Matt Murdock makes bad decisions. He wants to do good, of course, and recognizes the many flaws of our justice system that allow bad people to slip through the cracks. His faith and his powers compel him to act, to go outside of the law to ensure those people can't exploit the loopholes that let them run free in the first place. However, his guilty conscience makes it hard for him to feel good about vigilantism. And because of that guilt, Matt Murdock is a man who does not like himself. That's why he so often leaps headfirst into bad ideas, like the blind man he is.
Daredevil's second season is at its best when Matt undermines every good thing in his life. It's been a slow, subtle process, and as we reach the season finale, "A Cold Day in Hell's Kitchen," he's convinced himself that his life as Daredevil needs to be kept separate from those close to him. It's been impossible to watch without thinking, "Matt, noooo!" whenever he did something dumb like, say, run off on another mission with Elektra, or refuse to tell Foggy anything.
Daredevil is about an imperfect hero, a man whose imperfections become more pronounced as his influence on the world grows. That's good stuff. But the way this season has chosen to challenge his character ultimately underwhelms — the Punisher, intended to be a huge ideological foil, ends up shooting some Hand ninjas dead from afar to help Daredevil in his climactic fight with Nobu. In that same fight, Elektra — whose soul Matt's been trying to save — straight-up kills a bunch of ninjas with impunity.
Daredevil himself throws Nobu off a rooftop with the intention of killing him. So, was it all for naught? Is killing okay if a person really, really deserves it? I don't know. Daredevil sure as hell gave up asking that question. All that's left, then, is the Hand and their Black Sky.
And so they take hostages and lure Daredevil and Elektra into a trap. What follows involves much more killing and one shocking death: Elektra throws herself onto her own sai, just as Nobu is about to use it to kill Matt. It's a scene that echoes the comic-book version of Elektra's death (although her killer in that story is Bullseye and, depending on where you stand, it's far more gut-wrenching.)
Elektra's death also robs the Hand of what they want: Black Sky. The way Elektra told it, it never mattered if she joined the Hand willingly or not — Nobu simply had to lock her in a cage, and their fanatical belief in the power of the Black Sky would have been enough to keep them devoted to Nobu. (This is weird, but it does make the Hand's aims a little less confusing.)
With Nobu dead, the Hand retreats in defeat. Stick and Matt bury Elektra, the law firm of Nelson and Murdock is no more, and Karen Page is now a journalist charged with writing an editorial about her experiences. (As far as writing goes, it is very bad. The less we talk about it, the better.) Frank Castle is now the Punisher — and since his given name belongs to a man that the world believes to be dead, he also sets fire to the Castle home. (But not before he retrieves a mysterious CD labeled MICRO.) Without the burden of his identity, will Punisher continue to dish out his severe brand of justice, ostensibly with lots of sick puns?
Duh, yes, of course. He's still not tired of the whole "killing bad guys" thing. He'll never be tired of the whole "killing bad guys" thing. We know this because he's carrying a huge freaking minigun.
Finally, Matt asks Karen to meet with him one last time. With his mask in hand, he's decided to reveal what he's been hiding from her all along: He's Daredevil.
And elsewhere, in a dark and hidden cavern, the Hand places Elektra's exhumed corpse in that giant sarcophagus they've been dragging around for so long. We don't get to see what happens next, but Elektra's last words seem prophetic: "This is not the end."
Devil in the Details:
Foggy's new job. Remember that law firm that wanted to meet with Foggy? It's Jeri Hogarth's firm from Jessica Jones! It looks like he's going to take the job, too! Carrie-Anne Moss will be his boss!
Finally, Daredevil's outfit is complete. For a while, I worried that we would never get to see Daredevil's actual, honest-to-God billy club. You know, the one that works as a grappling hook and nunchaku and as a stick for hitting people. Maybe the producers felt it was too comic-book-y for the show's grounded tone. Nope! Melvin gives it to Daredevil in this episode, after getting Elektra fitted for her own supersuit (which is okay, but not terribly distinct from the street clothes she already wore). It's not used a whole lot, but it sure is cool.
A note on Karen Page. A commenter on my recap for "The Dark at the End of the Tunnel" raised a solid counterpoint about Karen's sympathy for the Punisher: She killed Wesley at the end of the first season. This actually makes a lot of sense — it would mean Karen wants to believe that a person can kill a criminal and still be good, which I buy — but it's curious that the show almost behaves as if Wesley's death didn't happen at all. The closest it comes to acknowledging what Karen did is when Frank comments on her handgun choice in ".380." I'm not saying I wanted to see some ham-fisted scene where Karen lamented how she couldn't live with herself, but a subtle mention would've been nice. The writers seemed to be aiming for subtext, but just ended up burying this important character beat.
And that's a wrap. If you've been following along, you know I've been frustrated by Daredevil's second season. The Hand simply wasn't handled well; they just show up, overtaking the plot and causing Daredevil to abandon the thematic struggle it was trying to portray (while also terribly undercutting Elektra's character). This is a damn shame, because ninjas are awesome. As a whole, the season has been an interesting, somewhat nonsensical ride, punctuated by great moments like the surprise return of Wilson Fisk. Here's hoping that Daredevil, should it return, comes back with a renewed focus on character drama, tending more toward the psychological leanings of season one and less on the silly action of season two.
Oh, wait, what about that giant hole in the ground? Seriously. Is anyone going to tell us what that was all about? I don't want to wait until season three or The Defenders or Captain America: Civil War to understand that nonsense.