About your recapper: I haven’t read any of the relevant comic books, but I do know that The Punisher will be showing up in this season, played by Jon “M’ask you sum’min” Bernthal. (I also watch The Walking Dead. Let’s not talk about that right now.) I’m also technically writing this having already watched the whole season, because I couldn’t stop. This will make it slightly awkward when I make fun of the show for awkwardly telegraphing things that are obviously going to happen, but I think we can all get over it—and I promise to warn you before any actual-factual spoilers, but there shouldn’t be any.
About the show: Charlie Cox is Matt Murdock is Daredevil. He has a cool suit. Vincent D’Onofrio a.k.a. Kingpin a.k.a. Wilson Fisk is in jail. Karen Page killed a guy last season and feels guilty about it. Foggy is Matt’s buddy, and law partner, and knows that Matt is Daredevil. He doesn’t really approve.
Let’s get started!
It’s apparently summer, and the news says it’s hot. It’s also nighttime, and we hear people saying things. Suddenly, gunshots! Ohhh, we didn’t hear them. Daredevil did. Cut to four guys running down a fairly crowded avenue in Hell’s Kitchen, carrying briefcases, firing generally at the cops chasing them, but also at the large numbers of pedestrians. These scenes are super-weird to me: formally, I know that this takes place in a universe where Thor killed some aliens that came out of the sky over Grand Central Terminal a couple years ago, but… if this scene happened in actual Hell’s Kitchen, in the city I actually live in, it would be international news. Anyway. Daredevil beats the crap out of the guys in sequence, trashing a Chinese restaurant kitchen, a windshield, and a church on the way, while saving a cop and a girl who were taken hostage by the first and the last to get beaten up. Then right before the credits, we see him standing on a roof above the church, his face covered in a creepy grin. Apparently he likes beating people up now. This is probably a Character Trait.
After the credits, Foggy and Matt are walking to work. Foggy notices Matt bleeding, and says that he hates the vigilante stuff, asking what will happen to their partnership if Matt gets caught. Matt provides an anecdote about someone who would have died if he hadn’t daredeviled them, which you would think would be a trope that had exhausted its rhetorical usefulness in this recurring spat, but fine. Foggy gets serious, and demands that Matt promise not to get hurt. The times when Foggy is being serious are some of my favorite parts of the show—between his acting and the writing, their relationship feels pretty real, and definitely way realer than the ones Superheroes usually have with their Tethers To A Normal Life.
In the offices of Nelson and Murdock, there are lots of people with legal-ish problems. Karen is very on top of all of their cases, and after summarizing each, and pointing out payment received in the form of bananas, tells Foggy and Matt that she has used free accounting software to find out that they don’t have any money. Matt says cheerfully that they’ll “manage – I don’t know how, but we will,” and somehow everyone is happy about this. In the meantime, they have “pastries, and fruit. And fans.” Karen adds: “And, uh… and each other,” while staring lustfully at Matt. I’m sure this won’t get uncomfortable in a 3-person office.
Cut to an enforcer-type guy standing outside of a warehouse, while a mobster-y car pulls up. The shot hangs just long enough on the enforcer to make me think Daredevil is going to yank him offscreen. (Phrasing…) (Also, I’m already sick of calling someone “Daredevil,” which is a really stupid name now that I’ve typed it out a dozen times. Everyone think of a useful nickname and we’ll pick the best one at the next break.) Tall, gaunt, mobster guy walks into the sketchy warehouse, and on the way we establish that the guard dog was recently dogfighting. (Being dog-fought? [kht: Yeah, I think when it’s the dog doing it, it’s just called “fighting.”]) Now we know that they are Bad Guys. I’m sorta confused about which bad guys in particular, because they don’t have obvious accents like all of the Russian, Chinese, Japanese, etc, Bad Guys last season. Gaunt Guy’s speech starts out pretty generic, but then finally talks about their ancestors coming over 200 years ago, and finally says that the Irish used to rule Hell’s Kitchen. Now I feel stupid, scrubbing back over the last 30 seconds, since the table they’re sitting around is literally covered in plates of corned beef. It actually might be sort of racist, now that I notice it—like someone in props said, “What do we know about the Irish? They don’t have enough potatoes, and, uh… they love corned beef! Just throw a bunch of that everywhere.” Also very weird is that most of them don’t have accents, except that they uniformly say “shite” for “shit”, and sometimes use “bloody” as an expletive. It’s almost like neither the actors, the casting, nor the director gave a shit [Janes: “Shite”!] about making them believable.
Cut back to that enforcer guy outside, again staying with him long enough that it seems like someone’s about to strangle him.
