Wednesday, April 6, 2016

REVIEW: 'Daredevil' - Matt Battles Ninjas at the Hospital While Claire Finally Gets a Story in '.380'

Netflix's Daredevil - Episode 2.11 ".380"

The Punisher's war continues, and so does the body count in Hell's Kitchen. Murdock tries to finish what the DA started.

Over the last few episodes, the various plot threads of the season have been building up to exciting and surprising twists with the characters. And yet, ".380" is a really clunky episode where almost too much is going on which does hinder the effectiveness of a couple of plot beats. There are still a number of moments that work really well. But there's also a ton of plot and narrative decisions that just aren't adding up to a whole lot which is making the season as a whole very problematic. It's all probably building to some fun and shocking reveals in the final two episodes of the season. It has just been a slog getting to those answers even though some of the character arcs have really been compelling.

Frank Castle has had a really interesting journey this season. He started as the first mysterious entity causing pain and destruction in Hell's Kitchen. It was a pretty clunky introduction too. The threat and mystery of the danger was compelling. But the more the show revealed about the man, the more formulaic and uninspired it became. His trial brought a lot of emotional depth out of him through his connection with Karen. His escape from prison also reaffirmed just how serious and lethal a threat he really is. And now, he's back on the streets seeking vengeance for the murders of his wife and children. That provides him an interesting perspective of the world. This is the choice that he has made in order to deal with their deaths. He has chosen to cross over the line and kill people. He's not afraid to manipulate people in order to get what he wants either. Frank does all of this just in the hopes of getting to the Blacksmith and making him pay for what he has done.

However, Frank still has a magnificent scene with Karen in the diner as he talks about the importance of love and pain in life. He lost everything that day at the carousel. And now, he's a man engulfed in darkness and a personal vendetta. The show is doing an interesting thing in framing Karen's connection to both Frank and Matt. It's not a dynamic purely of romantic interest either - like it was earlier this season when Matt was caught between Karen and Elektra. She is attracted to both of them because of the darkness that surrounds them. With Matt, that manifests in pain because of all of his lies. With Frank, it's a much more open conversation but he'll only put her in harm's ways. She would rather put herself in danger than suffer through the heartbreak of love. But Frank rightfully points out just how interconnected love and pain really are. They are a substance of this life. That's what one signs up for when falling in love. They're exposing themselves to another human being in the hopes of spending a lifetime together. That's a dynamic that has so much potential for personal devastation. And yet, millions of people still choose to embrace it because of how strong and meaningful the love can really be.

All of this also sets up a pretty great sequence that showcases the brutality that Frank embodies in this world. He used Karen in order to draw out the Blacksmith's men. He only really cares about getting justice for his family's murders. It's a horrifying act that startles Karen and makes her see him for what he truly is. He's a monster who is willing to kill to get what he wants. There is no coming back from that. He is willing to force his mindset onto other people just in order to get what he wants. That's essentially what the final sequence on the ship at the pier is about. He believes one man is the Blacksmith. He's so sure about it that he refuses to see it any other way. Matt steps in to tell him otherwise which forces yet another confrontation between the two vigilantes. They have changed so much since the last time they fought. And now, Matt is even willing to compromise his values in order to get justice in this case. He is willing to embrace Frank's code. But Frank is wise enough to know that once Matt crosses that line, it won't just be a one time thing. It will be life-changing. So, he keeps him from making that choice once more criminals with guns show up.

All of the action in this episode is very exciting. That sequence on the boat is pretty brutal but also wonderful to look at. The same can also be said of the opening sequence where the ninjas break into the hospital to retrieve the five young patients. It's still a story that's very frustrating because the show is still refusing to provide any concrete answers. Story can only be eerie and atmospheric for so long. Sooner or later, it's going to have to start explaining things to the audience. It can't just cut to the teens all choosing to be a part of whatever Nobu and the Hand is up to. It's just not an effective or meaningful image for the story because of the lack of emotional stakes. But again, that opening sequence is genuinely thrilling. It's surprising when Claire is thrown out the window and Matt chooses to save her. But it's also a stalling tactic in a season that is running out of time.

And lastly, all of the stuff happening with Claire and Elektra in this episode is very rushed. This hour proves that Claire is capable of handling stories on her own. Rosario Dawson fills the character with so much personality that really isn't on the page. And yet, the show has barely used her at all this season. So it's hard to care about her quitting her job after the hospital is bribed into keeping quiet about what happened during the night. It would also be a really awkward and pointless end to the character's journey on this show. Moreover, Elektra is pissed that Stick sent an assassin to kill her. And now, she's getting her revenge. It's an effective tease for the next episode. But it too plays as a way to keep the action and excitement high without offering any longtime answers to the main stories of the season.

Some more thoughts:
  • ".380" was written by Mark Verheiden and directed by Stephen Surjik.
  • Foggy isn't harmed at all during the ninja's raid on the hospital. Plus, he is discharged the next day and is able to see Claire as she's walking out the door for good because of helping Matt. And yet, the most important detail is that Foggy may be finding employment elsewhere soon - which doesn't really sound like a very important detail for the overall narrative at this part of the season.
  • Karen chooses not to tell the police that Frank saved her from being killed and wasn't the person trying to kill her. She knows that they wouldn't believe her and so she decides to take action into her own hands. Also, it was a little too easy for her to slip away from her police protection.
  • Karen and Matt only share one scene together but it is pretty great. She tells him what he's doing with Frank and Brett. But she only further pushes him away because he continues to not tell her truth.
  • In more creepy but incredibly pointless teases about the Hand, one ninja was killed during the assault on the hospital and an autopsy quickly shows that another autopsy had previously been done on the man.
  • The reveal that Madame Gao is still in town and is operating as the Blacksmith's chief rival in the heroin trade was pretty great. Even though it's a small role, she still has so much presence and importance in this world.
  • So, Frank definitely survives that boat explosion, right? Matt's going to be too busy with Elektra and Stick at the start of the episode to worry about learning who Blacksmith really is.

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.