Daredevil Recap: The People vs. Frank Castle

Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle. Photo: Netflix.
Episode Title
Semper Fidelis
Editor’s Rating

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the "trial of the century" does not concern O.J. Simpson, but Frank Castle. It's finally time for the Punisher to stand trial, and thanks to just about every imaginable thing going wrong, Nelson and Murdock must defend him against District Attorney Reyes, who has a stacked deck and enough clout to steamroll our favorite tiny firm with ease.

There's also the fact that they're defending a mass murderer whose tragic past has been hidden from the public, so they don't have a whole lot of empathy chips to cash in with the jury.

A slight glimmer of hope remains for Nelson and Murdock: DA Reyes is shady as hell. In her naked ambition to make a name for herself by putting away vigilantes, she's left a narrow opening for the possibility of a mistrial. She bullied the medical examiner who wrote the autopsy report on Castle's family into backing her story — that the Castles fell victim to a drive-by shooting, not a full-on gang war. If they sweat this guy on the stand long enough, maybe they can knock Reyes off her high horse and call the entire case into question.

But first they have to put together a hell of an opening argument, which Matt must deliver. Unfortunately, Matt has Elektra tugging on his ear; she found a cryptographer who worked with the Yakuza and can translate the encoded part of the ledger they lifted.

So Matt decides to blow off his casework to go beat up a nerd with Elektra. The cryptographer reveals that the ledger isn't hiding much but a series of scheduled shipments, with no word whatsoever about the cargo itself. Hot on a new trail, the pair head off to a train yard to find the cargo in question, only to discover it's a train car full of dirt. Crazy, right? Illicit dirt smuggling: The real threat to Hell's Kitchen. These dirt brigands, these peat pirates, these sand smugglers, they must be stopped.

Okay, there's certainly more to this, but it'll be a little while before we figure anything else out because it is time for a Sick Yakuza Fight. It's the first fun, satisfying Elektra–Daredevil team-up, full of acrobatics and sweet flips. (I love Daredevil's sweet flips. Live for 'em, really.) The brawl also roughs up Elektra a bit, leaving her with big cuts on her arm and neck.

That means it's time for some Sexy Stitching back at Matt's place. You know how you shouldn't believe everything on TV? Never believe that stitching gaping lacerations is hot.

After talking a bit about their failed relationship, the two of them conk out. And guess what Matt didn't do? In court the next day, Foggy, Karen, and Frank are all screwed after Matt doesn't show up in time to deliver his opening argument, leaving Foggy lost in his notes. That is, until he decides to do the whole "drop the cards and shoot from the hip" thing and nails it. He tells the jurors to place themselves in Castle's shoes; he's a man who traded one war zone for another, facing a justice system that failed him and now wants to see him dead and buried.

Matt, of course, shows up once it's all over. His friends catch him up outside the courtroom, telling him about the medical examiner set to testify the next day. Matt wants a crack at the cross-examination, but Foggy's like "lol dude you didn't even show up on time." He ultimately relents, if only because Karen agrees to talk about the case over Thai food that night.

And that's where Daredevil picks up its philosophical argument on the nature of vigilantism, with Karen wondering aloud if Frank Castle has the right idea about criminals. This is the wrong thing to say to Matt Murdock, who publicly "believes in the law" and privately believes in helping the law along with his fists, as long as those fists don't kill.

You've almost certainly heard this stuff before: Vengeance is not justice, we don't get to decide who lives or dies, and so on. The sequence skirts past cliché into tolerability because it plunges Karen and Matt's relationship into a shaky place, where Matt is genuinely upset enough to ask Karen to leave. Damn, Matthew.

Oh, and Elektra was there the whole time, listening in on their discussion about the medical examiner, among other things.

The next day the medical examiner takes the stand, but something's wrong. His heart rate is jacked. And then he tells the judge he's got something to say. After the courtroom is cleared, he confesses to exactly what Matt and Foggy wanted him to confess to: He falsified the autopsies. But his confession comes under duress — he describes a woman who threatened his life unless he came clean. Because he's confessing out of fear, the judge decides his testimony is compromised, and it's all thrown out.

Now Matt and Foggy are really screwed.

After this incident, Matt pulls Foggy into the restroom and tells him that Elektra threatened the examiner, that she's been his mystery client and the reason behind his absences. He's been running around with her for two whole episodes, so the fact that Foggy is furious to learn this now, during the biggest case of their lives, is completely understandable. "Stop acting like these things just happen to you," he rails. "No one's making you go out and fight bad guys at all hours of the night, and nobody is making you lie to your friends over and over again. Elektra is not the problem, Matt. You are."

After Foggy storms out, Karen asks about the bathroom yelling. Matt, for some bizarre reason, doesn't tell her a thing.

Matt's being a real asshole, huh?

And when Elektra comes calling, Matt still answers. Though he's irate that she totally screwed his court case, he's totally fine with taking his frustrations out on Yakuza. And maybe, for a minute, he forgets his anger. Because they find what they've been hiding, and it's weird as hell.

I don't know what you were expecting, but a giant hole in the ground was not what I would have guessed. Do you think they'll get to … the bottom of it?

Devil in the Details:

  • Symbolism, y'all. I really can't decide if this episode's opening sequence, with Frank Castle framed in front of the American flag, is good or bad. Send help.
  • Oh, hey, Daredevil is scary. One of the ways Daredevil interrogates the cryptographer (a pretty awful guy, for what it's worth) is by pressing him against his apartment window and beating on the glass, threatening to shatter it. It is pretty effective.
  • Nobu! Remember that guy? Badass ninja fight from season one? Elektra knows something about that guy! Just his reputation, she says. But hey, you never know.
  • Reminder: Foggy is pissed. "Going forward, I will count on you for nothing at all." Really screwed the pooch here, Matt.