Back inside, Gaunt Guy starts ranting about how all of the other previously mentioned ethnic criminals are leaving Hell’s Kitchen, and they’re going to “make the city theirs again.” Right before he’s about to smash a bottle of whiskey (in celebration? I guess? The way he was walking around the table had me positive he was going to Al Capone someone with it), bullets start flying through one of the walls. The Irish stand up and start firing back through the wall with their pistols. They all get hit and die violent, sometimes-slow-motion deaths, except for one who jumps over the bar, curls into the fetal position, and survives to get up and run away somewhere once the shooting has stopped. One of the others, Pocked-Face Bald Guy, now dead, gets a call on his cellphone. His ringtone is an Irish jig (kht: I’m so sure), which plays over the scene as the camera pans out the broken wall, taking in all of the dead Irish bodies. This is Irony.
In Josie’s bar, Matt, Foggy, and Karen are playing pool. Foggy goes to the bathroom, warning Matt that Karen is “as quick as she is beautiful.” The two of them continue to banter, and Karen initiates a looooot of body contact under the guise of helping him line up his shots, creepy-tennis-instructor-style. Foggy sees this from a distance as he comes out of the bathroom, and makes a sorta “shucks” face. Wasn’t he in love with her last season? I think I feel sad for him—is that wrong? [Janes: Um, no that’s not wrong! Foggy/Karen is a thousand times more interesting than Matt/Karen, but then again, what isn’t?]
When Karen goes to get another round, he teases Matt, who responds in kind: “I leave you two alone for one minute…” “She wanted to teach me!” Before there’s a chance for much more possibly-tense banter between the two of them, Matt notices someone at the bar with an elevated heart rate and a gun, using senses. (Senses are always indicated by shallow depth-of-field shots, as in real life.) He goes over to try to persuade the guy (Fetal Position guy from the previous scene) not to rob the place, but FP guy says “It’s not what you think – I have business with Nelson and Murdock.”
FP, sitting at a table in the bar with the three of them, tells them what happened, and that it “wasn’t a rival family,” but an “army.” He says they can recognize the place where it happened because it looks like a “war zone.” You mean, a… Punisher War Zone? [I want to take this moment to share that my own favorite creation in the “Pok’er? I ‘ardly know ‘er!” genre is “Punish ‘er war zone?…” Let’s get back to the show.] FP wants to get into witness protection, and wants Nelson and Murdock to negotiate with the DA for him. Using Senses, Matt verifies that he isn’t lying when he says he “only skimmed the surface” of the Irish mob’s criminal activity, and that he had “nothing to do with this massacre.” Pressed, FP says that his name is “Grotto. Just Grotto.” Fair enough. Having conveyed all of the relevant information, he faints on the floor of the bar, and only then do the three of them realize that he’s been bleeding from a gunshot wound the whole time.
At the scene of the crime, Foggy and Matt talk to Brett, their police officer friend from the first season. Worth noting is that this scene opens with an awesomely gross dolly-out shot of a detective peering through a bullet hole that looks strangely fleshy, which makes sense because it turns out to be straight through someone’s chest. Between his help and Senses, they learn that one of the Irish had his hand cut off; that another was wearing body armor, but the attackers’ bullets went straight through it; and finally that this is one in a series of such attacks—the biker gang “Dogs of Hell” had a similar thing happen recently. Matt goes off to learn some more about these attacks by beating people up, and Foggy says that he has a “guy” he can talk to.
Now we’re in a hospital with Karen and “Grotto.” I guess I should pick my battles about the names on this show… Grotto is way more tolerable than Daredevil. Grotto it is. He wakes up handcuffed to the bed and tries to leave, but Karen stops him—well, stops him in addition to the handcuffs that were already stopping him—and tells him that they’re in there under an alibi: he’s “Steve,” she’s his wife, and the injury is a cut from a bar fight. I’m now actually pretty confused. How did they pass off a gunshot as a cut from a broken bottle? Anyway, he isn’t reassured that this will stop the people who are presumably still trying to kill him, but Karen’s hardass routine gets him to stop struggling. Her serious mode, like Foggy’s, is pretty good.
Matt, who is now… Daredevi-urp-swallowingvomitnoise-hic-devil, comes across Turk, the gun dealer from the first season, trying to sell some shotguns to some thugs who are worried about getting murdered by these unknown attackers who killed the Irish and the bikers. Daredevil beats the thugs up using his new throwing-batons, and then torture-interrogates Turk about the source of the “military-grade” weaponry used in the attacks. Turk disclaims any knowledge of the attacks, but says that in the power vacuum left by Wilson Fisk, all of the gangs have been bringing firepower into the city, and the cartel has been bringing guns to a warehouse in the Meatpacking District. Is Meatpacking supposed to be in Hell’s Kitchen in this universe? Whatever. Two very important things happen in this scene, though: one, we get to see Daredevil’s new suit clearly, and realize that the facemask is really stupid-looking. There’s some weird squinty-ness about the eye covers that make the face distinctly piggy. Lame. Two, Turk calls Daredevil “D”, which is both much less stupid and way fewer characters to type. Looks like we have a winner!
