daredevil - Episode 2.02 "Dogs to a Gunfight"

As Murdock recovers from an attack, Foggy and Karen fight to protect their new client from both the law and the Kitchen's newest vigilante.

The second season premiere of Daredevil wasn't great but it still had some interesting moments that introduced the story of the new season. "Dogs to a Gunfight" does that as well. It builds up the action and the mystery surrounding this new vigilante in Hell's Kitchen - who is properly given the nickname, the Punisher. But it's still another episode where long stretches are really boring only to build to a very exciting and tense action sequence. It feels very repetitive of the show to start the season with two episodes that play somewhat similar to one another. "Bang" ended with Daredevil in peril. "Dogs to a Gunfight" downplays the consequences of that action only to also end on a cliffhanger with Daredevil in peril. Both of these episode-concluding moments are strong and make me excited to watch the next episode. But the hours that preceded them haven't been that compelling or interesting.

"Dogs to a Gunfight" does provide some more intrigue into the Punisher. He is a vigilante who has solely been targeting criminal operations. He kills with a military precision. He has only killed criminals. No innocent lives have been lost because of him. That shows just how skilled he is with his weaponry. He is able to take on these criminal organizations without getting a single scratch on him. That's impressive. But the morality should also kick in regarding whether or not the Punisher is doing the right thing in killing these horrible people. The police force is divided. Some figure that it's only a matter of time before the Punisher gets an innocent person killed. But others also applaud the work the Punisher is doing because he is making their jobs easier and keeping drugs and other illegal activities off the streets of Hell's Kitchen.

The audience is suppose to be wondering this too. Is the Punisher a good or bad guy? He's killing but so far it's only criminals. The city has embraced Daredevil and his brand of vigilante justice. Matt is boastful of the fact that he has never killed anyone before. That was a real struggle for him last season. And yet, the citizens of Hell's Kitchen don't know that fact. All they know about Daredevil is whatever they've heard about. A few have come into contact with him on the street late at night. But Daredevil hasn't been a public figure who stands for something that the entire community understands. He is protecting the citizens of Hell's Kitchen. But he has also made an acceptable world for copycats to following in his footsteps. Not all of those have been successful. But they've popped up enough that the police have to take notice. Matt seems a little naive to the fact that his actions as Daredevil could have created the Punisher. He values the morals he has as the costumed vigilante of this community. And yet, it's a line that everyone else is more than willing to draw. They see the situation for what it has really become. It's just so boring to watch as Matt remains a little incredulous and stubborn about this belief.

Daredevil emerges from his first encounter with the Punisher with barely a scratch on him. It was enough to cause some pretty severe damage to his helmet. But it wasn't a serious injury in the way that so many were last season. Foggy is just able to find Matt knocked out on top of a building and carries him back to his apartment. For a moment, it seems like Matt has lost his extraordinary abilities because his senses are out of whack. And yet, that's barely a tease in this episode. It leads to complications for a few brief moments and then is quickly forgotten about. Matt needs his heightened senses in order to be Daredevil. He doesn't know how to function if he can't see the world through his ears. It complicates his later fight with the Punisher. But it's a really exciting tease when it first happens in the apartment. But nothing of merit happens with the story.

All it does is continue to prop Karen up as a romantic interest who knows something is up with Matt but isn't pushing too much to know what it is. Again, Matt gets hurt a lot. Karen has reason to be concerned - even though he is blind and is able to fall back on that excuse. But he's used it one too many times to explain his actions. Also, it's really bothersome that Karen comes into Matt's apartment sees the mess that he has made and decides to just kick it away instead of offering to clean it up. Matt has cuddled up in a ball against the wall after his senses started betraying him. Karen knocking on the door was able to pull him out of the funk. But shouldn't Karen be more concerned about the shattered glass on the floor of a blind man's apartment? She notices it but does nothing. She's instead distracted by the lies Matt is clearly telling. He promises to be open with her once he is willing to share his secret. But he doesn't have the best track record in that regard.

It's also frustrating that Foggy and Karen continue to represent the legal aspects of this show. It's great that the series is still willing to delve into the legal complications of the actions of the characters. But that's a crucial detail for who Matt Murdock is as a character in the comics. He's a masked vigilante by night and a lawyer by day. But he has hardly been involved with the legal aspects of the show. So that means those scenes in this episode largely play as giving something for Karen and Foggy to do. They are trying to arrange a witness protection agreement for Grotto with the D.A. - who is personally handling the case because of the Punisher's involvement. It's just so boring watching as the story pivots off to using Grotto to catch another known criminal. That happens solely so it can be surprising when it's revealed that the D.A. and police are using Grotto as bait to trap the Punisher without his legal representation making a big fuss about it. It's very manipulative and really doesn't serve a whole lot of purpose to the overall episode.

But again, that final sequence - once it's revealed what's truly going on - is very exciting and the action is well-choreographed. Daredevil's slow motion flip is very cool. It continues to showcase that Daredevil and the Punisher are well matched against each other. They may have different ideologies but they have some major similarities as well. The Punisher could have killed Daredevil if he wanted. He has gotten in the way of his mission on a number of occasions now. But the Punisher still hasn't done so. In fact, he chooses to take Daredevil once it's clear that his senses are failing him again during the middle of the fight. That sets up a compelling premise for the next episode where the two vigilantes finally come face-to-face to talk about what they are trying to do in Hell's Kitchen.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Dogs to a Gunfight" was written by Marco Ramirez & Douglas Petrie and directed by Phil Abraham.
  • After debuting on Jessica Jones, Michelle Hurd also pops up here as D.A. Reyes. That's a nice way to bring the universes of these two shows together. Hopefully that will be expanded upon later this season. 
  • Daredevil is going to need a new helmet. His old one has been cracked and won't be good out in the field. That's not what Matt wants to hear from Melvin though. He just wants to get back into the action as quickly as possible. That's something that could cost him severely too.
  • Stephen Rider debuts in this episode as new series regular Blake Tower, who is working alongside Reyes in the D.A.'s office. It should be interesting to see how important he'll be this season.
  • Karen is starting to wonder if she deserves to get hurt following what she did last season. She has been placed in harm's way a lot over the 15 episodes so far. That's not coincidental and should be noticed by everyone else. The damage still does affect her but not in the same ways it did at the start of the series.
  • The audience gets a brief taste of what the Punisher's morals are as well. He's more than comfortable using stolen police equipment in order to track down Grotto. But child pornography will get the same man killed.

As noted in previous reviews from this series, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.