Monday, March 28, 2016

Daredevil Seaosn 2, Episode 2, "Dogs to a Gunfight" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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If the focus of the first episode was on reintroducing Daredevil and introducing the Punisher, the focus of the second episode is on the differing opinions of heroes/vigilantes among New York’s residents.  Are people like Daredevil and the Punisher heroes or are they criminals?  That’s the question which all the characters have to answer at some point in this episode.

The episode starts off with the aftermath of the hospital attack from the first episode.  Foggy arrives to see the police on the scene of what looks like a warzone.  And he assumes Matt was there for it (a safe assumption).  Foggy immediately calls Matt and starts climbing up to rooftops in the area to find him when he doesn’t pick up.  It turns out that Foggy’s fear was justified, as he finds Matt wearing his suit and lying collapsed against a skylight on the roof of an apartment building.  Matt is still alive, but he is incredibly shaken by everything that has happened.  Oh, and his helmet now has a very nice new crack from where Castle “rung his bell.”  Given where the season takes the Matt/Foggy relationship, it’s good that this episode gives us an opportunity to see the positive side of it between the seasons.

Foggy brings Matt back to his apartment without being seen, and Matt explains what happened.  I find it fascinating that Castle’s reflexes are actually faster than Matt could sense.  That is something they explore in the comics—the Punisher’s reflexes being so good that he could catch heroes like Daredevil and even Spider-Man off-guard.  Of course Matt thinks that he needs to get out there to track down Castle and stop him because the police are not equipped to handle a threat that is so heavily armed and so well trained.  Foggy, however, tells him to let the proper authorities handle it before leaving to get to work.  This gives us a couple interesting scenes of Matt alone in his apartment and discovering that he has a serious concussion—which is to be expected after being shot in the head point-blank!  They really don’t do too much with Matt’s ringing ears and hearing loss, but what they do (Matt sitting with his back to the wall and hyperventilating) is pretty well done.  I’m not sure what more they could really have done with that, considering that without his hearing he can’t interact with people at all.

Meanwhile, Foggy and Karen are at the police precinct with Grotto, working through the intake procedure with him.  Brett explains to Foggy and Karen that the D.A.’s office has a lead on the shooter:  an independent who is targeting different crime families, “and not in a  Daredevil way, but in a death wish way.”  This new player has the police force split on the question of vigilantes:  should they be implicitly approving of Daredevil’s actions, or is Daredevil simply a stepping stone to worse vigilantes?  Evidently they have already dealt with more copycat vigilantes called “Devil Worshippers,” but this new player (dubbed “The Punisher” by the D.A.’s office) is something else entirely.  Before the end of the episode, just about all of the characters will have to wrestle with exactly this question, even including Matt himself.

D.A. Reyes is an interesting character in this season.  She is introduced as a very politically-minded lawyer who will stop at nothing to further her political career.  This includes steamrolling Grotto’s present legal counsel so she can bring in an easy-to-manipulate public defender.  However, Foggy shows himself to be just as strong and capable as any other attorney in this universe by calling Reyes’ bluff and threatening to go all the way to the U.S. Attorney (the one who can actually give Grotto witness protection).  Reyes agrees to play ball with them, but only if Grotto agrees to wear a wire and meet with a former associate of his, Edgar Brass, so the D.A. can take him down.  Grotto is leery, but agrees to do it.  One thing I thought Daredevil season 2 did exceptionally well was its portrayal of Foggy:  he is not playing Matt’s sidekick any longer; he is as capable as Matt—and in some cases even more so.

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Castle himself also gets some interesting development in this episode.  Now that Matt and his team finally know a little more about him, we see just how he is setting up.  He goes to a pawn shop and buys a police scanner which can also give him encrypted frequencies.  The owner is pretty creepy and tries to up-sell him on child pornography, but instead of purchases the porn, Castle “borrows” a baseball bat and bludgeons the shop owner to death with it off-screen!  This just goes to show that he does employ planning and preparation in his war against crime, but that at the same time he cannot just walk away when he finds a criminal.  All criminals must be punished, whether it’s an organized crime family or a creepy pawn shop owner trying to make a few bucks off of child porn.