The rest of the Matt-doing-pugilatory-research and Foggy-talking-to-a-guy scenes are cut together for tension starting here. Foggy’s scene I hate. He goes to a Dogs of Hell bar to learn more about the attack on them, apparently with the serious goal of talking to “Smitty,” a current member of the gang who was in his third-grade class. He spends the whole scene covered in flop sweat, squealing at the threats and throwing-around that this quest earns him from the bikers, and talking exclusively in a loud tense voice that’s halfway between whining and yelling. They decide to take Foggy out back and “show him what we think of lawyers,” to which he whine-yells, “No please no no no no!” Not a good look. Out back, on the strength of rattling off the names of a bunch of bikers that he and Murdock helped out, one of whom turns out to have been a Dog of Hell, he gets the guy who’s about to beat him up to not beat him up. Instead, he tells Foggy that Smitty is dead, killed in the aforementioned attack. Foggy asks for details, which turn out to be that they were “on a run on I-90,” and were shot up by an “army.” Which happens to be exactly what they already knew from the earlier scene. What was the point of any of this? It almost seems like the show’s making a metapoint about Foggy’s uselessness in this environment, but I can’t quite give them that much credit… it’s just dumb.
In D’s scene, he is walking around an actual meat-packing plant, in which the dingy TVs are playing shows in Spanish—cartel talk. I guess in this universe, Meatpacking is in Hell’s Kitchen, and actual meat-packing takes place in Meatpacking? In case you aren’t from New York, nowadays Meatpacking only describes the actual industry of the place insofar as it’s a gross innuendo: the only reason to go there is to attend sweaty, overpriced, overstuffed clubs, patronized almost exclusively by bros. Anyway, D is walking down a row of cow carcasses, and finds some dead humans also hanging from the meathooks. Pretty, pretty gross, but this explains why the TVs were on but the building was empty. One of them turns out to be barely alive, and D lifts him down—groooooossss. The barely-alive cartel guy says that “no one escapes from this,” and “they” didn’t do this: “he did. One man.” Scary music cut to a low shot of one man walking purposefully oh shiiiiii
We’re in a hospital, and initially see this walking guy only at foot-level, or from behind, but I’d recognize Jon Bernthal’s shaved head anywhere. [M’ask you summin, says Shane-from-The-Walking-Dead, rubbing his shaved head, in all of my dreams.] He’s open-carrying a short-barrelled shotgun, and disarms and knocks out the security guy who tells him to stop. Karen and Grotto hear the panic this creates, and she peeks out to see Shane—I mean The Punisher—walking towards their room. She uncuffs Grotto and pulls him out of the room. Somehow Shane (nope, we’re sticking with Shane), who has been mistaken for an army by the entire criminal underworld and NYPD, and who has left only this one survivor from multiple attacks, misses them at incredibly short range 4 or 5 times as they run down the hall and the exit stairs. The two of them pile into her car, and as they peel out, more gunshots break the wing mirror and back window. Cut to a crosshair tracking Grotto’s head exactly, which is Shane’s view down his sniper rifle’s scope, from the roof of the hospital, which I guess is where he is now. And apparently he was also carrying a whole sniper rifle? Sure, fine, whatever. Just as he’s abooooout to pull the trigger, D is here! He flying-kicks Shane, starting a pretty excellent first fight between our two vigilante leads [Janes: This was SO GOOD. The super-nerd in me was so pleased.], in which Shane is using the sniper-rifle as a close-quarters weapon for a bit; D keeps knocking the barrel away right before Shane can shoot him.
Shane wins this first round and walks away, but D spits out some blood and jumps him again, and appears to be getting the better of him until Shane pulls a pistol out of a calf holster. They both freeze for a long beat, Shane says “Bang,” another quick beat, and shoots D in the head. D topples off of the roof. End of episode one.
Mildly disappointing that the fight choreography did a better job of introducing Bernthal’s character than the totally-predictable-oh-my-god-he-just-missed chase scene beforehand, but the end note is still really strong. The rest of the episode though… just felt mostly flat. Losing Wilson Fisk is actually a pretty big let-down: he created an air of menace that made the whole atmosphere of the first season terrifying, which, actually, is what Kilgrave did for Jessica Jones, even more nastily. So far what Daredevil Season 2 has given us is: mild awkwardness in our heroes’ law firm, and a too-goofy-to-take-seriously search for a guy who apparently kills the shit out of bad guys. A build-up to the reveal of our poster-antagonist makes sense, but it would have been nice if the build-up were scary and not stupid. These are my critical insights. Tune in next week*.
*Whenever you watch the next episode which realistically was right after you watched the first one so ok whenever I review it which could be a long-ass time sorrynotsorry.