Monday, April 11, 2016

Daredevil Season 2, Episode 4, "Penny and Dime" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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Arguably the best part of Daredevil season 2 is its Punisher arc.  We meet the Punisher, learn what set him on the path of becoming the brutal vigilante, and watch as he truly becomes the Punisher.  If we look at this season in the context of Punisher’s story, this particular episode, “Penny and Dime,” serves as the conclusion of the “origin” section of the season.

The episode picks up with the aftermath of Punisher’s war against the Kitchen Irish, as a new heavy-hitter named Finn returns from Ireland to take back control of the gang.  His son was one of the men killed in the Punisher’s attack on their bar, and Finn both wants revenge and wants to get back the money which the Punisher stole from them.  To find the Punisher, the Irish start tearing Hell’s Kitchen apart, threatening shop owners into sharing whatever information they have.  This quickly leads them to Frank’s apartment, where they find his map of the city and his dog.  They take the dog with them while Frank watches from across the street, which gives him advance knowledge that they are on to him.

Frank uses this knowledge to prepare himself for the confrontation with the Irish by preparing his van with the money.  He also does some self-surgery on his own wrist.  When I first saw it, I assumed that he had a bullet fragment that he was pulling out, but nope:  he was sticking a razor into his wrist on the off-chance that he would need one!  When’s the last time you saw Captain America do something as hardcore as that?

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Frank goes to the carousel in the park where his family was killed, and waits there for the Irish to show up.  Before long they arrive to take him in, and though he fights they manage to subdue him and take him away.  Finn ties him down to a chair and starts torturing him for information to find the briefcase full of money.  However, no matter what he does to Frank, he refuses to give him anything.  This changes when they threaten to torture his dog in all the same ways that they have been torturing him.  I find it interesting that Frank is willing to endure all the torture that Finn can think up, but he can’t bear to see a dog in pain.  And at the same time Finn has no compunctions about hearting a defenseless animal, which shows just how brutal and heartless he is.  Frank tells them where the van is, but while they verify that the money is in the van, he digs the razor out of his wrist and uses it to cut the duct tape holding him to the chair.

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At this point we need to cut to Matt’s story for the episode.  He is getting ready to leave when Karen arrives at his apartment.  The two of them have had a number of scenes together up to this point in the season, all of which suggest some definite romantic interest between them.  Karen helps Matt finish tying his tie so the two of them can join Foggy at the church, where Father Lantom is presiding over Grotto’s funeral.  As a pastor, I find Lantom’s sermon to be interesting:  there really isn’t that much comfort that he can offer at this funeral, so instead he focuses on the search for redemption as a warning. After the service, Matt stays to talk to Father Lantom about the Punisher.  Father Lantom suggests that the guilt Matt is feeling is “a soul’s call to action”:  it is a reminder that he’s not done yet.  I really like Father Lantom; I think he’s my favorite side character in the Marvel Netflix universe.  As such, I’m kind of disappointed this is the only time we really see him in season 2!

After the funeral, Matt, Karen, and Foggy (the only ones at the funeral) return to the office, where Karen shows them the D.A.’s evidence on the Punisher case and explains her theory that Reyes is trying to cover up something even worse than the Punisher.  When Foggy leaves to help another client, Karen goes to continue following the leads in the file, which brings her to a former nurse who cared for a John Doe who was in the hospital recovering from a head wound.  While he was in the hospital, someone ordered a “Do Not Resuscitate” with the expectation that he would be killed by his wounds.  However, shortly after the plug was pulled, the man revived and woke up.  He demanded that the nurse bring him back to his house, which he did (costing him his job).  He gives Karen the address, and she visits the house, where she discovers that the “Punisher’s” real name is Frank Castle and that he had a family:  a wife and 2 children.  She sees pictures of his unit and the frame holding his military honors.  She finally discovers who the Punisher is.  This is a great way to fully reveal the truth of the Punisher.