Matt, meanwhile, is still coping with the aftereffects of his concussion when Karen stops by to give him an update on the case.  She tells him what they know about the Punisher, along with her belief that the city actually created the Punisher by giving its approval to the actions of Daredevil.  Interestingly, Karen does not express the same reservations towards the Punisher as Matt does, given Matt’s strict adherence to the justice system.  Another interesting thread which this episode picks up is the budding romantic tension between Karen and Matt:  Karen clearly is concerned for Matt and the numerous unexplained injuries he keeps getting, but she does not want to come right out and admit it.  This isn’t a major point early on in the season, but it will continue to be there throughout and will see some major payoffs in the second half.

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Now that Matt has somewhat recovered, he is ready to get back out and try to track down the Punisher.  His first move is to visit Melvin Potter’s workshop to get his helmet repaired.  It is interesting to see the development in Potter through two seasons.  It seems that his and Matt’s relationship has improved substantially since Matt put Fisk away.  The relationship is also rather mutually-beneficial, as Potter continues to keep Matt safe, and Matt continues to look out for Potter and Betsy.  Unfortunately, Potter can’t fully salvage the helmet now that it’s been compromise; the best he can do is reinforce it and replace some padding while he fashions a new one.

From here Matt returns to the bar where the Kitchen Irish were massacred and looks around for clues.  He finds a blood trail which he follows back to an apartment building, which he enters to find Punisher’s base.  The Punisher himself isn’t there, but Matt does find a dog in the apartment (the same guard dog the Irish had in the first episode).  This dog actually has a counterpart in the comics, named Max.  While looking around the apartment, Matt hears on the police scanner that Reyes has her sting set to happen very soon.

Grotto himself is not happy about acting as bait for Brass, but still agrees to go along with it.  However, the sting has barely started before Grotto, Foggy, and Karen realize that Grotto is not participating in a sting to catch Brass, but is rather the bait in a trap meant to catch the Punisher—something that is in clear violation of the witness protection agreement that Reyes signed.  However, the Punisher doesn’t take the bait but instead smashes the trap with a semi he “borrowed” from the Dogs of Hell while he himself camps out on a nearby water tank with a sniper rifle.  Before he can take the shot at Grotto, however, Matt as Daredevil attacks him and ruins the shot.  The two of them engage in their second fight of the season, and it is brutally intense, with neither one giving an inch.  The police SWAT team sees them fighting, and Reyes orders them to shoot, even though it is virtually impossible for the police to shoot at Punisher without risking hitting Daredevil.  This encapsulates this episode pretty well:  though Matt sees a major distinction between himself (working outside the law to uphold the law) and the Punisher (working outside the law and taking the law into his own hands), the public does not necessarily see that distinction.  Some police officers might approve of what both vigilantes are doing, but they still must acknowledge that neither of them is operating within the legal system.  And for Reyes, both vigilantes are criminals operating outside the law.  And both vigilantes are possible opportunities to further her political career.

Daredevil and Punisher fight while dodging police bullets, until they both fall through the skylight of the roof they’re fighting on.  Matt is disoriented from the fall and the aftereffects of his concussion, giving Punisher the slight edge he needs to take Matt prisoner.

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I think one of the better moments of the episode is Foggy’s reaction to the fight:  his best friend is fighting a brutal serial-killing vigilante while the police shoot at both of them, and he is trying his hardest to hide his concern from the police officers and D.A. in the room with him.  Then he goes to see what happened after they fell into the skylight, and looks even more worried to find neither vigilante than he would have been if Matt were captured.

Overall, this episode offers an interesting commentary on the concept of the hero.  Is Daredevil a hero?  It depends on who you ask.  Is the Punisher a hero?  Again, it depends on who you ask.  Is it in the city’s best interests to applaud these vigilantes dishing out their version of justice?  That is a difficult question to answer.  And it is a question that the Marvel movies really have not asked to-date—which is why I consider this episode to be (at least part of) Daredevil’s build-up to Captain America: Civil War, when that exact question will be on the forefront of all the characters’ minds.  The episode really doesn’t answer this question, and even the season itself leaves it open for interpretation.  And I think that is what makes this episode so good:  it’s not afraid to ask the hard meta-question without answering it.

What did you think of this episode of Daredevil?  Which is you favorite Daredevil/Punisher moment?  How much connection do you see between this episode and Captain America: Civil War?  Let me know in the comments!

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