Monday, March 21, 2016

Daredevil Season 2, Episode 1, "Bang" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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Daredevil season 1 was a lot of fun.  It saw the rise of a new kind of hero in New York City:  Daredevil.  Matt Murdock was a budding lawyer by day and a budding vigilante by night.  He fought for justice in the courtroom, and ensured that justice on the streets when the justice system couldn’t be trusted.  Even though he firmly believed in the rule of law, Matt Murdock couldn’t just sit back and watch criminal acts occur.  And it is from these twin identities that the Daredevil was born over the course of a 13-episode first season.  However, it is not until the end of the final episode that Matt Murdock finally assumes the iconic horned helmet and is given the iconic codename.

This season, that’s exactly where he starts:  protecting the police and ensuring the peace as Daredevil.  As Daredevil, Matt takes out a group of thieves making a brazen escape while shooting at the police, but does so almost exclusively from the shadows.  In fact, for most of the opening, all we see of Daredevil is an arm or a leg; none of the fights themselves are shown.  Our first clear look at Daredevil is as he stands on top of a building looking down on the city like some gargoyle and giving a feral grin, and that is a pretty awesome way to open the season.

We also get to learn more about Nelson and Murdock pretty quickly.  Foggy is adjusting to Matt’s double life, though he would prefer for Matt to assist him with his dating.  He also worries that it would blow back on him and Karen if it were discovered that Matt is the Daredevil.  However, Matt can’t stop, and part of the reason is because of the limitations which the law places on what they as lawyers can do.  For example, a client came to them for help with her abusive husband, but all they could do was tell her to go to a shelter for battered women.  Daredevil, however, could actually stop the husband from killing his wife that night before she could get on the bus.  And that is why Daredevil is necessary.  In fact, that’s pretty much your summary of the first season in two scenes:  Daredevil steps in when the justice system is in danger of failing.

It’s nice to see Nelson and Murdock doing relatively well—though none of their clients are particularly well-paying.  The Nelson and Murdock in this episode is really what I was expecting from them:  they take the small-time cases to help the little guys get justice.  Of course, I suppose we should have known that this couldn’t last.

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It’s not very long into the episode before we get our introduction to the Punisher, and like Daredevil his introduction also comes by way of his actions before we ever see the man.  A group of Irish mob leaders gather to celebrate the fall of Wilson Fisk as well as the fall of many of their competitors thanks to the actions of Daredevil.  However, the meeting is interrupted very abruptly by automatic weapons’ fire as high-powered rounds essentially turn the building into Swiss cheese.  All of the criminals are killed except for a single man, who somehow manages to escape and goes to find Matt, Foggy, and Karen at Josie’s bar.  Though the three of them are at first unwilling to hire him on as a client (he doesn’t exactly meet their “innocent” criterion), they eventually agree to accept his case.  Karen brings him to the hospital so he can recover from the injuries he received in the massacre.

Meanwhile, Matt and Foggy go to the scene of the Irish mob massacre, where they somehow convince Brett to give them some help in figuring out what happened.  Brett’s not exactly thrilled to see them, but he still gives them information about what happened.  It turns out that there’s some sort of gang-on-gang violence ripping through the underworld of Hell’s Kitchen, but the police aren’t sure exactly what’s going on.  Matt’s hearing also picks up the information that this happened to the Dogs of Hell a week earlier.  If that name sounds familiar, it’s because on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Lorelei “recruited” a chapter of the Dogs of Hell into her army all the way back in season 1 (1x15, “Yes Men”).  Matt and Foggy agree to work together to look into this “squad” that took out the Irish:  Matt puts on the “underwear” (“It’s not underwear.  Underwear is comfortable.”) and interrogates Turk Barrett for information about the supplier supplying the guns to this “squad,” which leads him to the Cartel.  Meanwhile, Foggy follows up on the Dogs of Hell by going to speak to a third grade classmate who joined the gang.  I have to say, watching Foggy try not to wet himself while talking to the bikers was absolutely hilarious, especially when he reveals that his contact was a kid he knew in elementary school!  Unfortunately, the contact was killed in the attack the week before on I95 while transporting a shipment of something.

Matt’s fight with Turk Barrett was over pretty quickly and didn’t really amount to much.  Considering where the season goes, however, it is interesting to see that Turk Barrett is one of those multiple offenders who just keep going to jail and then being released to return to their life of crime.  This is at least the fifth or sixth time that Daredevil has taken Turk Barrett down, but it never seems to last and he never changes his ways.  Is Daredevil’s way really working?  Not in this case.

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Turk does give Matt information on the Cartel, which leads him to a slaughterhouse.  And at the slaughterhouse, Matt finds a room full of dead animals hung up to await processing, and in among the carcasses are several members of the Cartel.  Matt finds one of the men still alive, but only gets a single piece of information from him before he dies:  it’s not an army; it’s a single man.  Whoa!  I knew it was the Punisher the moment the bullets started tearing through the Irish mob’s meeting room, but it was really well played the way they built up his actions to be something that a whole squad of trained soldiers would have had to carry out.  And then instead of an entire squad, it’s just one man with the ability to train and execute an attack on a heavily armed and fortified position with military precision.  And what happens next?  The Punisher himself shows up at the hospital where Karen is keeping an eye on their new client (Elliot Grote, a.k.a. “Grotto”), intent on finishing the job.

It seemed a little odd for the Punisher to be able to just walk down the hospital hallway with a shotgun in his hand without anyone noticing for so long, but I guess when you’re used to seeing things a certain way you can miss the obvious.  Someone screams, Punisher takes out a security guard, and people start screaming and scattering.  And then Karen and Grotto make a run for it while Punisher tries to shoot Grotto.  They barely escape, but Punisher goes up to the hospital roof, where he waits and sights them in with a rifle to take out Grotto in the car.  He’s just about to take the shot when Daredevil attacks and stops him.  The two of them engage in a vicious hand-to-hand fight, but Punisher manages to disengage and go to finish the job.  Daredevil fights him again and it becomes pretty clear that Daredevil is the better hand-to-hand combatant (though they are very evenly matched).  However, as Daredevil has him on the ground, Punisher pulls a gun from his ankle holster and shoots Daredevil in the forehead.  Daredevil falls from the roof in surprise.

As I said above, I really thought the Punisher introduction was very well done, particularly how we saw his handiwork before we saw him.  As of now, all we know about him is that he is a virtually-unstoppable force who can take out large groups of heavily-armed men with military precision.  He targets criminals—specifically the gangs—and doesn’t allow anyone to escape (and hunts down whoever does escape).  He is a skilled hand-to-hand combatant (close to Daredevil’s equal in that regard) and is also skilled with handguns, rifles, and shotguns.  And he could even get the drop on Daredevil with a handgun, something that very few people can pull off thanks to Daredevil’s superhuman senses and reflexes.

The introduction of both Daredevil and Nelson and Murdock was also very well done, showing how far both have come in the time since they made headlines for their part in the takedown of Wilson Fisk.

Oh, here’s an interesting Easter egg:  the Irish mob is later identified as the “Kitchen Irish.”  That’s actually the name of The Punisher MAX Vol. 2, in which the Punisher is drawn into a gang war between 4 rival Irish gangs.  A couple of the character names from the comic are even used for members of the Kitchen Irish.

All in all, I really enjoyed this first episode and how well it set the tone for the first third of the season.  This really is the first confrontation between Daredevil and the Punisher, and they only grow in intensity after Punisher shoots Daredevil in the head.

What did you think of this season?  What do you think of Jon Bernthal’s take on Frank Castle, a.k.a. “The Punisher”?  Have you already finished the season?  Let me know in the comments!

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