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Meanwhile, Matt visits Melvin Potter’s workshop to pick up his new suit, which Potter has finally completed, and which includes a number of improvements to the helmet and gloves.  Potter also reveals that a number of his old contacts (criminals) have been asking him to improve their armor, but he has refused:  at this point he is only armoring Matt, not his criminal former clients.  The slow development of Potter’s character over the last 2 seasons has been quite interesting, particularly since we know him from the comics to be both a hero and a villain and to have routinely assisted super-villains by building tech for them.  I hope that in the future we will find out about more villains who have received tech from him.

From Potter’s workshop, Matt goes to continue investigating the Punisher’s war against the Irish, which leads him to a bar scene where the Irish forced information from the bartender.  While there he meets up with Brett, who explains to him that the Kitchen Irish are in the process of tearing Hell’s Kitchen apart to find the Punisher.  At that moment Brett receives a call about the attack at the carousel, and Matt goes to investigate it.  When he arrives he finds one of the Irish still alive and forces him to spill where they are keeping the Punisher.

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While the Irish are torturing Frank, Matt arrives at their hideout and starts working his way through the guards.  The two guys that Finn sent to investigate the van find the briefcase, but inadvertently activate an explosive that Frank left.  While Finn is confused, Frank escapes from his bonds and attacks the Irish, stopping to interrogate Finn to find out who was there when his family got killed in the park.  Finn doesn’t have any information for him, and Frank is quickly pinned down by the guards outside the room.  However, Matt shows up and takes out the guards pinning Frank down to help him escape.  Matt prevents Frank from killing anyone, and helps him escape.  Seeing Daredevil rescue the Punisher is really cool, but there is one small loose end left by this scene:  what happened to “Max” (Punisher’s dog)? We never actually see him again in the season.

After their escape, Matt and Frank stop to rest in a cemetery, where Frank finally starts to feel the torture and abuse of his captivity.  This is a fascinating scene, as it really plays up the dynamic between the two “heroes.”  This is also when Frank finally opens up about what set him on this path:  he had only just returned from war and was exhausted from everything he’d been through.  He took his family to the park the day after his return, and that was when his family got killed.  The way he explains it is very emotional—you really can’t help sympathizing with his plight.

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Before long Brett arrives with his partner, and Brett start to arrest Matt.  However, Matt convinces him to take credit for capturing the Punisher as a way to show that the system works and vigilantism is not the way to ensure justice:  “People have to know the system works.”  Bringing in the Punisher would also be enough to get Brett a promotion, placing him in a position to do even more to protect Hell’s Kitchen.  Brett agrees to the offer and releases Matt, saying that “I don’t know what you are, but I know you ain’t him.”  The Punisher receives medical attention and is taken into custody, with Brett receiving the official credit for the capture.

Matt, Foggy, and Karen watch this play out on the news at Josie’s Bar, and Foggy indicates that he knows Matt was really responsible for capturing the Punisher.  At this point everything seems to be going their way, and Matt and Karen are in a really good place—on the way home from the bar they kiss outside his building and he asks her out for dinner the next night.  When Matt goes inside, he loose happier than he’s been in quite a while.  In fact, if the season were to end right at this point, it wouldn’t be a bad ending point.  However, the season is only a third of the way finished.  And as if on cue, who shows up but Elektra!

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I figured that Elektra would be appearing at this point about as soon as I saw just how happy Matt was!

As a Punisher origin arc, the first four episodes of this season work extremely well.  Frank Castle is a very compelling and sympathetic character who brings an incredible level of intensity to the series.  He and Matt (I love that he keeps calling him “Red”) have a great rapport, and their scenes together are some of the best.  I can’t wait to see where the Punisher’s story will go after Daredevil season 2!

What do you think of Jon Bernthal’s portrayal of Frank Castle, a.k.a. the Punisher?  Do you like Elodie Yung’s Elektra?  Let me know in the comments!

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