Monday, June 13, 2016

Daredevil Season 2, Episode 12, "The Dark at the End of the Tunnel" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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It’s the penultimate episode of Daredevil season 2, and we finally get a whole lot of origin story for Elektra.  We really haven’t gotten a ton of background on her previously beyond her relationship with Matt and the fact that she has been a long-time agent of Stick.   Now we actually get to see what all of that means—both in the past and in the present.

The episode gives us a lot of background on Elektra, starting right off the bat with young Elektra training against three other students.  She is fighting very well, but takes the lesson to an extreme and nearly kills one of the other students before Stick stops her.  This is when we get our first indication of something wrong with Elektra:  “It didn’t feel wrong” to her to kill.  Later, the same student she nearly killed comes to get revenge on her.  However, Elektra kills him instead, causing serious concern to Star, the leader of the Hand.  He believes that Elektra is dangerous and must be killed, but Stick actually kills Star to save Elektra.  Following this, however, Stick realizes that it is too dangerous for her to stay with him, so he arranges for her adoption by the Natchios family.  This back story fits quite well with Elektra’s story in the present.

In the present, the episode picks up right where the last one ended, with Elektra attacking Stick because he sent a hit-man after her.  However, before Elektra can kill Stick, Daredevil arrives and protects Stick.  Then a group of Hand ninjas arrive at Stick’s hideout (they followed Daredevil), and the three of them have to fight off the Hand.  The ninjas escape with Stick, so Daredevil decides he needs to save Stick.  I like how this scene expands on Matt’s relationship with Stick:  he feels that Stick gave him a life when he didn’t have one by taking him under his wing after his father died.

Matt later follows a lead into the sewers and abandoned subway system to look for Stick.  This is when they really start pushing the limits of believability with the Hand’s ability to be silent.  First there is their ability to slow their heart rate.  Then there are the noise-dampening robes which allow them to move silently.  Matt can hear their katanas, and can fight that way, but once they ditch the katanas, he can only follow them based on the sound of blood dripping.  When Matt gets to the Hand lair, however, he can’t hear the ninjas’ hearts or movements, but he can hear Stick whispering to him from several rooms away, and he can also hear the ninjas breathing.  The thing I don’t get about that last part is how the Hand can fight without their hearts beating, but they can’t fight without breathing.  After all, I’m pretty sure you need your heart beating more than you need oxygen (only slightly, though).

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Stick meanwhile is being tortured with bamboo when Matt finally defeats the ninjas and comes to his rescue.  Before Matt can get Stick to safety, Elektra arrives to kill him.  And almost immediately Nobu comes in with even more ninjas.  And this is when things get shocking.  Nobu describes the three of them as “You (Stick), the loyal one (Matt), and it (Elektra).”  Why is Elektra an “it”?  Because she is actually the Black Sky!  At this point we finally understand what a “Black Sky” is:  a psychopath, someone who has no moral inhibitions and thus no qualms about killing.  When led by the Black Sky, the Hand believe themselves to be unbeatable.  Elektra was a Black Sky, and Stick knew about it all along.  He took her in and trained her (knowing full well that if the Hand captured her they would be all-but unbeatable), and the reason he sent the assassin after her was because she was no longer under his control.  Nobu and the Hand know that Elektra is a Black Sky, and so they start bowing to her as their new leader.

Elektra, however, does not want to be the Hand’s leader, and instead agrees to help Matt rescue Stick and prove the Hand wrong.  They fight their way out, but are pursued by Nobu and the Hand.  This sets up the final episode, in which Matt and Elektra will need to stop the Hand and keep her from being captured by them.

The other major plot in the episode follows Karen and her continued investigation into Frank and the conspiracy against him (including the assassination of Reyes in the previous episode).  However, because everyone thinks he was killed in the boat explosion, Karen isn’t really sure what to do.  Ellison suggests that she shift gears and instead write a profile of Frank as a grieving husband and father who was pushed to do what he did.  Her first stop in writing the article is to visit Col. Schoonover as a character witness who can explain to her who Frank really was.  Unfortunately, while in Schoonover’s living room Karen realizes that one of the Marines from Frank’s and Schoonover’s old unit was actually killed in the boat explosion—Schoonover’s the Blacksmith, the one who was responsible for the drug deal which got Frank’s family killed!

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Schoonover takes Karen at gunpoint and has her drive them into the woods.  However, Frank makes his dramatic reappearance by crashing a truck into their car and stopping it dead in its tracks.  This is when Frank’s origin story really picks up:  he is thought to be dead, and he tracks down the man responsible for his family’s murders.  He drags Schoonover to his (Schoonover’s) cabin in the woods, where he shoots Schoonover in the head, killing him.  In a hidden room of the cabin, Frank discovers a huge cache of weapons and a bulletproof vest.  Now the Punisher is presumed dead, he killed the man who cost him his family, and he’s got a massive stockpile of weapons.  Now all he needs is something to do with his arsenal.

The final note in this episode is that Nelson and Murdock is now officially done.  Foggy is going to have that interview with Marci’s boss, and he is pulling out of Nelson and Murdock.  Not only is the law firm done, but it sounds like their friendship is also done, which is a sad way for the season to leave them.

While I like how Foggy’s arc in season 2 gives him more character than just Matt’s non-super sidekick, there are some ways in which this feels like a retread of what they did in season 1.  Season 1 saw Foggy getting upset with Matt because he couldn’t budget his time properly between his vigilantism and the firm (when he didn’t know anything about the vigilantism), and this leads to them “breaking up” and shuttering the firm for a while.  Season 2 sees Foggy getting upset with Matt again because he’s not balancing Daredevil with the firm, and this leads to them “breaking up” and shuttering the firm.  And since Foggy does know that Matt is being a vigilante—and that he needs support even though he pushes his support away—it actually hurts his character a little.

I like the twist they made with Elektra’s character by making her the “McGuffin” that the Hand was trying to get for two seasons.  However, it also felt like a bit of a letdown to find out that the “Black Sky” was just a psychopath who could lead the Hand by being even more remorseless than Nobu already is!  Maybe they will find a better route to go with this if/when they further the Hand plot (Daredevil season 3 or The Defenders are both options, and I’ll talk about a possibility after my final review), but it’s not entirely satisfying just yet.

This is certainly not the best episode of Daredevil season 2, but it’s also not really bad, either.  It does a lot of good things and sets things up for a really great season finale.  That’s about what you want from a penultimate episode.

What do you think of the Elektra/Black Sun twist?  Where do you want the Punisher to go from here?  Let me know in the comments!

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