Monday, May 2, 2016

Daredevil Season 2, Episode 7, "Semper Fidelis" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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Here we are:  the second of the three episodes which can be considered “The Trial of the Punisher” arc.  Before we get started, we should point out that this is actually an adaptation of a couple comic book arcs:  “The Trial of the Punisher” (2013—Castle was not defended by Matt Murdock) and “The Trial of the Century” (“The Trial of White Tiger”) (2002-3 , one which Charlie Cox himself indicated he was interested in exploring), as well as several other arcs in which Matt Murdock must defend costumed vigilantes in court.  This is a really interesting concept, and something which I was really hoping that they would explore in Daredevil season 2.  And this is an interesting arc:  the challenges and stresses of the trial have some powerful effects of Matt and Foggy, and Frank’s response to the trial is pretty epic in the third episode of the arc.  However, I was a little disappointed with how the trial actually went.  But that’s getting ahead of myself.

The episode begins with the preparation for the trial, which is clearly going to be extremely divisive.  I like that it opens with the jurors being asked their preconceived notions about the Punisher, and they are all in disagreement on whether he was justified in what he was doing.  However, both sides do succeed in selecting a jury panel and Frank Castle is led into the courtroom to begin the trial.

Matt, Foggy, and Karen all must work together to figure out a defense strategy which could help Frank avoid a life sentence.  However, there is just about nothing that can really work.  The most obvious solution is an insanity defense, but Karen also suggests that they bring up the D.N.R. as well as Reyes’ questionable actions in order to get her kicked off the case.  Matt suggests that P.T.S.D. could be a mitigating factor.  However, when Karen talks to Frank about their defense, he vehemently rejects the idea of claiming P.T.S.D., calling it an “insult” to people who actually suffer from it.  He does give them the name of his commanding officer, Col. Ray Schoonover, however, as a character witness.

Foggy isn’t too happy that Frank won’t endorse the P.T.S.D. defense (though I can’t exactly blame him for rejecting it), but he still has a secondary option:  focus on the discrepancies in the M.E.’s report and on the presumed conspiracy within the D.A.’s office to cover up what happened to Castle and his family.  However, for this strategy to succeed, Matt needs to give the “opening statement of the year,” and the M.E. needs to crack on the witness stand and corroborate Frank’s story.  Will this happen?

Answer:  no, it does not.  On either count.  Matt’s “extracurricular activities” with Elektra keep him out late the night before the trial starts, and he arrives too late to give the opening statement.  Reyes opens by simply accusing Frank of being a serial killer.  Foggy then has to deliver the opening statement off the cuff, and reframes the trial as being not about vigilantes but rather about the “failure of the justice system.”  The justice system ignored the deaths of Frank Castle’s family and allowed gangs to run wild.  All told, this is actually a very good opening statement for what they are trying to do.  And Matt arrives just in time to hear the end of Foggy’s statement, apologize, and ask to take a crack at the M.E.

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That night Matt and Karen prepare Matt’s cross-examination strategy together in his apartment, and it sounds like he actually has a good plan, which he can easily do with a little help from his “human lie detector” ability.  This also gives them an opportunity to talk about vigilantes again.  Karen asks Matt if he believes in what Daredevil does (not knowing that he actually is Daredevil!), and Matt responds that “I believe in the law.”  Karen does not see a major difference between what Daredevil does and what Punisher did, because both are taking the law into their own hands.  This definitely does not sit well with Matt, who does not see himself as “taking the law into his own hands” because he is not deciding matters of life and death.  He asks her to leave.

The next day Matt prepares to cross-examine M.E. Tepper, who looks extremely anxious and stressed as he begins his testimony about what happened to the Kitchen Irish.  Before Matt can start working him, Tepper requests to make a statement on the record “about what [he] did.”  The judge clears the court before listening to Tepper’s testimony, in which he admits to falsifying autopsy reports for the Castle family as well as an additional John Doe.  Why is he admitting to all of this?  Because a crazy woman attacked him the night before and ordered him to tell the truth in court.  And so because his testimony was coerced, the judge orders the entire testimony stricken from the record.  Naturally Foggy and Matt are both angry and upset that their strategy failed, and Matt is all the more angry because he knows exactly who it was that sabotaged their trial:  Elektra (of course).  When Matt finally comes clean to Foggy about Elektra, Foggy immediately turns on him for not telling him sooner, for missing so many strategy meetings, and for torpedoing the one witness who could save their trial.  On the one hand, it is a little unfair for Foggy to blame Matt for something that he did not do and did not ask to be done and had very little to do with.  On the other hand, it’s hard to be upset with Foggy for being angry when his partner is hiding things from him and not balancing his “extracurricular activities” well with his job.

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So what exactly were Matt and Elektra doing during this episode that distracted him so much from the trial?  First Elektra finds the NYU professor who encoded the ledger, and the two of them “visit” him to get the ledger decoded.  The guy is something of a “pervy asshole,” so Daredevil doesn’t exactly feel bad about threatening to throw the guy out of his 30th floor window to “encourage” him to help them out.  He agrees to help them by decoding the final page of the ledger, and it leads them to a specific train boxcar.  When they find the boxcar, Matt determines that it is full of something which turns out to be dirt.  They are attacked by a group of Yakuza guards in the rail yard, and they need to fight them off.  It’s a decent fight sequence, though not as technically exciting as the other fight sequences in the series.  They take out all the guards and return to Matt’s apartment, where he stitches up a cut for her.  It’s actually interesting to see Matt and Elektra talking and bonding; it makes them appear more human.  It is very late when Matt finally gets to sleep, and that is why he wakes up late and gets to court late on the opening day of the trial.

The next night, Elektra is at Matt’s apartment while he and Karen are discussing their strategy for cross-examining Tepper—that’s how she knows to visit him.  After Karen leaves, Elektra tells Matt that she found a site controlled by the Japanese which is capable of moving that amount of dirt.  In a callback to last season, the location is actually one of several which Fisk grabbed up and cleared out for Nobu.  The next evening after Matt’s trial was ruined, he went to confront her at the dig site, but she doesn’t think she did anything wrong:  “I was only following your rules.  You don’t get what you want by day, you take it by force at night.”  This isn’t how Matt views his actions, of course, so it doesn’t sit too well with him.  However, Elektra agrees to stay out of the trial from now on and they go about their business, which involves Matt taking down the Yakuza guards before they go in to check out the building.  Although there is nothing inside, they quickly discover a gaping chasm in the floor which is extremely deep, deep enough that when Matt tosses a flashlight down it, the episode ends before the flashlight even hits the floor.

Like I said at the beginning, I liked the “Trial of the Punisher” aspect of this episode, though it did not go as I expected.  I hoped that we would get to see further displays of Matt and Foggy’s abilities in the trial, but we really didn’t.  Foggy displayed an impressive ability to think on his feet, but we barely saw Matt in the trial at all.  Hopefully they will adapt this type of storyline again in Daredevi season 3 and we will get to see just what Matt can do as a lawyer.

I also find the Elektra aspect of this episode to be interesting, particularly in how she manipulates Matt into doing things he does not want to do.  She certainly lives up to the promise of being the alluring girlfriend who is absolutely terrible for him!

What did you think of this episode?  Are you a fan of the idea of Matt Murdock as a lawyer for superheroes?  Let me know in the comments!

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