Sunday, April 3, 2016

REVIEW: 'Daredevil' - Matt Further Isolates Himself as the Punisher Threat Returns in 'The Man in the Box'

Netflix's Daredevil - Episode 2.10 "The Man in the Box"

Murdock and Foggy get caught in the crossfire of the Punisher's revenge. Karen and Murdock dig for the truth in very different ways.

This season of Daredevil has been juggling many different stories. That has been different than the story of the first season which largely revolved around the rise of Daredevil in order to stop Wilson Fisk's plans for Hell's Kitchen. This season has introduced a fair number of new stories that have complicated and expanded this universe. They don't always tie together though. All of the stuff happening with the Hand is completely separated from Frank's pursuit for justice. This approach to the narrative has purpose too. Matt's life is being pulled in many different directions. He was able to be both a lawyer and a vigilante when it came to only handling Fisk. But now, he has so many other things to worry about which is hindering his ability to do anything well. That has been a fascinating character arc this season that really starts to boil over in "The Man in the Box."

Matt wants to be seen as a good person. A savior for his community. New York City is in his bones and he will protect it from anyone who means it harm. But now, he's realizing just how far-reaching these criminals actually go. It's not enough to make sure that they pay for their crimes. Matt has resided over trials for both Wilson Fisk and Frank Castle. With Fisk, it was a victory for the law firm. With Frank, it was a disaster. But in both cases, the trials weren't the end of the story. Fisk is still sitting high and mighty in his new jail cell while Frank has actually broken out of prison and continuing the work he started at the beginning of the season. It's a complicated situation for Matt. He's flailing around trying to make a difference in this world. But the criminal corruption is just too widespread for him to deal with. He's still in the dark about so many of the elements he's facing against.

All of this sends Matt on a horrifying personal spiral. He now sees being a vigilante as the only thing he can do in order to serve Hell's Kitchen. He looks at his legal career as nothing but a farce that has only led to more chaos and destruction. Matt wanted to make a difference in this world. He wanted to uphold his ideals by stopping criminals as Daredevil and making sure they were prosecuted fairly but severely as a lawyer. But now, that duality is coming into conflict. After learning of Frank's escape, Matt is the only person who realizes that Fisk must have orchestrated all of it. So, he rationally decides to visit him in prison. But seeing him as the blind lawyer and not as Daredevil has its fair share of limitations. It's a really fantastic scene between the two of them. Matt needs to expose Fisk for what he has done. He has legal tactics that he can use to destroy Fisk's life. But it's still not enough to deal with the monster that sits before him. As Fisk slams Matt's head against the table, there's nothing Matt can do to stop it. He's just the lawyer who got Fisk sentenced to prison. He's not the vigilante who brought this criminal down. So this visit was all for nothing. Matt doesn't get any new information about Frank. It just shows how much control Fisk still has - while also teasing the audience that Fisk may be digging deeper into Matt's background.

But all of that is still very relevant. Matt feels so defeated right now. He just wanted to help Frank get the help he needed the most. He convinced the firm to represent him in the highly public trial. But again, it was all for nothing. Despite Matt's best efforts, Frank still had a big outburst in court and was sentenced to the same inevitable fate for his crimes. And now, he has escaped and there's nothing Matt can do. He can't stop Frank from targeting the people who covered up the events of his family's murders. Reyes is gunned down right in front of Matt, Foggy and Karen. The only thing Matt could do was warn everyone to get down. It was all too little too late. He didn't do enough to save Reyes. She died right after delivering a moment that really humanized her too. It was a horrifying sight of monstrosity that only pushes Matt into being more determined to act and seek vengeance in this world.

Matt was equally horrified to see all of the weird experiments the Hand was doing on the young teens. He pulls them out of this dangerous situation. And yet, that's not the end of this story either. No one has any idea of what was actually going on down there. Nobu still escaped with the one thing he was protecting. So, Matt is just grasping at anything to lead him in the right direction of these criminals. He does whatever it takes to protect these victims. But even that is pointless because their systems have been filled with a mysterious substance that makes them killers as soon as they wake up. Matt doesn't know enough about the Hand to make much of a difference. It's still a very mysterious entity. That really hasn't been that great throughout the season so far. But it still makes for a very chilling final sequence in "The Man in the Box" as a swarm of ninjas descend upon the hospital.

The darkness is overwhelming Matt. He feels that he is responsible for all of this death and destruction right now because he was distracted by personal relationships and legal entanglements. He wanted to have a normal life where he could also make a difference in his city. But now, everyone is getting hurt because Matt is too slow to action. So, he is pushing away all the people he once held so close. Foggy takes a bullet and Matt only makes sure that he's okay before running off to stop crime. Karen is still so courteous and Matt barely tells her anything. Matt wanted Elektra out of his life. And now, she's struggling to stay alive because she already made the choice to be with him. All of this builds to a very dynamic conversation between Matt and Claire on the rooftop of the hospital. This season has really underutilized Claire Temple. Matt knows that he can still rely on her. But it's still a little wonky seeing the two interacting and having this meaningful discussion when they haven't been a part of each other's lives for a long time. Claire is able to see Matt as he truly is. She's doing her best to keep him grounded in a world that is becoming more and more fantastical. He can't make sense of any of it. But he desperately needs to in order to continue protecting his city. But at what cost? Matt is choosing to isolate himself from the world he loves so much. He's committing to being a vigilante full-time. That's exactly what Stick has wanted from him this entire time. But what will that decision actually do to Matt? He finds himself in a very precarious situation at the end of this episode with his friends also being in danger. He wants to embrace this world alone but that may not be possible given the circumstances he currently finds himself in.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Man in the Box" was directed by Peter Hoar with story by John C. Kelley and teleplay by Whit Anderson & Sneha Koorse.
  • It also turns out that Frank isn't the person who is targeting all of the key players from the trial and cover-up. It sure seems like that when both Reyes and the medical examiner are killed. But Frank later shows up to save Karen from bullets. Frank can be very monstrous. But he's still operating under the same code in order to find justice for his family's murders.
  • Also, it's a tad weird that Karen is so quick to believe that Frank isn't guilty of these new murders. She says she needs facts right now to make sense of this world. But then, she fully leads with her gut and her personal attachment to Frank. She's right. It's just a lame way to introduction uncertainty.
  • Stick sends a man to kill Elektra. But why does he do that? Wouldn't it be dividing his attention? Is it just because she decided to go against him and fight with Matt? That fight shows that she's still going to be important to the story even though she no longer wants to be any part of whatever is going on with the Hand.
  • Before Reyes died, she confirmed the events of what happened the day of the Castle family murder. It was a sting operation that went sideways because the Blacksmith didn't show up. It still feels like there is more to the story though. That will probably be coming once the show actually introduces this new bad guy.

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.