You don't need superhuman senses to know Daredevil's second season will end in a messy fashion. What the show has been trying to do this season is admirable, but it suffers from a very specific kind of sequel-itis. By compelling itself to be harder/better/faster/stronger, it risks losing its grasp on what it does well.
A lot of this comes down to the Hand. On paper, the Hand is really damn cool, an extremely important chunk of comic-book mythos that complicates Matt's life in fascinating and strange ways. In practice, the Hand has been a murky, ninja-clad mess, with aesthetically cool and creepy machinations but no actual … plan. And then, Daredevil tosses in another faction, the Chaste, along with a bunch of ominous, oblique allusions to a coming "war" and the Hand's "ultimate weapon." It's something called "Black Sky."
All of this is appended to a story that introduces the Punisher (whose moral code is contrasted against Daredevil's) and also Elektra (who serves as a constant test of Daredevil's convictions). So, yeah. There's a lot happening.
It's unfortunate, then, that Daredevil's worst idea has been its decision to fold the Hand into the season via Elektra. It's a recipe for convoluted storytelling. As Daredevil stands in the abandoned subway tunnels of New York, having fought his way to rescue a captured Stick … he's then cornered by Elektra, who wants to kill Stick … and Nobu, who wants Elektra … because Elektra is the Black Sky? And she's supposed to lead the Hand?
Yes, all of this happens, but I could not even begin to tell you why. With Stick and Daredevil held at sword-point, and Nobu, the ostensible leader of the Hand, kneeling at her feet, it seems like Elektra can do whatever the hell she wants. Why not tell the Hand to back off?
It all just serves to complicate what's become a battle for Elektra's soul. Matt believes killing Stick will be the point of no return for Elektra — presumably because he's her strongest emotional tether in the world, since he raised her. Even that ends up being kind of murky, though. Stick didn't really give much of a damn about her not killing people. And he also made her do some horrible stuff, like manipulate Matt in college.
The dynamics of this trio are really messed up, is what I'm saying. And they're not the only ones.
The way Daredevil loses its grip on Karen Page is even more disappointing than Elektra, because it comes so much closer to getting it right. I'm totally into her new role as a journalist, largely because it's a logical conclusion to her arc this season, which has pushed her to recognize her skills. She's stepping out of the shadow of Nelson and Murdock. It's also a wonderful epilogue to the story of the late Ben Urich. (Once again, I will never not take the time to pour one out for him.)
But her level of empathy for Frank Castle is just baffling. In a few scenes, Daredevil attempts to work through her reasoning — she tells Ellison she's upset that the world will just see him as a faceless killer, when really he was the product of a horrible tragedy — but he still killed a bunch of dudes.
Anyway, Karen decides to pay a visit to Colonel Ray Schoonover, Frank's commanding officer from his Marine days, who testified as a character witness during the trial. She wants to write a profile piece for Ellison, and the Colonel is the only person left who can tell her about what Frank was like before he became the Punisher. While talking to him, however, she discovers that he is actually the Blacksmith.
Remember how I saying that the Hand was a cool idea, but ended up being a bit much? The Blacksmith was not a good idea, and definitely one plot thread too many.
And so, Colonel Blacksmith takes Karen hostage and drives her to his shed in the woods, only Frank is waiting for them. He crashes a pickup truck into the Colonel's car, then drags him into the shed to kill him.
This is the part that really gets me going. Like Matt with Elektra, Karen insists that killing the Colonel will be the act that pushes Frank too far — and just, no. Frank Castle has a code and a mission, and as long as what he does falls within those boundaries, he is unrepentant. Killing his former commanding officer, who was just revealed to be the mastermind behind a drug empire, totally falls within that code.
But it also means that he's done, doesn't it? The man at the top of the scum heap that killed his family is now dead. Shouldn't his murder spree be finished? Eh, doesn't matter. Frank finds a freaking huge armory in the Colonel's cabin, and it comes with a sweet vest that a skull would fit on quite nicely. Why let all that go to waste, right?
Devil in the Details:
- Tiny Elektra! Elektra's backstory is fleshed out a little bit as we flash back to her childhood. We mostly just see her wreck grown-ass men. It's fun, even if it doesn't answer any real questions.
- Seriously, what the hell is the Black Sky? This isn't the first time Daredevil uses the term — it was the whole reason why Stick returned to Matt's life in season one, when he was out to kill a kid given the same name. Is the Black Sky just a kid born to kill? Who determines that? Is there a blood oath? Is there secret Hand juju cast on the child? Why is Elektra a monster? Why do they call her "it?" And if the Hand exist to serve her, why doesn't she just take over and tell them to back the hell off? This whole thing is a mess. Elektra's arc has been turned into a MacGuffin, and that bites.
- Goodbye, Nelson and Murdock. Matt, who has made up his mind about Being a Lousy Friend, pretty much tells Foggy that it's totally cool to see their firm and partnership come to an end. Sure, he makes overtures about how Foggy was the heart of the place, but still. THERE IS NO REASON TO HIDE ANYTHING FROM FOGGY, MATT. GIVE YOUR FRIEND A HUG. The worst part: Matt asks whether Foggy was expecting he'd try to talk him out of leaving, and Foggy said he was hoping he would — but was relieved when he didn't. Damn.