Monday, May 23, 2016

Daredevil Season 2, Episode 9, "Seven Minutes in Heaven" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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Sorry for the unexpected week off last week; as I said before, I signed up for Marvel Unlimited last weekend, so since then I’ve read my way through probably a couple hundred back issues of comics (some I really enjoyed, but there were a couple of Inhumans-related runs that I just really didn’t like).  Some of that will probably make its way into articles over the summer, particularly with regard to Freeform’s announced Cloak and Dagger series.

But we’re not here to talk about me making Marvel Unlimited pay for itself ten times over in the space of a week.  No, we’re here to talk about Daredevil season 2 and the major reveal of “Seven Minutes in Heaven” which helps start setting up the Punisher’s future in—what else—The Punisher (his already-announced spinoff series).  And what an episode this is!

The episode opens about a year previous, right after the conclusion of Daredevil season 1.  Wilson Fisk has just been recaptured by the Daredevil and is in the process of being admitted to prison.  Even though outside the prison Fisk was a powerful man whose name was feared, inside the prison he has just about nothing.  Instead, the prison is run by Dutton, the self-styled “Kingpin of this bitch,” a gangster who controls the prison’s drug trade and has a number of prison guards on his payroll.  Here, Fisk’s manpower and connections are virtually useless; he is on his own to create a new organization for his own protection until he gets out of prison.  And within the first 10 minutes of the episode he does just that by recruiting a trio of bodyguards/enforcers.  Unfortunately, this still leaves Dutton as a stumbling block; this leads directly into Castle’s presence in the prison yard with Fisk at the end of the previous episode.

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Fisk evidently learned about Castle and offered to give him a chance at answers about his family’s murders.  Getting answers in this case means interrogating Dutton, who arranged the deal that got the Castle family killed.  At first Frank is unwilling to do something that will help a “shitbag has-been mob boss,” but Fisk convinces him that this is the only way he’s going to get the answers he’s looking for.  Fisk used his connections to arrange for Frank to get seven minutes alone with Dutton and his bodyguard.  A guard that Fisk is paying escorts Frank to the cell, where he kills the bodyguard and “interrogates” Dutton for information.  This is when he learns that the deal was actually an FBI sting arranged to get the man who organized the deal:  the Blacksmith.  However, when the Blacksmith didn’t show up, people started shooting and the Castles got in the way.  Frank kills Dutton and goes to leave.  And that’s when things get interesting.

Rather than let Frank out of the cellblock, Fisk instead has the guards release all the prisoners, hoping that they will kill Frank in revenge for Dutton.  And they try.  But the other prisoners evidently don’t realize that they are fighting the freaking Punisher!  Frank pretty much mows down the other prisoners with his bare hands as well as a couple shivs he takes from the guys trying to kill him.  This may very well be the goriest scene of the whole season, and at the end of it all Frank is left lying there bleeding in the middle of a sea of dead bodies, with a bloody face print on his white prison uniform.

Frank survives the whole ordeal and is placed in a solitary cell where Fisk comes to find him.  I think everyone in the audience could see Fisk’s double-cross coming:  he needed Frank to get Dutton out of the way so he could sweep up Dutton’s entire operation.  That Frank also took out an entire cellblock of guys devoted to Dutton was just icing on the cake.  Having witnessed Frank in action, Fisk is very impressed with him—and wants to use him more.  The two of them get into it together, but it’s not a huge fight; it’s just enough to show that both of them are serious.  Fisk orders the guards to smuggle Frank out, but Frank realizes that Fisk is going to use him and his crusade against crime in the city to weaken the criminals so that when Fisk is released they will all be weak and easy for him to control.  Frank is willing to accept Fisk’s assistance in escaping, but this doesn’t mean that they are on the same side:  they both know that the next time they meet, “only one of us walks away.”

