Matt Murdock is not a romantic guy. This is because happiness tends to feel unnatural to him, an attribute Foggy Nelson blames on his Catholic faith. However, with love comes vulnerability, and with vulnerability comes potential for great pain, and that is right up Matt Murdock’s alley. When flames appear in the world of Daredevil, they’re about to burn everything down.
Elektra Natchios is one such flame. Murdock’s college lover (who was actually name-checked in season one) has not been in his life for nearly 10 years, and he is not happy to see her waiting for him in his apartment. She wants his help in a legal capacity; her late father had tied up most of his fortune in lousy investments with the corrupt Roxxon Corporation, and she wants him on retainer while she raises hell in meetings and tries to free up her father’s money.
It’s all a lie, of course. Matt wants nothing to do it — at least, that’s what he tells Elektra. Her story piques his interest enough to snoop around a nearby rooftop, where he can use his superhearing to eavesdrop on the meeting she does have with Roxxon, a meeting that’s cut short when she secretly sets off a hack that crashes the company’s servers.
From there, bulk of “Kinbaku” isn’t set in the present, but back when Elektra and Matt first met ten years ago. It all begins at a party Matt has no business attending. His senses are overwhelmed by her, and she’s intrigued by his boldness to get near (despite her bodyguards), so she lets him talk to her.
Unfortunately, this conversation is one of those clichéd “let’s impress each other by psychologically profiling one another based on appearance” tête-à-têtes, which hasn’t been done well since Casino Royale and really ought not to be tried unless you are very, very clever.
The point is, Matt wins Elektra over because she craves “the unexpected,” and a precocious blind pre-law student is pretty unexpected as far as things go, so they leave the party in a Ferrari that might not be hers to get into all sorts of trouble.
We drop in again a few weeks later, when they break into Fogwell’s Gym, where Matt’s father trained. During an impromptu sparring match, Elektra learns about his father’s death at the hands of the mobsters and about his abilities. Sparring in the ring turns into sex in the ring, which seems extremely unsanitary.
Matt and Elektra’s time together comes to an end some indeterminate time later, when the duo breaks into a mansion to drink and shatter glasses. (Elektra cuts cheese and eats it off Matt’s chest, which strikes me as more dangerous than erotic, but maybe I’m just boring.) Elektra has an ulterior motive, however, which Matt learns when one Roscoe Sweeney arrives at the mansion. He’s the man who killed Matt’s father.
It’s a twisted sort of gift from Elektra, a chance for Matt to exact revenge. At first, Matt is more than eager to indulge — he beats Roscoe tentatively, then savagely. All the while, Elektra encourages him to go farther, and looks pretty turned on by the whole thing. Then she tells Matt to kill him. He refuses and calls the police, telling them there’s a wanted felon to collect. When he looks up, Elektra is gone. That’s the last time Matt had seen her, at least until she showed up in Hell’s Kitchen.
And she couldn’t have chosen a worse time to reappear, as the romance between Karen and Matt is just starting to blossom. They go on a fancy dinner date together, but find it too swank for their liking, and choose a spectacularly cozy Indian restaurant. Afterward, during yet another slow walk home, Matt turns down Karen’s invitation to join her upstairs.
Matt’s excuse is really sweet but also really flimsy: The night is perfect, and he wants to hold this one perfect memory before moving on to the next one. Lucky for him, she finds this idea endearing, and it leads to a great, sad moment as Matt walks down the block, coming down from his high, slowly hearing the sounds of a dark, terrible city flood back into his mind. With the one perfect memory safely in mind, he loosens his tie and grits his teeth.
Kinbaku, the Japanese word that inspired this episode’s title, roughly translates to “tight binding.” It’s usually meant to describe a form of erotic bondage, but I like to think it’s the way Matt sees his romantic life — a tightly wound experience that brings both pleasure and pain. It restricts his movement, and therefore holds a dangerous allure. From Matt’s perspective, he can either choose to get tangled in Karen or let Elektra ensnare him in her machinations. Either way, he’s getting tied up.
And because he’s Matt Murdock, he’s on his way towards a mistake. Towards Elektra, if only to learn why she took him to that mansion before she disappeared. “For fun,” she says. She believes that knows him better than anyone, better than he even knows himself. As Matt senses Yakuza hitmen storming up towards Elektra’s penthouse, she makes her point by handing him a duffel bag. His costume is inside, and she’s suiting up for battle too.
I’m pretty sure she considers this a date.
Devil in the Details:
Karen Page, investigative reporter. Karen actually has a lot more to do than date Matt in this episode. Once she notices the papers and the D.A.’s official statement about the Punisher’s arrest all omit the fact that he was a family man and a war hero, she senses something amiss and independently tries to get to the bottom of it. She goes to the New York Bulletin, paper of the late Ben Urich (I miss him so much) to speak with Editor Mitchell Ellison about the missing pieces in his story. He’s intrigued, and together they find another wrinkle: Castle’s family was killed in a gang war between the Kitchen Irish, the Dogs of Hell, and the Cartel. In other words, the three gangs the Punisher has targeted.
A.K.A. Jessica Jones. Daredevil’s Netflix sibling gets a name-check here when Foggy meets with Marci Stahl, his ill-advised fling from season one, to decompress after pressure from the D.A. causes Nelson and Murdock to lose two clients and it becomes obvious Matt and Karen are getting serious. She tells Foggy that the D.A. is making a play for mayor, and that the Punisher trial is her ticket to building a platform against vigilantes — like Daredevil and Jessica Jones.