When thinking about what I wanted to see in Daredevil season 2, I remember hearing some people say they wanted more of Fisk, but I rather disagreed:  I felt that he needed to remain in prison at least for a while in order for season 1 to have any weight or consequences.  As such, the way that they worked him into season 2 was exactly what I was hoping to see:  he is still in prison, but he is less secure than one would think as he is now running the prison.  And even behind bars, Fisk still has the wherewithal to manipulate events outside the prison to suit his ends, such as arranging for Frank to torpedo his own trial, kill a prison kingpin, and then be let loose against the criminals of New York City.  I don’t know if this means that the Kingpin will be a villain in The Punisher, but it is definitely a possibility.

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Turning next to Matt and Elektra, the episode begins with the aftermath of their fight with the ninjas who invaded Matt’s apartment and shot him.  Elektra tends his wound while a group of cleaners get rid of all the evidence of the fight and the kid who was killed.  Elektra tries to convince Matt to join her in fighting against the Hand and their plans for the city, but Matt can’t stand the fact that she can’t help killing—she gets a rush from the sensation of taking a life, and that’s not something he can abide.  Consequently, Matt sends Elektra away.

Next Foggy comes to see Matt about taking a break from Nelson and Murdock.  I wasn’t too thrilled with them revisiting this plot thread after focusing on it so heavily in season 1, but they do take it in a different direction.  Now that Foggy knows about Matt’s alter ego, their disagreement has more to do with Matt trying to push everyone away from him “for their own protection” because he thinks he needs to do everything on his own.  Matt kind of pushes Foggy away, and Foggy leaves to shutter the office.

We next see Matt in his suit taking out the Roxxon accountant Gibson’s “bodyguards” to get answers out of him.  However, Gibson quickly reveals that he is actually a prisoner of the Hand, who have kidnapped his son and taken him to “The Farm.”  When he brings Matt to the Farm, Matt quickly goes in and takes out all the guards to get some answers from the Roxxon/Hand leader, who cryptically tells him that “The Rising is coming.”  What does this mean?  We don’t find out until about the end of the season.  In the meantime, Matt discovers that the Hand is using a group of runaway teenagers as “blood donors” by keeping them locked up in cages, pumping them full of drugs, and harvesting their blood into a huge containment vat.  Matt rescues all of the kids, but not before coming under attack from a ninja.  And who is this ninja?  None other than Nobu, miraculously back from the dead (“There is no such thing”) to complete the Hand’s work.

The slow reveal of the supernatural elements of the Hand in this season really works well.  First it’s something simple like the ability to mask their heartbeat (something we even saw in season 1 when Matt fought Nobu).  Then it gets more complicated as Stick reveals the history behind the “War.”  Then it isn’t until two-thirds of the way through the season that they finally drop the bombshell:  the Hand actually has the ability to revive the dead.  Of course, this helps to set up the final major Hand reveals at the end of the season.

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The final plot to discuss in this episode has to do with Karen, who is now in the process of going to work for the Bulletin.  Thanks to her investigation, she has uncovered a picture of the other John Doe killed at the blown sting in Central Park.  She takes this and her other evidence to Ellison at the Bulletin, and he tells her to run with it and see what she can dig up.  And as their first stop, he takes her with him to visit the M.E., Tepper, and see if he has any more information to give them.  And sure enough, Tepper is able to inform them that the “John Doe” was actually an undercover cop:  he had a police call sign in his shoe.  Karen and Ellison return to the Bulletin, where Ellison puts her in Ben Urich’s old office and tells her it is hers for the duration of the investigation.  And this is when we also get a little more information about Karen’s past:  she was involved in a serious car accident which caused a fatality.  Both Ben and Ellison knew about it, but this does not change their opinion of her.

I really like Karen’s development in this season.  She has actually become a very capable and independent character—a far cry from the comic version of Karen Page, who was primarily Daredevil’s love interest and secondarily his damsel in distress!

Overall, I really enjoyed the Punisher elements of this episode.  I’m less interested in the supernatural elements, but the Hand is still pretty interesting, particularly for how it sets up potential plots for future Netflix installments.

What do you think of this Punisher?  Who is your favorite character in season 2?  Let me know in the comments!

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